Thursday, February 7, 2013

Eating with a spiritual compass...and Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson @Macy's Lenox Square. James Camp/Macy's
Chef Marcus Samuelsson is one of the most exciting personalities in food and media today. In my opinion, his unusual biography – born in Ethiopia, adopted into a middle class Swedish family, trained as a chef in Europe, a successful career as an American chef, restaurateur and media personality, makes his perspectives on food and culture just that much more interesting. Add to that the fantastic food this energetic chef produces and it’s hard not to pay attention when Chef Marcus cooks…and speaks.

I had the opportunity last week to meet with Chef Marcus on his visit to Atlanta and ask him a few questions. Macy’s Culinary Council brought him to town to cook a Game Day menu at its Lenox Square store. Before he took to the stage, he kindly answered a few questions. The publicity person who arranged the interview requested no personal questions, so that left just politics, which segued quite neatly to religion. 

Marcus Samuelsson @Macy's Lenox. James Camp for Macy's.

Samuelsson cooked for the Obamas’ first state dinner at the White House a few years ago, and in turn, he has hosted them at his Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster. He shared that the President’s favorite dish is the spicy cornbread with honey glaze served with lots of butter and tomato jam. As for his thoughts on the First Lady’s impact on food, “I think she could have picked any subject to focus on and she chose food,” he said. “She unified the chefs and stakeholders to provide better food for children and families.

“Food-wise, we’ve come far and we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. We’re off to a great start.”
Samuelsson used a phrase I love ~ “eating with a spiritual compass” to describe a lifestyle of awareness of the provenance of our food and the responsibility that comes with consuming it.

“Spirituality and food are connected,” he said. “Throughout the world, through every culture and religion, there are times for fasting, then times of celebration and sharing.” Chef Marcus will fast, he says, by not eating meat for a few days, and other practices of moderation. 

Marcus Samuelsson at Macy's Lenox. James Camp for Macy's.

Eating with a spiritual compass also entails being a good steward of the food that’s provided, and that means taking care with leftovers. The recipes he shared during his kitchen demonstration were examples of his “Poor Man’s food” fancied up for the restaurant. Crab cakes, using potato to stretch out the precious crab meat; New Orleans-style dirty rice making use of leftover shrimp, sausage and what-have-you; and his Fried Yard Bird, a spicy fried chicken so darn addictive there can not possibly be  leftovers.

Marcus Samuelsson @Macy's Lenox. James Camp for Macy's.

The crab cakes that Chef Marcus cooked at Macy’s were outrageously good ~ the grapefruit supreme and frisee salad cut through the rich mayonnaise and crab cake. This is ritzy Game Day fare, but it’s perfectly portioned and very satisfying.

Crab Cakes with Chipotle Mayo and Citrus Salad. James Camp for Macy's.

Crab Cakes with Chipotle Mayo and Citrus Salad

2 red grapefruit (garnish)

Supreme the two grapefruit by slicing off the top and bottom of each with a sharp knife. Using a paring knife, slice down the side of each grapefruit to remove all the rind and pith. Remove each grapefruit segment without the pith and skin and set them on a plate. Reserve.

Chipotle Mayo

2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chipotle peppers chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Juice from 2 limes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Put the almonds in a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Shake the skillet and let the almonds toast for 1 to 2 minutes, just until they take on a golden color and smell fragrant. As soon as you smell them, turn the almonds into a medium mixing bowl and let them cool for a moment or two. Add the remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Crab cakes

3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons mint, chopped
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup bread crumbs
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 limes, cut into quarters for garnish

Bring the potatoes to a boil in water. Add the garlic and let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and mash with a fork. Let cool down.

Mix the chili powder, salt, cilantro and mint in a bowl. Add in the mustard, pepper, mayonnaise, mashed potatoes and crab meat and toss quickly. Make the crab cakes 2 inches round and 1 inch thick.
Mix cornstarch and bread crumbs and lightly dredge each crab cake in the mixture. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan set over medium heat. Fry until golden brown, about five minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels; serve.

Citrus Vinaigrette

1 shallot
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 to 1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups frisee

Finely chop the shallot.

In a bowl, add the kosher salt, then pour the balsamic vinegar over it and whisk to dissolve the salt. Stir in the orange and lemon juice, and add the chopped shallot.

In a sauté pan, over medium high heat, lightly toast the sesame seeds for 3 minutes. Remove the sesame seeds from the heat.

Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl with the salt, vinegar and juices. Whisk the mixture vigorously as you pour the oil into the mix. Continue to whisk until the vinaigrette emulsifies. Add the toasted sesame seeds and the freshly ground black pepper to taste and whisk again for a minute. Toss frisee with vinaigrette.

Plate the crab cakes on top of the frisee salad. Top crab cake with a dollop of the Chipotle Mayo and a couple segments of grapefruit with each serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

Crab cake. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Recipes provided by Chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Many thanks to Macy’s for the pictures from the event.

 I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post about Macy's Culinary Council. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

This post is part of #LetsLunch a monthly Twitter party of writers and cooks all over the world. This month’s topic was TV snacks, in celebration of hostess Lisa Goldberg’s Australian Open viewing party. Check out the other stories and recipes from the #LetsLunch crew!

Lisa’s Sausage Rolls at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Cheryl’s Mongolian Buuz at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Grace’s Taiwanese Beef Sliders at HapaMama
Jill’s Spiced Pecans at Eating My Words
Karen’s Sporting Eats at GeoFooding
Rashda’s FInger Licking Good Curried Ribs at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Emma’s Super Bowl Wings Two Ways at Kitchen Dreamer
Annabelle’s Idiazabal and Black Pepper Gougeres at Glass of Fancy
Sonja’s Sticky Ginger Beer Chicken Wings at Foodnutzz


Annabelle said...

Now THAT is my idea of game day food! Sounds totally delicious. And I love him -- his restaurants are great and he seems charming.

Emma said...

Wow, Lucy these are so impressive! Love the idea of garnishing with grapefruit pieces.

Unknown said...

How wonderful that you got to chat with the Chef and get this wonderful recipe, thanks for sharing!

Lucy Mercer said...

@Emma, the grapefruit was just right with the crab cake. One of those genius Chef tricks! Thanks for reading!

Lucy Mercer said...

@Linda, it was such a thrill to talk with him (again)! There will be more stories coming up - he really touched on a lot of subjects.

Renee said...

Wow those really look amazing, Lucy! I love crabcakes. Grapefruit? Such an interesting twist! <3 it.