Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cooking Secrets from David Chang

David Chang
David Chang, James Beard Rising Star Chef for 2007, is one of the most hyped chefs in New York, so much so that he even jokingly once referred to himself as "overrated pseudo chef," in an interview at Serious Eats. Yet one of the reasons I wanted to go to New York was to hear David Chang present at the Gourmet Institute and to eat his food. I was not disappointed. His food is luscious, bold and sexy and his obsession with perfection and quality seem to fit comfortably with his innovative use of traditional techiniques and delectable flavor combinations.

There were three recipes and several techniques I learned from his session at the Gourmet Institute that I will surely be adding to my repertoire. First off he shared a recipe for "tare" which he described as a type of Japanese barbecue sauce that gets added to many dishes and sauces. The basic formula was 4 parts dark soy sauce, 1/2 part brown sugar and 1 part mirin. After allowing it to simmer he placed a knife (honing) steel he heated over a flame into the pot to infuse the sauce with smoky flavor.

Braised Pork Belly with Daikon, Apple & Pickled Mustard Seeds
Pickled mustard seeds were used as a garnish on braised pork belly with daikon and apple. It's another simple recipe I will play with using different types of mustard seeds, and can use as a finishing touch to add crunch and a pop of spice to all kinds of dishes, especially vegetables. Chang made them by combining 1/2 cup mustard seeds with a cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar and simmering until thick.

Cockles with Fingerling Potatoes, Scallions and Dashi
But the true focus of the session was on dashi, a "universal ingredient" according to Chang and one that can be used not only as a soup broth but also as a braising liquid. After demonstrating a more traditional method of making it using hand shaved katsuboshi or bonito flakes he also showed the audience his bacon version. The traditional version was used for a soup of cockles with fingerling potatoes, scallions and sea beans.

Bacon Dashi with Salt-Pickled Fall Vegetables
For the bacon dashi, Chang's technique was to simmer konbu (a type of dried seaweed) then add uncooked smoky bacon and allow it to steep like tea for 15 minutes, extracting the flavor and juices from the bacon. Could you use the same technique for making dashi with roasted tomatoes, porcini mushrooms or dried shrimp? Why not? Chang used the bacon dashi for a soup with salt-pickled Fall vegetables and a sliver of Benton Smoky Mountain ham. The pickled vegetables were made by curing sliced carrots, radishes and savoy cabbage with equal parts salt and sugar for an hour.

Next up--dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar

Links to a few more David Chang articles and interviews:

David Chang profile on Eater

ABC Dateline David Chang interview and recipes

Chang on What the 21st Century will Taste Like from Esquire magazine