4 Tempting Dishes from Chefs Thinking Outside the Ingredient Box

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Crave Fishbar
The Swap: Watercress for Basil

Todd Mitgang, Chef | Crave Fishbar | New York City

Mitgang swaps in herbaceous watercress for basil in a pesto made with toasted walnuts, garlic, serrano chile, capers, red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and Grana Padano cheese. It’s served with grilled Faroe Islands salmon on a bed of wasabi-parsnip purée and roasted hon shimeji mushrooms. 

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David Reamer
The Swap: Trout for Steak

Gabriel Rucker, Executive Chef / Marcelle Crooks, Chef de Cuisine

Little Bird Bistro | Portland, Oregon

Rucker and Crooks continue to serve original chef Erik Van Kley’s take on chicken-fried steak, replacing the beef with rainbow trout from Idaho. They soak the trout belly in buttermilk similar to chicken-fried steak, dredging it in one part cornstarch, one part rice flour, and a little Espelette pepper before slicing and frying it. The “steak” is then served with pickled carrots, fresh dill, local radish, Dijon mustard, and gribiche—a French aioli made with chilled hard-boiled eggs. 

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Black Cat
The Swap: Almonds for Eggs

Eric Skokan, Chef/Owner | Black Cat | Boulder, Colorado

To create a healthier version of an aioli-like mix, Skokan ditches eggs and dairy for his Almond Tarator. The result is a classic Turkish sauce that he says makes a great addition to warm, poached shrimp or roasted vegetables like cauliflower. He boils the toasted almonds and roasted garlic together in water until evaporated, then purées the mixtures until very smooth, adding a little water as needed to thin the mixture out. He then adds oil with the processor’s motor running and seasons the sauce with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

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The Swap: Papalo for Cilantro

Samantha & Cody Carroll, Chefs | Sac-a-Lait | New Orleans

The Carrolls use fresh herbs like lovage, Aztec sweet herb, safflower, wormwood, Vietnamese coriander, and lemon verbena from the restaurant’s onsite garden to balance their South Louisiana cuisine. For a hot quail dish, they’ll swap cilantro for papalo, which has a similar flavor but tastes spiked with peppery arugula and a hint of lime. To make the dish, they first make a sauce by simmering a house-made, 400-day fermented cayenne spice blend with local honey and fresh lemongrass until sticky, and toss the buttermilk-marinated fried quail in that. The dish is garnished with papalo leaves, toasted pistachios, green onions, and sifted bee pollen.