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We visit RN74 in San Francisco, Michael Mina's new European-inspired urban wine bar and restaurant. Here, Executive Chef ...
Jason Berthold prepares creative-but-simple interpretations of regional French cuisine, including a perfect rustic meal.
Tags:Heirloom Tomatoes and Fromage Blanc Recipes,Behind the Burner,Fromage Blanc Recipe,Heirloom Tomato Salad,Heirloom Tomato Salad Recipe,Homemade Fromage Blanc Recipe,RN74
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Vivia: Hi, I’m Vivia Gugnani, and welcome to RN74. A European inspired wine bar in the heart of San Francisco. Here, creative but simple interpretations of regional French cuisine are perfectly complimented with an expansive of wine list. So let’s go behind the burner and meet the chef. I’m here with executive chef Jason Berthold. Jason, I see beautiful tomatoes, red and green. What are we doing with them? Chef Jason: We’re making heirloom tomato salad today. These are beautiful heirloom tomatoes that are just now coming into season here in Heirloom, California. And these are actually a variety called Purple Pineapple. I think one of the most important tips that I could recommend to people is when you’re selecting your tomatoes, kind of pick the ugliest ones over the prettiest ones. Because they’re tomatoes that are grown for their flavor not necessarily their design and appearance. And another thing that I think is very important, I suppose it would be sort of a technique that I can show people is that when you’re using beautiful tomatoes like this. They have great texture and great flavor. I think it’s very important to not slice them too small or too thin. Vivia: So you can get all that flavor in you palette. Chef Jason: Right, I would slice a minimum of half an inch thick. Vivia: So how do you feel about seeds? Chef Jason: Leave them in. Vivia: I notice that your chopping board is not moving an inch. Chef Jason: I suppose another tip I share to people at home is that it’s always a good idea to put a wet towel under the cutting board, which sort of helps it stay in place. Vivia: So now that the tomatoes are cut. What’s next? Chef Jason: Seasoning. Salt and pepper is all it takes. I like to use a course sea salt. This is called Salgrie which is a gray salt, comes from France. And I like it for its texture and I think it has a very assertive, very minerally sort of flavor, very special salt. It’s actually not too difficult to find, you can find it in most gourmet stores and not very expensive. Vivia: I love sea salt, because it really gives you the flavors of the ocean. Chef Jason: And I like the fact that it’s course, because I like the crunch on it. And the pepper, fresh ground pepper of course. Just takes a little bit over the top. Once you get accustomed to having fresh ground pepper corns, you’ll never go back. You can do this in any number of ways, but just because it’s summer. Hopefully you’ll be cooking outside, it’s a simple dish. It can be place very simply on a large plate. It’s perfect if you want to do a platter for this for a group. I think it’s also great for individual plates. Now we’re making the Fromage Blanc. Fromage Blanc is just a fresh cheese, like making it at home. It’s very simple. It should be not something that intimidates people. It’s kind of fun to make. What we’ve done here is we’ve taken milk. Just straight now cow milk, it’s great if you can get it from the farmers market, the fresher the better. And we’ve heated it on the stove to 175 degrees. And it’s important that you use a thermometer for this, because that temperature is critical. To that milk, we’ve added vinegar. And vinegar coagulates the proteins in the milk and it gives us the curds. So we allow that to cool to room temperature for an hour or more. Now we’re going to strain it off the curds from the whey. The longer you let it drain, the dryer the Fromage Blanc would be. Vivia: And the firmer it’s going to be, it’s going to have that dense texture. Chef Jason: So this will take an hour or more, and it will be finish. So this is some of the Fromage Blanc that I made earlier today, which is now ready. You can see the consistency of this, it’s very creamy. If I were to let it hang longer, overnight even, it will be much harder and you could crumble it. I chose to stop it and leave some of the moisture in this. We can have a nice creamy spread. And this is kind of something that’s important. Because we’re going to serve the dish as a compose salad today. But you can also make Fiscetta or sandwiches out of this as well. And then for plating, all we’re going to do is simply put little dubs of this on to the plate. Vivia: Looks so nice and light and airy. Chef Jason: Okay, so now we’re going to make the Banyuls vinaigrette. We’re going to start this with a little bit of dijon mustard, touch of salt, using an aged Banyuls vinegar. And Banyuls vinegar comes from the Languedoc region of France where they make Banyuls wine. This is mostly Grenache and this is turn into vinegar. So it’s very special, because I think it carries a lot of fruit flavors, very round. Stir that up with the mustard and salt. Another tip that I would recommend is investing in high quality extra virgin olive oil. You get people say all the time, but it’s really true. One bottle of olive oil that you keep in your cupboard, that’s maybe 25 or 30 dollars will last you a long time and goes a long way with rough preparations like this. So, what we’ll do is we’ll just emulsify the oil as you’re stirring and we’ll create a very light emulsification. If you want to creamier, more emulser vinaigrette, you use a whisk. Or you can use a blender if you want to make a large amount to get the creamy mouth feel. And then to finish this dish, we’ll take our vinaigrette that we made and just sort of nap it over the tomatoes a little bit. Just a little bit to tie it off together is great. And then we got this beautiful baby arugula here, and because of the vinaigrette and because of the sweetness of the tomatoes, I’m not even going to dress this. Vivia: Is that really the balance between a little bit of bitterness of the arugula and the sweetness of the tomato and the pungency of the vinaigrette. Chef Jason: And then lastly for the dish. Vivia: My missing ingredient. Chef Jason: Yes. The bread you’ve been waiting for. This is just country bread which is nice rustic bread that we’ve grilled. We just season it with a little bit of olive oil, touch of salt and grilled. So you can serve this on the side. Vivia: Not to miss this beautiful cross hatch marks. This is the look of a professional. Chef Jason: And that’s the salad. Vivia: I’m ready to eat it. So I’m removing my, what looks like a train ticket, because I’m ready to eat. Chef Jason: Great. Dig in. Vivia: Goes with the whole train theme here. Chef Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Well I certainly get the sweetness of the tomatoes, first and foremost, as well as the texture. And the texture can actually emphasize the taste of things a lot of times. Rule number one, never refrigerate your tomatoes. No matter how bad they may look, always keep them in room temperature. For this dish, I’ve chose a chardonnay from the Char region, this is from Tisso Camabua. And I think it pairs nicely with the tomatoes themselves as well as the Fromage Blanc and a little bit of the acid from Banyuls vinaigrette. Vivia: And the cheese was gorgeous. So, cheers and thank you for having us. Chef Jason: Cheers. Thanks a lot. Vivia: What is this interesting board behind me? Chef Jason: This is our last bottle board, and you can see there are 8 different wines listed up there each day and it’s the last of the bin, last of the case. Maybe we had three bottles that we know is very rare and special and we’re down to one. So what we do each day, we put those bottles on that board and they’re mark down from their normal retail value. And when somebody purchases a bottle off from this board it flips over and the next bottle on the last bottle board goes on sale. Vivia: So that’s great, you can come in here and one of the attractions is your wonderful food and cuisine. And the other is looking at this board and I’m buying your last bottle. Stay tuned to Behind the Burner where we give you the tips, tricks, and techniques that are lighting the culinary world on fire.