KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

The Capital City’s cuisine scene is undergoing a renaissance. The new book, Austin Chef’s Table by Crystal Esquivel with photos by Aimee Wenske, explored here by Mira Milla, lifts the lid on some of your favorite restaurant’s epicurean creation.

Sopa de Elote (Corn Soup) from Fonda San Miguel 

Piperade from Justine’s Brasserie 

Grilled Polenta from East Side Showroom 

Want to present some of Austin’s best delicacies at home for your next dinner party or family gathering? Look no further. From East Austin’s taquerias and barbecue joints to the best Vietnamese and Korean cuisine in North Austin and everything in between, Austin Chef’s Table is the first cookbook to gather the capital’s best chefs and restaurants under one cover.

It is more than just a cookbook, though. This tome is an ode to Austin’s distinct culinary culture gives readers an intimate tour of the city’s top eating establishments and introduces them to the city’s best chefs. At the heart of the book is 50 tasty make-at-home recipes for home chefs of all skill levels, including Chef David Bull’s White Lobster Bisque and Lobster Ricotta Fritters (Congress); Chuy’s Deluxe Tomatillo Sauce; Contigo’s White Bean Dip; Fried Chicken with Redeye Gravy (Foreign and Domestic); and many more.

Here are a few of our favorite dishes to entice your palate…

Sopa de Elote (Corn Soup) from Fonda San Miguel 

Fonda San Miguel’s Sopa de Elote has been a staple on the menu for years. The simplicity of the freshest corn and chiles mixed with savory toppings makes it irresistible. Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Miguel Ravago.

Serves 6

4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut and scraped from 5 or 6 ears of corn, or about 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen corn kernels, thawed

  • 4 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 6 tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried crisp, for garnish

Combine corn and 1 cup milk in a blender. Puree at high speed until smooth; set aside.

In a heavy, 3-quart nonreactive stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the corn puree and cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups milk and the salt; bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking.

In each of six warm soup bowls, put 1 tablespoon each of the diced chiles and shredded cheese. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls and garnish with a few tortilla strips.

Piperade from Justine’s Brasserie 

A smooth emulsion of oil and roasted red peppers, Justine’s piperade is served with seared scallops, fingerling potatoes, and chorizo. It is a versatile Basque-influenced sauce that can also be served with fish, grilled asparagus, roasted squash, chicken, or strongly flavored small fish such as sardines or mackerel. Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Casey Wilcox.

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 cup sliced red bell peppers
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Espelette chile pepper (piment d’Espelette), available in specialty grocery stores; hot paprika can be substituted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 10 flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 ounce Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, combine olive oil, shallots, bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, salt, Espelette pepper, and black pepper. Bring heat up to medium and sauté until the vegetables start to break down and begin to brown.

Add wine and water, and stir continuously as the liquid reduces. The oil will emulsify and thicken slightly. If the emulsification breaks, add 1 teaspoon hot water and stir vigorously to re-emulsify.

Finish the sauce with parsley leaves and chorizo and cook for just a minute to heat through. Serve immediately.

Grilled Polenta from East Side Showroom 

The final brushing of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt brightens up the polenta before grilling. This versatile side dish can also be topped with anything from a vegetable ragout to braised meats. Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Sonya Coté.

Serves 8–10

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, salt, and white pepper to a low boil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the polenta is tender, remove from heat and stir in butter, mascarpone, and Parmesan.

Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Pour the polenta on to the parchment and spread into a smooth, even layer. Cut another piece of parchment paper the same size, and press it on top of the polenta, smoothing it out evenly. Refrigerate until the polenta is firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat a grill to medium high.

Cut firm polenta into circles, triangles, or other desired shape.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste. Brush this mixture on both sides of each polenta piece and grill to create sear marks on both sides.

To serve, drizzle the polenta with the remaining lemon/oil mixture. Serve hot.

Crystal Esquivel chronicles her cooking and dining adventures at http://poco-cocoa.com, and writes about food for various publications, including Remedy Quarterly. A registered dietician, she is also the author of the Food Lovers’ Guide to Austin (Globe Pequot).

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