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 or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last time, Blue Hill at Stone Barns chef Dan Barber found the spinach falafel at Oleana in Boston to be "hauntingly delicious." Now we're wondering what's tickled the fancy of Oleana chef Ana Sortun. Take it away, Ana.
Who: Ana Sortun, chef of Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts
What: Txipiron encebollado (squid ribbons la plantxa with sweet onion and pine nuts)
Where: Txikito, New York
"The dish is simple. Sublime. Beautiful flavor and texture. It wasn't the first thing I ordered there, but it just knocked my socks off. They looked so simple and tasted so divine. They melted in your mouth. The dish was so balanced!"
Txikito chef Alex Raij responds:
"The squid is cleaned and opened: We take the bodies and slice them and clean them. Then we open them up so theyre like a big triangle and we slice them so they look kind of like pasta. Separately we make a sauce thats based on cooking down lots of onions; its very sweet. Theres nothing except onions and pine nuts. You get this rich, sweet sauce thats served underneath the squid ribbons, with a little bit of lemon juice. There are really only three ingredients, or four.
Whats so beautiful about the dish is that its the best expression of our personal style. It's our take on a very traditional Basque dish. Traditionally, the squid would be cut in rings, or whole and braised with onions for a very long time. So its kind of heavy and stogy, its not refined, even though its a very delicious dish. Our take I wouldnt even call it deconstructed, its just reimagined. We get local squid, so its really fresh. The pine nuts arent authentic at all. But its very austere; it has a lot of elegance; its white on white, like a white dress. It kind of looks like seashells and sand."