Saturday, June 22, 2013

Yellowtail Crudo "Watercolor" - Inspiration

I am often asked where inspiration comes from for the dishes that we create.

Sometimes it is more obvious than other times.  Without wanting to seem gimmicky, I will often put clues or hints that the guest might be able to figure out for themselves where inspiration came from: a touch of chocolate cookie crumb to simulate dirt in a dessert inspired by flowers, or a bit of sea foam or seaweed on a fish dish.

With our Yellowtail Crudo, the intention to produce a dish which would look like a Chinese watercolor-inspired painting, evolved alongside our desire to produce this dish, with these components.  In the end, the two concepts merged to create the Crudo "Watercolor"

The paints determine the flavor profile:
Basil Oil
Plum Vinegar
Horseradish Cream

The Chinese characters translate (extremely roughly) to "meet by chance" and reference the way that patches of duckweed drift together on a pond.

The pond is painted on using basil oil and swirls of horseradish cream and populated by thinly sliced Yellowtail.

A drizzle of plum vinegar brings the koi fish Yellowtail to life

A touch of crispy rice pearls to mimic bubbles on the surface.

A few fallen Basil leaves

A garlic blossom on a peppery nasturtium leaf makes an uncanny lilypad.

Sealed with the restaurant's name in all edible inks

Pretty sick likeness, if I do say!

Most importantly, the flavors work really well, the combination of plum and basil is unique and so summery, but for us, its really special to present these flavors in a context that people will find memorable (hopefully!)

Cool beans.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stuffed and Rolled Lamb Chops "Frankenlamb"

Lamb is a tricky ingredient to squeeze into a menu format.  Sourcing can be an issue, as domestic lamb can often be 3-4 times the price of overseas lamb, which is also typically frozen.  The chops are sinewy and have only a couple bites of meat on them.  There are other parts of the lamb with better flavor, moisture and texture, but everyone loves the prettiness of those little meat lollipops.  So the question becomes: how does one serve the perfect portion of lamb, and still maintain the attractive shape and velvety texture of a rack.

At Palo Alto Grill, we serve a dish that we call Stuffed and Rolled Lamb Chops.  It is a combination of three different cuts of meat:

Lamb Merguez Sausage

Rack of Lamb
Lamb Shoulder

In order to make this dish, first we take the rack of lamb and french it.  In this instance, frenching is a technique which has nothing to do with spinning a bottle.  Instead it is a butchery method which takes the rack of lamb, as it is pictured above and cleans the fat and meat off the bones, so that it looks as it does in the picture to the right.

Racks are traditionally frenched with a boning knife or paring knife, which can be difficult, time-consuming and can wear the edge on a knife.  At Palo Alto Grill, we french with twine, which is a more modern method.  This is a very short video of what that looks like.  (I may give a more detailed lesson in twine-frenching at some point.)

Once the rack is cleaned, poke a small hole all the way through the loin, first with a knife, then with a steel, to make the hole smooth and not too jagged.  Feed the Merguez into the hole.  (note, the merguez should be cooked and chilled for ease of stuffing)

We then roll the rack in a confit of lamb shoulder.  To confit the shoulder, salt it well before simmering in duck fat.  The duck fat should barely reach above a light simmer, so keep it over very low heat on a stove.  This may take up to 5 hours to completely tenderize the lamb shoulder.  When it is done, it looks like it does in the picture on the right. (once the fat is drained off)  It is fall-apart tender.

To roll the rack in the confit shoulder, lay the confit out on a sheet of plastic wrap, then place the rack in the middle, pull up the sides of the plastic wrap and fold in the excess.

Like this

And this...

After a vacuum seal (with foil to protect the bags from the bones) it looks like the following)

It can then be sous-vide or refrigerated until use, either method would work.  (we sous-vide ours for 4 hours at 140F, which keeps it nicely Medium Rare, or rosey throughout.  After sous-viding, chill in ice bath overnight, for ease of portioning)

After portioning, the rack should look like this:

In its semi-raw state, the layers are clearly visible, the Merguez inside, the rosey chop meat and the confit shoulder on the outside.  After grilling, however, the color becomes more monochrome.

We serve our lamb chops with harissa demi-glace, couscous, cucumber raita, golden raisins marinated in white wine and cilantro.  Most people can't really tell what they're eating when they're eating it, but most agree its pretty sick!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Corn Puddin' - in video

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then 3 videos should explain Corn Puddin' better than any recipe, especially because the only ingredient is corn!  Here goes:

That's all it is - corn, shredded on a cheese grater and squeezed dry, then sizzled in a cast iron pan before being broiled brown, topped with a little bit of butter, fleur de sel, and lime.