Travel and Leisure recently named L’Amante one of the best Italian restaurants in the U.S. We’re in pretty good company with the others that mad the list. You can read the article here.
“What’s your favorite dish to cook?” I get asked this question a lot. I would think that people would like to know what my favorite dish to eat is. But no, they want to know what I like to cook.
It’s a hard one to answer. Mostly because there are so many different dishes on the menu that get cooked in many different ways. Also, I don’t cook every dish that leaves the kitchen. I know that may sound shocking to some of you but it’s true. I have great cooks that have been with me for years (my sous chef Shawn has been here since day 1, that’s 8 years!!). They do most of the cooking these days and I do lots of prep work, supervising and expediting the dishes during service. That being said I guess I should answer the question now.
I would have to say that my favorite dish to cook is the Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Sauteed Greens and a Citrus Beurre Blanc. It’s a pretty simple dish actually. Shred some potatoes and give them a good squeeze to get the water out. Put the potatoes on a seasoned piece of bass. Put some clarified butter and olive oil in a pan and get it smoking hot. The bass goes in potato side down; give it a few minutes so the potatoes get golden brown and crispy. Flip the bass, put it in a oven for 6 minutes and then serve the bass on some sauteed spinach with a sauce of white wine and orange juice reduced and finished with a little butter.
It sounds so easy and simple and this is why I like cooking it. The simplicity actually makes it a very hard dish to cook. Don’t squeeze enough water out of the shredded potatoes and they will never, ever get golden brown and crispy, trust me. Turn the bass too soon and the potatoes won’t get crispy. Turn the bass too late and the potatoes get over cooked and burnt. Leave the fish in too long and it gets overcooked; too short and it’s undercooked. It’s a dish that you really have to pay attention to in the middle of all the chaos that goes on in a busy kitchen. In that way it’s a challenge to make sure the dish is consistently good every time.
So there you have it, the Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Sauteed Greens and Citrus Beurre Blanc is my favorite dish to cook. Next time I’ll tell you what my favorite dish to eat is.
Interested in learning more about wine and spirits. Kevin Cleary, Chef/co-owner, is now accepting registrations for upcoming fall classes with the Vermont Wine school. Look at what 7Days has to say about the Vermont Wine School here
Also, check out the Vermont Wine School’s website:
Everyone loves the fritters. We sell a ton of them every night of the week. People can’t seem to get enough of them, they’re like candy. It must be the combination of flavors, aromas and textures that keep diners coming back for more. Now that summer is in full swing they should be easier to come by. We do manage to get them year round though. Well, there was a stretch of about 3 months this year that we couldn’t get them at all. People were not happy. Rest assured they’re back now.
I always get asked how I came up with the idea of stuffing a squash blossom with taleggio cheese, frying it and then covering it with honey and truffle oil. Chefs get asked these types of questions all the time. I get inspiration for dishes from lots of different places. Sometimes it’s something I ate while traveling in Italy or New York City. Other times a picture of a particular plate of food will spark some creative juices. And sometimes it’s just a variation on something I’ve done before, whether at L’Amante or a place I worked at previously. One thing I can tell you is that I wasn’t the first to come up with a dish. Everything is based on something else. There is very little originality out there. I’m not saying this is bad and that all chefs are copying from each other. All I’m saying is that it’s probably been done before in some way.
So let’s take the Squash Blossoms. Did I come up with this dish out of thin air? No. I worked at a place in Boston that had a Taleggio Bruschetta on the menu. It also had some honey and truffle oil as part of the dish. I always remembered that dish. Not because I liked it (and I did) but because of the way it smelt. The combination of the earthy taleggio cheese with sweet honey and pungent truffle oil is a winner. It also tasted really good but it was too much. A big slab of bread with a couple of ounces of cheese was a bit overkill. When I found myself with some squash blossoms I decided to try to recreate that bruschetta dish inside the blossom. I stuffed the blossoms, dredged them in a light batter, deep fried them and then drizzled a little local honey and truffle oil on them. The combination of the crispy, salty, fried batter, the earthy, melting taleggio inside the delicate blossom and the sweetness of the honey with the pungency of the truffle oil turned out to be a great combination. And there are thousands of satisfied diners who would agree. If you haven’t tried them yet get down here while we have them. Before you know it the cold weather will be here and the squash blossoms will be harder to come by.
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