SF Chefs Food Arts Industry Day with William Werner, Evan Rich, and Dominique Crenn: Secrets Revealedfeatured
The first demo of the day, entitled “How Did You Do That?” featured three of San Francisco’s most imaginative chefs: William Werner from Craftsman & Wolves, Evan Rich from Rich Table, and Dominique Crenn from Atelier Crenn. These chefs create dishes that really do have you murmuring in awe, “How DID they do that?” and today was the day our burning questions would be answered.
First up, how on earth does William Werner get that runny egg inside The Rebel Within? For those unfamiliar, The Rebel Within is Werner’s brilliant concoction of a soft boiled egg nestled inside a savory cake flecked with Easton’s breakfast sausage from Boccalone, scallions, asiago and parmigiano. [Chef’s Note: “It is not a muffin, people, it’s a savory cake…baked in a muffin tin.”]
Contrary to popular belief, Werner is not a wizard (well, maybe he is part-wizard because The Rebel Within is pretty magical), nor does he cut the cake in half, insert the egg, and then seal it back together with cake glue. Here’s how this mystical breakfast treat is made:
- Soft boil your eggs, then shock them in an ice bath. Werner uses the old fashioned method of bringing plain old water to boil in a plain old pot. No fancy sous vide action here. See? You can do this.
- Carefully peel the eggs (this could be the hardest part). Let them dry so that the surface is a little tacky.
- Make the savory cake batter. Emulsify your wet ingredients (oil, egg, crème fraiche), and fold in your dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, and some baking powder and sugar I would presume).
- Pipe the batter into the muffin tin halfway up.
- Roll the egg in flour.
- Pipe the batter on top, covering the egg.
- Bake at 450 F, then drop the temp to ensure even baking. Here is where Werner avoids specific on how long to bake, when to drop the temp, and how low to drop it…a wizard’s gotta keep some of his secrets tucked up his wizard sleeves.
- Once the little rebels are cooked, blast chill them to stop the cooking ensure a runny egg. Since most home cooks don’t own their own blast freezer – if you do, let’s be friends mmkay? – I’m guessing that a regular freezer would do the job. Sad aside, my regular freezer that is currently being held together by duct tape will have to do.
First chance I get, I’m going to try my hand at hacking this recipe. Stay tuned.
Next up, Evan Rich broke down his famous Sardine Chips for us. Ever since this dish debuted at Rich Table, the San Francisco food obsessed have been going bonkers over what may be the fanciest chip ever created. Each hand-cut potato slice is carefully threaded with a sardine filet before getting a bath in the deep fryer. Rich Table churns out about 600 of these labor intensive chips per day. Here’s how it’s done:
- Cut your potato in half lengthwise, and using a palette knife, make two incisions along the center line, one above the other. These are the holes that you will later thread the sardine through.
- Using a mandolin, make your potato slices. This is the tricky part. The slices need to be thick enough to handle without falling apart, but thin enough to make a nice crispy chip.
- Thread the sardine filet through the potato slice.
- Fry at 425 F. Amazingly, Rich Table uses a cheap tabletop FryDaddy since they don’t have a commercial fryer in the restaurant. See? You can do this too!
- Serve the chips with a dipping sauce of crème fraiche, freshly grated horseradish, lemon zest, and salt. Finish with finely chopped chives, a sprinkle of salt, and a bit of lemon juice. Serve right away.
You can make the Sardine Chips up to one day in advance, just layer them with damp paper towels and keep in the fridge. Any oxidation will be unnoticeable after the frying.
If you’re heading to Outside Lands this weekend, get a taste of these for yourself! The insane cooks at Rich Table are making 18,000 Sardine Chips for the masses.
And last but certainly not least, Dominique Crenn took the stage to demo her Flavors of Brittany, a stunning dish featuring razor clams, mussels, pork belly, and bone marrow gnocchi.
You heard right. I said Bone Marrow Gnocchi. Crenn is known for using modern techniques to delight her guests and this wild sounding gnocchi is a prime example. First, the bone marrow is rendered in warm milk. Then, Crenn uses kudzu root starch to reconstitute the texture of the marrow. Once a gnocchi-like texture is achieved, the mixture is rolled and cut, just like traditional gnocchi. That tastes like bone marrow. Mind. Blown.
What a treat it was to get this peek behind the curtain. While these newly divulged techniques are no longer deep dark chef’s secrets hidden behind smoke and mirrors, to be able to consistently produce these dishes in the quantities they do on a daily basis…well, that makes these chefs nothing short of magicians in my mind (slightly crazy, mad scientist/genius magicians).