My friend, Chef Joe Youkhan, was on a show on ABC last year, called The Taste. Although, he didn’t make it through the first cut, I was enthralled with the concept of professional chefs and home cooks competing for the same prize with a mere spoonful of “Taste”. The judges on the show were Chef Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Chef Ludo Lefebvre and Chef Brian Malarkey. Chef Brian had a vibrance to him – fun, energetic, and a love of food. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Brian at the 2013 LA Food & Wine Festival and actually got to taste his creation of Lamb Tartar. Even in person, he was very personable and you could see his love of food, wearing it like a badge of honor on his chef coat. His creations make you “eat with your eyes”. It’s not about the fanciful dots of sauce on the plate or the perfect placement of each grain of rice. It all comes down to the taste. Not that his food isn’t pretty to look at, it’s that so much emphasis was placed on presentation over the years, people forgot what really great food tastes like. As the Top Chef Season 3 Finalist, Chef Brian rose to celebrity chef status and with his restaurant group, Enlightening Hospitality, he has developed a fan following in San Diego and Los Angeles. Come Early, Stay Late pays homage to his restaurants by giving each a chapter in the book to showcase some of their favorite recipes.
In the Searsucker (for his restaurant located in the Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego) chapter, Searsucker’s Cali Belgique Short Rib Sandwich + Horseradish Sauce sounded mighty tasty. Short rib is one of my favorite dishes in restaurants and decided to make it this at home for the very first time. I treated it like a roast to get the moist, tender texture you come to expect. All in all, this is a great recipe with some minor tweaks for the home kitchen will make it perfect. The short rib needed to cook for 5 ½ hours to get the right tender texture. I purchase my short rib from Costco so I’m not sure if it was the meat wasn’t the right quality to begin with or if it just needed more time. I’m glad I did this the night before so it was ready for the sandwiches the next day. I would also season the short ribs with some salt as the beef and chicken stock did not have enough salt in them to bring out more of the beef flavor. I would also add double the amount of horseradish to the sauce to kick it up a notch. The sour cream really does take over the flavor a bit and needed more horseradish to balance with the complex flavors of the short rib. The fried onions turned out perfectly and are very easy to make. The pesto is out-of-this-world! It had just enough garlic for the punch so as not to be overbearing. It had a vibrant green color and refreshing flavor. You’ll have leftovers so toss it up with some angel hair pasta. I bought my French baguettes from Lee’s Sandwiches, freshly baked that morning. They had the perfect crisp outside and tender inside that helps soak up some braising liquid. There will be a lot of braising liquid left over. It will make a great soup or stew base or you can use it when making a pot of rice or quinoa - lots of beefy goodness in there, not to be wasted. A dash of Tabasco or Sriracha would be great too. Thumbs up, way up!
In the Burlap (for his restaurant in Del Mar Highlands Town Center) chapter, Garlic Noodles & Mushrooms sounded ono! Helpful hint: If you’ve never blended anything hot, be very careful and use the pulse button. Even if you switch to low, the contents of your blender may end up on you and the rest of your kitchen. I would definitely add more garlic puree when tossing the noodles. The oyster sauce was a bit overbearing and I wanted to see the garlic show through a little more. I used a different selection of mushrooms since I shopped at Mitsuwa Marketplace – shiitake, oyster, and honshimeji. The different varieties provided different textures and added “meatiness” to the noodles. The flavor was very addictive and should have made 2 recipes worth since folks wanted seconds. I know this is supposed to be vegetarian, but another idea is to add char sui pork or chicken to the mix to make it more like an entrée. Adding sesame oil would give it more Asian flare and would pair well with the oyster sauce and chow mein noodles. Thumbs up, way up!
In the Desserts chapter, Doughnuts + Espresso Chocolate Sauce sounded scrumptious! This was my first time making homemade doughnuts so I was excited to see what was all involved in it. Making the dough was very simple with a standing mixer and dough hook. After letting it proof for an hour, it was ready to go. I was a little worried that it didn’t proof up as much as when I make homemade bread, but it was just fine. Instead of rolling the dough out, I used a 1-inch cookie scoop to make the dough balls – scoop the dough ball and release right into the fryer. They almost doubled in size in the fryer so the yeast was doing its job. After the fryer, they drained for a little while on some paper towels, then coated with cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. The doughnuts were perfect right out of the fryer, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. As they get cold, the interior will start to dry out a bit, but are still delicious. The chocolate sauce was very easy to make as well. Instead of chopping the chocolate, just put the chocolate pieces in a Ziploc bag and pound it with a meat tenderizer. It basically does the same job and all of the chocolate is contained in the bag instead all over your chopping board and counter. When warm, it’s a decadent sauce with rich chocolate and hint of espresso making my guests think there was alcohol (Kalua or Amaretto) added. I used Café du Monde’s Coffee with Chicory brewed up espresso-style which added a nice flavor profile with the chocolate. As the sauce started to cool, it turned into a rich ganache which still worked with the doughnuts as well. Thumbs up, way up!
There are so many recipes and great photography, it will be one of my go-to cookbooks for a long time.
Visit Chef Brian’s restaurants:
- 611 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA – 619.2333.7327
- 12995 El Camino Real, Del Mar, CA – 858.369.5700
- 415 Colorado Street, Austin, TX – 512.394.8000
- 7837 Herschel Ave, La Jolla, CA – 858.459.0221
- 8440 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood – 323.848.6000
- Nautilus – 3535 General Atomics Court, San Diego - 858.587.6601
- Campus Pointe – 10300 Campus Point Drive, San Diego - 858.450.9907