Migrant Roots

2009.Dec.23 Wednesday · 2 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”

– Paul Cezanne, artist

Throw into the mix International Migrants Day, which gave me license to roam the globe for ideas, and the ancient Catholic antiphon O Radix, which I’m sure has far more to do with the roots of the religion and its deity than it does with root vegetables, but nonetheless was the inspiration for a dinner, not vegetarian, but course by course based in one or another underground ingredient.

Baby Carrot and Beet Salad

Baby Carrot and Beet Salad

On the recent season of Top Chef, my personal fave frontrunner was Kevin Gillespie, who didn’t hesitate to make simple, clean flavors shine on his plates. That he was able to have those dishes standout when put up against the various molecular and elaborate stylings of the two Voltaggio brothers says much about his understanding of flavor. So when the two brothers got up in arms about Kevin’s win with a carrot and beet salad, I knew there was something special about it. Followed it pretty much to the letter – substituting locally made Sardo cheese for the San Andreas in his recipe. Changed the plating between the two nights….

Two soups

Two soups

One of the things I get asked regularly is, “what do you do when something goes wrong?” Now, normally, it’s not an issue, I try to have everything prepped and ready, and anything that can be pre-cooked, done, a couple of hours before the dinner – much like I’d do working in a regular restaurant. And luckily, I’ve never burnt something beyond recognition at last minute. But this weekend, a hitch came up in that, something happened after we served this course. The first night, I tried out a recipe for a chilled radish soup with lavender and a potato-melon soup spiked with chipotle peppers that I’ve made several times before. Now, as to the first one, flavor was fine, though when it chilled, it became just a bit thicker than I would have liked – I thinned it out with some milk to an acceptable level, but still thicker than I really wanted. The real problem, the potato soup – I couldn’t find cantaloupe melons, so I used a canary melon. And, when first blended together, it tasted great, as always. I put it in a sealed container, into the refrigerator, and pulled it out a few minutes before serving. I tasted it again, it was still delicious. Ladled it out, decorated it, and then, we served it about 10 minutes after.

Allan, who’s filling in for Henry, popped into the kitchen after a few minutes and said everyone was making faces about the potato soup. I tried it, it was bitter. Not horrendously so, but noticeable. Nothing to be done at that point, and thankfully, the rest of the dinner went fine, and several people finished the soup and seemed to, more or less, enjoy it. Next morning, pulled the remaining half melon out, and this delicious, sweet melon that I’d tried the day before, proceeded, after removing the plastic wrap from it, to get bitter – within a few minutes to the point of not wanting to eat it. I have to admit, this is a first for me – no idea why this melon was reacting that way to air.

So, second night, decided to focus on the radishes – made a cream of radish soup I’ve made before, and then used the radish greens to make a completely different soup – sauteed in butter, then simmered in chicken stock and a splash of wine vinegar, with an added potato, pureed it when the potato was cooked through, added in sour cream and a bit of mustard, adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper. Delicious!

Salmon Rillettes Ravioli

My favorite course of the evening, and several of the people commented on how much they liked it. The pasta dough – half and half semolina and all purpose flour bound with eggs and flavored with white miso. The filling, a salmon rillettes – fresh and smoked salmon mashed together with butter, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and chives. Boiled ’em up and then topped with a daikon puree (boiled and then pureed with cream cheese, salt and white pepper), and then a drizzle of balsamic brown butter over the top.

Roasted Pork Loin

A simple roasted pork loin, first rubbed with salt and pepper, then roasted to medium. Served over a caramelized shallot risotto (first caramelized the shallots in butter with a little sugar and salt, then made risotto with white chicken stock, and finished with fresh yogurt), and topped with some reduced cooking jus, frizzled leeks and chive oil – just to hit up a few members of the onion family.

Sweet Potato Pie

Recent news that The Pink Teacup is likely closing after 55 years in Greenwich Village has left those of us with a strong affinity for the place feeling a bit out of sorts and nostalgic. There’s a drive underway to rescue the place, we shall see. Either way, I decided on a bit of a tribute, and a few moments sleuthing uncovered that the recipe for their widely acclaimed sweet potato pie was online, in numerous places. It isn’t quite the same – the batatas we have here just aren’t the same as norteamericano yams, but it wasn’t far off. Served it with a ladle of butterscotch sauce and topped it with whipped cream.

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