CHEFFED UP

Resurrecting SPRING

Ditch the roots and embrace delicate spring produce

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Easter is a time of rebirth. In the world of chefs, Easter coincides with the first substantial seasonal menu change of the year.

Out with winter and in with spring! Fresh, light, green and delicate are the culinary themes which spring evokes. This is the season when we embrace spring onions, ramps, morel mushrooms, new potatoes, English peas, fava beans, bunnies and lamb. Chefs, especially up north, are known to express giddiness and even smile at the very prospect of using vegetables that are not roots. Colorful, light, tender spinach and baby lettuces plucked from Mother Earth are a cause for celebration. But before I sound too much like an NPR narrative, I need to share a very amusing story from my very first spring in the 904.

Approximately 15 years ago, the Ritz-Carlton transferred me from D.C. It was Easter time on Amelia Island and the weather was already amazing—especially considering I had just left damp 40°-50°F weather. The first big holiday buffet was just on the horizon. The buffet plans had been finalized weeks earlier, and it was my responsibility to assist with the flawless execution of the food.

As is common with all major holiday buffets in large, upscale hotels, most guests would consist of families, many multi-generational groups of young children, parents and grandparents. Because of the beautiful spring weather, the food was to be presented outdoors on the patio overlooking the ocean. Along with exquisite food, entertainment was scheduled, such as an Easter egg hunt, a clown (not the ones from the woods), face-painting, a petting zoo, croquet, beach volleyball, etc. There were a lot of logistics to handle.

Easter arrived and all the arrangements were proceeding like clockwork, the buffet was all set, the petting zoo was in place and the meats for the carving station were being placed under heat lamps, ready for the first wave of guests. And then it happened. As I was walking the buffet with the F&B manager, he began to laugh and point. I didn’t notice at first, but then I realized what he was laughing about: the petting zoo was set up directly behind the carving stations! Lamb, anyone? You know where we got it from, right? How about some braised rabbit in the pan over here? (No, Susie, it’s not the Easter Bunny!) Hilarious, I’ll never forget it. BTW, only a few guests noticed and they were kinda amused as well.

If you want to challenge your ability to produce an exquisitely delicate soup, try this one. Remember, the more you heat the soup, the more the color will dull.
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Chef Bill’s English Pea Veloute
Ingredients:

  • 3 Pounds shucked and skinned English peas
  • 1/2 Bunch tarragon
  • 1 Bunch chives
  • Vegetable stock as needed
  • Salt to taste
  • Butter as needed

Directions:

  1. Blanch the shucked peas in salted water, shock in ice bath.
  2. Rough-chop the tarragon and chives.
  3. Place the peas and herbs in a blender and purée. Add as needed to create a thick purée.
  4. Strain through chinois (fine strainer), season with salt.
  5. To serve, warm a couple of ounces of vegetable stock, just enough to achieve a thick soup consistency. Add cold pea purée, season, finish with a knob of butter. Heat slightly.
  6. Serve immediately.

Until we cook again,
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Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Fernandina Beach, at cheffedup@folioweekly.com to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

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