“How Chefs Roll” takes you inside the kitchens of local chefs to see how they roll with seasonal flavors, their favorite ingredients and how they prepare them for their restaurants.
CINCINNATI — The “pop” in Patrick Hague’s cauliflower rye soup was growing in the ground just hours before landing in his hot soup. He’d dug up the horseradish root that morning for the extra zing. This chef likes his ingredients fresh.
Hague grew up with his hands in the dirt, helping his dad run the Madisonville community garden.
“That was the start of my interest in food,” he recalled.
With two college degrees under his belt – English literature and culinary arts – this Cincinnati native is the chef de cuisine at Dutch’s Larder in East Hyde Park. Dutch’s offers up artisanal wine, beer and food, and also has a cozy dining space with a seasonal menu.
I caught up with Hague to watch him create a dish with a late fall ingredient: cauliflower. The kitchen was already humming, he’d done his mis-en-place (ingredient and equipment organization), and the ingredients were already in the stock pot.
Dutch’s sources locally through Ohio Valley Food Connection.
Other ingredients in the pot: chopped yellow onion, fennel, toasted almond, golden raisins, yellow miso, white wine and mushroom dashi (stock) made from porcini, shitake and lobster mushrooms, not to mention konbu seaweed.
Hague showered rye bread cubes into the pot and turned off the burner to let the bread steep. The bread was made from scratch with a fermentation starter, also referred to as the mother dough.
“The mother gets fed a couple of times a week,” he said, referring to the customary additions of flour and water to keep the starter viable.
The rye bread had a sourdough base, and was studded with caraway and nigella seeds.
“We like the idea of cauliflower and rye bread together,” Hague said.
The bread not only adds a complex beer-like flavor; it also acts as a thickener, similar to gazpacho.
Hague proceeded to ladle the hot chunky soup from the pot into the Vitamix blender and flipped the switch. The blender started to buzz and pulverize its contents, adding to the low-pitch whirring of the bread mixer behind Hague.
He mounted the soup with a few pats of butter and added freshly grated horseradish.
“It gives it a little pop,” he said.
Hague tasted the soup and said, “That’s where we want to be.” He poured the soup into a chinois (very fine sieve) resting in a china cap (coarser sieve), to remove any lumps.
“If we did our job blending it, there should be very little left,” he explained. Sure enough, there was barely anything left on the chinois.
Hague then made a salad of green apple and daikon to garnish the soup. He cut the apple and daikon into precise julienne strips and dressed the salad with lemon oil, lemon juice and a little salt.
Right before serving, Hague aerated the soup with a milk frother and gingerly ladled it into the serving bowl. He garnished the soup with a petite nest of apple-daikon salad.
“We’re keeping this strictly vegetarian until the end,” he said.
I understood what he meant when he brought out a tin of paddlefish caviar. Using the tip of a teaspoon, he picked up a small mound of caviar and let it roll on to the apple-daikon garnish. Hague squiggled lemon oil on the soup for the final touch.
The soup was light yet satisfying, and the crunch of the salad contrasted dramatically with the velvety liquid. The lemon oil complemented the cauliflower, and the briny caviar brought out the dashi in the soup.
As for the freshly dug horseradish, it made the soup sing.
Grace Yek is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation and a former chemical engineer. Connect with her on Twitter @Grace_Yek.