(Originally published December 9, 2013 on Examiner.com).
The “Salsify, Black Trumpet, Black Truffle, Ceps” dish, introduced during The Amalur Project‘s recently completed “series 3” this past November, Chef Sergio Perera states “was inspired by the taste of earth or soil.” Perera adds that The Amalur Project’s “..appreciation for vegetables always leads us to think deeper into what our ultimate goal is. Nothing represents time and place better than vegetables, plants and roots. Our goal was to accentuate the deep flavors of roots and fungi.”
The components for this dish were directly from the farms. According to Perera, “salsify is in season at the moment along with many wonderful ceps and tubers. All of these flavors are very earthy and comforting and rich with nutty tones.” To bring out the flavor of the salsify, The Amalur Project’s chefs first peel the salsify and then soak it in goat milk. Chefs Perera and Jacob Kear then slow cook the salsify in the same milk until the salify is just tender enough to still hold its shape. The chefs keep the milk that the salsify is cooked in and reduce it to use as part of their sauce.
The salsify releases its starch in the milk giving it a natural thickness. To bring out depth, the chefs cook black trumpet mushrooms with black truffle, shallot, goat butter, reduced white wine and the reduced goat milk. These mushrooms are then pureed. This produces a puree with a smooth almost onyx black sheen which the sauteed salsify pieces are dipped into to coat completely. The result is a piece of salsify rich with earthy flavors and resembling the root in its natural state of soil. To finish, Amalur’s chefs make a rich broth of five different dried mushrooms along with aromatics which they reduce and then pour on to the plate with the coated salsify. To give it an additional visual of nature, Sergio and Jacob fry broccoli florets. These florets give an extra saltiness and umami to the dish.
Earth and soil are also the inspiration for the plating. The chefs, with this dish like with other plates on The Amalur Project’s menu, try to limit the number of components to a maximum of four ingredients extracting the purity and freshness out of each ingredient. The Amalur Project chef’s approach is to simply respect what they use. Thus Amalur’s chefs use modern techniques and equipment without abusing these techniques or equipment. Rather their cooking is sensual requiring touch, taste and smell. Chef Perera notes, “it is easy to get lost with all of the modern day tools that we have access to, but we utilize them sparingly.”