Chef Justin Warner Reinvents Culinary Archetypes in His Debut Cookbook

Justin Warner
Justin Warner
Daniel Krieger

Celebrity chef Justin Warner gave Fort Lauderdale a taste of his culinary stunts at Taste of Fort Lauderdale Series' New Style Remix dinner with Kuro executive chef Alex Becker — part of this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Unless you're already familiar with Warner — maybe you once salivated over the foie-gras doughnuts from his former Brooklyn outpost, Do or Dine, which shut its doors for good in September 2015 — Warner's debut cookbook, The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them, is the best representation of his fearless style.

Although the chef often credits his mother for his relationship with food, his noteworthy mentorship with Alton Brown on Food Network Star, certainly gave him the confidence to experiment with longstanding traditions. 

The title of the book is drawn from what Warner refers to as the 11 powerful flavor systems, classic combinations of food and flavor. Warner both embraces and then breaks these unbreakable laws, combining foods he'd never paired or cooked before. His book propels readers to have similar experiences by showing how to test each law to ensure a delicious result every time. That's why every law in his book is named for dishes that the average home cook knows and can easily prepare or acquire. 

Though the recipes run the gamut of the complexity spectrum, as is to be expected from "new style" cuisine, the laws are really just a flexible system designed to teach you interesting patterns in food and cooking. Rather than overanalyzing the text, Warner makes it simple to work within the confines of your abilities by including notes in almost every recipe that mentions which components of a dish can be prepped ahead of time, how to bend the rules through adjustment of fats, acidity, and texture, along with tips for plating in the event that you're creating your own rules for a party. And don't worry, vegans; there's a chapter specifically for you that unleashes the amazing powers of guacamole. 

Since the Sunshine State is known for its citrus, it seemed appropriate to re-create one of Warner's recipes from the Law of Lemonade: ginger-brûléed grapefruit. The easiest law to execute within the entire book, the Law of Lemonade, AKA sour meets sweet, is all about bringing out the acid. 

The brûléed-ginger sugar gives the grapefruit the right amount of sweet, while the fresh ginger adds a nice zing. And broiling the grapefruit really does the trick, as the fleshy fruit simply melts in your mouth. Warner mentions in the headnotes that his grandparents have sent him Pittman and Davis grapefruits every holiday season since he can remember. Nowadays, he eats them all winter long, and with this recipe, there's no reason stop. 

Burrata with trout caviar, passionfruit, vanilla, and dates.
Burrata with trout caviar, passionfruit, vanilla, and dates.
Daniel Krieger

Burrata With Trout Caviar, Passionfruit, Vanilla, and Dates

I am a huge Nintendo fan. I've played countless hours of Mario, Pokémon, and the like. Of all the games I've played, the series I've played the most is Smash Bros. In this game, four classic characters duke it out in an arena, often resulting in hilarity and chaos. This dish is Smash Bros. for your mouth. Ingredients of differing tastes, textures, and intensities do battle in a field of vanilla olive oil, which evokes sweetness, but is savory, complex, and deep. They go at each other with all their might. The sour passionfruit attacks the caviar's salt and the sweet dates with acid. The sticky date is protected by the fatty creaminess of the burrata. The burrata gets chomped as we crunch the passionfruit and search out the murky salinity of the caviar. It's impossible to decide a victor until you see what bite is left last on your plate, but I'd wager the last bite will be a perfect portion of all of the ingredients. This is a dish for people who can see the art in a good fight, not for people who use Pikachu's down and B move over and over.

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cooking time: 30 Seconds

Ingredients

Gear:
Small microwave-safe bowl
1/4 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
8 pitted dates
1 passionfruit
One 8-ounce ball burrata
1 3/4 ounces salmon roe

Directions

Scrape the seeds out of the piece of vanilla bean, and discard the pod. Combine the seeds with the oil in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Lightly spray a knife with nonstick cooking spray, then use it to dice the dates into small cubes. Cut the passionfruit in half and scrape out the seeds; discard the skin. Set the seeds aside.

HOLD IT? The dates and oil can be left at room temperature, covered, for up to a day. The passionfruit seeds can be held in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 hours.

PLATE IT! This can be such a pretty dish, I try to have each serving look identical. Line up four plates. Quarter the burrata, being careful not to lose the creamy interior. Cut each of the quarters of burrata into 2 or 3 pieces. Place the burrata sections on the plates. Next, divide the passionfruit among the four plates, placing it on top of some of the burrata and away from other pieces.

Next, add the dates to the plate, in little piles, here and there. Add the roe in clumps, adjacent to or on top of the burrata. Finally, drizzle on the oil in a circular motion, like playing connect the dots.

BREAK IT: Adding more components to this dish will only make it more over the top. Use some cracked coffee beans for a bitter, toasty component, and cook some thyme with the vanilla bean to give it an herbal oomph.

© 2015 Justin Warner


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