Daddy, where do specials come from? (episode 1)

Well, when a chef and his ingredients really, really love each other…


I was screaming, “Stop me Brian…I’m being drawn in by the irresistible taste of New Orleans spice!”

In this week’s installation of “The Evolution of a Special” we’ll take a journey across three time zones and nearly a year. Several months ago I traveled to LA with my chef-buddy Brian Cartenuto to eat at great places and have some meetings with Hollywood types. The food was the highlight. Despite the siren call of the Popeye’s on Hollywood Blvd. we managed to have some great meals. At Moza Osteria we ordered their take on a Caprese Salad that included roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and fresh mozzarella. The presentation was stunning and the dish was sublime. Roasting brought out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and their warmth added just a hint of gooey softness to the mozzarella. That dish stuck with me.

As summer started to sneak up on me this year, I thought of that dish and wanted to do something with tomatoes on the vine. I asked around at the farmers market to see who had what types of tomatoes that cluster and let it be known that I wanted some stuff to cook “sulla vite.”

At culinary meeting yesterday we decided to go with a “BLT” dish that I had been mulling. The bottom layer of the dish is a slab of focaccia with beautiful cross-hatch grill marks. We decided to grill some leafy romaine lettuce and drape it over the bread, leaving just enough negative space under the leaves to show off the grill marks. Over the lettuce, a cluster of ripe cherry tomatoes that we blistered in olive oil on the flat-top. Over the top we decided to put a spoonful of lamb-bacon marmalade.


Tim Cooper’s tomatoes.

When Tim Cooper dropped off some of the tomatoes today, i got to work and put the ideas on the place. It looked good, but we were going for great. I had Connor whip up some aioli with drippings from some gorgeous guanciale I bought from Beaverdam Farms. To fully guild the lily, we added guanciale crumbles to the top and a swoosh of aioli on the plate.


The La Finestra “BLT”

It worked. You need to put it in your face.