When simple is beautiful: Ichi Sushi’s uni masu iridashi

When it comes to making the most flavorful, satisfying food, Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar Chef Time Archuleta proves that some of the best dishes are often the simplest.

For this week’s blog, he chose to feature the restaurant’s uni masu iridashi, which is basically lightly battered and fried ocean trout in a homemade dashi broth. While it was recently highlighted in it’s restaurant week menu, it’s one of Ichi’s signature dishes. It’s the dish, Archuleta says, that most represents the message the restaurant wants to send with its food.

“This dish is a great example of what we do here: taking japanese traditions, techniques and flavor profiles and bringing them to the american palate,” Archuleta says. “We consider ourselves a teaching restaurant in that we try give customers as much exposure to Japanese food as we can.”

The chef claims that Japanese food has become a little too “california-ized,” with too many sauces covering the flavors of the fish, and argues that some things have gotten lost in translation. “We actually try to refrain from serving things like soy sauce and wasabi when not needed,” he says. “We focus on elevating the fish and the fish flavor — not hiding the fish, ever. The fish and the rice are the stars.”

Chef came up with this dish after a research trip to Japan 2 years ago, when he first had the idea of making the back of the sushi restaurant into an izakaya. “This dish we had in pretty much every izakaya restaurant I went to in Tokyo,” he says. “It’s a very typical Japanese dish and that’s why I put it on the menu.”

Here’s how it’s done, in a few simple steps:

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First, make the dashi, which is simply water, kelp and bonito flakes. To make, bring a handful of kelp to a boil in a pot of 4 quarts water. Once boiling, take it off the heat and add in about 1 1/2 quarts of bonito flakes. Let the bonito flakes sit in the water until it extracts all the flavor from the flakes, about 20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when all the bonito flakes fall to the bottom of the pot and no longer float. Strain it really well to get a clear, beautiful broth.

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For prep, all you need to do is grate 2 tablespoons of daikon radish and 1 teaspoon ginger. The grated daikon and ginger will help cut the fat of the fish and help you digest the fish oil. It also serves to balance out the dish’s flavor. Then, thinly slice 1 scallion, soak the slices in water for about 10 minutes and drain. This cuts a little of the scallion’s astringency.

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Lightly batter the whole fish filet, skin and all, in potato starch. The reason for using potato starch is that doesn’t have much flavor to overpower the fish. It also contains less moisture than other flours, so that it crisps up better, making it perfect for frying. Ichi uses salmon when it’s local. Otherwise, it uses farm-raised ocean trout from New Zealand. (You basically need a fish with a high fat content.) The fish is then deep-fried in rice bran oil at 350°F for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until it stops bubbling. The fish should be slightly rare inside.

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Lastly, simply layer the components. Place the fish inside the broth and top with the grated radish, ginger and scallion. Serve and enjoy your perfectly balanced Japanese specialty.

The secret to Dosa’s new bomb diggidy yogurt-stuffed lamb kebabs

If you’re plugged into the San Francisco dining scene, you know that it’s restaurant week in the city — a time when our already packed eateries get even more packed with deal-seeking diners hungry for good a meal. And while it may seem that for many restaurants the annual event is a time to get new customers in the door, you may not know that for others it’s a great opportunity to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients and showcase a few new creative menu items.

At least that’s the case for Dosa, arguably the city’s most liked South Indian restaurant. This year, Dosa owner Anjan Mitra has decided to showcase a few Moghal-inspired dishes from the South Indian city of Hyderabad. If you dine at the restaurant this week, you’ll be privy to all of these new additions from head chef Dinesh Kumar, including the Murg Mali Korma, a chicken dish in a spiced cream sauce, or the spiced minced lamb shikampuri kebabs stuffed with cooling yogurt, which we chose to feature on the blog this week.

As the daughter-in-law of a a very talented Indian cook, I can attest that the thought of making Indian food can be very daunting. However, once you get familiar with all the ingredients and order in which they must be cooked, Indian cuisine is actually pretty easy to do. And that’s exactly the case with Dosa’s kebabs. While they’re made up of about a gazillion ingredients, the process is fairly simple and straightforward.

These little kebabs pack a major flavor punch and are sure to impress  your next dinner guests. If you’re game, here’s how they’re done:

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First, the most daunting part of Indian cooking — gathering all your ingredients. That punch of flavor that comes most indian dishes starts with many of these, well, basics. For about 15 kebabs, you’ll need 1 bunch chopped cilantro, 1 bunch chopped mint leaves 1/4 teaspoon ground mace, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 4 dried red chiles, 6 cloves, 2 teaspoons green cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoons fenugreek leaves, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon fresh curry leaves, 1 tablespoon grated garlic, 1 tablespoon grated ginger 3/4 cup ground channa dal, 3/4 cup ground roasted and ground channa dal, 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 chopped onion, 2 pounds of minced lamb, 1 lime, 3/4 cup olive oil and salt, to taste. Phew.

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The first step is to make what is essentially Dosa’s version of garam masala. Everyone’s grandmother, mother and aunty claims to have the best mix, and Dosa’s chefs are no exception.  They start their delicious and fragrant garam masala by lightly toasting the fennel, coriander and cumin seeds on the stovetop to bring out their flavorful oils and aromas. Those whole spices are then separately ground using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Then the dried red chiles, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek are ground together and mixed in with the ground, toasted spices and the turmeric powder.

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The result of all these ground spices is a beautiful, fragrant powder that can be used to add a boost of flavor to any curry dish. But in this case, we’re using it all.

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The ground spices are then added to the rest of the ingredients, mixed thoroughly with the lamb and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to bring all the flavors together. After it marinates for a bit, the lamb mixture is then put through a food processors to grind it further and allow the ingredients to really blend in.

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Meanwhile, the yogurt stuffing is made. Dosa uses in-house hung yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, but greek yogurt or goat cheese work perfectly, as well. If using yogurt, it needs to sit in a cold fridge to tighten, which makes it easier to work with, while goat cheese should be left at room temperature to soften a bit. A little bit of ground chanda dal and coriander are sometimes thrown into the mix for added flavor, as well.

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Next comes shaping and stuffing the kebabs. This is where a little technique comes in. Dosa’s chefs simply roll about a 2-ounce portion of the cold lamb mixture between their hands to form little balls. The balls are then flattened and indented in the middle with a thumb. That creates a little pocket for the yogurt stuffing.

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The kebabs are then filled with yogurt, topped with another indented disk and tightly pinched shut so that the yogurt doesn’t’ seep out too much while cooking.

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The kebabs are then sauted in a pan with ghee or oil on medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side until lightly brown and cooked through.

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The final product is served with a little mint chutney and roasted red pepper chutney that I’ll give the recipe for soon. If you dare to make these at home, I’m sure they’ll turn out fabulously. Otherwise, let me know if you just want to head over to Dosa to try them before they’re all gone!

How to make M.Y. China’s perfect steamed garlic crab

As San Francisco’s crab season officially winds down, I’m doing all I can to stock up on the tender and sweet local sea critter and cook it in every way possible. Whether boiled, grilled, roasted or fried, I can’t seem to get enough. And neither can the rest of San Francisco, it seems.

Since the season started in November, Dungeness crab has been a staple at seafood markets and a centerpiece on restaurant menus around the city. And while the season doesn’t officially end until June, around is 80 percent is brought in by the end of the year.

A self-professed crab lover, celebrity chef Martin Yan is one cook that has made crab a shining star on the menu at his San Francisco restaurant M.Y. China. Along with his sous chefs, Yan can up with a list of crab dish options that highlight the flavors of six distinct provinces of China, including a chili crab from the Guiyang province and a “good fortune crab claypot” from Shanghai.

M.Y. China executive chef Tony Wu spared a few minutes — because that’s all this dish takes — to show me the simple, yet extremely flavorful preparation for the restaurant’s Guang Dong steamed garlic crab. This dish calls for no more than eight ingredients, a steamer (makeshift will do) and vermicelli noodles to produce the most succulent, tender crab dish I’ve had all season. Here’s how he did it:

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Like any good chef, Wu gathered his ingredients. To make at home you’ll need 2 teaspoons of minced scallion, 2 teaspoons mashed garlic, 2 teaspoons of fried garlic (you can either purchase this or make it by deep frying garlic until golden), 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1/2 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon neutral oil and 4 ounces vermicelli noodles.

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Next, Wu fished out a live crab from the restaurant’s tank and put it belly side up on the cutting board. I’ll let you guess what happened next (you can thank me later for sparing the gruesome photos). While I don’t expect you to have a live crab, this did make for the freshest tasting crab I’ve ever eaten.

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Either way, you’ll need to chop up your crab between each leg and scoop out the lungs from the internal cavity. The rest is deliciousness that you can eat.

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After chopping up the crab, Wu mixed all his other ingredients together, save the scallions which served as a garnish at the end.

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This delicious and fragrant mixture is then scattered over the crab evenly and placed in an industrial-sized steamer for 8 minutes. At home, you can steam the crab in large pot with a steam basket fitted over boiling water. Steaming this way should take anywhere from 10-15 minutes for a 1 pound crab. You can tell the crab is done when it’s no longer translucent, but rather white and tender.

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While the crab is steaming, Wu cooked the vermicelli noodles in boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until soft and slightly sticky. This can take up to 1 minute. Super, duper fast, I know!

MY China crabWhen the crab came out of the steamer, Wu simply plated the vermicelli, placed the crab on top and garnished with the chopped scallions. So, so simple. So good.

 

Holiday crisis solved: DIY Gift ideas from San Francisco chefs

Anyone can buy someone something for the holidays, but only a special few can pull of the gift of a delicious recipe. You can be that person. If you’re scrambling to find last-minute things for friends and loved ones, I encourage you to ditch the mall and hit the kitchen instead with some special (and very easy) do-it-yourself food gifts — all with recipes from San Francisco chefs. Here’s how pull off a Santa like the pros:

Bluestem Brasserie’s Olive Oil Granola

GranolaThere’s nothing tastier (and easier) than homemade granola. And when packaged in a pretty jar with a little bow, it makes for a beautiful gift. Developed by pastry chef Curtis McDonald, this granola would be perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack or part of a streusel topping for other desserts.

You’ll need:
3 cups oats
3 cups raw nuts
1 cup coconut flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup dried fruit (I used tart cherries and dried peaches)

To make:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients except for dried fruit together in a bowl and spread onto lined baking sheet. 2. Cook 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or so.
3. Let cool. Transfer to large bowl and toss in dried fruit. (At this point, Bluestem also likes to add a bit of orange blossom honey for added texture and another layer of flavor).

Wente Vineyard’s Bacon Brittle

Bacon Brittle

Because bacon make everything better. This is chef Matt Greco’s super secret recipe for deliciousness. Made with crispy bacon and toasted peanuts, this brittle is surely unlike anything your family has ever tried. For the finishing touch, package the bite-sized brittle in mini mason jars, tied with a festive red ribbon.

You’ll need:
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup corn syrup
3 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups bacon, cooked to a crisp and finely chopped
4 cups toasted peanuts, finely chopped

To make:
1. Combine water, corn syrup, sugar and butter over medium low heat.
2. Bring mixture to boil. Insert candy thermometer and cook to 300° F.
3. Remove pan from the heat.
4. Add salt and baking soda (It will foam up, be careful! Make sure pot is large enough).
5.  Add bacon and peanuts.
6. Pour mixture onto silpat or parchment paper and spread evenly.
7. Let brittle cool completely.
8. Break up and chop into bite-size pieces.
9. Store brittle in airtight container for freshness.

Palm House’s XO Sauce

salsa

This one’s for the spice lover in your life. For this sauce executive chef Lea Walker pulls influence from the Caribbean, as well as Latin America and Africa.

You’ll need:
3 Fresno chilies
2 habanero chilies
1 clove garlic
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 whole Thai chilies

To make:
1. Pulse the first three ingredients in food processor.
2. Heat the vinegar and sugar in a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil with the whole Thai chilies. Take off heat and pulse all the  ingredients together.
3. Return the pot to the stove, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

Hog & Rock’s Kohlrabi Kimchi

Kohrabi

Chef Robin Song is harking back to his Korean heritage for this one. Traditionally made with cabbage, this kimchi uses kohlrabi for a new and interesting crunchy twist.

You’ll need:
5 cloves garlic
1, 1-inch piece ginger
1 tablespoon Korean chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
5 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into 1” in cubes

To make:
1. Salt the kohlrabi and let sit up to 12 hours, and as little as 1 hour.
2. Mince garlic and ginger in food processor.
3. Add garlic-ginger paste and chili flake to kohlrabi with its liquid.
4. Place in a couple of mason jars and use a small weight to keep kohlrabi submerged and seal with cheesecloth.
5. Keep in a cool dark place for up to 2 weeks, as little as 1 week.

Not your grandmother’s pumpkin cheesecake

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If you’re looking for a recipe to impress guests this Thanksgiving, I’ve got just the one: Genoise pumpkin cheesecake from Bluestem Brasserie executive pastry chef  and sweets extraordinaire Curtis McDonald.

This is not your grandmother’s pumpkin cheesecake. This pie is layered with a genoise base and apple butter cream and topped with a bruleed Italian meringue creme chiboust. To top it off it’s served with cranberry coulis, pumpkin seed tulle and a side of candied cranberries. It’s the pie that pastry cook’s dreams are made of. It was inspired by McDonald’s training in Japan, where cheesecake is made without a crunchy crust, but rather as more of a soufflé.

But you’ll have to work for it. This three-layer pie takes the restaurant a solid three days to make. It’s probably the fanciest, most involved cheesecake I have ever seen — and subsequently made. But while process is long, the steps are actually pretty simple and straightforward.

Here’s how McDonald does it and how you can do it yourself:

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McDonald starts by making the genoise sponge cake. He makes two cakes at a time, but that’s a bit much for the home cook, so I cut the recipe in half. For this amount, you’ll need 7 eggs at room temp, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons glucose or corn syrup, 1 3/4 cups flour, 6 tablespoons butter, 2 1/2 cups whole milk. Here’s what the three layers should look like when done.

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To make the genoise, start by heating the oven to 350°F. Combine eggs, sugar and glucose in mixing bowl. If you have an electric mixture, fit it with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed by machine or hand until mixture is light in color and texture and the mixture has roughly tripled in volume.

While you are whisking the egg mixture, heat the cream and butter over a medium flame just until the butter melts then set aside. Sift flour, set aside. Reduce the speed on the mixer to low and prepare a buttered springform pan, scraper, off-set spatula, the butter, milk and flour. Chef says that once you have stopped the mixer, you must work quickly.

Remove the bowl from mixer and clean off excess batter from whisk attachment. Add flour in batches, folding in by hand with bowl scraper. Move down through the center of the batter and out towards the sides of the bowl (similar to folding a mousse), making sure movements are quick and precise. Once all the flour has been added and you are 75 percent completely mixed, scrape off hands, scraper and sides of bowl and then add the milk and butter in a circular motion around edges of bowl and finish mixing batter to completion. Pour the batter into a greased springform pan and even out with an off-set spatula. Rap on counter a few times to pop any large bubbles. Then pop the pan directly into a preheated oven. Bake, with out opening oven doors, until color appears on top. Rotate pans if necessary and finish baking until deep amber color is achieved and cake slightly resists when gently pressed on top. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.

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Next it’s time to make the cheesecake. This one’s a little easier. You’ll need 24 ounces cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups extra fine granulated sugar, 4 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon orange zest 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon dried ginger and 16 ounces of pumpkin puree. Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature for easy blending.

Combine the cream cheese and the sugar on low speed in a mixing bowl until smooth and no lumps remain. Scrape the sides of the bowl well. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting for the previous added amount to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape often in between. Add all the flavorings and the pumpkin puree and mix well.

Pour the cheesecake on top of the genoise cake in the  springform pan. Wrap the pan with several sheets aluminum foil around the outside to ensure the water bath that you will cook the cake in doesn’t seep into pan during baking process. Pour water into a roasting pan to create a Bain Marie. The water should come about 1 inch up the side of the springform pan. Place in a 325°F oven and bake until the center is set and no longer trembles, about 45 minutes. Let cool and then rest in the refrigerator overnight.

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The following day it’s time to make the creme chiboust with Italian meringue. For the creme you’ll need 1 cup whole milk, 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 teaspoons sugar, divided, 4 egg yolks, 2 teaspoons corn starch. The Italian meringue needs 3/4 of a cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of water, 3 egg whites and 1 sheet gelatin.

Start by combining the milk, vanilla and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar in a pot. Bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks with the other 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Whisk in the cornstarch. Temper the egg mixture with half of the hot milk. Pour this mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk. Return to a boil, while constantly stirring (making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pot) until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside on counter while making Italian meringue. For the meringue, boil sugar and water until the temperature reaches 245°F. Whip the egg whites to firm peaks (do not over whip) with an electric mixer or by hand, then slowly pour the syrup into the whites with a mixer on low. Gradually increase speed of mixer and continue whisking until sides of bowl are cool. In the meantime, bloom the gelatin in ice water. Once bloomed, add to hot pastry cream and mix until gelatin is dissolved. (If pastry cream is no longer hot, re-warm slightly). Add 1/3 of the meringue to the pastry cream and mix quickly to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until evenly mixed.  Slather the creme on top of the cheesecake and allow to cool.

Bluestem cheescake

To finish up, sprinkle the top with brown sugar and brûlée until a caramel crust forms. Bluestem serves with with a simple cranberry coulis, pumpkin seed tulle and a side of candied cranberries.

How to make Gaspar’s fall chickpea panisse

Gaspar chef

And now we venture off on a trip to the south of France with Gaspar Chef Chris Jones, who has been exploring what he calls “peasant cuisine” adapted from long-settled immigrant communities throughout the region. Sounds delightfully quaint, no?

The new restaurant in San Francisco’s financial district that Jones heads up has a menu that mostly sticks to Parisien brasserie classics, with ingredients and dish ideas sourced from various regions around France. For us, Chef Jones decided to feature his delicious panisse, a fried chickpea flour cake that’s reminiscent of polenta. This particular dish came from the influence of Italian migrants, who brought their recipes and cooking techniques with them when they immigrated to the south of France from Genoa.

“It’s actually an Italian speciality that the French in the region made their own,” Jones says. “It’s representative of a poor food that’s very substantial. And I enjoy the technique and elevation of certain ingredients into something beautiful.”

Jones brings other touches of the region to the dish with a sheep’s milk feta and a pumpkin-seed pistou (get that recipe here). Here’s how you can make this simple, tasty treat your own:

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To start, gather all your ingredients. To make 4 servings, you’ll need 3 cups water, 3 cups whole milk, 3 cups of chickpea flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt  and 1/2 cup frying oil (like canola or peanut oil). Start by heating the water and milk together in a saucepan on the stovetop over moderate heat. Stir in the garlic powder and salt. Just before the liquid reaches a boil, take the pan off of the heat and start slowly whisking in the chickpea flour.

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After all the flour is whisked in, Jones uses an immersion blender to remove all the lumps. The same can be achieved by continuing to whisk thoroughly. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and then quickly remove it from the saucepan. If you take too long, the end result could be gummy.

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Spread the chickpea mixture into a parchment-lined sheet pan. No need to oil or anything, as the mixture will set on its own. Use a spatula to get the panisse evenly into all corners of the pan. After it’s set, don’t move it. Let it set for about five minutes undisturbed. Then place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to cool.

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Once cool, cut into shapes of choice. Jones likes to cut his into multi-sized circles. Then dredge the cakes lightly in flour. Jones likes to use a flour with an extremely fine grain to help make the cakes crispy on the outside.

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Meanwhile, heat frying oil in a shallow pan. Jones uses a canola and olive oil blend. Fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. If you fear they might still be cold in the middle, stick them in a 350 degree oven to warm through for a few minutes.

Gaspar panisse

Dress with whatever you would like and enjoy! Jones serves his panisse with a little pumpkin puree on the bottom and tops it with roasted delicata squash, sheep’s milk feta, a little grilled chard, parmesan and the pumpkin seeds pistou.

 

Warm up with some spicy Sriracha-sesame ahi tuna burgers

While ahí tuna is abundant in the summer months, this meaty, flavorful fish can mostly be found year-round. But since you might not want to make poke or tartare — its most common iterations — on a cold winter night, I developed a spicy alternative that should warm you right up: sriracha-sesame tuna burgers.

I guarantee after making these once, you’ll want to enter them into your easy weeknight dinner routine. I made mine with fish that was shipped right to my door from the Pure Food Fish Market out of Seattle. It came as fresh as it ever does at the super market and lent itself beautifully to making flavor-packed patties. The ingredients that went in are ones that I, for one, always seem to have too much of in my fridge, including lime, sesame oil and sriracha.

One pound of tuna will get you about four medium-sized patties. If you make more than you need, they also freeze beautifully. Here’s how it’s done:

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For the burgers you’ll need 1 seeded and diced serrano chilli (or 2 thai red chilies), 1 inch grated fresh ginger, 3 minced green onions, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon sriracha, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted, 1 egg, 1 pound diced ahi tuna, as pictured above.

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In a mortar or food processor, mash the thinly diced serrano, ginger and green onions until the mixture forms a rough paste, like so.

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Meanwhile, lightly toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat on the stovetop until they slightly change in color and become fragrant, being careful not to burn.

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In a medium-sized bowl, add the lime, sesame oil, sriracha, toasted sesame seeds and egg to the serrano, ginger, onion paste. Mix in the thinly diced tuna until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add about a teaspoon of salt to start. Then taste the mixture to make sure it’s well seasoned. You’ll do this by adding a little canola oil to a ripping hot cast iron pan or grill and test a tablespoon-size portion of the burger mix. Once cooked through, taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary. Divide the tuna into four equal patties, wrap in individual plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set.

Ahi tuna burger slaw

Meanwhile, make the slaw. For this you’ll need 1/2 small head purple cabbage, thinly sliced, 3 tablespoons sriracha, 2 teaspoons toasted, sesame oil, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 teaspoons honey, 1/4 cilantro, chopped and salt to taste. To make, simply mix all the slaw ingredients together thoroughly. And then, of course, taste to make sure it’s good.

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To cook the burgers, simply heat up a cast iron pan or skillet greased with canola oil or olive oil. Cook each burger for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until a nice crust forms and the patties are cooked through. These can be eaten medium-rare.

Ahi tuna burger

Layer the burgers on buns of choice. I like brioche buns for this because they’re buttery and amazing. Then top with slaw and whatever else you see fit — lettuce, mayo, sprouts, avocado or pickled cucumber, which I did. (Almost) anything goes.

 

Sriracha sesame tuna burgers
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These fun, easy burgers are perfect to spice up any boring weekend night dinner. The slaw can be eaten on the burgers or on the side and serves as a great leftover the next day either on its own or on top of tacos.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: California
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • For the burgers:
  • 1 serrano chili (or 2 thai red chilies), seeded and diced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 green onions (white part only), minced
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ahi tuna steak, diced
  • salt to taste
  • Brioche buns (or any other type of burger bun)
  • For the slaw
  • ½ small head purple cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaise
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ¼ cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a mortar or food processor, mash the thinly diced chilies, ginger and green onions until the mixture forms a rough paste.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat on the stovetop until they slightly change in color and become fragrant, being careful not to burn.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, add the lime, sesame oil, sriracha, toasted sesame seeds and egg to the serrano, ginger, onion paste. Mix in the thinly diced tuna until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add salt to taste (which you will do in a second).
  4. Add a little canola oil to a ripping hot cast iron pan or grill and test a tablespoon-size portion of the burger mix. Once cooked through, taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary.
  5. Divide the tuna into four equal patties, wrap in individual plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set.
  6. Meanwhile, make the slaw by thoroughly mixing all the slaw ingredients together. Adjust seasoning.
  7. To cook burgers, simply heat up a cast iron pan or skillet greased with canola oil or olive oil. Cook each burger about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until a nice crust forms on the outside and the patties are cooked through. These can be eaten medium-rare.
  8. Layer the burgers on buns of choice (I like brioche buns for this), and top with slaw and whatever else you see fit -- lettuce, mayo, sprouts, avocado, cucumber.

A peek inside the French Laundry’s secret garden

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Tucked away in a discrete location somewhere in downtown Yountiville hides a little plot of land brimming with herbs and seasonal vegetables many people have likely never heard of. Among the usual broccoli and brussels sprouts are seemingly mystical things like chocolate mint bushes, ficoides, white carrots, miniature cucumbers and other foods that only show up on plates at Michelin-starred restaurants.

This little secret garden is Jacobsen Orchards, a 1.3 acre plot of land filled with more than 120 fruit trees, hundreds of herbs and dozens of varieties of culinary flowers that are used exclusively by the French Laundry and occasionally a couple of other notable San Francisco chefs.

It’s run by the charming and ever-so-knowledgeable Peter Jacobsen, who purchased the plot with his wife Gwen over 35 years ago. He has been growing peculiar and delicious things for the French Laundry for 15 years.

A successful Bay Area dentist by day, Jacobsen is on a never-ending mission to source and grown the most unique seeds available in an effort to keep exploring and continually pique the interest of his chef clients.

“Gwenny and I plant it all,” he says. “If you read articles about this stuff, there’s always something on the newest new things growing. But once it hits the public eye, most of those things have been growing for some time. We really try to be on top of what’s new and get it in the garden.”

Beyond posting pretty photos some of the fascinating things growing in Jacobsen’s garden, I chose to feature the orchard in an effort to show how the top chef of all top chefs sources some of his culinary treats and what can be made with them. Hopefully it will inspire you to find and grown some of this stuff on your own.

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First, meet the man behind the garden. This is Peter Jacobsen. He’s just as adorable and kind as he looks. Here he’s picking a fig at the end of season from one of the garden’s many fig trees.

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Next, Jacobsen starts by showing me a peach leaf tree. As with all stone fruits, it has an element of almond. So, as you can probably imagine, it smells like almond extract. Jacobsen said if you steep it for just a few seconds it can be used to infuse anything with flavor. His favorite application is green peach leaf ice cream.

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Pineapple sage plant. You can identify it by its pink leaves. Believe it or not, it has a slight pineapple flavor, which would make it a perfect herb for a tropical-flavored dish.

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Ceremonial sage. This one is very strong and a bit harsh. While it looks beautiful, Jacobsen said he wouldn’t eat it, just burn it and use it in a ceremony of sorts.

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Chocolate mint. This is many-a-chef’s favorite. It actually tastes like chocolate mint and is used to infuse cream for ice cream, making chocolate mint ice cream with no chocolate. By using the herb, you get a much richer flavor, as opposed flavor from something like an alcohol-based extract.

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Marigolds. These are mostly used for garnish, as they don’t have much flavor. But some chefs like it. Jacobsen says he saw one chef use it in a white marigold vinaigrette.

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Ficoide glaciale, or ice plant. This has a surprisingly sour and salty flavor to it. It’s also a bit fishy on the background. One chef made an uni cream combination with chunks of sautéed tuna. It can also be used in a salad or as a garnish. What’s cool is that it looks like glass, making it a favorite for chefs to use as a garnish.

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Fat pod okra. It’s huge. It can be pretty tender if picked at the right time, but right now Jacobsen said it’s awful.

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Caper plant. If you’ve ever wondered, this is where capers come from, complete with these amazing flowers.

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Chickweed. This tastes a little like corn, which makes it perfect as a topping for corn chowder or something similar to serve as a counterpoint.

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Sea island corn. This is a heritage grain that Jacobsen is growing for a company that wants to preserve heritage seeds. Apparently, it’s one of the finest corns for making polenta.

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Malabar spinach sees. This is another favorite of chefs. Jacobsen says it doesn’t have a great flavor, but looks very cool on a plate. F

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Mexican sour gherkin. Jacobsen calls this the world’s smallest watermelons. Chefs love these for garnish because they look so fun size on a plate. What they lack in flavor they make up for in cuteness.

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Nasturtium flowers. These are simply beautiful for garnish, with a little flavor.

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Wild sorrel. This is often mistaken for clovers, but has that pleasant sour and lemony flavor that makes for a great herb.

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So many carrots. White carrots, funky carrots. Jacobsen has them all.

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And last, but not least, some gorgeous fall squash.

 

The secret to Perbacco’s sweet, savory panna cotta

As the holidays approach and that feeling of fall hits the air, pot roasts and warming vegetable soups aren’t necessarily the first foods that come to mind for me. Instead, I’m fixed on desserts. Think pumpkin pie, apple strudel, pecan tarts… the list could go on. So, this week I’m veering slightly from the savory path to feature a classic Italian dessert that has been gaining popularity in recent years: the panna cotta.

This gelatin-based custard is a staple on the menu at Perbacco, where its flavors and fruit pairings change with the seasons. This fall’s iteration combines a bit of savory with the sweet, featuring a secret and surprising ingredient hidden within a thyme and lemon-infused custard that’s topped with caramelized figs and berries.

Pastry Chef Laura Cronin, the mastermind behind this gorgeous creation, has been developing beautiful pastries and after-dinner treats at Perbacco for nearly three years. Within that time, she has adopted the restaurant’s philosophy of using every possible ingredient to its fullest extent and wasting as little as possible. As a result, her panna cotta use leftover whey as a unique ingredient that lends a savory, salty note to the dessert.

“We make a lot of ricotta in house and the whey that comes out of it typically gets tossed,” Cronin says. “It works perfectly in this dessert. Most people don’t even know what they’re tasting.”

Cronin says that, in general, she prefers a bit of savory to super sweet desserts, which leads her to infuse many of her cakes and pastries with things like herbs and cheeses. She says thyme and rosemary are her favorite herbs to work with throughout the year, and lemon verbena and basil in the summer.

In this recipe, the thyme infuses for a as long as possible in the milk and cream before being strained and poured into its molds.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Start by gathering all your ingredients. For about a dozen portions, you’ll need 1 ¼ cups whey, ¾  cups milk, ¾  cups sugar, 8 g grams thyme, 1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon, if you can’t find meyer), 4 1/2 sheets gelatin and 2 cups cream. Go ahead and pour the cream in a bowl over an ice bath to keep it chilled.

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Place the milk, whey, sugar and thyme in a pot over the stove on low heat to until it just come to a boil to infuse the flavors. Zest half of the lemon into the pot while the milk is heating up. Right before the milk reaches a full boil, take it off the heat, cover and let it rest for 10 more minutes to continue infusing the flavors of the herbs and lemon.

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Meanwhile bloom the gelatin in cold water until softened. The cold water part is key because, Cronin says, you want to keep the gelatin as stable as possible so that it doesn’t melt before adding it to your mixture. This will take about the same time as it takes the milk to come to a boil.

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After the milk has infused and the gelatin has bloomed, add the sheets of gelatin one at a time to make sure they all melt. If you add them all at the same time, the sheets could stick and not distribute as evenly as you’d like. Then pour the entire mixture into the cream that is sitting in the bowl over an ice bath and stir continuously until the entire mixture is cool to the touch and slightly thickened. Once it starts setting a bit on the sides, it’s definitely done. (You don’t want it to go too far, otherwise you have to reheat it on the stove.) Cronin says she likes to cool her custard over an ice bath before she sets it because it sets with a better texture that way. Also, if you have things like vanilla beans, then they stay distributed throughout the custard and don’t all settle at the bottom in the mold.

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Once the custard is completely cool to the touch and slightly set, pour it through a strainer to remove all the bits of zest and thyme. Then pour into any kind of mold you’d like and let it set overnight.

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Next Laura adds a few candied figs to the dish, which she makes by combining equal parts sugar, water and vanilla extract in pot. You can do this easily by bring the mixture to a boil and allowing it to bubble. It will bubble a lot. When the bubbles start to slow down, it’s ready to go. It should take about four minutes to six minutes to reach the right texture and brown, caramel color.

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Then, carefully dip the figs and let them rest for about 30 minutes. This will give the figs a nice, thin caramel sheen.

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Lastly, assemble your masterpiece. At Perbacco, Cronin serves this dessert with a smear of berry puree and tops it with a spoonful of crushed pistachios. Molto bella, no?

It’s tailgate time: Bourbon-apple glazed pork chops

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We’re officially in the thick of tailgate season, and whether or not you’re a sports fan, I think it’s hard to deny that food made to be eaten in front of the TV or from the comfort of your hatchback in the middle of a stadium parking lot can be awesome. I mean, who doesn’t love a good spicy buffalo wing or messy burger with slaw once in a while?

Growing up in Auburn, Alabama, I had no choice but to watch the football games in the fall surround by friends and family. It’s just what you did, unless you wanted to spend Saturdays all by your lonesome. But even though I wasn’t the biggest pigskin fan, I absolutely loved everything about tailgating — good food, great company, responsible (albeit underage) drinking. It was all good fun.

So, in honor of this national pastime, I’ve created a couple of tailgate-worthy recipes — with a bit of a California twist, of course — for AgLocal, which is a fabulous new sustainable meat delivery company out of the Bay Area. They sent me a box of pork chops, chicken wings and a sirloin tip steak.

For this blog, I decided to start with the pork chops. Since I had some leftover bourbon from a party and a bag full of apples from my friend’s neighbor, I thought a bourbon-apple glaze on chops would make for a tasty fall treat. A little bit of rosemary in the sauce gives this recipe a savory infusion and some fennel rounds out all the flavors. I brined my chops overnight in a mixture of equal parts salt, sugar and a touch of apple cider vinegar, but you can skip this step altogether. The debate is still out on whether or not this makes for juicier, less dry chops.

Here’s how it’s done:

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Start by gathering your ingredients. For this you’ll need 1/2 cup of bourbon, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 small thinly sliced shallot, 2 small thinly sliced apples, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 pound pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper or brined.

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In a small sauce pan, bring the bourbon, apple cider vinegar, honey, fennel, red pepper flakes and rosemary to a simmer. Reduce this mixture slowly until you’re left with about 1/3 of a cup of glaze.

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Meanwhile in another pan, melt the butter and add the thinly sliced shallots. On low head, cook the shallots until they soften and slightly start to caramelize. Then add the apples and cook down until softened, glazed and buttery. Lastly, stir in the mustard seeds and lemon juice and remove from heat.

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Once the bourbon-cider sauce has reduced, strain out all the solid pieces and return the sauce back to the pan. If the consistency is of a nice thin glaze, leave as is. If not, simmer the mixture a little more to thicken.

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Next it’s time to cook the pork chops. Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F and seasoning the chops with salt and pepper. (Or, as I mentioned above, you can brine the chops overnight.) Place a cast iron skillet or other oven-proof pan in the middle rack and heat for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the skilled from the oven and set it on medium to high heat over the stove. Add a little butter to the pan and start searing the chops for about 3 minutes on either side. Once a nice crust has formed, baste either side of the chops with the bourbon glaze and return to the oven and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the chops register 135 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat. Let rest for 10 minutes.

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Add the rest of the glaze to the chops, top with the apple and mustard seed mixture and serve with a little side of apple, fennel slaw. Go team!

Bourbon-apple glazed pork chops
 
Prep time
Cook time
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A little bit of rosemary in this sauce gives it a savory infusion and some fennel rounds out all the flavors. I typically brine my chops overnight in a mixture of equal parts salt, sugar and a touch of apple cider vinegar, but you can skip this step altogether. The debate is still out on whether or not this makes for juicier, less dry chops.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: California
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 small apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper or brined overnight
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season chops with salt and pepper.
  2. In a sauce pan, bring bourbon, apple cider vinegar, honey, fennel, red pepper flakes, and rosemary to a simmer. Slowly reduce the mixture until you're left with about ⅓ of a cup of glaze.
  3. Meanwhile in another pan, melt the butter and add the thinly sliced shallots. On low head, cook the shallots until they soften and slightly start to caramelize.
  4. Add the apples and cook down until softened, glazed and buttery. Then stir in the mustard seeds and lemon juice remove from heat.
  5. Once the bourbon-cider sauce has reduced, strain out all the solids and return the sauce back to the pan. If the consistency is of a nice thin glaze, leave as is. If not, simmer the mixture a little more to thicken.
  6. Next it's time to cook the pork chops. Place a cast iron skillet or other oven-proof pan in the middle rack of the oven and heat for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the skilled from the oven and set it on medium to high heat over the stove. Add a little butter to the pan and start searing the chops for about 3 minutes on either side.
  7. Once a nice crust has formed, baste either side of the chops with the bourbon glaze and return the pan to the oven to cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the chops register 135 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the rest of the glaze to the chops, top with the apple and mustard seed mixture and serve.