When: Winter 2015-16
Composition: Pierogi - Smoked Wagyu / Beet / Kohlrabi / Sour Cream / Dill
Chef: David Goody
Photo: Lorenzo Tassone, Tassone Photography
As many of those who have been to EL know, our menu is very much a team effort. And though I am well aware there are those out there who feel that I should monopolize the menu with my own ideas, for many reasons I have been reluctant to do so.
But without getting into too long of a diatribe as to why that is, the most rewarding aspect of collaborating on the menu is to be able to bare witness to the inspired ideas of the many talented chefs that have come through the EL kitchen. When I think of how much my own cooking style has evolved since opening five years ago, I am forever in debt to so many.
Anyhow, David Goody is my right hand man. He's the first guy in the kitchen each day, and he's the most likely to come in on his day off to work on a new idea. Aside from coming up with striking ideas like this one, he does a lot of the little things that have freed me up to focus more on superfluous shit... like this.
This course was the first dish he added to our menu when he started with us last winter. Because I love eating the luscious scraps off the cutting board while slicing the meat for our guests, there is very frequently a course featuring A5 Wagyu beef from Japan.
Unfortunately, a lot of very expensive and very delicious trim is a byproduct of the cleaning process. And though once in a while we will make some insanely delicious Wagyu hamburgers for family meal, the richness usually leaves us more inspired to take naps than welcome guests. Anyhow, We always seem to have more on hand than we know what to do with, so Goody thought to use them for a pierogi.
To make the beef, the trim was cut into cubes, and hot smoked in a hotel pan for several hours until the fat was soft and translucent. This was then passed through a grinder while still warm, transferred into a sous vide bag, vacuum sealed, and dropped into a pot of boiling water to complete the rendering of the fat.
After about ten minutes in the water, the bags are removed and the fat is strained through a sieve. The remaining meat in the sieve - combined with potato puree and seasoned - becomes the filling for the pierogi. We recommend saving the yummy fat for another use, or, if you don't give a fuck about your health, fry the pierogi in that.
The rest of the dish is several variations on the theme of beets, a house fermented kohlrabi kraut, sour cream, and dill. Aside from being a great utilization of byproduct, the dish is also a shout out to the vibrant Polish culture in Chicago. Win, win.