Like probably everyone, everywhere, chefs receive a lot of weekly email blasts. Aside from the usual barbaric sales pitches and utter nonsense, chefs also receive a lot of price lists, weekly specials, and market conditions for seafood, produce, and foraged ingredients.
But as it is tremendously important for me to decompress from the restaurant on my days off, most of these emails are immediately deleted. Every once in a while, however, I take notice of an ingredient coming to market. If it strikes a chord, I will act pretty quickly and bring it in. Then, because I am scatterbrained and discombobulated at times, I may forget not only to communicate to the team what I have ordered, there are times I even forget that I've ordered the ingredients myself.
This was the case when some rare bluefoot chanterelles, fava beans, and first of the season jumbo white asparagus showed up a couple of weeks ago. Believing they came on to market at the same time for the sole purpose of being combined together for a course, I replied to the email and scooped them up for the beginning of the EL work week on Tuesday.
After surprising my colleagues, the chefs and I began discussing other accompaniments that might bring the dish to life. We thought about scallops. Though they would be delicious and well received, it seemed like kind of a lay up. We also considered something gamey, but it's the spring time, and that didn't make sense either.
A bit exasperated, I suggested that the asparagus and chanterelles should not be overshadowed by any other protein. And that was how we arrived at the cheese. From there, I began to consider giving the dish an Alpine/woodsy feel, and considered a cheese like gouda or raclette. Chef Goody then suggested that we use a butterkase that is made locally at Pure Prarie. The Luxardo cherries seemed to made sense along the Alpine theme of the course.
At first I thought to simply melt the cheese over the asparagus, but that seemed like it would be sloppy to do that for a full house. Believing the cheese needed more of a vehicle in its own right, I considered baking a bread, but this quickly morphed into using some puff pastry that was leftover from a course we moved on from.
To prepare the Wellington, a duxelle of chanterelle mushrooms is spread out on top of a sheet of puff pastry, and the grated butterkase is liberally spread on top of that. From there, white asparagus that was blanched in a garlic and herb butter is placed in the center, and the whole thing is wrapped up like a joint... or a streusel. Considering it reminded me of a beef Wellington when it came out of the oven, I hijacked and bent the name for my own purposes.
*Note - the bluefoot chanterelles were only available that one week and are not shown. Since then, the dish has morphed into regular chanterelles, and we are now serving the course with morels.
All photos by Lorenzo Tassone