“Welcome to the lantern festival!”: a plated dish

This dish was definitely my favorite to make when I was in the competition. Not only did I get to impress the judges(and finally claim some much needed emotional redemption!), but also Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto as well! And with a freaking $500 Alaskan King Crab! Like what the hell?! Even to this day, I have no clue how I was able to pull the win off. What I loved about this dish conceptually is that it was me to a T. The dish started off with two Asian inspirations (wonton soup and the Taiwanese lantern festival), and from there, it went full-on European (a perfect reference to my white-washing both culturally and culinarily). I wanted to give it a fun name, not only because that’s just my style, but also, because I wanted to introduce a fun tradition in my culture that I have always wanted to partake in and use that to sort of stand apart from everyone else.

For the actual dish, I went with a simple pairing of crab, lemon, and fennel. I felt like fennel pairs so nicely with delicate seafood, and it can function similarly to both onion and celery, so I could use it in multiple ways. Since we had a whole Alaskan king crab to work with, I wanted to utilize the whole crab as much as possible, and the fennel as well, since they could play off of each other in terms of flavor profile, color, and texture. I decided to make little ravioli stuffed with crab, crème fraiche, fennel pollen, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper (recipe was inspired by something I read from Kristen Kish Cooking actually!), and I did a fennel-crab broth, lemon-pickled fennel stem, lemon vinaigrette, fresh crab leg meat, fennel fronds, and lemon-braised fennel bulb that I brunoised so that it wouldn’t just be clunky on the plate. The broth would be poured tableside, just to make it super elegant and what-not.

For the broth:
1 pound of crab shells
1 fennel bulb
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup water or seafood stock
1 egg white*

Chop up the fennel. Sweat out the fennel with the crab shells, then deglaze with white wine, then the seafood stock. Season and allow that mixture to reduce and simmer for at least 35 minutes. Strain, pressing to extract as much flavor as possible, then continue to reduce. Season. Additionally, you can whisk an egg white and dump that into the broth and pass through another sieve to clarify the mixture further of any other impurities.

For the pasta dough:
1 egg
2/3 cups flour + more for flouring
1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons water

Combine egg and flour and form into a dough. Lightly dust with flour and roll out to about a 7 on your pasta roller. Cut out 2-inch squares. Place about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling into the center, brush with the egg yolk-water mixture, and close the tips together, pressing to form the “lanterns”. Cook for 2 minutes in the broth.

For the filling:
3/4 cups chopped up lump crab meat
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Combine ingredients together to form the filling.

For the braised fennel:
1 fennel bulb, quarted
juice from 2 lemons
1 cup water

Braise fennel in other ingredients until tender (30-40 minutes). Cool completely and slice into a brunoise(small dice).

For the pickle:
fennel stems
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Thinly slice fennel stems on a bias. Combine other ingredients and bring to a simmer. Pour over the fennel stems and allow that to soak in the liquid for at least 15-20 minutes.

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen

Combine together.

To garnish:
Crab leg meat, sliced into small medallions
Fennel fronds

Place fennel fronds into an ice bath to keep them green. For the crab leg meat, toss in vinaigrette after slicing to keep it from drying out.

To plate:
In a bowl, place four small mounds of your brunoised braised fennel. Place a lantern on each, and garnish with a frond. Between each mound, place a piece of dressed crab meat and garnish with the bias cut fennel pickle. Plate the broth in a separate pouring container.

Photo is property of Endemol Shine.






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