Chef Philip Tessier created this beautiful Gazpacho Porthole recipe as a contribution to the Bocuse d'Or 30th anniversary winners cookbook. We asked Mr. Tessier to write a little note about the recipe, and he delivered so much more. His piece speaks to the core of our relationship, the formidable challenge of the Bocuse d’Or, and the delicately balanced flavors of this special Gazpacho infusion.
Gazpacho Porthole Infusion
by Philip Tessier
It was a typical winter day in Chicago. Cold, dreary and a foreboding gray sky holding the promise of snow. I walked up the narrow staircase of the Crucial Detail studio on the outskirts of the meatpacking district and knocked on the door. No answer.
It was December 2014 and I had just been selected as the candidate to compete for the United States in the Bocuse d’Or. I had journeyed here to meet Martin Kastner, the legendary designer best known for the numerous service pieces he had custom made for Grant Achatz at his Alinea and Next restaurants. Martin had been tapped to be the platter designer for the competition, and I had come to meet him in person to begin our collaboration on this daunting task.
I checked my emails and realized I was over an hour early, a notorious time zone mix up. After waiting just long enough for my toes to grow numb, Martin arrived on a bicycle, bundled from head to toe against the winter cold. We exchanged quick hellos and eagerly headed up the stairs to the warm studio.
“It’s a bit of a mess in here,” Martin stated matter of factly as he swung the door open, “We just received a large shipment of Portholes and we are moving the studio in a few weeks to a bigger space. Sorry about the mess.” I assessed the scene around me--shelves filled with ceramic molds and various service pieces, passageways packed to the ceiling with boxes, various kilns and machinery, and a small open space with a work table and a desk lined with several monitors.
“What is the Porthole?” I asked as I started to defrost.
Martin grabbed a round, glass vessel with a flask-like spout on the top and handed it to me. The name fit it well, it looked just like a porthole on a ship or submarine, but this “window” was meant to see what was inside the vessel.
“It was originally intended for cocktail infusions. We designed it so you can lay in the aromatics and create a unique presentation while infusing your choice of liquids,” Martin explained as I examined this clever presentation piece. He continued, “You can use it for any type of infusion--oils, cocktails, whatever you think of.”
We sat down together at his work desk and began discussing the challenges of the Bocuse d’Or and what my initial thoughts and ideas were. As Martin asked questions and expressed his thoughts, it struck me that this guy saw the world through a different lens than I did. What I saw as food, technique, and colors, he perceived as forms, materials, and dimensions.
Neither of us could have anticipated where that initial conversation would take us. For the next four years, as Team USA pursued the distant dream of gold at the Bocuse d’Or, our relationship blossomed from that first awkward meeting into a deep friendship solidified by thousands of hours of effort, multiple failures, daunting schedules, and extraordinary successes.
When the Bocuse d’Or Winner’s committee approached me about creating a recipe for their new book featuring canapes and small bites from all of the past winners of the competition, I knew I had to include Martin’s work in some way. He had been such an extraordinary part of our success, it would feel incomplete if his touch wasn’t there.
My thoughts went back to the Porthole, which had since found huge success and a prominent place at The Aviary, Achatz’s physics-defying cocktail bar, as well as the MOMA in New York City. One of the elements of the winning 2015 meat platter featured a truffle consomme which we had thickened just enough to suspend the garnish of carrot, leek and truffle in it. This concept would translate perfectly into the Porthole and tie the story together as well.
It was June at the time and I was surrounded by gardens full of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil, and the bounties of summer. Gazpacho was staring me in the face and it was only a matter of time before a traditional gazpacho was being transformed into a consomme.
To make the consomme, all of the traditional components of gazpacho are combined and roughly chopped before being placed in a cheesecloth-lined, perforated tray. By allowing the resulting liquid to pass through the cheesecloth and slowly drip into the tray below, an ultra clear, brightly flavored liquid is achieved.
Searching for something that could become both an infused flavor as well as a “skewer” for some fried green tomatoes, I cut some branches from our lemon verbena bush that was filling in quickly and just beginning to blossom. I filled the Porthole with lemon verbena, cherry tomatoes, cucumber blossoms, and basil seeds, resulting in a beautiful array of color and subtle flavor.
One of my favorite Crucial Detail pieces has always been the Nip, a tumbler with a unique balance that allows it to spin freely as it sits on the table and conforms to the hand as its contents are enjoyed. We had inverted it as a smoke-filled cloche in 2015 and here I added a spoonful of a light foam made from the consomme creating a playful “cocktail” and a unique presentation.
Garnished by a fried green tomato suspended over the glass on a branch of the lemon verbena, the dish was complete. It had all the elements I was hoping for, a sense of playfulness, mystery, and most importantly a delicately balanced and delicious taste of our garden.
When I look at this recipe and its whimsical presentation I see much more than a fun way of serving a consomme. For me, this recipe tells the story of a nation's’ pursuit of gold, a designer’s genius, refined technique, and summer’s bounty. But ultimately, it is a tribute to the friendship Martin and I share and the magic that takes place when two people come together, challenging each other to take a fresh look at the world around them.
FOR THE TEA BASE:
1Kilo Garden Tomatoes
5 Grams Raw Garlic, sliced
20 Grams Shallots, sliced
50 Grams Red Onion, diced
150 Grams Cucumber , diced
150 Grams Red Pepper, diced
15 Grams Basil, crushed
15 Grams Lemon Verbena, crushed
2 Grams Pimenton
20 Grams Kosher Salt
75 Grams Red Wine Vinegar
2 Grams Tabasco
750 Milliliter Tomato Water, from above
.38 Grams Low Acyl Gellan
15 Grams Lemon Verbena
FOR THE FOAM:
250 Milliliter Tomato Water, from above
3 Grams Versawhip
0.6 Grams Xantham Gum
FOR THE FRIED GREEN TOMATO:
1 Each Green Tomatoes, cherry
50 Grams Kosher Salt
500 Grams Water
150 Grams Cornmeal, finely ground
150 Grams Cake Flour
1 Gram Kosher Salt
.5 Grams Pimenton
.5 Grams Cayenne
500 Grams Buttermilk
.5 Liter Peanut Oil, for frying
FOR THE GARNISH:
10 Grams Basil Seeds, hydrated and drained
- Greek Basil, picked leaves
- Lemon Verbena with Blossoms
- Lemon Verbena “Skewers”
FOR THE TEA:
Place the tomatoes, garlic, shallots, red onion, cucumber and red pepper in a food processor and process until roughly chopped.
Place in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
Cover the bowl and marinate for six hours.
Place a perforated pan over another pan and line with three layers of cheesecloth. Pour the gazpacho base into the tray and allow to drain overnight.
Once drained, pass the gazpacho base through a coffee filter or super bag to further clarify the base.
Place 750g of the gazapacho base in a medium sauce pot and slowly stir in the low acyl gellan. Bring to a boil, add the lemon verbena and pour into a medium bowl. Set the bowl over an ice bath and let cool until set.
Once cool, strain through a chinois and reserve.
FOR THE FOAM:
Strain 250ml of the infused base into a blender top and process on low speed.
Slowly sheer in the versawhip and the xantham gum and allow to hydrate for one minute.
FOR THE FRIED GREEN TOMATO:
Trim the top and bottom off the green tomatoes.
Combine the salt and water in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until the salt dissolves.
Add the tomatoes to the brine and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
Strain the tomatoes and allow to dry on a clean towel.
Combine the cake flour, salt, cayenne and pimenton.
Dust the tomatoes in flour and then dip in buttermilk.
Drain the tomatoes from any excess buttermilk and toss in the ground corn meal.
Repeat with the buttermilk and cornmeal.
Decoratively arrange some verbena, tomato clusters and blossoms in a glass carafe.
Combine the reserved gazpacho with the basil seeds and pour into the carafe.
Bring the peanut oil to 175C and fry the tomatoes until golden brown. Season with salt and dust with pimenton. Skewer the tomatoes through the cut ends with a verbena branch.
Whip the foam with a small immersion blender and allow to settle for one minute.
Place a spoonful into a small glass and garnish with a blossom. Rest the fried green tomato skewer on the edge of the glass.
Pour the tea into the glass and serve.