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THE GAME-BRITISH & SCOTTISH CHEFS: JUNYA YAMASAKI

The Brits have been preparing for some time the after Marco Pierre White cuisine. Not that there is a british style but we can certainly say that the emerging chefs are pro-locavore and that they are sourcing the best products of the island of Albion. In the very cosmopolitan London, the influences of young chefs are many, which give them a unique culinary personality.

I thought I’d come back later with another English chef, but circumstances have changed the schedule, so I complete a “Londoner trilogy” with the chef Junya Yamasaki. I know that many chefs already know very well Junya and Koya restaurant, I have heard only “good things” about him and his “small dishes” marked by simplicity and creativity.

It was during his art studies in Paris he began to cook, and it was under the teaching of Mr. Nomoto (Udon master) he learns the art of Udon noodle in Paris. Junya Yamasaki is a self-taught, but he made an “internship” with two of the most famous chefs of the moment, Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken Magasinet) and Dan Hunter (Royal Mail Hotel). In 2010, he opened with partners, Koya (London), a casual restaurant specializing in Udon noodle but quickly became a “must-go-to” for the “daily small plates” of chef Yamasaki.

But thanks to this interview, I discovered a creative chef in symbiosis with its products and very influenced by his japanese roots (Kansaï) and philosophy Shyojin Ryori. His “cuisine” is unlike any chef that I interviewed, except maybe 1-2 chef(s) from Australia/NZeland. A “cuisine” closer to the artistic improvisation and to the instinct of the chef, completely inspired by the products of certain suppliers. It may be a coincidence, but in the way, I think at chef Bertrand Grébaut (Septime). Just to illustrate, here are a few recent titles of his dishes: Nuka Fermented & Grilled Mackerel with Shiso Daïkon/Steamed Turnip in Dashi with Ramson Oil/Tofu, Chicory, Dandelion & Mustard Salad/Grilled & Hay Smoked Char.

Definitely a chef to follow for a long time!

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Q+A WITH JUNYA YAMASAKI (www.koya.co.uk):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

JYamasaki– Our speciality is Udon noodle, but we also play a lot with daily changing/special black board/small plates Menu.

My “cuisine” is honest/natural/simple/minimal. Stylistically close to the popular and everyday home cooking, philosophically influenced by Zen and Shyojin Ryori.

Seasonal ingredients are essential, then we try to find our products locally, therefore some of our food become strange for the Japaneses, but familiar to the Europeans, that could be a challenge for us and exciting for the customers.

2-(Scoffier) Where did you learn to make the udon noodles/dishes?

JYamasaki– In Paris, under the Udon master Mr. Nomoto at famous Udon noodle restaurant called “Kunitoraya”.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

JYamasaki– I’m from Kansaï, West side of Japan, which is famous for light seasoning. I love the tastes of fish caught and grilled by the river and I love the smell and taste of ripe tomato just picked from tomato plants.

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

JYamasaki– I like pickling the part of vegetable we normally throw away like turnip green and use it for seasoning. I also love the English game in general which I perceive like a true luxury.

5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your career?

JYamasakiFergus Henderson, Rosanjin Kitaoji as chef and some Zen monks (past and present) in Japan.

6-(Scoffier) Koya specializes in the classic udon dishes but you have a great reputation for your “daily small plates”? How do you develop (creative process) your daily menu?

JYamasaki– Very simple. First, I get fresh and local seasonal ingredients and then wonder what can I do with these ingredients today. It is the fresh ingredients that dictates our “small plates menu” everyday. I try to be open to all cooking methods but I also try to listen to the “voice of nature” and to the precious gifts and tellings of great predecessors and precious thinkers.

7-(Scoffier) Initially it was only udon restaurant, how daily specials meals arrived in the menu?

JYamasaki– True, but we had this in our mind before we opened the restaurant. We knew we have to enjoy cooking, not just do the same food to feed everyday, and this is the best way to do.The more we do, the more we have learned things, that is actually so exciting. That’s also why I want to do a “daily changing menu”. The literal meaning of Shyojin Ryori ( Zen Monk’s food ) is “make effort to progress everyday”.

I learned enormous amount of stuff in past three years, from both Japanese and European cooking, on the history of food and, it’s funny, I had to learn a lot about my own culture and heritage. Never thought about Zen aspect for example.

8-(Scoffier) Is this one of the aims to offer kaiseki-style meals in the future?

JYamasaki– It doesn’t have an aim to offer kaiseki, though kaiseki has a root to Zen and Shojin Ryori. It is just fascinating “cuisine”, vegan but full of understanding of food, creativity and the life.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Junya Yamasaki?

JYamasakiRecipe: Stout and Honey Pork Belly

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for Koya?

JYamasakiContinue feeding the people with nice food of course, and at the same time I always want to learn more about the meaning and esthetic of eating.

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RECIPE: Stout and Honey Pork Belly
(Photo not available. The daily menu changes too often)

In KOYA, we have been serving “Braised Pork Belly with Apple Cider” from the day one, and it has been the biggest seller as a small plate menu. It is so addictive that I call it Pork Brownie. This version is the recipe that I came up with when I discovered fantastic local dark beers and honey in Faviken during a few weeks stage there. I cooked it as a staff meal on my last day together with “Rain Deer Dashi” Udon. And ever since, I put on our special black board menu sometimes. I even did with chocolate stout and orange as an half joke, but it was seriously good!

Ingredients

-Pork belly (The amount you need)
-Braising sauce mix:
water 500ml
stout 300ml
honey 150ml
-Ginger
-Onions

1) Cut the belly pork into big brick size, or buy the bricks of pork belly. Sear them all around in hot frying pan.

2) Boil them with medium strong heat in water for about 1,5 hours (this is to render the fat and leave only collagen in belly). Let them cool down till the room temperature in the boiled water and keep in the fridge. The water will be set like jelly and the belly meat will be kept in it easily for a week if it is properly refridgerated.

3) Take the amount of belly blocks as you want to cook from it. In Koya, we cook quite a lot everyday, but at home you can accommodate with the size of casserole that you have. Cut them into chunk of cubs (3-4 cm) and layout in your casserole. Do not lay one on top of the other.

4) Cover the belly with the braising sauce mix with some ginger and whole small onions, then braised with medium heat till the sauce gets reduced and get the silky texture. It will usually take around 2 to 3 hours.

5) Serve with hot mustard.

FURTHER INFORMATION

KOYA/Chef Junya Yamasaki
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG
info@koya.co.uk

PRESS

1. Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012

2. The Skinny Bib (Review), Oct. 2010

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2013

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Chef Jesse Schenker/©RecetteRestaurant

THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF : JESSE SCHENKER

The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search. 

After presenting two American chefs (Moore, Bilet) opposite each other, here a young chef of 27 years native of Florida but who choose New York City to pursue his passion. In January 2010, Jesse Schenker decided to open his own restaurant, RECETTE, from his concept Recette Private Dining (Superior dining out of the restaurant).

Beyond the fashion and trends, Schenker creates an American cuisine with strong French roots (and refined culinary techniques). A high level of creative cuisine despite his air of comfort food. This cozy restaurant became one of the best places for a great dinner in NYC. For both critics and lovers of good food.

A Chef and a cuisine on the rise, not to mention his excellent Pastry chef Christina Lee (former Per Se).

 

Q+A WITH JESSE SCHENKER (http://www.recettenyc.com/):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at RECETTE and what is it main characteristics?

JSchenkerRecette is an urban, contemporary American restaurant located in New York’s Greenwich Village, which opened its doors in January 2010. Recette features a menu of contemporary American snacks and plates which feature seasonal ingredients manipulated with classical technique. 

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable? 

JSchenker– From my childhood, I remember eating a lot of home cooked meats and stews. I have early memories of cooking with my grandmother, helping her prepare fresh vegetables and making soup.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?  

JSchenker- I love uni, salt, olive oil and sherry vinegar. I don’t really have a favorite ingredient. I  love salty and acidic foods.

Interior/©RecetteRestaurant

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

JSchenker- I am always reading about what other chefs are doing in NYC and around the world. I learn something new from everyone.  

5-(Scoffier) I know that the chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance, Paris) take a lot of time choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you have the chance to spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces? (Your relation with your suppliers…)

JSchenker- I am very particular about my produce- I wish I had more time to spend at a market, but these days, I do not. I am very specific with my suppliers and have a great relationship with them. They know how particular I am about freshness, so they only send me the best. 

6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at RECETTE?

JSchenker- I sit downstairs and do research when I get sick of seeing the same dish on the menu night after night. I have this great book called Culinary Artistry. I’ll read through that and make a list of fall ingredients and call my vendors to see what’s available and when.

7-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from new technology (sous-vide etc.) in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?

JSchenker- I do own multiple immersion circulators and I have been really into the ISI cream chargers lately. Carbonating things. But for the most part, I like doing things very simply, just with perfect execution and fresh product.

8-(Scoffier) Actually, New York is a great city for the gastronomy but what are the good things and less good sides of New York for a Chef and a restaurant?

JSchenker– The good thing is that I love what I do. I love everything about being a chef and owning and operating a restaurant.  I thrive on the multiple day to day madness and challenges, and there’s always something that must be done.  It’s constant, and that is why it is great being in New York. It’s very competitive, so you always have to keep moving forward.  So, in the same sense, it can be a negative thing, because at times, it can feel very daunting.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Jesse Schenker and RECETTE? 

JSchenker- One of the signature dishes at Recette is the Berkshire Pork Belly with Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel:

It has been on the menu since we opened.  The Berkshire pork belly is braised and cooked slowly in a sherry caramel sauce, with a classic Spanish romesco sauce and rock shrimp. In regards to the steps of concept to execution of this dish, a lot of it has to do with what I read, or what I go to eat: I get inspired by things. For the pork belly with rock shrimp, I love the flavors of Spain and had an idea to do pork and seafood. I didn’t know where I wanted to go, so I asked myself, what’s the best-tasting pork? So I went to pork belly. With the sauce, instead of doing something completely sweet, I wanted a vinegar, and used sherry in the caramel sauce. When I went to Morimoto, I loved the tempura battered rock shrimp with ranch dressing. [For the pork belly] I wanted to do langoustines, but they’re soft and I didn’t want to ruin their integrity by frying them, so decided to do rock shrimp instead. And then I took some bitter local turnips and roasted them for caramelization, and liked the nutty texture of the romesco sauce, which uses Marcona almonds. The piquillo peppers gave [the romesco] a very bold flavor.

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

JSchenker- A personal goal of mine is to earn a Michelin star. And I eventually would like to open a larger restaurant with my dream kitchen.  

11-(Scoffier) For my personal curiosity, I have read that you have a collection of cookbooks, do you have a favorite book or one who influenced you strongly?

JSchenker-

1. Culinary Artistry; it’s just a great tool for flavor combinations and seasonal ingredients. It always helps spark my creative process.

2. Escoffier, Art of Modern Cookery – I love reinterpreting some of his recipes.

3. Jacques Pepin, La Technique – nobody should ever go to culinary school- just buy this book and do what he says cover to cover, again and again.

 

RECIPE: Pork Belly with Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 

 

PorkBelly/©RecetteRestaurant

 

 

Ingredients & Progression Recipe

-3lbs. boneless, skinless pork belly

-1 granny smith apple

-1 cup clover honey

-1 bunch fresh thyme

-1 garlic clove

-1/2 onion

-1 1/2 cups dry white wine

-2 sticks celery, rough chopped

-1 large carrot, rough chopped

-kosher salt

Sherry Caramel:

-2 1/2 cups sherry vinegar

-1 tbs cardamom

-1 tbs black peppercorn

-1 tbs fennel seed

-1 tbs coriander

-2 bay leaves

-1 clove garlic

-1 cup granulated sugar

-kosher salt

Romesco:

-1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

-1 8 oz. can of good peeled tomatoes

-1 8 oz. can of high quality Spanish piquillo peppers

-1 clove garlic

-1 shallot

-1/2 cup of peeled and toasted almonds

-1/4 cup of toasted breadcrumbs

-1/2 sherry vinegar

-kosher salt

-1/2 cup pitted Spanish olives

-1 bunch chopped parsley or cilantro

1. Porkbelly:

Season aggressively with kosher salt on both sides and place in roasted pan.

Add all chopped vegetables, herbs, garlic, honey, white wine and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 275 degrees for 4-5 hours.

2. Sherry Caramel:

Add sugar and vinegar in saucepot.

Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

Add all spices and herbs.

Re-reduce for additional 10 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt.

Strain sauce.

3. Romesco:

Heat up olive oil in deep sauce pot.

Add garlic and shallots; sweat for 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and piquillo peppers; simmer for 20-25 minutes on low heat.

Add olives, almonds, vinegar.

Mix together and season with salt, add herbs.  Let cool. 

4. Assembly:

Glaze Pork Belly with Carmel Sauce, Serve aside Romesco sauce on large plate.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:        

-Recette/Chef Jesse Schenker

328 West 12th Street

New York, NY 10 014

www.recettenyc.com

 

Review(s):

 1. Best New Chef 2010 by Adam Platt, New York Magazine, December 26 , 2010, http://nymag.com/restaurants/wheretoeat/2011/70264/

2. Best Dishes of 2010 by Sam Sifton, NY Times, December 28, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/29/dining/29year.html

3. Review by Sam Sifton, NY Times, March 30, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/dining/reviews/31rest.html?pagewanted=all

 

Tous droits réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2011

 

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