Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation, raised a glass to toast the guests of honor at 2012 Chefs & Champagne festivities at Wolffer Estate Vineyards honoring the great stars of the culinary world in its 20th year. On this especially exciting day, we celebrated the TV star and host of “Chopped:” Ted Allen, a great and generous friend of the Foundation.
Chefs & Champagne, in Susan’s words, “is a party with a purpose.” The host of participants helped raise funds for the mission to nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and to help educate our future chefs and winemakers. Since 1991, the Foundation has awarded over $4 million in financial aid. This year’s scholarship recipient for the Christian Wolffer Award went to Eliza Martin of New York who will be attending the Institute of Culinary Education. Last year’s scholarship went to Mercedes Wilby who graduated with distinction from the French Culinary Institute Pastry Arts program. Another past Wolffer recipient and local Sagaponack student, Christina Cassel graduated from Johnson and Wales.
The talented chefs, from both New York and the North and South Forks, created a sensation with their beguiling tastes for the happy crowd. BLT Prime offered rare steak slices with roasted sweet pepper, and Mads Refslund showcased eggs whipped with cauliflower foam and Parmesan and served in an eggshell – fascinating. Fresno’s local striped bass with peach puree and sriracha was a sweet/hot balanced delight. Eleven Madison Park served up a strawberry gazpacho with guanciale for a twist on the classic, The minimalist lobster roll from the Lobster Roll was exactly that, 100% lobster on a buttery toasted roll, bit of mayo and lemon butter. My sweet tooth was more than satisfied with The Modern’s caramel milk chocolate trifle with mango passion jelly and caramel tuile.
The support of several vineyards, including Wolffer Estate, and the Foundation’s exclusive sponsor Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte made the event taste and feel like a real celebration, which it was.
ALISON EIGHTEEN’S SMOKED TOMATO GAZPACHO
8 ripe tomatoes
2 peeled, seeded and sliced hot house cucumbers
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and diced
3 cups cubed country bread, crusts removed, soaked in 2 cups tomato juice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Crab Salad garnish
1/2 pound crabmeat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 shallots, finely diced
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1. Sliced tomatoes in half and using a perforated hotel pan smoke the tomatoes with apple wood chips for 10 minutes. (Or place on a rack in a roasting pan with chips and an inch of water in base of pan. Cover with foil and smoke over medium heat for 15 minutes.). Transfer tomatoes to a blender or processor and add remaining ingredients. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste. Refrigerate overnight and serve chilled with crab garnish, about 1 tablespoon per serving.
2. Combine ingredients for crab garnish in a mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
TODD ENGLISH’S OYSTER ESCARGOT
The Todd English Blue Point Oyster is harvested from the pristine waters of Todd’s private oyster farm in Westport, Connecticut.
Makes 8 individual appetizer servings
4 Todd English Blue Point Oysters
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons toasted bread crumbs
1. Have the fishmonger open the oysters and discard top half of the shell. Have the oysters placed in a container with the oyster juice. Have shells wrapped separately. Refrigerate and prepare within one day.
2. In a small bowl, mix butter, garlic and parsley. Pack mixture on top of the oysters.
3. Place oysters on grill (or in broiler). When butter is melted and oyster is slightly cooked (about 3-4 minutes) remove from heat. Top with bread crumbs, cheese and serve.
RAMI’S STRIPED BASS CEVICHE WITH LECHE DE TIGRE
From Executive Chef/owner Richard Sandoval’s Raymi’s Peruvian Kitchen.
Leche de Tigre (tigers milk)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon diced celery
Thin slice ginger
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
Pinch habanero pepper
2 tablespoons white fish scraps from bass trimmings
1/3 cup ice
3/4 cup fish stock
Salt to taste
Combine all of the ingredients for the tigers milk and pulse mixture in a blender, then strain through a fine strainer. Reserve the liquid and refrigerate.
For the ceviche
1 medium sweet potato
1 small red onion, thinly shaved
1 teaspoon diced habanero
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves
1/2 pound fresh local striped bass, trimmed
1/2 cup tigre de leche
1. Combine the ingredients for the leche de tigre and pulse mixture in a blender.
Strain into a bowl through a fine strainer. Reserve liquid and refrigerate.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake sweet potato on a bed of salt about 1 hour until
tender. Cool, peel and cut into cubes and reserve for garnish.
3. Shock red onion in ice water for 30 seconds, drain well. Split habanero in half
and remove seeds and veins, then cut into fine dice. Be sure to use gloves when handling habanero.
4. When all the ingredients are prepped place them in individual small containers for do-ahead preparation and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. To prepare the ceviche, cut the fish into 1/2-inch cubes and refrigerate in a stainless steel bowl set over ice. Lightly season the fish with salt and a squeeze of fresh lime. The fish must be very cold when ready to serve. Add habanero, cilantro and shaved red onions. Toss to mix well, then add enough leche de tigre to coat, and mix again. Adjust seasoning with salt. Refrigerate a serving bowl and put the ceviche in along with the juices. Garnish with cubed sweet potatoes.