"Kathi Littwin"
Duck with “mostarda” & Saskatoon berries from Gwynnett St. in Brooklyn, New York
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Spring/Summer Menu Preview 2013

Carolyn Jung / March 2013

Sooner than later, it will be hot. These chefs hope the dishes they’re planning for the new seasons will be as well. Carolyn Jung checks out what they have in mind.

Justin Hilbert
Gwynnett St.
Brooklyn, New York
“Yes, I’m the pastry chef, too. My sous chef and I, we do it all here. I’m even doing the laundry right now. Every aspect of a restaurant excites me. I’ve worked as a waiter, a barista, you name it, so that I’d know what was going on and be control of it all. I believe everything you serve should be of equal importance. A lot of my desserts have savory ingredients. We could do an amazing chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, and everyone would love it. But that’s not what I want to do here. We want to separate ourselves from others.”

Salad of sea vegetables. “I have a friend who forages sea vegetables up in Maine. He finds beautiful seagrasses, sea blight, goose tongue, and sea arugula. They’re reminiscent of greens you’d get in the market, but have a seawater taste to them. After rinsing them, arrange them on a plate with local mackerel or shrimp that have been seared on the plancha. Warm sabayon is added to replicate sea foam: roast crushed shrimp and crab shells; add wine and tomatoes; reduce, reduce, reduce to an essence; whisk in an egg yolk and butter off the heat; put in a siphon to create the sabayon foam that will coat the vegetables.”

Duck with “mostarda” & Saskatoon berries. “Saska­toon berries are like wild blueberries. I get them from Oregon. Last summer, we did them with celery and wild salmon. This year, I’d like to do them with duck. Brine the duck breast with Sas­katoon berries, sugar, salt, red verjus, coriander, and mustard seeds. Make a gastrique with Saskatoon juice, red wine vinegar, duck jus, sugar, glucose, and verjus. Make mostarda with Saskatoon berry juice, mustard seeds, sugar, red wine vinegar, and verjus. Poach, then sear the duck breast. Serve with the gastrique, mostarda, mustard greens, some fresh Saskatoon berries, and black barley cooked in Saskatoon juice and a bit of duck jus.’’

Cattails & pine yogurt with sea bream. “We make all our own yogurts. And I love fish with yogurt because it goes back to those Mediterranean flavors. Cattails come in the spring. Nobody really uses them. But you can use their bases, the shoots, which have a sweet cucumber flavor. They’re fibrous like leeks, so blanch them, press them in olive oil, then dehydrate them to make chips. Make pine vinegar by steeping vinegar with pine needles. Make pine yogurt by steeping pine needles in unpasteurized milk for 12 hours; strain it; bring it up to 180 degrees; then cool to 105 degrees; add starter [yogurt made from the last batch]; cook in a water bath at 103 degrees for 14 hours until it sets up; hang in cheesecloth to strain out the whey. Use some of the whey to pickle pine shoots with white wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Next, grill sea bream over pine needles; serve with the crisp cattail chips, the pine yogurt, the pickled pine shoots, and a pine vinaigrette made from the pickling liquid, pine vinegar, and a fruity Spanish olive oil. I might add some grilled cucumbers to the dish as well.”

Blackberry, sorrel & avocado. “I usually base desserts on three ingredients in multiple forms. I also like to put a lot of greens in desserts. This is composed of fresh blackberries, frozen blackberries, dehydrated blackberry powder, and maybe even blackberry sorbet. Juice red vein, wood, or sheep sorrel; add sugar; freeze it as you would a granita. Make an avocado mousse with gelatin and sugar. When all the elements are on the plate together, you get different bites of the same flavor but with different textures that all marry. The flavors are bright and sour, mitigated by the avocado’s fatty creaminess.”

Marcus Jernmark
New York City
“We use local ingredients here, but in terms of flavor profile, we go back to the roots of our Swedish culinary heritage to focus on curing, drying, ripening, and aging—all those preservation techniques that intensify flavors but don’t change them. A lot of people used to think of Nordic food as bland, as being just boiled potatoes with salted pork. I never understood why, since the food has always been so much more progressive. Today, I never get that perception. We have overcome that.”

Salted bone marrow & spring primörer.Primörer means the first vegetable or fruit. Radishes and artichokes are two of my favorite spring ingredients. I like to eat them with bread and butter before the meal. We make butter from sweet cream whisked until it curdles, then in a mixer with the paddle attachment. We squeeze it in cheesecloth, salt it, and whip it until light. Scoop marrow from split bone; soak in ice water 48 hours; roast with garlic, thyme, parsley stems, and bay leaves until rendered; cold smoke 45 minutes to an hour; render in a pan on the stovetop with thyme and parsley; strain out the herbs, then combine with the butter in a Pacojet to get a whipped marrow butter. Separate leaves and hearts of baby artichokes; braise the hearts with wine and lemon; use the same braising liquid to blanch artichoke leaves. Strain the cooking liquid to be served chilled or warm in a small glass off to the side on a large wide platter. Smear the smoked bone marrow butter across the platter. Cut small radishes into thin circles. I take our hay-smoked sourdough bread and pick apart pieces that I cook at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re lightly crisp on the outside. Carefully place pieces of the bread, radishes, and artichokes on the platter, standing them up in the butter.”

Charred octopus in fennel vinaigrette. “This is a nicely textured salad of ramps, octopus, and fennel. One of my favorite tools in the kitchen is the yakitori grill heated with Japanese charcoal from Korin. I find it wonderfully chars the outside of ingredients and yields a very aromatic product. Blanch the octopus in water for one minute, trim it down, then braise it sous-vide style at 85 degrees Celsius [185˚F] with salt, beer, dill, water, and a pinch of brown sugar. That’s traditionally how you cook crayfish in Sweden, and it works well with octopus, too. I cook it for four hours until it’s cake tester–tender. Put the octopus in its poaching liquid into an ice water bath. That preserves the juices so you can grill the octopus on high heat to get a really good char on it. Brush ramps with oil, then throw them on the grill, too. Slice fennel bulbs and cover with vegetable stock and beurre monté, add a couple of squeezed lemon halves, then let simmer at 85 degree Celsius. I tell my cooks that when they think it’s done, turn the heat up to 90 degrees [194˚F] and just let it sit for a minute. It should have a marmalade texture, not a crunch. Next, juice a fennel bulb with cucumber and a little parsley so you get a very intense green liquid; add a little wine vinegar; shake in a little parsley oil just before serving so the vinaigrette looks a little broken. As an accent flavor, I would prepare a buttermilk dressing. Hang buttermilk in a coffee filter until it loses 50 percent of its whey. Put it in a siphon and charge it with one cartridge. It sets up like a silky light foam. Dispense the buttermilk on the side of a sloped dish; place the octopus pieces on the plate; lay ramp leaves over them; add some of the fennel marmalade; pour the vinaigrette on the dish tableside.”

Ängamat.Ängamat, which translates as ‘food from the field,’ is a well-known Swedish vegetable soup made with a light broth made more luscious with the addition of a cream/egg yolk mixture. My take integrates all these elements and flavors, but it’s not served as a soup. This version ends up looking like a vegetable field, very earthy and natural. It relies on whatever is freshest in the farmers’ market, so the preparation will vary from week to week. It’s composed of wilted watercress and other spring vegetables blanched in water with just a little sugar to bring out their sweetness, then tossed in butter; an egg/cream foam made by simmering two parts cream to one part vegetable stock with fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and, when cooled a bit, whisking in an egg yolk and some of the liquid brine from matjes herring for a salty bite, and then reheating with a bit of xanthan gum to stabilize it; an egg yolk cured in one part salt with one part sugar and some ground juniper berries for a week or two and then dried out and smoked over hay; a brined chicken, the thigh cooked sous-vide in chicken or duck fat, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic at 74 degrees Celsius [165˚F] for a few hours and the breast roasted on the bone; a burned leek pie crust, a crumbled baked pâte brisée tossed with leek ash. Plate the chicken and little piles of watercress and vegetables; load the chilled sauce into a siphon and dispense as a foam; place small piles of the burned leek pie crust all around.”

Pastry chef Emma Bengtsson
Parsley root crème brûlée. “This has a bit more texture than a normal crème brûlée; you’ll taste the root vegetable. Boil small, very fresh spring parsley roots with cream; puree; mix with sugar, egg yolks, and gelatin; pour into a sheet pan; bake; cut it into individual circles. For garnishes: a rhubarb compote made by simmering rhubarb with sugar and vanilla; strawberry gelée cubes; crisp air-dried micro parsley and micro dill meringues; strawberry powder made from frozen strawberries slowly dried so they don’t lose any color; small white chocolate ganache truffles; and a milk sherbet that is spun like ice cream but has a very airy feeling to it. To plate, place a parsley root brûlée about the size of a hockey puck in a shallow bowl; dust with sugar; brown the top; top with a quenelle of the milk sherbet; arrange the garnishes around.”

Sarah and Evan Rich
Rich Table
San Francisco
Sarah: “Evan and I met when we worked at Bouley in New York City. Evan is from the East Coast; I’m from the South. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in New York, so I convinced him to give San Francisco a shot. We spent the first month in an empty apartment with a mattress we had to blow up every night. We weren’t happy the first year because it was such a change. Now, we’ve made many friends and gotten to know many farmers. We love it here. We always said we wanted to build a restaurant that was the kind of place we wanted to eat at. It’s the feeling that you don’t have to wear your Sunday best, but will still get very well-prepared food. It’s food that doesn’t feel stuffy or pretentious or like a gem box on a plate you don’t want to break into. But when you eat it, you know there’s food knowledge and skilled technique behind it.”

Sweet corn fritters with cilantro salsa verde. “Take kernels off the cob and roast them on a plancha until they’re charred. Make a béchamel—we make it very thick so it’s firm when cold. Fold the corn and sweated onions into the cold béchamel. Make little balls out of that mixture; coat with flour, egg, and an heirloom cornmeal we get from Tierra Farm; deep-fry until very crispy, leaving the béchamel inside very soft and creamy. They look like arancini. They come four to an order with a salsa verde made from cilantro leaves and stems, red onions, lime, and yuzukosho, a salty and tangy fermented yuzu/chile paste available at Japanese markets.”

Spaghetti with spring peas, goat’s milk cheese & mint. “We make most of our own pastas but we do use some dried pastas imported from Italy, as in this dish. Blanch shelled spring peas; reserve some of them whole; pulse the rest in a food processor until they’re mashed. Make a pea stock from the pea pods and water; simmer 20 minutes; strain. Don’t let it go for too long or it will start to taste too starchy. Heat the pea stock; add a spoonful of duck fat and the reserved whole peas; toss in cooked spaghetti until coated with the fatty pea broth. Place the pasta in a bowl, top with a fat quenelle of mushy peas, little dots of goat’s milk cheese, and torn mint leaves. You eat it by mixing everything together, so the mushy peas and cheese become a creamy sauce.”

Tomato-braised oxtail with charred octopus. “We like to get in a whole bunch of Early Girl tomatoes in the summer that people out here just go crazy for. We make a really rich braising liquid from them. Char the tomatoes on the plancha, then mash them a bit. Oxtails get braised in the mashed tomatoes along with onions, red wine, and an all-purpose stock that Evan learned how to do at Coi in San Francisco. It’s made with all different bones—veal, chicken, pork—to create one meat stock that’s very rich. Braise the oxtails for three hours; pick the meat from the bones when cool; reduce, skim, and strain the braising liquid to make a sauce. We forage wild fennel for our naturally leavened bread that’s kind of like sourdough. We make croutons from the bread that are grilled so they’re really crisp, but still soft and chewy on the inside. Cook octopus legs 40 minutes in salted water with no cork until tender then char them on the plancha. Heat the oxtail meat; coat with some of the sauce; place on a crouton; add octopus slices; top with thinly sliced charred Meyer lemon; finish with peppercress for brightness.”

Caramelized olive oil cake with strawberries & cream cheese. “Whip sugar, eggs, lemon zest, salt, and milk to full volume; add all-purpose and almond flours; drizzle olive oil into the batter. I like a robust olive oil made from Sevillano olives so you can actually taste it in the cake. Bake in a half sheet pan. It’s a very moist cake. Cut into rectangles; press the sides into sugar; caramelize in a warm pan that’s been coated with nonstick spray; remove the rectangles from the pan and let them sit for a moment to get an almost crème brûlée exterior. Macerate strawberries with sugar and a tiny bit of salt; strain out the juice; puree a handful of berries; halve or quarter remaining strawberries; fold them into the puree; add lemon zest, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a bit of salt. Lay the cakes on a plate with the berries and a scoop of cream cheese ice cream, made from a frozen puree of cream cheese, sugar, milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice that’s spun in a Pacojet. It’s a soft ice cream because there’s no stabilizer in it.”

Tyler Rodde and Curtis Di Fede
Napa, California
Rodde: “Everything is driven by ingredient here. We grow a lot of our own produce in our gardens. One is on the east side of Napa, my family’s farm, where we have 280 olive and citrus trees. The other is the old COPIA garden, where about 12 restaurants now grow produce on two or three raised beds each. We have 10 raised beds there. We think it’s an advantage to have co-executive chefs. If I have an inspiration for a dish that’s 90 percent of the way there, Curtis will say that if we just do this one thing, it’ll sing. It’s great to have someone whose palate you trust.”

Stone fruit salad. Rodde: “This simple dish shows off the quality of the stone fruit we get in the valley. Sometimes less really is more. We change it up as the season progresses, starting with apricots, then plums, then nectarines, and then peaches. Take one fruit and slice it very thinly, toss with salt, then agrumato, which is olive oil pressed with citrus that we import from Italy. Put the stone fruit on the plate, sprinkle with pistachios and shaved fennel. And that’s it. It just captures the fruit in all its perfection.”

Paine Farm squab with peas & cipollini. Di Fede: “We cook a lot of squab; it’s often on the menu every other week. They’re raised on a farm six miles from the restaurant. The weather affects how the mating season goes. Spring and summer are the seasons when the birds are most plentiful. Cook fresh peas in butter, water, and lemon juice. Braise cipollini in the oven with lard or duck fat; combine the peas and cipollini. Pan-sear seasoned butterflied squab skin side down; place peas and cipollini on a plate, top with squab.”

Pancetta-wrapped rabbit stuffed with Jimmy Nardello peppers & green garlic. Di Fede: “Remove the legs and shoulders from the whole rabbit; take out the rib cage, spine, and hips, making sure not to puncture the flesh. You’re trying to get one big rectangle of rabbit flesh. Make a stuffing of day-old Italian bread toasted in butter, grilled green garlic, and pan-roasted Jimmy Nardello peppers. Season the rabbit; lay the stuffing inside; roll into a sausage shape; wrap three eight-inch pieces of pancetta around the outside; pan-sear; finish in the oven for 25 minutes. After letting it rest for 10 minutes, slice into medallions and dress with miner’s lettuce, a little olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. Since the rabbits are pricey, we do the dish for two or four people, family-style [six slices for two; 12 slices for four].”

Pastry chef Jen Archer
Pink Lady apple & blackberry crostata. “Roll puff pastry dough into a six-inch circle; smear one tablespoon almond paste in the center; top with wedges of peeled Pink Lady apple and fresh blackberries; fold dough to enclose contents; bake at 350 degrees for eight to 12 minutes. Place on a plate with crème fraîche gelato made with a regular gelato base of heavy cream and sugar with crème fraîche added in as it’s spun. When it hits the warm crostata, it just melts into it.”

Charlie Parker
Freddy Smalls
Los Angeles
“My background is fine dining, and this is essentially a bar. I’ve always enjoyed bars because they’re so intimate. We wanted to do one with a lively atmosphere that also has a nice wine list, great drinks, and real attention to food. The problem with most bars is that they’re geared toward men. Most of them only have burgers and fried foods, no salads or vegetables. They don’t have anything to entice women. We wanted to have more healthy, more modern food. We go to the farmers’ markets two times a week. We try to do everything as local as possible.”

Slow-cooked egg over spring farro, morels, ramps, peas & shoots. “The egg is cooked sous-vide one hour at 65 degrees Celsius [149˚F]. Sweat onions and red chile flakes in olive oil; add farro; cook until it begins to brown; add white wine; cook over low heat like risotto until it’s relatively dry. At pickup, add warm mushroom stock reduced with some Sherry and then seasoned with Sherry vinegar and salt; plate the farro with caramelized morels, caramelized ramps, English peas, and halved sugar snap peas; top with the egg; garnish with pea shoots and a little bit of mint.”

John Dory with poached artichokes, charred cucumbers, mascarpone & cress. “Sauté the fish skin side down until crisp; finish with butter and Meyer lemon juice. Poach halved baby artichokes in Albariño with roasted garlic; crisp them in olive oil; finish with lemon juice. Roast peeled Mediterranean cucumbers skewered on sticks over an open flame until they blacken. Smear a little mascarpone whipped with lemon juice and crème fraîche on a plate; top with artichokes, cucumbers, and then the fish; sauce with Meyer lemon beurre blanc and garnish with peppercress. It’s very light tasting, with lots of acidity, the mascarpone adding a little sweetness.”

Rack of lamb with spring onions, green garlic puree & fava bean/mint pesto. “Cook lamb sous-vide at 58 degrees Celsius [136˚F] for half an hour in a vacuum-sealable plastic food bag with rosemary and garlic oil; chill in the bag; finish it on the grill to get it crusty, charred, and smoky. Also cook spring onions sous-vide with olive oil and Sherry vinegar and finish them on the grill. The green garlic is made into a creamy puree: blanch the tops; finely chop the whites; sear the whites in a very hot cast-iron pan; make a cream sauce with white onions, garlic, thyme, and cream; chill it; then blend it with the cold green garlic to preserve the chlorophyll. We make a Spanish fava bean pesto by taking favas that are blanched and shucked, then putting them into a mortar and pestle with toasted almonds, mint, Microplaned raw garlic, olive oil, and lemon zest. The green garlic puree goes down on the bottom of the plate. The rack of lamb gets a quenelle of the pesto, then lamb demi-glace that we add the olive oil from the sous-vide lamb to so it becomes a broken sauce. It’s finished with lemon juice and garnished with fresh uncooked fava bean leaves and fava flowers.”

Lavender panna cotta with poppy seed granola, stewed blueberries & Meyer lemon. “We don’t have a freezer unit. We also don’t have a pastry chef, so I do the desserts. We like them straightforward and simple. The panna cotta is served like a parfait in small Mason jars. I make the panna cotta with Straus Family organic cream infused with lavender, then mixed with sugar, salt, and gelatin. The poppy seed granola is my sous chef’s recipe. It’s almonds, oats, poppy seeds, sugar, orange zest, and a little maple syrup fanned out on a pan, baked in the oven, then broken up into pieces and layered on top of the panna cotta. Cook blueberries in a reduction of Pinot Noir, black pepper, and lemon zest until they release their juices but not until they break down, then chill. It’s spooned over the granola. Top with a quenelle of Meyer lemon curd.”