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An Interview with Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Sally and Antonia interview Jean-Georges Vongerichten (executive chef and owner of jo-jo and Lipstick Cafe in New York City and Vong in New York City and London).

MP3 Interview MP3

Interview Time (11:47)

Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup with Galangal

2 stalks lemongrass
6 stemmed whole Thai red and/or green bird pepper chiles
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 slices fresh or thawed frozen galangal, each the size of a quarter
1 tablespoon red curry paste ( Vong uses "Mac Ploy" brand)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and trimmed
2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 scallion, sliced very thin on the diagonal
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves

Lay the lemongrass and 2 chiles on a word surface and smash them with the bottom of a small heavy saucepan. Fold the lemongrass stalks towards the center into thirds and tie with kitchen twine.

Heat the peanut oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the lemongrass, smashed chiles, onion, galangal, red curry paste and garlic. Cook covered, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the onions are softened. Be careful not to let the mixture brown.

Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 3/4 inch dice. Add the chicken, coconut milk, nam pla, lime juice, 4 lime leaves and salt and pepper and cook. Stir constantly for 3 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Discard the lemongrass. Just before serving, garnish the soup with the scallions, fresh coriander, remaining 4 chiles and 4 lime leaves and serve hot.

Crab Spring Roll

For the Tamarind Sauce:

2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 stemmed whole Thai bird pepper chile, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

For the Spring Rolls:

1 pound crabmeat, gently picked over
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
1 stemmed whole Thai bird pepper chile, minced
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
salt to taste
eight 8-inch square spring roll wrapper (Vong uses TYJ brand)
egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl)
vegetable oil for deep-frying
8 small hearts of romaine lettuce leaves
sprigs of fresh mint and fresh coriander, for serving

To make the Tamarind Dipping Sauce:
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Evenly divide the sauce between 4 shallow ramekins for serving. Store at room temperature until ready to serve.

To make the Crab Spring Rolls:
Gently stir together the crabmeat, tamarind, chile, mayonnaise and salt in a bowl.

Gently separate each spring roll wrapper from the pack. Lay out 1 spring roll wrapper on a dry work surface with a point facing up. (Keep the unused spring roll wrappers covered with a damp cloth.) Place a generous 1/4 cup of crabmeat mixture in the center of the diamond, fold the bottom point of the wrapper up and over the filling tucking it under the filling to form a fat cylinder. Fold the right and left sides in towards the center, and then roll it tightly right up the top. Seal the edges by brushing with the egg wash. Set aside on a plate with the seam sides down. Repeat with remaining spring roll wrappers.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok to 375° F.

Fry the Crab Spring Rolls in 2 batches, holding them down if necessary and turning to brown evenly for 3 to 4 minutes each batch or until dark golden brown. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining spring rolls.

Place two lettuce leaves and springs of mint and coriander on each of 4 serving plates and put the Crab Spring Rolls inside the lettuce leaves. Serve the Crab Spring Rolls in the lettuce leaves with leaves from the mint and coriander and Tamarind Dipping Sauce on the side.

Lobster with Thai Herbs

4 live lobsters, about 1 1/2 pounds each
1/2 teaspoon each Thai yellow, red and green curry paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into pieces about 1 inch long
2 Kaffir lime leaves
1/2 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 cup white Port, Sauternes, or other white dessert wine
1 golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into julienne
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 medium bok choy, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

Put the lobsters into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove them with tongs. Plunge into a large bowl of ice water to cool, then drain. Using a cleaver, separate the lobster at the point where the head and tail meet. Separate the legs where they connect to the body. Using a small sharp knife, cut away any connective tissue and clean out the inside of the head leaving the shell intact. Return the cleaned head to the boiling water, blanch for 30 seconds and drain. Set heads aside to use as a garnish. With a pair of small sharp scissors, cut through the center of the underside of the tail being careful not to cut into the meat. Trim down each side of the underside of the tail. Slipping your hand under the tail meat, gently release it from the shell, trying to maintain it in one piece. Remove and discard the intestinal track. Crack the claws and carefully remove the meat in the largest pieces possible. Place the heads, tail, and claw meat in a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish. This can be done up to 4 hours ahead.

To make the Crab Spring Rolls:
Stir together the 3 curry pastes. In a saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat, add the curry mixture and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, carrots and tumeric and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add the white Port and reduce the liquid by half over moderately high heat. Add apples and simmer for 3 minutes. Cool and reserve. Just before serving, heat the sauce base and stir in the whipped cream. Season with salt to taste and keep warm. Cut the lobster tails into 1/2 inch medallions. In a saute pan, melt 1 teaspoon butter and heat the lobster slowly for about 4 minutes, taking care not to overcook. Saute the bok choy with the peanut oil until tender. Heat the lobster head in the oven for a few minutes.

To make the Crab Spring Rolls:
Arrange bok choy in the center of each plate. Place the head shell on top and fill with lobster meat. Nap with sauce and garnish with a scattering of chopped cilantro.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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