the food chain

The Food Chain: Charlie Palmer Endorses RN74’s Cassoulet

The cassoulet that caught Charlie Palmer's eye.

The cassoulet that caught Charlie Palmer's eye.Photo: MinaGroup Inc.

One of the many pleasures of being a chef is, of course, the eating — and you can be sure that the gurus of gastronomy are, in their off hours, enjoying some of the most delectable dishes around (besides whatever's coming out of their own kitchens). Thus we bring you the Food Chain, wherein one chef tells us about a dish they enjoyed recently courtesy of another chef, and then that second chef tells us about a dish they enjoyed courtesy of yet another chef... and so on and so forth. You get the idea. So let's start spreading the love.

Who: Charlie Palmer, chef-owner of New York's Aureole (and restaurants nationwide)
What: Duck cassoulet
Where: San Francisco's RN74, executive chef Jason Berthold
When: Fourth of July weekend
Why Palmer loved it:

“Cassoulet is usually done with white beans and is kind of a heavy thing. RN74's take on it was unique and interesting, but really kept with a traditional flavor. It was done with barley, shiitake mushrooms, [and] these little tiny, bright-red Thumbelina carrots. I think he uses that Liberty Farm Duck, which is a local Sonoma producer. The duck leg had been slow-cooked, braised, and the duck breast had been roasted. It was a summer day, but it was a cool day. San Francisco, sometimes, you can get that breeze that blows through, and it was a perfect dish, delicious: a nice reduction sauce, really hearty, a lot of flavor. The execution was perfect, which I look for from kitchens. The barley was really nutty. A lot of people overcook barley like mush, like oatmeal. It had texture, the individual grains ... this dish was pretty flawless, served piping hot. I honestly wouldn’t have changed it.”

Over to you, Berthold:
"I use the term cassoulet loosely, but to me, a cassoulet is done as a paella where it's assembled in a pot and [then] baked. This is done in a more modern style, where those ingredients are assembled upon order and cooked in a pan. That makes it a little lighter than something that's been baked in the oven for a few hours. We're using barley instead of beans, which has an entirely different mouth feel, and because [of that] has a different taste sensation. We have this really beautiful organic Italian barley from a co-op in Italy. It has a really good bite to it and holds its shape without softening up. It makes a good foil for the other ingredients."

See what Jason Berthold had to say about his pick, a Fritto Misto de Pesci from San Francisco's Beretta.

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