In Good Taste
located in the Pearl District, Portland, Oregon.
Rover’s by Thierry Rautureau and Cynthia Nims,
Photographs by France Ruffenach
Ten Speed Press, 224 pages, $40.00
There is nothing I look forward to during the holiday season more than a new stack of cookbooks! I love to curl up and mentally create meals to cook from my new books. On top of the stack this season is Rover’s by Thierry Rautureau and Cynthia Nims. These are recipes from Rover’s, a fifty seat, four-star, Seattle restaurant.
Rauthureau is one of a growing number of French chefs who have found their way to the Pacific Northwest and embraced the lifestyle and ingredients. Rover’s restaurant’s cuisine reflects the French respect for the best seasonal ingredients. This cookbook, jointly written with Cynthia Nims, truly brings restaurant recipes within reach of an intermediate home cook. Sommelier, Cyril Fréchier makes wine recommendations that reflect the wine and food pairings offered at the restaurant.
The book is divided with course headings and then sub-divided into the seasons. Rautureau’s signature hat, the fedora, is used to highlight helpful techniques. A back chapter of Foundation Recipes gives you the extra basic recipes needed to turn your kitchen into Rover’s.
Since we are trudging through the winter season, I decided not to tempt myself with Soft-Shell Crab Bisque with Morels and Duck Egg, nor delve into House-Cured Salmon with Yakima Asparagus Salad, but roll up my sleeves and make a year-round recipe of Scrambled Eggs with Lime Crème Fraîche and White Sturgeon Caviar. Granted we have all made scrambled eggs and I’m sure most of us have garnished them with fancy ingredients, but quite honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve have made scrambled eggs in the sublime French method. I have never topped an egg nor filled it with the scrambled mixture.
The first thing I noticed about the recipe was the voice of Rautureau inviting me to prepare “…one of the first exquisite bites of the evening.” For those of us who don’t have egg cups he suggests serving them in espresso cups. To top the eggs an insert was written describing either an egg trimmer (missing in my kitchen…), or using the wide bottom of a pastry tip or small round cutter. I followed the technique and it was perfect.
I think one of the keys to good recipe writing is for the reader to be able to imagine the process from the description. Nims does an expert job. Way before you wonder how to get the crème fraîche onto the egg, she suggests a piping bag and plain tip. For those with a challenged kitchen simply spooning is also appropriate. Her description of how to scramble eggs is one of the best I have read and the finished product is as perfect as the description. You will never want to go back to making big clumpy scrambled eggs again! I will admit I didn’t have any caviar at hand but did have some smoked salmon from New York’s Zabar’s food emporium that added the over the top decadence. If you have neither at hand, I would suggest buying one of the many available gourmet salts to tease your taste buds. To drink? Bollinger Champagne from France of course!
Winter is Dungeness crab season and Rover’s Dungeness Crab Salad with Roasted Garlic, Shallots, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette has a layering of simple flavors that culminate in a decadent tasting dish. Garlic and shallots are given depth by roasting in a foil packet with salt, white pepper and olive oil. I agree with Rautureau in roasting several. They keep for up to a week and are fun to add to your everyday dishes or rubbed on French bread as an appetizer. I was lazy and didn’t make the Thyme Brioche. Instead I bought the Jewish egg bread Challah, and sautéed it as described and added some chopped fresh thyme for flavor. The vinaigrette is a red wine vinegar and pomegranate juice reduction with olive oil.
To assemble, the roasted garlic and shallots are coarsely chopped and blended with a touch of pomegranate juice. It is then slathered on the toasted brioche (challah), and topped with a large quenelle shaped serving of crab salad. Lacking the chervil greens I substituted watercress as the greens of choice (approved by the recipe), and tossed them with extra virgin olive oil. For those who don’t know what a quenelle is there is a Glossary of Ingredients and Techniques that describes them. I learned how to make the oval shapes by watching chefs. As I read the description my hands followed the words into shaping those perfect ovals.
It was easy to put together and I couldn’t think of a better ladies luncheon to usher in the New Year’s!
I’ll have to wait until spring to try the Bainbridge Island Lamb Loin with Chanterelle and Potato, Risotto, Fava Beans, and Lemon Thyme Sauce or the Baked Alaskan Halibut with Morels, Ramps, and Smoked Bacon Butter Sauce. In summer there will be a meal of Hazelnut-Stuffed Baby Zucchini Blossoms with Heirloom Tomato Salad.
Some of the recipes might seem daunting like Scottish Wood Pigeon with Braised Cabbage and Rosemary Sauce or Manila Clam Soup with Snails, Bone Marrow, and Spaghetti Squash. Feel free to use the ingredients at hand and interpret the recipe. This book was written about what is on hand and in season, so be creative!
Cynthia Nims writes,” Translating Thierry’s distinct style into a format for the home cook…won’t exactly replicate the complete dining experience of a meal at Rover’s but you, your friends, and your family will revel in these tastes from Thierry’s kitchen”.
And from Thierry Rautureau,“ For me, the ultimate pleasure I get as a chef is seeing the glowing, happy face of a customer who has just eaten something delicious and can’t wait for the next bite…I tip my hat to you and to all of my customers who allow me the opportunity to live out my passion at Rover’s. Bon Appétit!”
Read, Eat, Enjoy!
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