Next, he talked about his career and his vision for a more socially responsible restaurant that would attract people from all walks of life rather than solely catering to those who could afford a fine dining experience. After working in several high-end restaurants both in Europe and New York, in 2010, he opened Red Rooster in Harlem. He intended to include fried chicken on the menu, and he wanted to create a version that expressed his culinary point of view. That became his coconut fried chicken. The version prepared in the class was seared chicken that was then stewed in coconut milk with garlic, chiles, and lime. After being cooked through, the chicken was allowed to cool, dipped in egg white, rolled in panko breadcrumbs, and fried until golden and crisp. It was served with collard greens that had also been cooked with coconut milk. Coming back to the importance of texture in any dish, quickly blanched bok choy was added to the simmered collard greens so there would be variety in the feel of the vegetable.
The last dish of the evening looked to Ethiopia where Samuelsson was born. It was a lamb hash with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets topped with a fried egg. The hash was seasoned with bebere which is a mix of ground fenugreek seeds, dried chile powder, paprika, salt, ginger, onion powder, cardamom, nutmeg, garlic powder, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. The book, Yes, Chef, begins with a moving description of Samuelsson’s mother and how he doesn’t remember her face. Although he doesn’t know what his mother looked like, he does know how she cooked. He knows she used berbere as did everyone in Ethiopia. He writes: “For me, my mother is berbere...” The berbere tinted the cooking oil a nice, reddish orange and gave the dish spicy depth. I’m thinking of recreating a vegetarian version of the hash, and I’m thinking of adding berbere to all kinds of other dishes too. The class brought food memories to life through dishes elevated with a chef’s experience. For the whole story, I highly recommend the book Yes, Chef.
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