By Executive Chef Sean Dunn
Hey everyone! My manager tells me at least three people in Groveland read my last article, so she is letting me write another one! So, lets get back to my thoughts, shall we?
I think when many of us think of Valentine’s Day we think of cards, expensive flowers and chocolate. I immediately think of food for two very solid reasons: 1) we chefs plan extravagant and decadent meals for anyone brave enough to venture out on this day/night and B) it is the second busiest day of the year for restaurants only surpassed (barely) by Mother’s Day.
In the past 20+ years of being in kitchens I have found this special occasion is my opportunity, as the executive chef, to demonstrate what my team can do with some amazing product that we don’t use all year. Why don’t we use them all year you ask? Because beef tenderloin (filet mignon) is $30-45 a pound! And jumbo prawns are $40-60 a pound, so when we show off, we want to make sure that whatever we put on the plate is worth every penny you spend. Looking around Groveland I don’t see a lot of Jumbo Prawns, so this is a special treat. And that is precisely why you need Pernod cream sauce over your Prawns.
Now to the title of the article WT* is Pernod cream sauce and WHY must I have it on my prawns? Direct answer is simple, Crab. Yup, Crab!
Jumbo prawns are great and all with a little clarified butter, but you start stuffing those beautiful crustaceans with lump crab meat, shallots, garlic and a bit of brie and well…now you’re showing off. But I am plating them over braised cardoon.
Cardoon is a wonderful vegetable found mostly in Italy and the best way to describe its texture and taste is a cross between an Artichoke and Celery. You peel it like celery, removing the stringy ribs and once it is cooked it has the texture and flavor of an Artichoke heart. If I were to serve this plate as is, I am confident that those of you order it would be happy as can be, but this is Valentine’s Day, you are not leaving my restaurant with plain old shrimp.
So, WT*(Heck?) is Pernod cream sauce, Sean! We want to know!
Pernod is an Anise based liquor from France, like Absinth but not as high in alcohol.
Now most of you have heard of the gene that half the population has that makes Cilantro taste like dish soap and I am convinced that a similar gene exists for those who don’t like licorice. If you are in the Don’t Like category, then I am sorry. Personally, every time I am near Colombia, I must stop by the candy store and get some salted licorice!
Pernod has been used in French cooking for well, ever. It is a subtle flavor in bouillabaisse, oysters Rockefeller and mussels. We use Pernod so that we can add earthy and beefy notes to very rich dishes to balance them out, giving us layered savory flavors instead of just having an overwhelmingly rich bite every time. As a matter of fact, science has discovered that when Pernod and onions are combined, they create a new flavonoid that human apparently cannot get enough of. Science, go figure.
If you have cut out of the article because I am using black licorice on my prawns I am sorry. But for those who are still reading, let’s get saucy!
The sauce is simple, delicate and AMAZING! Butter, shallots, green peppercorns, Pernod, fresh chives, cream and a touch of pecorino romano to finish. The flavor is soft but prominent, the aroma is rich, the seafood is intoxicating, and the combination will leave you with little to say.
So, let’s build a plate:
Braised Cardoon on the plate
4 Jumbo prawns stuffed with lump crab, shallots, garlic and Brie
Pernod cream sauce
Crusty French bread for assistance.
I am not saying that this Valentine’s dish is for everyone, which is why I have other options for carnivores and vegetarians on my menu. What I am suggesting however is that if you want the most decadent, flavorful, filling and memorable dish this Valentine’s Day, this is the one.
You can view our menu for Valentine’s Day at groveland.com and if I have done my job correctly then there is something for everyone on this four-course menu. Two seatings: one at 5pm and one at 7pm and the cost is $75 p/p or if you like, $100 p/p with one of our amazing new wines (1 bottle per couple). And yes, the wine is worth every bit of the $50 I am charging for it. That is our cost per bottle so really, we are giving you a bottle of truly amazing wine to go with your dinner.
One last note to all three of my fans: I know it sounds expensive, but I refer you to the opening where I alluded to the fact that these are high end ingredients we see rarely in Groveland. I am showing off and I am not going to create or serve you a dish that isn’t worth every penny and every ounce of effort I put into that plate! Besides, it’s Valentine’s Day and really wouldn’t you rather have Crab stuffed Jumbo Prawns than Russel Stover supermarket chocolates?
Chef Sean is the Executive Chef at Provisions & Taproom at the Groveland Hotel.