Showing posts with label herb salt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herb salt. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mahi Mahi and Semi-Dried Pickled Root Vegetables with Herb Salt

There are plenty of challenges for a restaurant to source all of its food locally in a place like Austin where we have 80 degree December days when the farmers’ markets are bursting with great produce. So, imagine what it must be like to rely on local ingredients at a restaurant in Sweden where winter is long and dark and summer is brief. And yet, that challenge is just what makes Faviken Magasinet, a mountain estate and restaurant in northern Sweden, so interesting. In the new book Faviken, Magnus Nilsson describes how he transformed the menu to take advantage of the best of locally produced food and make the remote restaurant a destination. I recently received a review copy of the book. The restaurant’s menu changes throughout the year and even from day to day depending on what’s available. Gardens just outside the kitchen supply freshly-picked vegetables and herbs in the summer, and that produce is then carefully stored, dried, pickled, fermented, or otherwise preserved for winter use. For meats, Nilsson has sought out specific breeds of animals, raised ethically to the ages he prefers, from nearby farms. For instance, his preference for beef is that from dairy cows that are five to ten years old. The chicken, which happens to be Brahmas, are raised to an age of about eight months, and along with ducks, geese, and quails, they’re raised for the restaurant at a local farm. Game is hunted, wild herbs and berries are foraged, and fish is brought from the closest shore.

It was fascinating to read about dinner service at Faviken and how precisely everything is timed. The dining room seats sixteen, and everyone is seated and served at the same time. The carefully chosen, dried, cut, and precisely cooked meats are placed on warmed plates which are hurried to the dining room. There’s a practiced choreography of cooking, plating, and delivery. In the summer, vegetables are picked in the garden moments before they land on plates. Kale is described as “steamed so briefly that it is dying on the plate.” I’d love to see this kitchen in action, and I’d love to taste the food. The recipes in the book are presented exactly as they are prepared in the restaurant. That means some ingredients and techniques seem very particular like “one lavender petal from last summer” and “vinegar matured in the burned-out trunk of a spruce tree.” But, I took the recipes as inspiration to think seasonally about what’s available here and now. I was intrigued by a dish in the book that included a pork chop and semi-dried pickled root vegetables. I replaced the pork with a simply seared piece of fish, and focused on the pickled vegetables. I stopped by the farmers’ market and found two kinds of carrots, Chioggia beets, red radishes, and daikon radish. I made a brine with apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt and added fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and dried red chiles. The chopped root vegetables became quick, refrigerator pickles which I chilled for a few days. Then, I followed the instructions for the semi-dried pickled vegetables in the book. The vegetables were sliced and left on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry for a couple of days. Then, they were sliced into skinny sticks. I also made the herb salt from the book which is one way fresh herbs are preserved for the winter at the restaurant. I gathered oregano and chives from my herb garden, chopped them in a food processor, mixed them with sea salt, and pushed the mix through a sieve. Nilsson explains that as the herb salt slowly dulls over the winter months, he finds the change in flavor interesting. To keep the herb salt bright green, it can be stored in the freezer.

The semi-dried pickled vegetables were chewy and maintained good puckery flavor. They were a great match to a simple piece of fish, and the herb salt added a fresh savoriness. I didn’t attempt to create a full progression of dishes as would be served at the restaurant, but I enjoyed taking bits and pieces from the book for a simple meal. There’s a lot to be inspired by in the book and applied to what’s available wherever you’re cooking.

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