The Food Chain

Chris Cosentino Goes Gaga for Avec’s Chorizo-Stuffed Dates

Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Thomas Boyce of Spago in Beverly Hills shared his obsession with Chris Cosentino’s Chili and Bones from San Francisco’s Incanto. What gets you going, Chris?

Who: Chris Cosentino, chef/partner, Incanto
What: Chorizo-stuffed medjool dates
Where: Avec, Chicago
When: Spring 2009

“Koren Grievenson at Avec does these chorizo stuffed medjool dates that have been wrapped in smokey bacon and braised in a pequillo pepper and tomato sauce. It’s decadence on decadence. You have this amazing spicy chorizo, and they stuff it inside dates which are just so delicious. They’re unctuous, rich, sweet, almost fatty in a way, then you wrap it in bacon and you braise it and the pequillo has such a nice heat balance… Especially when you sit at the bar and you can watch them pulling it out of their big oven and drink a nice glass of wine, it’s perfect. I think I had two or three orders when I sat there at the bar that night.”

Avec chef de cuisine Koren Grieveson is happy to share:

“I can’t really lay claim to this dish — Paul Kahan, my chef, he came up with it and I really think it was a great reinvention of the wheel. It makes sense: it’s salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, it has all the elements. It’s been on the menu almost since we opened, and it’s one of those dishes that I’d have hell to deal with if I ever did take it off. It’s pretty basic: medjool dates, you take out the pit, stuff them with housemade chorizo. We make them a little larger than they should be, since they shrink when you cook. We wrap them in bacon, it couldn’t be any simpler, and then make the piquillo and tomato sauce.

“For the chorizo, we really don’t have any waste here at Avec — any meat product scrap goes into a sausage or a chorizo, so it’s usually pork-based, it’ll sometimes have beef scraps in there, some housemade guanciale, it’s all really rustic, rustic sausage. Just the fact that we use so much leftover scrap meat, whether it’s the end of a prosciutto or pancetta or whatever it might be, every batch is a little different. There’s always going to be vinegar, always paprika, some sort of garlic, it depends on the meat that goes in to determine the final flavor.”

Chris Cosentino Goes Gaga for Avec’s Chorizo-Stuffed Dates