The following is the introduction to the Wineroad Cookbook by our Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren. We think this really exemplifies the great care and attention to detail he practices in every aspect of life and how his passion for food comes through in his creations on the plate.
A Chef’s Day in Sonoma County- By Jesse Mallgren
My children are still sleeping at 6:00 AM, my phone vibrates next to my bed, I jump out of bed and quickly tiptoe to my kitchen, I do not want to wake the kids, it is my fish monger. Something did not come in or is not up to my standards.
“Jesse, the salmon boat did not come in.”
“How is the halibut? Anything local?”
“It’s beautiful. George just dropped off five fish this morning” George fishes for halibut with a hook and line, just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge. I have used George’s fish for years. They are always pristine and incredibly fresh.
“Perfect”, I say.
Wiley and Lilly, my son and daughter, are waking up and it is time for me to make coffee and breakfast. My coffee ritual is all about precision; 23 grams of coffee beans, freshly ground, 350 ml of water at 195⁰F. The pour over takes about 4 minutes but the coffee is smoothly textured and the flavors sing. Today the kids want fried eggs from our backyard chickens with buttered toast and peaches from my neighbor. We sit down as a family and eat breakfast.
After the kids are off to school I head to the farmers market to pick up something for the halibut dish. I find some beautiful dry farmed potatoes and a couple pounds of garlic scapes. When I arrive at work I will walk through our garden, pick and taste herbs and vegetables and then finish the dish.
Madrona Manor sits on eight acres, a little over one acre is a garden, and about 20% of our produce comes from our garden. Most of our tomatoes are not quite ripe but that does not mean I cannot use them. I pluck a few green tomatoes and put them in my basket. I find a few ripe cherry tomatoes and carefully place them in the basket as well. I am going to roast the green tomatoes over charcoal, steep them in a broth made from the halibut bones. I will use this as a sauce for the halibut dish. The cherry tomatoes will be peeled to show off their sweetness.
Our local halibut is a lean fish and I want the dish to have a touch of richness. I will poach the fish in a local extra virgin olive oil. I cook the fish at 130⁰ F for fifteen minutes. The fish will be flakey, tender and retain all of its natural juices. The potatoes will be roasted in salt to maintain the delicate earthy flavor of a dry farmed potato. Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of hard neck garlic; they are in season for only a short time, when I see them I scoop them up. I will roast the scapes with kombu, a type of seaweed, a splash of white soy sauce and a sprig of thyme.
We cook everything for the dish; we need to taste it before we serve it to any of our guests. It is missing something; I head back up the hill to our garden. Ahhh, borage, a plant with beautiful blue flowers that have a cucumber flavor, it will lighten the dish and look stunning as well. We taste the dish, this time it is perfect. Now it is time for dinner service to begin.
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