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CHEFLIFE

Ahh - the life of a Chef. Based on the onslaught of TV cooking shows it sure sounds fun and glamorous but what is it really like being a Chef? Here at Project Foodie we are exploring just that in our ‘ChefLife’ series. We’ll be talking with Chefs to get a glimpse into their lives through their own stories. How did they decide to become a Chef? What was culinary school and/or an apprenticeship like? Do they eat their own food? What led them to pursue their particular culinary cuisine? What are the challenges they face? Join us as we explore these and many other aspects in the life of a Chef…

Clark Frasier - Arrows Restaurant

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 10 September 2007
List of viewable recipes from "Project Foodie" by

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Chefs Mark Gaier (left) and Clark Frasier (right)
Influenced by Chinese cuisine and California culture; Chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier have built Arrows restaurant (Ogunquit, ME) into a highly sought after dinning experience.  Honored last year by Gourmet Magazine as 14th in "America's Top 50 Restaurants 2006" and nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chefs of the Northeast, Arrows is an eclectic country restaurant set in an eighteenth century farmhouse with an impressive herb and vegetable garden. The garden, which provides the ingredients and inspiration for Chefs Frasier and Gaier's culinary creations, has been referred to as "the most intensely cultivated piece of land in America".  We recently spoke with Chef Frasier about Arrows, the garden and his life as a chef.

The beginnings…

As happens with many of us, the life Chef Frasier now leads is not what he initially planned.  In fact, Chef Frasier didn't set out to be a chef; nor did he intend on living in Maine.  He says he "serendipitously" fell into the life of a chef only after spending five years learning Chinese with the goal of opening an import/export business in San Francisco.  As fate would have it, however, one of his professors led him not towards the academic goal he was pursuing but the kitchen. Chef Frasier says "I needed a job to pay the rent.  One of my professors said his brother was opening up a restaurant and maybe I could go work for him".  His professor's brother was Jeremiah Tower and the restaurant was Stars.  Getting the job was easy.  Chef Frasier had worked various jobs throughout college in restaurants and had both front and back of the house experience.  So when he met with Jeremiah Tower the interview did not take long as Chef Frasier says "I walked in and Chef Tower said 'yeah you're hired'.   While a life in the kitchen still wasn't Chef Frasier's goal when he got to Stars he says "I just loved it.  It was an incredible experience with a great group of people, doing great things, in a stimulating atmosphere. It was the hottest restaurant in the city.  I loved the food and I just stayed with it".  Thus began life as a chef for Chef Frasier.

In reality, the influences into his culinary style had begun years earlier while growing up in the "fresh produce heaven" of Carmel, California and later when living in China.  Life in China was full of learning experiences and culinary adventures. Chef Frasier says "China was a very different world in the early 1980's than now.  They had very little refrigeration.  The first six months we couldn't get anything like dairy or cheese. When I arrived in the fall, people started piling up cabbages - on balconies of apartment buildings and in the street.  I was like 'what is it with these people?'  What I soon came to realize was that cabbage was the vegetable of the winter.  We ate cabbage for 6 months! That spring, I emerged starved to get vegetables in my system which brought home to me that it is not just 'oh cooking with the seasons and isn't that lovely' but that your body really wants this stuff and things taste really really great when you eat them seasonally".  His experiences in China, he says, "influence everything that we do, at Arrows, to this day". 

Glory, Glamour, and Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work

ImageChefs Frasier and Gaier have certainly had their share of glory and glamour, including a recent 'competition' on the Today show with Chef Charlie Palmer.  Chefs Frasier and Gaier won the competition with their "Barbeque Duck in Lettuce Cups with Vietnamese Coriander Dipping Sauce" creation which is a great Vietnamese influenced summery salad (see recipe below).

Despite these glamorous and high profile events, Chef Frasier is quick to point out that being a chef is not all glamour.   He says "people need to understand that being a chef is a long long time of commitment and a lot of work.  Frankly, it is a lot of routine; keeping things clean, keeping things orderly and working with difficult employees and guests.  It is not all glamour and for somebody going into this business it's important to have them realize this". Consider how Arrows was born.  Originally Chefs Frasier and Gaier intended on opening their restaurant in Carmel, California.  While Carmel and Ogunquit are both in coastal states they have more differences than similarities. But for two aspiring chef's with little financial backing the dream of opening a restaurant was quite dim in Carmel.  Hard work, exploring contacts and a bit of luck led them to Arrows.

And then there's the garden…

When Chefs Frasier and Gaier originally opened Arrows in 1988, finding fresh produce, bread and many other things was, as Chef Frasier says "tough".  But from desperation many wonderful things grow and the Arrows garden is the perfect example.  Chef Frasier says, "we decided to do everything in-house" including growing their own vegetables and herbs.  The first year, Chef Frasier says, "we woefully under estimated the amount of land we needed. Since then we've  doubled it and doubled it again. The garden is now about 3/4 of an acre with raised beds and a green house.  It can produce food from when Arrows opens in the beginning of April to when we close at the end of December".  To say the garden affects Arrows would be an understatement as the garden provides far more than the ingredients for their creations.  Chef Frasier says it is "fun to try new things" and that the garden "drives you as a chef to create new things".  The garden is also a refreshing retreat and source of culinary inspiration, Chef Frasier says "sometimes you are just brain dead but you walk in the garden find things, bounce ideas, and get excited...".  While being a chef is not all glamour and glory it clearly has its high points as well.

Barbeque Duck in Lettuce Cups

by Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant

Serves 6

Marinade

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger


Mix together

Numb & Hot Dipping Sauce

  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 T chile sauce (Sambal Rooster brand)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar


Mix all ingredients together

Duck Breasts 

  • 2 large duck breasts
  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 16 large shitake tops finely chopped
  • 6 shallots finely sliced
  • 6 Kafir lime leaves
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 36 lettuce leaves
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch mint
  • ½ bunch basil leaves


Place the duck breasts in the marinade

Start the barbeque.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan and gently fry the shallots and shitakes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon or mesh basket and place in a bowl with the lime leaves; sprinkle with salt, toss with a spoon and set aside

Grill the duck breasts on a barbeque.

Arrange the six lettuce cups on six plates. Divide the herbs and shallot mixture onto each lettuce cup. Divide the dipping sauce into a bowl on each plate.

Thinly slice the duck breast and divide slices into each cup and serve immediately.

Vietnamese Coriander Clear Dipping Sauce

by Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant

The lime juice and rice wine vinegar in this dipping sauce provide a perfect balance to the coriander's opulent character.

  • 4 sprigs Vietnamese coriander (leaves finely chopped)
  • 1 small fresh Serrano pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced


In a bowl, combine the chili, garlic, sugar and coriander;  Whisk in the liquids.

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Chatting with Chef Aaron Wright - Canlis Restaurant

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Written by Backend   
Wednesday, 08 August 2007
ImageChef Aaron Wright, Canlis Restaurant (Seattle, WA), originally pursued a career in graphic design, but it was the call of the kitchen that eventually shaped his destiny.  He started washing dishes and quickly climbed the kitchen ladder earning his culinary training through the kitchens he worked in.  Looking back on this time, Chef Wright says he was "supercharged in the kitchen and very ambitious - ready for the next thing, ready for new responsibilities, ready for the next challenge". And challenges there were...

Just imagine - within the course of a year's time, with no formal training, moving from dishwasher, to buser, to line cook in a fast paced restaurant kitchen; practically everyday was something new.  Chef Wright says "chef was mentoring me and gave me my first chef knife" but one day he became "kind of a deer caught in the headlights".  During lunch rush when Chef Wright says they "should have had six people on the line and we had 2 or 3… I was working the pantry station and was buried beyond belief".  The ticket machine which spewed out the orders that Chef Wright was to prepare had "tickets that were on the ticket machine, all way to the ground, and then back up to the ticket machine - it was like seven feet of tickets".  At one point, the stress overtook him and as he says "I froze up and couldn't do it".  While this may have been the end for some, Chef Wright took this as a challenge and learning tool, saying it was "real telling to get my mind in check and get my stress level under control to be where I could manage that process".  Surviving that particular day meant having help, as Chef Wright says "the Sous Chef came and bailed me out".  But the bigger process, the part that built Chef Wright into a true chef, was the ultimate consequence of the day - it was when Chef Wright decided "I'm never going to let that happen to me again".

Getting Out of the Headlights


Managing seven feet of tickets isn't merely a mental process and Chef Wright set out to, as he says "change everything I could…making sure everything was set-up, talking to other cooks about technique, and just everything I could do to improve my performance and make sure I would be able to manage it…. Whether that's running or ridding a bike after a shift to relieve that stress or to find ways at work to be able to communicate and overcome such difficulties".  That process has not only worked for him but he's also taken variations of that process and applied it to his management of the people in the Canlis kitchen. 

Managing stress in the kitchen is difficult but Chef Wright accomplishes this by ensuring his staff knows how to handle pressure and can communicate their needs.  Chef Wright asks everyone he hires "How do you deal with stress?".  He says "this is a pretty key thing to ask in a kitchen since often times you are under quite a bit of pressure.  How you perform during that says a lot about who you are".  Chef Wright also asks new hires "Do you recognize the point at which you need somebody to help you out?",  because "It's hard for people to be able to ask for help".  For Chef Wright and the Canlis kitchen, ensuring everyone can answer these questions keeps everyone on track and prevents anyone from getting "caught in the headlights".  Chef Wright says it is important to realize "You are not alone in the kitchen" and that this is one of his passions "The overwhelming sense of teamwork" in the kitchen. 

Managing Life in the Kitchen - Food is King


We asked Chef Wright how he deals with conflicts between his team members in the kitchen.  Laughing he says "cooking is the easiest thing I do!"  Not surprisingly Chef Wright says "The more you are in the industry, it seems that often times, the less and less you deal with food… a lot of my day revolves around making sure the lines are drawn in sand and everyone is getting along".  To do this, he tells his cooks "there is a hierarchy in the kitchen and I'm not at the top - it's food".  Chef Wright is very clear on this, in his kitchen food is king and he tells his staff "deal with problems after shift.  Buckle down and keep working on the food because that's your job".   This straightforward approach, Chef Wright says "helps keep conflicts down in the kitchen" which is not surprising since it's hard to argue with food.

Chef-Farmer Connection


Chef Wright enjoys working with the local farmers in what he calls the Chef-Farmer connection.  He speaks of one farmer from Eastern Washington that he says he connected with five years ago at Pike's Peak market and who has been delivering them potatoes ever since - "We talk about the different types of potatoes he has and what mix we would like for the restaurant".  The result of these conversations is that the farmer "blends ten different types of potatoes together" specifically for the Canlis menu.  As Chef Wright says "these are the types of connections that you hunger for". 

Chef Wright says the Chef-Farmer connection wasn't always this strong, "There was a strong disconnect 10-15 years ago in the food world where chefs never talked to the farmer.  The farmer never talked to the Chef.  The farmer never knew what was happening to the product."  Fortunately today, things are different. For example, Chef Wright says one of his farmers gives him a list of some 200 different varieties of vegetables and asks "What do you want us to grow this year?".  As Chef Wright says, that is "really fun"!

Sadly the farmers rarely get to taste what their products are converted into.  As Chef Wright says "the unromantic side of working with farmers is that we're both extraordinarily busy… there is not much Chef-Farmer connection in summer since were both really busy with what we're doing".  In years past, Canlis has hosted a "Producers Dinner" where they invited local farmers to a dinner designed for them.   Chef Wright says "that was fun - a chance for the farmer to come into the restaurant and have a meal prepared by us because the farmer doesn't really get to sit around the dinner table where their product is served". 

In addition to all of his day-to-day activities in the kitchen, Chef Wright occasionally gets to step out for events such as tasting new varietals of strawberry at the University of Washington.  But at the end of the day, Chef Wright says "knowing that you've affected people in a good way - is the best feeling in the world... to bring high quality food to the table is a wonderful honor".  

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Chatting with Chef Alan Kantor - MacCallum House Restaurant

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Written by Backend   
Friday, 20 July 2007

ImageChefs are a mighty lot.  They often begin life in the kitchen as dishwashers and endure numerous kitchen jobs long before ever even touching food.  They also frequently undergo rigorous training.  But sometimes, one's future is shaped more by a single off-hand remark than by any amount of training or experience.  That's the case for Chef Alan Kantor of MacCallum House Restaurant in Mendocino, CA.  While attending the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Kantor strived to excel and, as he says "did really well" in classes except when he "didn't hit it off with the Chef instructor".  At one point during his training, a French Chef at culinary school told him "you are not really a chef unless you know how to do everything … somebody who can manage people, schedule, make sauce, pastry, butcher - that's a Chef.  A Chef knows how to do all".  Chef Kantor "took that to heart" and has crafted his cuisine and his restaurant around this concept to the extent that he makes everything in-house rather than using prepared ingredients.  We asked Chef Kantor if he really truly makes everything in-house?  His response was "we buy some vinegar, one mustard, olive oil but everything else is made here - puff pastry, ice creams, pastas, bread - really nothing we don't make".  As he says, making everything in-house "controls quality" including ensuring "no chemicals" are in the food he serves.

More than a Chef - also a teacher

Chef Kantor understands the importance of culinary training and takes pride in teaching others his trade.  In fact, he calls himself "a teacher" who is "constantly correcting people" and getting them to do what he wants.  Teaching in a working kitchen may seem a perilous task but Chef Kantor has found it to be highly rewarding with two of his former students going on to follow his footsteps and attend the CIA.  His own first job after culinary training began with a single-day "try-out" where he was told to "dice and slice vegetables all day and had to make soup and a couple of other things - they just tried me out for a day".  These days Chef Kantor starts people off on a trial basis that can range from a few days to several months saying "people learn at different paces.  I've had people pick it up in one or two days but then other people bloom after six months and all a sudden become some of your best employees".  Of course some simply don't make it. 

Training trials and tribulations

What are the most common problems with new kitchen staff?  Nerves and dropping things top the list according to Chef Kantor,  "It's an amazing dance - you have to be very coordinated to cook in a restaurant" adding "I describe it as conducting a ten-ring circus".  He remembers one aspiring chef who spent "two days making a sauce" only to drop it on the floor.  His most memorable training experience, however, occurred during a busy evening when Chef Kantor was working the sauté station, as he frequently does, a trainee was working the grill station, and another person was in the pantry area.  The dinner rush was on and orders kept coming in pushing them more and more.  Chef Kantor laughs as he says "the trainee was trying to help but kept burning things and messing things up".  Finally Chef Kantor "realized that this was detrimental, it wasn't helping me any more".  What did he do?  He says "I did something really mean! I made the trainee stand in the corner. I said to her 'Please just stand in the corner - I've got to get this food out of here!'".  Chef Kantor admits that in the heat of the moment the request was not quite so pleasant adding "I felt bad, it was really hard on me too but I realized plates were not going out, things were just getting destroyed".  And what happened to the trainee?  Ultimately, Chef Kantor says "the trainee was tough, hung in there, and got really good!". 

Consistency is critical

Chef Kantor takes pride in his cuisine and the food served at MacCallum House.  In fact he takes great strides to ensure all his food is consistent and meets his high standards everyday, independent of who is in the kitchen.  Chef Kantor says that when he was a kid  he believed "restaurants were supposed to be pretty standard, especially French cuisine" but he quickly learned that was not how things "really were" in that "different Chefs had different ways of doing things".  He explains that at one early job in his career "the Chef would tell me to do one thing but then the Sous Chef would come along and tell me a different way".   The conflicting signals were not only difficult for Chef Kantor but they also affected the food.  As a result, Chef Kantor has devised a system for MacCallum House Restaurant to ensure that once a recipe is created all guests enjoy the same dish.  As he says "once we create a recipe, we write it all down and all the cooks have to follow that exact same way of making it".  Of course the food still evolves, as he says "if a cook finds a different way of doing something then they have to approach me, we test it, and if we like that better then everyone has to change to that way".  In other words, as Chef Kantor says "everybody has to create the same dish the same way".  Under this philosophy Chef Kantor ensures that customers always get the same food and won't say "oh I only come in this day because I like the way such and such cook makes it". 

Quality ingredients - known sources

Consistent food, according to Chef Kantor, also requires an intimate knowledge of the underlying ingredients and their sources.  Chef Kantor achieves this through relationships with local purveyors.  He is proud of his purveyors and even helps promote them with a list of his purveyors on the MacCallum House website.  Of course, Chef Kantor admits promoting these purveyors is a bit self-serving saying "that if I help promote these people and share their product then I'll get to use them too!".  Chef Kantor is passionate about these purveyors.  He eagerly describes his purveyors, noting many important details about each, demonstrating the depth of his relationship with and knowledge of them.  He begins talking about Thanksgiving Coffee Company who provides fair trade coffee from a farmer in Nicaragua.  Chef Kantor actually names the farmer who he met once during a sustainable conference they had.  Elk Creamery, which Chef Kantor says "had the first organic goat dairy in California, second in the US", provides many of his cheeses, although Chef Kantor makes his own fresh mozzarella everyday.  He also mentions the great local wines of the Anderson Valley region.  Chef Kantor is particularly exuberant about Jim Miller, a farmer located in Chico California who provides heirloom tomatoes, peaches, arugula and other vegetables that have been central to Chef Kantor's cuisine for more than 10 years.   

Speaking of the peaches and arugula from Jim Miller, Chef Kantor describes a warm peach salad (recipe below) that is currently on his menu. He says it is "a warm wilted salad; I sauté some shallots and Niman Ranch bacon, then I add peaches and arugula with a little bit of balsamic vinegar and serve it with a little wedge of the Elk Creamery Black Gold cheese".  As with everything we talked about, Chef Kantor's energy and enthusiasm for all of his food is evident.  Chefs are indeed a mighty lot and Chef Kantor is no exception, demonstrating that perhaps the only thing mightier than Chef Kantor wielding his knife to create a culinary masterpiece is his underlying passion for his food.

Warm Peach Salad

From Chef Alan Kantor, MacCallum House Restaurant

Serves 4

  • 8 slices of Niman Ranch Applewood smoked bacon
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 2 tree-ripened peaches, 1" dice
  • 4 handfuls of arugula
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 wedges, 1/4" thick, Elk Creamery Black Gold Cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice bacon into 1/2" pieces and sauté in pan, rendering the fat out until the bacon is crispy. Put in strainer to drain fat and lay bacon pieces on paper towels. 

Spread pine nuts 1 layer thick on sheet pan and bake at 350º for 8 minutes or until lightly golden.

Sweat the shallots in olive oil until soft; add diced peaches.  Stir until warmed through, about 1 minute; add arugula and toss to coat with the oil.  Add balsamic vinegar and slightly wilt the arugula.  Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Place salad on plate, garnish with wedge of Humboldt Fog chevre and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

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Chatting with Chef Jeffrey Buben

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Saturday, 23 June 2007
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ImageJames Beard Best Chef - Mid-Atlantic 1999, Jeffrey Buben, recently spoke with us about his ChefLife.  Chef Buben, the owner and chef at restaurants Vidalia and Bistro Bis in Washington, DC, describes his culinary style as a reflection of his classical French training.   Although he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, when talking about his training Jeffrey primarily speaks about working under French chefs in New York.  These chefs instilled upon him "classic fundamentals" the old fashioned way.  These fundamentals included both "the importance of learning your craft, respecting the disciplines of the kitchen, and working within a brigade".   These days he enjoys teaching these same fundamentals to the current generation of aspiring chefs saying "It was something I was given by European chefs therefore I see it as an important thing to give back".

Classic training … keeping on the traditions

How did these classically trained European chefs teach these values?  Jeffrey relates this through a story from when he was 17 or 18 working with a chef in a private club in New York.  He says that at that time he had "total blind faith, whatever the chef said that was the work, I hung on every breath of it".  He also quickly learned that "you didn't ask for nice things to be said" this was because "doing a good job was an expectation".  Jeffrey says that one winter day the Chef went to do an event and he decided to clean all of the copper in the kitchen.  Of course, being an eager and determined aspiring chef Jeffrey decided to "clean the copper the old fashioned way with salt and lemon, no polish".  He worked hard doing this and "couldn't wait for the chef to get back".  Once he returned, however, Jeffery quickly learned a very important lesson.  As he relates it "As soon as chef walked in the door, the first thing he said was 'missed a spot'.  That is when I learned the idea that you double check what you do and make sure it is perfect".  Reflecting on the lesson he learned that day Buben says he is not sure which was the better lesson "that he missed a spot or whether I wanted to be as mean as that". I asked Jeffrey if he is "as mean as that" when teaching aspiring chefs - his reply "At times, yes! Because you realize the success of the people that work for you is your success and you have to make them as successful as possible".


Onions, onions, onions - even for dessert!


Vidalia and Bistro Bis each reflect Chef Buben's classic French training but Vidalia also imparts a Southern twist with contemporary American flare.  We asked Buben why he named his restaurant after an onion.  Jeffrey explains "We didn't start out being on onion restaurant.  The Vidalia started as our icon and it represented a unique American product, seasonal food and that kind of approach.  But between the Vidalia as our icon and my wife's Southern accent when she answered the phone, we became a Southern restaurant noted for Vidalia Onions.  Once that groundswell started we needed dishes that were onion centric and influenced".  Today Buben and Vidalia fully embrace the Vidalia Onion presenting an all onion tasting menu  when the Vidalia Onions are in season.  The menu incorporates Vidalia Onions in every course, even dessert!  The "Vidalia Onion Tatin", recipe below, has become very popular and is now one of Vidalia's signature dishes.   

Modern food expectations


Jeffrey describes Bistro Bis as "classic French cooking with a bit of a modern angle". As he says "Everything is round in classic French cooking  ... doing classically named dishes and interpreting them for modern expectations of customers."  Part of the modern expectations that Chef Buben imparts in his food is the use of rare breed animals along with heirloom and seasonal vegetables.  He not only enjoys these food items but believes "It's important that people are doing this.  You have to support it otherwise they won't be able to do it." as a result he "seeks out those ingredients".  He is quick to point out, however, that he does not go ingredient shopping nor does he shop by specific cooking trends, saying " I cook what I want to eat … and my food is a reflection of my style, of what's on my mind and my palate at that time of year".  

Culinary trends - the constant evolution

Reflecting on culinary trends Jeffrey talks about how extreme an influence Chefs have on the food we eat even in our own homes.  Looking back on the evolution of ingredients such as Radicchio and Kiwi he says that at one time "radicchio was considered almost a foreign object"  but then in the 80's it became "an exotic gourmet ingredient" and now it's everywhere.  Mesclun salad is another example that followed a similar path and now as he says "is everywhere, it's even at McDonald's!".  What does this mean for chefs?  According to Buben "each time that evolves the bar must be raised".  Where does Buben believe this evolution of cuisine is going next?   He says he believes "the ingredient driven trend is over and that chefs are now embracing ingredients that are not going to go mainstream such as Berkshire pork and so forth".  As he views it, the trend is now "Small producers and things that are going to be special should only be available at the finest places".   

This is a stark contrast to the past where it used to be, as he says "an ingredient such as Fiddle Heads simply had to be on the plate because they were something different.  But now, maybe it is the maturity of cooking, you realize what you want to do with them and how you want to approach them as opposed to putting them on a plate simply because they are different.  You embrace it from the idea that it is seasonal and use it in its short season".  To illustrate he talks about the Stiniging Nettles that his Chef de Cuisine, RJ Cooper, wanted to use because of their taste and seasonality.  Initially he says, "RJ tried to use them as a green like kale".  But laughing, Buben says "finally I told him - you know no matter what you do it is still going to be like eating a shammy cloth!  Ultimately, we incorporated the Stinging Nettles into a Viscchysois, as a puree where they are much more delicate and softer".  As Jeffery describes this, it is clear that in the past this lack of visual presence would have been problematic, but with the evolving culinary style "embracing the ingredient" is what's important.  Culinary style is not the only thing that evolves.  This year, Vidalia's Chef de Cuisine RJ Cooper followed in Chef Buben's footsteps by winning the James Beard Mid-Atlantic Best Chef for 2007.  It seems that Vidalia is also evolving…

Vidalia
1990 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
202.659.1980
Bistro Bis
15 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
202.661.2700

 

Vidalia Onion "Tatin"

From "Vidalia Restaurant"

Serves 6

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Cook over medium heat until it becomes a caramel (approximately 355 degrees on a candy thermometer). Carefully pour the hot caramel into the bottom of a 10 inch layer cake pan, cool.

3. Slice the onion and apple thinly with a knife.  Layer them in the bottom of the pan with the caramel. 

4. In a sauté pan, cook the butter over medium heat until nut brown and foamy.  Remove from heat and set aside.

5. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar and the egg whites with a whisk.  Add the almond flour and all purpose flour and gently fold together.  Slowly add the brown butter and mix until thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter over the apples and onions. 

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

7. Allow to cool slightly and invert to un-mold.

8. Cut into 6 equal wedges and serve warm with your favorite vanilla ice cream.
    
***Almond flour can be found a gourmet cooking shops.  Almond flour can also be made by grinding blanched almonds (without skin) in a spice grinder.

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