Up north, growing season is coming into its peak. Unfortunately for us down here, everything is just about dead, from the plants to the numbers of people walking through a restaurant's door. But chef Julian Greaves of Tryst
in Delray Beach knows about keeping things fresh.
At the start of every month, Greaves checks with his networks of farms and suppliers to see what is available for his ever-evolving menu. This month is no different, but he admits, "The farm stuff is winding down. Although I'm still getting local tomatoes, herbs, and arugula."
Apparently, right now the arugula is something
to be excited about. It is bringing back old memories for Greaves. "It's kind of like the arugula we used to get in England when I was growing up. Fresh and herbal." It may not sound like that big a deal, but when it's fresh, it is a huge difference from the tasteless arugula you find stocked on most supermarket shelves. He's planning to put it on the menu this month with toasted pine nut and truffle balsamic vinaigrette with shaved aged Parmesan and sea salt. He says it's going for around $12.
I asked about other dishes he's excited about at the moment. His favorite: charcuterie. While living in England, at age 15, he took on an apprenticeship with a butcher. That experience instilled in him a love of charcuterie. He names off a few of his prize selections: chorizo, duck prosciutto, English-style bacon. Duck prosciutto? That seems to be cropping up a bit. I wanted to know more.
Greaves begins by making a sugar and salt cure for the duck breasts. He adds pepper, garlic, thyme, and lemon and orange zest. It sits in the salt for a week. After the week is up, it soaks in cold water for four to five hours to pull out the excess salt. Breast by breast, it is rolled up in cheese cloth, strung together, and hung from the ceiling in the walk-in. He laughs, "It looks like a bunch of little ginger-bread men hanging from the ceiling." Not a bad idea for utilitarian Christmas décor. This batch will be ready in another four weeks or so. When it is ready, "it will be sliced lengthwise on the bias; paper, paper thin. It will have to be sliced by hand. It's way too delicate for the slicer." says Greaves. By the time the whole process is done, the 12-ounce duck breasts will have shrunk down to about half the size due to the loss of moisture. The loss in size makes the curing a rather expensive process. The $6-a-pound duck breast more than doubles in cost.
He's planning on serving the duck prosciutto wrapped around stone fruit: peaches, plums, or nectarines. "We have a wood-burning oven. I want to sear it in there on a sizzle pan with oak and mesquite wood," he says. The whole dish will come served with frisée and saba -- a balsamic derivative. It will be priced somewhere around $16.