cod with vinegared beets, white anchovy aioli, black radish

What's the point of opening a restaurant if you're not opening the best damn restaurant in the world? Why go halfway? This is what I've been asking myself lately as I draw out sketches and ideas for the eventual form of the restaurant. I want this to be an immersive experience - I want the guests to come away from the meal feeling like they've just experienced a great film or book -  a sense of beauty, being uplifted, loss at the end.

I've suddenly been taken with the idea of starting Taiga as a series of pop-up restaurants across NYC. Learn to develop my craft more, get my name out there, practice, practice, practice. This is one of those dishes I've been practicing. That delicate cod, the sweetness and acidity from the vinegar-soaked beets, that umami punch from the anchovy aioli, crisp salt from the soaked carrot and sea beans. Bitterness from the radish. It's all about balance, about touching every flavor at once. 

1 cod fillet
1 golden beet, sliced
1 candy cane (or red) beet, sliced
1 carrot, shaved
1 black radish, sliced
2 oz champagne vinegar
2 oz canola oil, divided
1 white anchovy
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. In a foil wrapper, toss beets with 1 oz oil and champagne vinegar. Add salt to taste. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, in a bowl of salted water, soak the black radish slices and carrot for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and white anchovy. Mix until fully incorporated.

In a metal skillet, heat 1 oz oil over high heat until shimmering. Add seasoned cod, top side down, and cook 2-4 minutes, or until halfway opaque and it releases from the pan easily. Flip and repeat. Plate as desired and serve.

black sesame encrusted seared ahi tuna with ponzu reduction

I don't remember my first raw fish. I remember some but not the first. Gentle breezes laced with salt air, the sun on my back, wind blowing through palm trees sounding like an echo of  the ocean. There are thick slices of tuna and salmon haunting vinegared rice and covered with toasted nori. I eat them in gulps my classmates nudge me. Ew, that's raw fish, they say, and I suddenly swallow, uneasy. But the taste remains, that fresh, clean taste. Pure and unadorned. 

Ahi tuna is one of those few fish, like swordfish, that's really more of a hearty meat than others like cod. The bright pink flesh is sliced into half-inch or inch thick steaks and carefully wrapped in paper, ready for you to slip in your canvas bag and take home. How do you honor a fish both mild in flavor and robust enough for any cooking technique? The sheer heartiness of it provides an answer as tuna stands up well to a simple sear, so close to being left raw. I like to coat mine in sesame seeds to provide a crunchy contrast.

Every good meal deserves a good sauce. Here, I'm drawn toward the flavors of my childhood in Hawaii. Soy sauce mixed with a fruit acid (lime here) and the taste of Chinese black vinegar thick with five spice and a dusting of star anise. Reduce this over a low heat until au sec and nappe (nearly dry and when you coat the back of a spoon, you can draw your finger through it and the line stays.) .

1 5-6 oz ahi tuna steak
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1 oz canola oil

On a plate, spread out the sesame seeds. Flip tuna steak around until evenly coated. In a 10" saute pan heat oil until nearly smoking. Add the fish and sear for approximately two minutes on either side. Remove. 

In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, lime juice, and vinegar. Reduce until sauce has thickened, about halfway. Drizzle tuna with sauce. Serve.

salmon with dill and buerre blanc

I always feel inordinately healthy when I eat salmon. It's one of those rare foods with so many touted benefits that you'll feel like a superhero the moment it touches your tongue. Added to that is the fact that salmon is, in fact, delicious. It's rich and buttery, with a substantial flavor that nothing else in the world truly mimics (arctic char, I'm looking at you). 

What I like about this dish is that it's one of those 25 minute weekday wonders. With very little prep work, simply mincing some shallots and dill, you can have it together and everything in the dishwasher in well under an hour. The key to making this dish successful is having the patience to allow your pan to get truly hot (no one wants a limp or torn skin) and to whisk that sauce thoroughly to ensure it's pulled together. These are easily enough done provided you know to look out for them.  But when you do, you'll have this rich, crispy skin with soft layers inside, drizzled by a sauce equal parts acidic and bright from lemon and wine and thick with silky butter, all tied together and elevated with the herbal note of the dill. 

1 salmon filet
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 oz champagne wine vinegar or white wine
2 oz butter
2 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp herbes de provence
salt & pepper to taste
canola oil

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a 10-inch saute pan over high heat. Add oil, get oil to smoking hot (about 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle fish with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. Add fish skin-side down, laying the fish away from you so the oil doesn't splash back. Allow to cook until the skin is crispy and releases naturally from the pan (about 2-3 minutes). Flip fish. Cook on meat side until a crust develops and it releases naturally from the pan. Put entire pan in oven. Cook 5-6 minutes or until thermometer registers 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the filet. 

In a small saute pan, add vinegar or wine and shallots and cook over high heat until mostly evaporated (au sec). Remove from heat and add butter, whisking quickly to form an emulsion. Add dill and lemon, whisk in to stabilize emulsion. 

Remove fish from oven and place on plate, drizzle with beurre blanc and top with dill. Serve.

dill + horseradish lobster sliders on brioche

there's a sweetness to graduation, of which we had a very successful one yesterday. preparing for your senior buffet is a little like being on top chef - you construct a menu of a number of dishes, appetizers, and desserts. you conceptualize the plating. then you get to work - we had four hours of prep time the night before and eight hours on the day of. i was responsible for gazpacho with cilantro oil (my signature dish if you've crept around a little) and dill and horseradish lobster rolls on brioche buns. i slipped on a clean chef's jacket and bowed my head for a toque. you know, that really big chef hat. i'm sure i blushed from my ears to my toes.

but, we're back! so what better recipe to follow up culinary school graduation with than the one i made for it? you already have the gazpacho, so let's make some lobster rolls!

a key aspect of this recipe is the sweetness of the brioche bun. brioche is a dough made from a levain and a pate. the levain is a wet starter of flour, yeast, and lukewarm milk while the pate is the remaining mixture. here, like in all bread making, we brush the tops of the buns with egg wash to help them reach a rich, golden brown. i find that the brioche buns are so delicate that using the tips of your fingers to brush the wash on works best. 

now, you'll also need to dispatch a lobster. we'll use the most humane method, even if it doesn't sound very kind. take the lobster. position him facing your dominant hand. place the tip of your knife over his head, just past and between the eyes. push the knife down in one swift stroke, the faster and more sure you are, the less the lobster will suffer. it will continue to twitch and move, be aware that this is normal and the lobster is most certainly dead and cannot feel a thing. 

brioche

levain

12 oz all purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm milk
.5 oz active dry yeast

bloom the yeast in the milk and mix. add flour. place in a warm spot, covered, for 35-40 minutes.

pate

20 oz all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter, room temperature and chunked

in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugar, salt, and butter and cream on high speed until light and fluffy. add flour and begin adding egg and egg yolks one at a time until fully incorporated. switch from the paddle to the dough hook and beat at low to medium speed for 10-15 minutes, until a smooth, shiny dough is formed. turn out into a greased bowl and allow to rise, covered, for 1 hour. then, place into the refrigerator for 1 hour. retrieve and punch down, form into a rectangle or ball and return to the refrigerator to rest for at least one hour and up to 24. 

retrieve dough. on a lightly floured work surface, tear off roughly 1 oz chunks and roll into a ball, either on the table or between your hands, much like you're using play-doh. place onto a parchment-lined tray and brush with egg wash. set aside and allow to proof for 20 minutes.

bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown. let cool. slice and hollow out the insides.
 

lobster

1 lobster, (either alive or you can ask the fishmonger to dispatch it for you.) 
1 large shallot, minced
1 tbsp dill, minced
1 stalk celery, small diced
1/4 cup mayo
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon
salt to taste
 

first, dispatch the lobster. hold it firmly in your non-dominant hand facing toward your dominant hand. place the knife squarely between the eyes and drive the point down swiftly and surely. grip the body and tail and twist in opposite directions. save the tail. repeat with both claws. bring a pot of salted water to a boil. drop the claws for 6 minutes and the tail for 8. plunge both into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

now take a pair of kitchen shears and cut down the top and bottom sides of the tail to remove the flesh. for the claws, twist the actual claw off and remove the pincer. cut down the two sides to pop the shell and retrieve meat. dice the meat.

in a small bowl, combine mayo, horseradish, mustard, dill, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice. toss with all ingredients. scoop into hollowed-out brioche buns and serve!