On each edition of 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 or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last time, Michael White admired Harold Dieterle's fried pork and crispy oyster salad, served at Kin Shop. What's caught your attention, Harold?
"The pumpkin soup with rosemary marshmallows, cranberry purée, and pumpernickel croutons [by chef John Fraser] at Dovetail. It’s pretty much a celebration of fall, in my opinion. Generally when it comes to squashes and pumpkins, people don’t really take the time to extract flavor, and they just load it up with fall spices. There are some fall spices, but this is a very well-composed dish. There are a lot of dimensions to it. It wasn’t a very heavy soup. It was very, very clean because he juices the pumpkins. Also the texture, there’s rosemary marshmallow, that’s very savory. He lists the ingredients and I was like, Dude, is this a dessert? But it’s very, very balanced."
And now, Chef Fraser reveals the secrets behind his soup.
"We use pumpkin juice — we juice pumpkins and we use regular whole pumpkin — it’s all puréed. We sweat the pumpkin down with shallots until it’s soft and then add the pumpkin juice, and then cook that down and add vegetable stock. We use a classic marshmallow recipe and we add rosemary oil. We take cranberries and cook them with orange juice and sugar and cloves, cook them until soft, and purée. They’re diced and then fried in clarified butter and finished with cayenne pepper.
The soup is poured tableside. So in the bottom of the bowl, the garnishes are kind of piled around and then the soup is poured. When you pour soup in the kitchen, it sloshes about in the bowl. [This way,] you can maintain the integrity of the garnish so it doesn’t get soggy as quickly. I’m sure one could argue that it's prettier to do it this way, but our brains work on function. We don’t want the rosemary marshmallow to melt and the croutons to get soggy. It’s very classic kind of fall-winter flavors. These are all things that are in the same flavor categories. I’m not breaking new ground, it’s all about the way they are prepared.
There’s also a granola component to this. Parisienned apples, pumpernickel croutons, pumpkin seeds, and chestnut confit. It’s all sitting on the bottom of the bowl and the soup goes on the side. I think it’s really cool when you have garnishes in soups. The soup is one-dimensional when it’s just pumpkin. But when there are different garnishes, it creates some extra excitement."