This is the first of three parts; please click the hyperlink at the bottom of the article to continue to the next part
Cliff’s Edge recently hired Chef Vartan Abygaryan to further establish Cliff’s Edge as a culinary destination. Chef Abygaryan’s refined menu reinterprets several of Cliff’s Edge’s popular favorites as well as introduces a number of distinctive items (first tested as specials) not found on many other menus in Los Angeles. The inspiration for all of these recently introduced items starts with the key ingredient. For the three plates detailed in the three parts of this article, those ingredients are rabbit, a duck egg and venison. Vartan doesn't like to use fancy names to describe his food. Rather the menu lists items rather than describes them. The first word is the key ingredient; the second word describes the preparation. Additionally with many of Abgaryan’s dishes, he takes the familiar and gives it a twist so that it’s something different. This twist is especially true of both the “Rabbit” and “Duck Egg” dishes.
The rabbit (rabbit rillettes | cranberry | mustard | cardamom spiced wafer) is a twist on rabbit rillettes and toast taking it up a notch pairing the rabbit rillettes with mustard done three ways and wafers. The rabbit for the rillettes is locally sourced. For the rillettes preparation, the rabbit is cleaned and quartered, and then cured with a dry rub that’s half and half salt and sugar seasons with garlic, herbs and eleven other spices including cumin, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom.
Curing takes a day after which the cured rabbit is cooked confit (in duck fat) at 250 degrees for six to six and half hours. The rabbit meat (no offal is used) by now is falling of the bone. This deboned meat is then shredded three ways (hand picked, mashed with a fork and in the robot coupe) to provide three different textures to the rillettes. Th duck fat is drained and strained, and at the bottom of this duck fat, liquid from the rabbit is collected then added back to the strained duck fat as a binder for the shredded meat. This mixture is packed into a terrine mold then pressed with foil and plastic wrapped bricks to press all the air out. Cooking and packing is the second day of this three day process.
On the third day after the rillettes firms and sets up, the terrine is capped with duck fat for storage. Like with other charcuteries, a rillettes is a way to preserve meat. Once capped with duck fat, the rillettes can sit out on a shelf for months. However, to abide by local health department regulation, Abgaryan stores his batches in the walkin refrigerator. This item has been so popular that he’s had to multiply his batch size.
Once plated, Abygaryan pairs the rillettes with mustard provided three ways: pickled mustard seeds, whole grain mustard, and violet mustard with saba. Saba or must is typically syrup made from grapes. Here Chef Vartan does a seasonal twist using both fresh and dried cranberries instead. The pureed pulp from these cranberries after being cooked is then blended into Dijon to give this mustard a sweet tangy character. The rillettes and mustards are plated in a straight forward manner with wafers instead of toast. The wafers are basically waffle cones spiced with salt, pepper and cardamom.
End of Part 1; please click here for Part 2 to continue