Friday, March 15, 2013

Chef's Tasting

Here's a quick synopsis of a menu that we had fun with.

Three Citrus Shrimp Seviche with Chipotle-Lime Cancha
Three Citrus Shrimp Seviche with Chipotle-Lime Cancha. With this dish, we are trying to will spring here. Unfortunately, it's still cold and not quite seviche weather, but a guy can dream, right? Shrimp, three colors of sweet peppers, celery, red onions, green onions, and cilantro, spiced with chipotle, garlic, and cumin, along with the zest and juice of Meyer lemons, blood oranges, and limes. The blood oranges and Meyer lemons don't have enough acidity to make me happy, so we ended up with about three times as much lime juice to get the acidity where it needs to be. The cancha is a toasted dried corn from Peru tossed in a chipotle-lime zest butter; it supplies great texture to the seviche.

Bánh Mì, Our Favorite Sandwich
Bánh Mì. I'm not kidding when I say we love these sandwiches. Thank you Vietnam for one of our most favorite chef snacks of all time! We most often make bánh mì when I have lots of meat scraps from butchering and I get in the mood to make some sausage. This sausage I made from pork belly, pork rack trimmings and cap, rabbit hearts, and rabbit livers. The seasonings are kaffir lime, fish sauce, black pepper, lots of garlic, and red chile flakes. Garnishes are a tangy slaw, nước chắm, slabs of pickling cucumber, carrot threads, and cilantro.

Allspice-Smoked Pork Terrine; "Pickle and Mustard"
Allspice-Smoked Pork Terrine; "Pickle and Mustard". Let me just say up front that I don't like this presentation at all, but we had 60 seconds to get it on the plate, photographed, and on its way to the dining room. There are two cubes of pork terrine that we skewered and smoked over allspice berries, just to see what the hell would happen. We knew the terrine would really take the smoke because it is high in pork liver content and the fat in the liver really binds the smoke. The flavor of the smoke starts a bit herbaceous (infer from that what you will) and finishes a touch floral. There was definitely a hint of je n'sais quoi. The "pickle and mustard" is a bit of a pun in that we almost always serve charcuterie with whole grain mustard and cornichons, but this time, with a pickled mustard plant.

Balsamic-Braised Merino Lamb Spareribs; Risotto Milanese; Fave
Balsamic-Braised Merino Lamb Spareribs; Risotto Milanese; Fave. We're playing with a new high altitude (above the cloud line) Merino lamb from New Zealand and putting it through the paces to see what it is best suited for. Here the spareribs are braised with balsamic vinegar, chilled, and grilled and plated atop a risotto milanese and topped with fresh fava beans. This new lamb is very silky in texture, very fine grained, and very mild.

Carrot-Ginger-Polenta Tatin with Sambuca Crème Anglaise
Carrot-Ginger-Polenta Tatin with Sambuca Crème Anglaise. Dessert is not something that a bunch of line cooks really thinks about, gives a damn about, or even, really wants to eat. So, we end up with more savory desserts without a whole lot of sugar. Somehow, Tarte Tatin popped up during menu discussions only to be followed by "we don't have any fruit" and my reminding the guys that there are lots of vegetables we can treat as fruits for this purpose. Carrots popped up, and then ginger to bring a freshness to the cake, then polenta to give it some mouthfeel, and finally Sambuca as a complementary flavor. The result: customers and cooks alike loved it.

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