Often, people ask me where I get my inspiration. I don’t usually have an answer. I may ramble about the farmers’ market, or detail an epiphany I had while visiting a new city. But it’s very difficult to delve into the process in a few sentences. It’s poetic to talk about inspiration being all around you, and that if you just open your eyes wide enough, you'll see. Smell the roses … or garbage bin, for that matter.
The romantic notion that inspiration can strike anyone, wildly and without rhyme or reason, simply isn't true. As with any creative endeavor, inspiration is only useful when you have a firm foundation of experience and technique to filter it through.
But if you have a moment, I’ll walk you through the inspiration behind a dish that I’m doing at a private dinner this month. The dinner happens to be in a graveyard. At night. Outside. In total darkness, except each diner is armed with a flashlight.
I’ll be describing the last savory course of a five-course meal.
The last savory course, to me, should be the most aggressive in flavor. It should comfort the diner. Not necessarily heavy, but filling. At this point in the meal, portion is key — err too heavy on this course and you run the risk of most people eating themselves past full and not being able to enjoy the sweeter course to follow.
Lamb is a chefs’ meat. One that we often use in this space on a menu. But here, it was selected rather spontaneously during our walk-through of the graveyard. I happened to notice lots of rosemary bushes. The curator mentioned that rosemary is often planted next to grave sites. Bingo! Rosemary equals lamb. As we further discuss the course, the web becomes thick with inspiration. We stumble upon the fact that lamb is highly respected and used in many religious sacrifices. So our dish will begin upon that strong foundation.
Sacrificial lamb with rosemary.
Now, it’s hard for me to walk a graveyard and not think of zombies. And I’d be lying if the question “What would zombies want to eat?” didn’t pop in my head. Zombies, of course, eat brains. And so will my guests. I hope?
I’m a big proponent of giving people what they want to eat. So, even though we'll be cooking brains — lamb brains — I’ll make sure we braise and then fry them. So all of their gooey lusciousness doesn’t freak too many people out. And the brains lead to the next few elements of the dish.
We will combine the crispy lamb brains with some cauliflower. Through some odd twist or nature’s cruel sense of humor, cauliflower resembles raw brain. We often find our inspiration by simply observing an ingredient and pairing like with like. Sort of like lying in the park, looking at the clouds. Sometimes you see Santa’s beard. Sometimes the Mona Lisa. Sometimes you notice that raw prawns look like peeled lychee fruit.
To complete the dish we need sauce. What else is around us? Where else can we draw inspiration for this dish?
We continue to stroll the historic site. A few cobwebs present themselves in knobby trees and darkened corners. And then we realize that spider webs sort of look like another food stuff we like to play with ... cotton candy.
Our molecular proficiency comes in handy here. We have the ability to create savory cotton candy. Black garlic comes to mind. The color black fits with the theme, and the traditional flavor combination of garlic and lamb make sense. So we'll make candied black garlic cotton. I mean, a cobweb, of course. When plated on the warm lamb, the sugar will liquefy to sauce the plate.
To wrap it up, literally, we will serve lamb belly cooked sous vide for three days. And while this technique will produce an amazing product, it also nods toward other things that get sealed in plastic bags. As we learned during our visit to the makeshift morgue in the cemetery, the deceased were left in their body bags until claimed, possibly for three days.
We always like to finish with a theatrical element focused on aroma. We eat with our eyes and nose first. As I mentioned earlier, rosemary is the perfect fit for this dish, as well as the location. So, we're renting a fog machine that works with aromatic oils. Something you see at a concert, or the spa. And, upon the entrance of the service for the dish, we’ll fire up the fogger, and create a rosemary cloud over the dining table.
Sacrificial lamb, with its own crispy brain, cauliflower, black garlic cotton candy, and rosemary fog. ...
Trick or treat! Give me something good to eat!
Were there sliders?
Straight people be havin' kids and goin' to church. You seen this, you heard about…
RIP Hollywood HOTS...Backstreet...etc... This town used to swing...and strut...now it shuffles. A 24 hr. moveable…
PG - you could offer to help them instead of critiquing them, since you seem…
Little's is now trying to raise money to fix the building they are in. Here…