Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Pig In A Fur Coat

To stay current on trends and happenings in the restaurant industry, I try to catch as many cooking programs on television as I have time for. I rely primarily on the Cooking Channel and Food Network to keep me up-to-date on unique and innovative offerings to be found in restaurants around the country. Not here in the Tampa Bay area, of course, where ubiquity and lack of originality have found a home, but that brings me to the point.

Yesterday on the Cooking Channel I caught America's Best Bites host Natalie Forte as she discovered "a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin you won't soon forget called A Pig in a Fur Coat! Natalie learned where the name comes from and how it is perfect for Chef Dan Bonanno's small plates filled with big flavored food!"

What I discovered was my newest foodie hero, Chef Bonanno. When asked how he decides on menu offerings for A Pig in a Fur Coat, Bonanno replied, and I paraphrase, that he looks at the menus from competing restaurants and if he sees something on their menu that is on his, then that item is removed.

My brain exploded! What a novel idea, a restaurant not offering the same stuff offered by every other similar restaurant within a fifty mile radius. Chef Bonanno said what I have been harping on for months. If a restaurant wants to attract patrons from across town, let's say, then don't offer the same stuff that can be found just down the street...and up the street...and over there...and there.

I challenge local restaurateurs to do the Bonanno Test, and show some originality. As a restaurant patron, I also use a variation of the Bonanno Test. If I see seared ahi tuna, mussels any way, and fried calamari on the menu, I generally eschew that restaurant. Those dishes are so old they have grown whiskers.

Carpaccio is also getting a little long in the tooth around these parts; however, Bonanno has a dandy one that he shared with America's Best Bites viewers:

Lamb Carpaccio with Salsa Verde, Pea Shoots, and Egg Yolk
© Recipe courtesy Daniel Bonanno

    6-8 servings

    3 pounds of lamb loin
    6 ounces parsley, chopped
    2 ounces chives, chopped
    2 ounces tarragon, chopped
    1 ounce thyme
    1 shallot, chopped finely
    1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
    4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
    Zest of one lemon
    6 egg yolks
    1/4 pound of pea shoots
    Block of Parmigiano Reggiano

Take the lamb loin and trim off the fat and silver skin. Then wrap the loin tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Once frozen, use a deli slicer to slice the lamb 1/8-inches thick. On a 9 x 9 plate, lay slices starting with the middle. Only cover 1/3 of the plate.

Make the Salsa Verde. Place herbs in a medium size bowl. Add shallots, garlic and lemon zest. Slowly add olive oil and add salt to taste.

Spread the salsa evenly on the sliced lamb. With a peeler, shave 3-inch strips of Parmigiano Reggiano and place on top of the salsa verde-covered lamb. Garnish with fresh pea shoots, salt, black pepper and lemon juice.

Crack the egg carefully separating the yolk from the whites. Discard whites and clean off the chalaza. Place the egg in the center of the plate and finish with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

NotesCook Notes: Ask your butcher to slice the lamb thinly on the deli slicer. Any combination of fresh herbs may be used in your salsa verde.

What an exciting recipe! But, with a raw egg yolk and raw lamb I am thinking that might be too adventurous for Tampa Bay diners, many of whom consider Taco Bell, 5 Guys, Burger King, and Wawa to be haute cuisine. Still, hope springs eternal. Maybe, just maybe, Tampa Bay may one day become a culinary destination.

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