Baked sweet potatoes, butter-braised leeks, sour cream and shiitake rayu (THOMAS GIRARD)
People often ask me how frequently we change the menu at the restaurant.
I don’t have a formula for how I go about it, and am likely to make changes simply when I tire of something. However, more often than not, it is the availability of an ingredient that will inevitably force a change. In France, cooking according to what is available in season is relatively easy as I find the seasonality of ingredients plus ou moin respected. However, instantly falling in love as a vegetable explodes into its annual abundance only for it to (sometimes, just as quickly) slip out of season, takes a little getting used to.
In this particular case, it was the lovely little zucchini that I had become so accustomed to receiving that were suddenly no longer available. In their place, a wooden crate of organic sweet potatoes made their debut. The resulting recipe dresses them up a bit – like the jacket potatoes I enjoyed so fondly as a kid. Go ahead and reach for that full-fat sour cream. (I only wish creme fraiche could be its equal).
1 cup canola oil
3 small shallots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, microplaned
6 pieces dried shiitake, rehydrated in water, then diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon coriander seed powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
2 teaspoons cassonade
½ teaspoon fleur de sel
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
¼ olive oil
2 tablespoons preserved
Chinese black beans
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Wrap each sweet potato individually in tinfoil. Include a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a good pinch of fleur de sel in each parcel.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for approximately 60 minutes, or until cooked. The flesh of the sweet potato should be soft and easily pierced all the way through with a knife.
Slice leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly in between the layers ensuring to remove any dirt.
Cut into ½-inch half-moon slices.
Add oil, shallots, garlic and shitake to a small pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally and allowing all the water to evaporate. You will know this is cooked when there is no longer an excessive amount of bubbles rising to the surface of the oil and the garlic and shallot are just starting to brown. The whole mixture should smell toasted and fragrant.
Remove it from the heat and add paprika, cumin, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, gochugaru, cassonade and fleur de sel.
Stir over low heat for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and add soya sauce, olive oil and black beans.
Allow to cool (it can be made up to a month in advance and kept in the refrigerator until needed).
If necessary, reheat sweet potatoes in their foil on a tray in the oven at 350 F. Place a spoonful of sour cream on each plate. Unwrap the sweet potatoes and carefully slice each one in half, placing one half on each plate, skin-side down in the sour cream. Gently warm the leeks over medium heat, being careful not to brown them. Spoon the leeks over each of the potatoes. Place the second half of each potato on top and spoon some of the shiitake oil over the whole thing, making sure to stir up the goodness that has most likely settled to the bottom. Garnish with sliced green onions and a sprinkle of espelette powder. Serve immediately.