Prep to plating at Luce

“Le Jardin” — Vegetable Garden and its own soil

At first glance, Dominique Crenn may not look like your typical chef. Her sleek black hair, hazel eyes and slender, graceful figure almost seem out of place in a busy restaurant kitchen. But look closely and you’ll notice a large burn scar on her right arm, the honorable sign of a hands-on chef. The atypical veneer is perhaps a reflection of her deep enthusiasm for unconventional cuisine.

Raised in France, she moved to San Francisco in 1988 and today runs the kitchen at Luce, the new-American restaurant at the towering Intercontinental Hotel. A location that sometimes draws criticism from the press and bloggers alike. But Dominique’s cuisine is not what you’d classify as “hotel food”. It’s surprising, sophisticated and delicious. Enough to grant her a Chef of the year award by Esquire magazine.

For this essay, Dominique has prepared one of Luce's signature dishes, one that despite its apparent simplicity takes great care to be prepared. A celebration of spring vegetables, cooked sous vide and arranged artfully on a bed of carrot and sunchoke purées, presented over a slab of black granite. The recipe is below. Enjoy.

“Le Jardin” — Vegetable Garden and its own soil
(read it with a charming French accent)

2 baby carrots
2oz fava beans (seasonal)
2 oz peas in the pot (seasonal)
1 oz of baby artichoke
2 oz of baby zucchini
2 oz of baby spring potato
2 oz of baby parsley root
2 oz of baby turnips

At Luce, Dominique cooks most of the vegetables sous vide; here is another way to do it. Blanch vegetable separately starting with cold vegetable stock. Heat to a simmer until cooked al dente. Then cool them down in their own juice.

For the salad

Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1 oz of wild asparagus (keep it raw)
2 each tiny radishes
2 each tiny turnips
Peas shoots

For the warm sunchoke puree

8 oz sunchoke (peeled)
Milk to cover
½ tablespoon of butter
Star anise
Sea salt

Simmer sunchoke in milk until soft. Discard star anise. Blend it and pass through a sieve. Keep it warm.

For the warm carrot puree

10 large carrots
Peel and juice 4 carrots. Peel and cut 6 carrots.
Simmer carrots in carrot juice until tender.

Season with salt and pepper, blend it with 1/2oz of butter and pass through a sieve. Keep it warm.

For the dehydrated black olives and rye bread

½ pound of Sicilian black olives
½ rye bread, sliced

Dehydrate for 4 to 5 hours in the oven at 105-112ºF until crunchy (you can also use a dehydrator). Then grind each of the components individually and mix them together.

To assemble the dish, start by placing a spoonful of each purée on the plate. Carefully arrange the vegetables over the purée (tweezers or chopsticks recommended). Complete with the salad and finish dusting the dehydrated black olives and rye bread over it. Voilà.

This photo essay was featured on the SF Chronicle's InsideScoop.

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