Thomas Keller's passion for sustainability and the farm-to-table movement was quite evident at Flavor! Napa Valley 2012. The esteemed chef began his culinary demonstration by emphasizing the importance of selecting fresh produce.
Keller, who started his exemplary career at the Palm Beach Yacht Club, explained that the gardens at his numerous restaurants are an important education tool for young chefs. On any given night (and depending on the restaurant), about 10 to 25 percent of the gardens are used.
"For young culinarians, it teaches them a deep sense of respect for all ingredients," Keller said.
Photo: Flavor! Napa Valley
Similarly, he encouraged audience members to seek out fresh, high-quality ingredients from local farming and fishing communities. "Go to the market and really speak with your pocketbook and demand better products and higher quality," he said.
Keller and Devin Knell, the executive sous chef of French Laundry, demonstrated how to prepare sunchoke soup with nicoise olive crumble and country bread croutons.
Photo: Andrew Olanoff/WFIU
Purée of sunchoke soup
1/2 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 3/4 cups sunchokes, peeled, sliced about 1/4 thick
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
Nicoise olive crumble
1 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
Country bread croutons
1 1/2 cups of country bread, diced into 1/2" cubes
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
- For the purée of sunchoke soup: Heat a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onions and salt. Sweat the onions until they are soft and translucent but have not taken on any color.
- Add the sunchokes and stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the sunchokes are very soft. Carefully transfer the contents of the pot to a bar blender and purée until very soft. You may have to do this in small batches.
- Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar. Serve immediately or the soup can be served chilled.
- For the nicoise olive crumble: Two days ahead of time, place the pitted nicoise olives in a pint-sized container; add cold water to cover.
- Allow the olives to soak overnight in the refrigerator. The soaking process removes the excess salt from the olives.
- The next day, heat an over to 350 degrees F.
- Drain the olives well and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the olives in the oven and allow them to dry overnight.
- The olives are crisp and will crush between your fingers. Remove the dried olives from the oven and allow them to cool.
- Coarsely chop the olives and reserve in an airtight container.
- For the country bread croutons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, toss the diced country bread with the olive oil to coat evenly; season with salt.
- Spread the bread cubes evenly on a baking sheet; bake in the center rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Recipe credit: Thomas Keller and Devin Knell, as presented at Flavor! Napa Valley. Published with permission of the author. All rights reserved.