In the past, whenever I thought of Australia, call me shallow, but I’ve always imagined kangaroos, Crocodile Dundee, the Outback and the Sydney Opera House. After my class with Australian chef Shaun Hergatt on the second day of this year’s New York Culinary Experience, my perception on Australia has been forever changed. I mean I’ve always thought the country to be beautiful, but I never heard too much of it making a culinary impact of any sort throughout the world. This will definitely change with the likes of chefs such as Shaun Hergatt. He is bringing Australian flavors to NYC with gusto. His restaurant in the financial district is called SHO Shaun Hergatt. Chef Hergatt describes it as being modern French with Asian influences. He opened this 64 seat restaurant in the middle of the current economic recession. And he has been happy with results. He’s even earned himself a Michelin star.
Anyhow, Chef Hergatt’s class focused on the Australian cuisine. We made an ocean trout tartar with wasabi mayo and a kalamansi dressing. Ocean trout is found in the waters of Tasmania. A comparable fish that we have more readily available in the States would be sockeye salmon. We started the recipe by removing the skin, the bloodline and any stray bones from our two ocean trout fillets. We then diced the ocean trout into tiny cubes. From there we put the cubes into a bowl which was resting on ice. It is extremely important to keep the fish very cold. To the bowl we added, chopped chives. We then made our wasabi mayo, which is exactly what it sounds like, wasabi paste and mayonnaise.
Chef Shaun Hergatt addressing the class
Making the kalamansi dressing was our next order of business. A kalamansi is a Filipino fruit that resembles a lime on the outside, but is very bitter and acidic in taste. The dressing was an emulsion of kalamansi puree, olive oil, grape seed oil, lime juice, sugar, salt and black pepper.
As we were prepping the recipe, Chef Hergatt was constantly walking around the kitchen lending a hand wherever one was needed. He also gave us some great advice on cooking and the restaurant biz. He said it is important to cook from the heart and with feeling not always with recipes. If it comes out delicious that is great, but if it’s bad do it again. Using the best possible products make cooking that much easier. These were all great pieces of advice.
Before assembling our ocean trout tartar, Chef Hergatt demoed the assembly and plating for us. The presentation was so simple, yet elegant. We started out by combining the ocean trout tartar with the wasabi may. From there, we put the tartar into a short cylindrical mold on the center of a plate. We topped the tartar with roe (fish eggs), and unmolded the tartar gently. The kalamansi dressing was drizzled around and on top of the finished presentation. The fish was very fresh. It had a nice salty essence to it. The wasabi mayo was subtle, but the kalamansi dressing really made all the flavors pop. The dressing was clean, bright and a tart. It was a simple dish with great flavor.
Chef Hergatt brought Mina Pizarro, his pastry chef from the restaurant, to demonstrate how to make wattleseed ice cream. Wattleseed is an edible seed found in the bush of Australia’s Outback. Its aroma can be that of chocolate, coffee, hazelnut and even chicory. In fact, according to Chef Hergatt, chicory and chocolate are two good substitutes for wattleseed if you can’t find it here in the States. Chef Hergatt said that using wattleseed as an ingredient in Australian cuisine is considered gimmicky. It is not done very often; however, he said that there are chefs that are beginning to utilize all these great Australian ingredients that have been looked down upon in the past. Chef Pizarro started making the wattleseed ice cream by making the base. You do this by bringing milk and sugar to a boil then adding the wattleseed. At this point, you should allow the wattleseed to steep in the mixture for a minimum of 30 minutes, although overnight would be ideal.
Since we did not have a lot of time, Chef Pizarro want ahead with the rest of the recipe. She then tempered the egg yolks before adding them to the milk mixture. She said that it was important to bring the milk and egg mixture up to 82°F. She then strained the mixture over mascarpone cheese and folded them together. This mixture was placed in an ice bath to cool it down before being placed in an ice cream maker. We all received samples of the ice cream. I was pleasantly surprised with how good it tasted. It reminded me of coffee ice cream with a very subtle bitterness to it. Chef Hergatt’s class gave me a greater appreciation for the cuisine of the Land Down Under! I’m excited to try out his restaurant very soon.
Stay tuned for the 4th and final part of my New York Culinary Experience, which will focus on Chef Ben Hershberger’s class on breads inspired by Oktoberfest. Chef Hershberger is the head baker at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center! Enjoy!
Living to eat,