Scallops..... Day Boat, Diver Caught, Dry Pack, Top of the Catch; there are so many marketing terms used in the scallop industry that it is almost impossible to know how your scallops are being harvested. Even if a scallop was in fact from a dayboat, how long did it sit in a warehouse before getting shipped? The truth is that most scallops served in even the finest restaurants are several days or even weeks out of the water.
We just got two bags of hand-harvested scallops still alive in their shells. The bright red roe is still intact and offers a rich-briny contrast to the sweet scallop. The roe is also a testament to how fresh these scallops are, since it is highly perishable and only desirable when the scallop is still alive.
Roasted Scallop, Speck Ham, Baby Leeks, Local Fava Beans and Seared Scallop Roe
Jimmy Nardello peppers are named after the person who brought the seeds from Southern Italy to Connecticut in the late 1800's. For generations this pepper has been prized for its deep fruity flavor and perfect balance of heat and sweetness. The skin of the peppers is paper thin, just like the famed Chimayo Chiles grown near my hometown in New Mexico. While these peppers are not nearly as hot as the peppers I grew up with, their dark cherry aroma and overall complexity and balance are quite familiar. I wouldn't be surprised if the two peppers share a common ancestor in Spain or Portugal. Many people enjoy the pepper raw, but I prefer to roast them in a hot cast-iron pan with sea salt and olive oil.
Lone Mountain Ranch Wagyu with Jimmy Nardello Pepper Puree and Roasted Garlic
Elk Tenderloin Marinated with Roasted Dandelion Root
Caramelized Brown Turkey Figs, Goat-Gouda Grits and Elderberry-Fig Reduction
By slowly roasting the dandelion roots in a dry pan they take on an aromatic quality and mild bitterness similar to coffee. The earthy nuttiness of the roasted dandelion root helps to enhance the caramelized flavor of the aged goat-milk gouda.
Many years ago, when Billy Post planted two heirloom apple trees in the valley at Post Ranch, he probably never expected them to end up paired with raw fish and seaweed. None the less, the apples he planted are delicious, with the perfect balance of sweet, acid and tannic bite. Tonight for our amuse we mixed the fine diced apple with raw tuna, green yuzu zest and mint. Crispy dulce seaweed from Monterey Bay adds a textureal contrast and red shiso from the garden brings it all together.
I love the texture of perfectly cooked salmon skin, unfortunately it seems like few people share that sentiment. My solution- wrapping local king salmon in a thin sheet of black rice and crisping it in rice oil to create a crust that mimics the color and texture of crispy salmon skin. Manilla mangoes are tossed with lime juice infused with fresh jasmine blossoms and a kiffir lime- avocado puree and roasted chile oil finish the dish.
Lone Mountain Ranch- Wagyu Tri-Tip - I have known the ranchers at Lone Mountain for almost ten year, long before they started selling beef. The first time I went to the ranch they were just starting their 100% Wagyu herd- and I got an inside tour of how the process works. So often chefs associate quality beef with marbling, but that is really only part of the equation. The other factor which may be even more important is the tenderness of the beef. Much of this has to do with the cut and aging- but recently ranchers have realized it is also largely genetic. Lone Mountain was one of the first ranches to track the genetic background of each animal in order to isolate those that performed the best in both marbling and tenderness. Some of their cows and bulls have been sold at auction to other ranches for more than fifty thousand dollars. The time and effort they have spent developing the highest graded Wagyu herd in the country can be clearly tasted in the final product.
Tonight we are serving the roasted tri-tip with charred jalapeno- olive oil and heirloom shelling beans slow braised with epazote.
Watermelon Glazed Pork Cheeks with Fresh Garbanzo Beans
The pork cheeks are brined in fresh watermelon juice and then slow braised. We dice the melon rind and pickle it with rose geranium leaves and balinese black pepper. Fresh garbanzo beans are quickly blanched and tossed with meyer lemon argumato. To order we reduce red watermelon juice and glaze the pork cheeks.
Several months ago the lagoon on the lower section of the ranch was drained to try and exterminate a population of ravenous Louisiana Red Crawfish that were feeding on the endangered red legged frogs that also inhabit the pond. The origin of the crawfish is a mystery, but they thrived in the muddy banks. The pond was completely drained, the endangered frogs were collected, and after a few months deep cracks stretched over the entire dried bed. Confident that the crawfish had been eradicated the pond was refilled.
Somehow the crawfish survived the effort; not only did they survive, they grew larger than ever, emerging as armored super-predators. Now the kitchen is going to do our part in getting rid of this grave environmental risk and try to cook them into extinction. Today we are serving them sauteed with young california bay leaves, Swank Farm sweet corn and heirloom tomato! Who knew saving the environment could be so delicious?
Dayboat Scallop with Smoked Sweet Corn and Padron Peppers. When someone who has been farming corn for thirty years tells me this year is the best corn they have ever harvested, I take note. You can expect to see the Swank Farm sweet corn at Sierra Mar over the next few weeks.
For this dish we smoke the corn in their husks for three hours and then make a sauce with yellow peppers and garlic.. A few padron peppers, roasted baby corn and house smoked bacon- padron compote finish the plate.
Chilled Nasturtium Soup with Lemon Verbena Creme Fraiche. This time of year the nasturtium vines around the Post Ranch have small green seeds that appear below the canopy of leaves. These seeds have a spice that starts like a pungent arugula and ends with a nostril searing heat that makes is the equivalent of a spoonful of fresh grated wasabi. Adding a few of these seedpods to the soup helps elevate the nasturtium flavor, balancing the subtle floral aroma with just the right amount of spice.
Mangalitsa Country Ham- Also known as Wooly Pigs, the Mangalitsa is a rare breed of pig from Hungary that is now grown by a small cooperative of farms in the Pacific Northwest. The pigs were originaly bred for their decadent layer of fatback and intermuscular marbling which incapsulates the sweet nuttiness of their acorn-rich diet. The ham is cured and aged for eighteen months and has a finished flavor that easily rivals the finest Iberico hams from Spain. Haogen Melon- This melon, aslo called Israeli Perfume Melon, lives up to its name, filling any room with a distinctive scent of sweet melon and floral overtones. Cubeb Pepper - Originating in Java and Sumatra these tailed peppercorns have a flavor that is uniquely balanced between heat and refreshing menthol.
Red Abalone is a local delicacy that is not often found outside of California's central coast. There are a handful of predictable preparations, many of which require pounding all texture out of the abalone and incorporating ingredients that overpower the abalone's subtle flavor.
For this dish I wanted to showcase a side of abalone that few people get to experience. We get the abalone directly from the farm on wharf number two in Monterey and shave them raw to order. The translucent slices of abalone have a crisp texture reminiscent of geoduck clam with a complex sweetness and briny finish. A few wild flowers harvested on the hill above my house, and some fresh herbs from the garden, offer the perfect contrast for the pure flavors of the abalone. (nasturtium flower and seeds, mustard flower, radish flower, chive blossom, opal basil and red fennel).
The final touches on the dish are a few flakes of local sea salt, a young tannic olive oil and pearls made from 5yr balsamic.