Creating A Special

Today I am going to walk you through the steps of a special dish I created this week. For those of you who do not know a “special” is a dish served at a restaurant that is not a part of the fixed menu. I was in class and I went down to the meat room to pick up some things for class and the guys in the meat room said they had 40 extra quail and told me I should take them. I brought them up to the chef and he tasked me with creating a special with the quail. For those who do not know, quail is a very small bird that is richer in flavor and more tender than chicken. The first decision I had to make was how to cook the quail itself. I knew I had some extra duck fat left over so I decided to sear the quail in the duck fat and finish it in the oven. Now that I knew what kind texture and flavor my main protein would have I went to work brainstorming what starch, vegetable and sauce I could put on my plate. I knew i wanted some sort of puree on the plate. I was strongly considering a parsnip puree because of how easy it is to make but I ended up going with a creamy and silky smooth roasted garlic, potato puree. As my dish is progressing I am constantly visualizing in my head what I want my finished plate to look like.  At this point I know I want to make a swoosh with the puree and walk the quartered quail across the swoosh. Now its time for the vegetable. At this point I am painfully aware of the muted colors on my plate, I have white puree on a white plate so I need color. The vegetable component of a dish is also a great opportunity to incorporate some seasonal ingredients on your plate. This season is asparagus season so i decided to go with a sauteed medley of sliced green and white asparagus. I placed one sliver of each between each piece of quail. Now for the sauce. You want the sauce to be rich and to echo and/or compliment the protein on your plate. I decided to take a very rich duck stock I had on hand and reduce it down until it fully coated a spoon. I fined the sauce by reducing a heavy red wine in the same pan I seared the quail in and adding the duck “demi-glace” to it. I decided to pool the sauce below the quail as opposed to drizzled over the top to allow the deep brown sear on the quail to really stand out and shine on the plate. In theory I was done but I felt I still needed more color so I went into the walk in refrigerator to see what bold colors I could find to put on my plate. the second I walked in my eyes immediately gravitated to the rhubarb. Rhubarb is a deep red and I knew i found what I was looking for. I simmered the rhubarb with a touch of sugar (to counteract the slight bitterness) and pomegranate juice (to further enhance the color). I blitzed the rhubarb in a blender and placed dots on the plate with a squeeze bottle to add color and general aesthetic appeal. I was really happy with how the dish turned out and we sold out of it in the restaurant.

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