In the First Post of a New Recurring Feature, the Chef of Perilla and Kin Shop Shares his Favorite Ingredients, and Why They Make the Cut…
Harold Dieterle and I are in the early, kicking-it-around-in-coffee-shops stage of conceiving a book project that we hope to write together in the near future. (Read a little about our backstory here). Originally, Harold wanted to do a book about Thai food, but we recently decided to write a more general cookbook putting forth the style of food he serves up at Perilla, which draws on American, Thai, Italian, and other influences… in other words, his own personal brand of that thing we desperately need a new name for: contemporary American cuisine.
The challenge at this stage of the process is coming up with what I refer to as the “bridge” between what home cooks do and what chefs do. One exercise I use to help get to the core of what a chef is all about on the plate is to ask him or her to name ten favorite ingredients and explain the choices. (Writing this post, it occurred to me that this is a revealing thing to do with any chef, so I’ll be sharing more Toqueland Ten interviews soon, and indefinitely.)
Herewith, the inaugural list, from Harold Dieterle:
1. SALT. Hadn’t heard this one before, and at Number 1, no less. Of course, salt might be the most important ingredient, but a favorite? Not only does Harold appreciate salt (“It’s what it all starts with,” he said.), but he enjoys using different salts for different purposes: Kosher salt on meat; fine sea salt on roasted fish; coarse sea salt on raw fish, and so on. He also has a special fondness for the ceremony of presenting whole roasted fish in a salt crust to a table of guests, and the cracking and portioning that follows.
2. CRAB. “When I was a kid on Long Island, we used to go crabbing,” says Harold. “On vacation, my parents would pick out restaurants based on which ones had crab on the menu. They always made me order from the kids’ menu in our hometown, but on vacation, they insisted I treat myself to the adult crab dishes. There’s just not another protein that makes me so happy.” His favorite varieties, in order of preference: (i) King, (ii) Dungeness, (iii) A tie: Blue and Snow, (iv) Stone, and (v) Peekytoe. Expand