Here are photos from a series of recent tastings. These dishes pretty clearly reflect what is in the farmers market currently. I really like how we were able to incorporate root vegetables in so many dishes. It happened organically as a function of what we have on hand (and on the brain) now rather than as an exercise in making a menu around root vegetables. Organically formed menus tend to be the best and I really like this menu for that very reason.
Squash Cake. Cake of grated yellow and green squashes long-cooked with cream and formed into cakes, garnished with tomato vinaigrette, tzatziki, pesto, and a pecorino tuile. I bought every last squash that Beth had about two weeks ago and we have been keeping them in the cooler and eking them out, trying desperately to hang on to a little bit of summer. We've never had summer squash this late into the year and it is really thanks to the crappy crop we had during the summer that Gene planted a second, late crop of which this is the very bitter end.
Cauliflower Mushrooms with Guanciale and Broccoli. No brainer, really, in that Joe just sent us a 15-pound cauliflower mushroom. With its delightfully woodsy scent, this mushroom is a real crowd pleaser and its resemblance to egg noodles often influences how we prepare it: today, very simply with some Jowciale (smoked hog jowl from our friends at Edwards) and tiny broccoli florets.
Napoleon of Seared Sea Scallops and Parsnip-Leek Latkes. This send up of scallop chowder features crispy sweet parsnip-leek latkes, a warm bacon-inflected leek and potato soup, cubes of roasted butternut squash, puffed wild rice (more addictive than crack) and mâche. After much experimentation, we have found that parsnip latkes benefit from 25% potato, to help them hold together and fry more crisply without burning.
Pork & Grits. In our mission to convert the world to the Pork Belly Legion™, it seems that no tasting menu can omit at least one pork belly course. Here you see our house-cured pork belly fried to a crispy turn atop creamy Anson Mills grits coarse grits with a splash of local hickory bark syrup and a red grape “olivada.” The olivada is a condiment that we made for a big Italian-themed dinner back in October, a condiment that we liked so much that we keep on making it. It is son of the Cherry Tapenade that I created back in the spring and consists of red grapes, olives, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, oregano, and olive oil.
More Pork. Seriously, what to follow pork belly but more pork? This dish was inspired by an incredibly beautiful savoy cabbage that I scored at the market and what you see is the answer to the question, "How shall we honor this beautiful cabbage?" What you see is a most non-traditional cabbage roll, stuffed with pulled pork shank and raw turnip julienne, then coated in Dijon mustard and rolled in panko and fried. It sits in a pool of pork gravy from braising the shanks and is garnished with a few chanterelles. I like to think of this as a very Western reimagining of a spring roll.
Grilled Five-Spice Venison Loin. This dish screams late fall to me. You see a five spice-rubbed grilled loin of venison with butternut cream, a root vegetable hash, maple syrup, and a fresh fig compote made with the last of this year's figs. The star of this dish is not the venison but rather the humble hash, made from cubes of guanciale, parsnips, celery root, butternut squash, and fingerling potato along with dried cranberries and onions, all flambéed in bourbon. This hash is insanely good!
Maple-Butternut Flan with Milk Chocolate Cremoso. What does a non-sweet eating chef use for dessert when there's precious little fruit about? Root veg, of course! Here you see a killer flan made of butternut purée, maple syrup, and cinnamon. The garnishes are a rich fudgy curl of milk chocolate cremoso (stolen shamelessly from pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith via Michael Schwartz, a chef whom I have never met, but who is clearly a fellow spirit), maple syrup, crème anglaise, gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut) powder, and a wicked good sunflower seed brittle that I made with sea salt and smoky pimentón.