Lunch at L’Espalier

The morning starts everyday at 7 am when the first members of the pastry team arrive to start preparing the day’s bread.  Flour, olive oil, yeast, rosemary, and sea salt are combined to form the fluffiest most heavenly focaccia on the planet…at least I’m an addict.  Layers upon layers of chocolate are poured to make the sinful decadence cake… addict again, guilty!  By the way, I’m not too proud to beg as Jiho, our pastry chef can attest.

By 9 am, the kitchen is in full swing when the savory team arrives.  They begin the prep and look over the product that’s been received.  What fish will go on the lunch menu today? What’s the best cut of lamb? Sunchokes go into a silky puree.  White asparagus are peeled.  Intense stocks flavored with Madeira and wine are strained and reduced.  Vegetables are chopped into precise minuscule cubes.  Herbs from Apple Street Farm are picked for garnish.  Mis en place, mis en place, mis en place.

 

The front of the house staff arrives at 10 and irons the tablecloths, polishes the silverware and glassware, sets up the cheese cart with Louis’s selections for the day (anywhere from 25 to 40 to choose from), and buffs and shines every square inch of the dining room that can be buffed and shined.  It’s a major production to say the least.

Music plays: Nancy Wilson, Illinois Jacquet, Brad Mehldau, Jacques Loussier, Serge Gainsbourg, Oscar Peterson… super chouette!

Lunch is served.  Local oysters topped with caviar and Champagne gelee.  A hearty slice of absurdly smooth foie gras terrine studded with ash roasted duck breast accompanied by pickled rhubarb.  Creamy risotto with butter poached Casco Bay lobster.  House smoked salmon with all the fix-ins.  Beef sirloin with wild mushroom and escargot ragout.  Course after course… matched with wines from all over the world if you so wish, or even virgin juice elixirs.  End with tangy Greek yogurt panna cotta, house made chocolate truffles filled with a myriad of flavored ganaches and/or just plain booze.  Or then of course, there is always cheese…

 

 

In the near five years that I have been a member of the L’Espalier staff, I have seen lunch grow into its own special entity that fills a void in the Boston restaurant scene.  In fact, I was hired shortly after we began to serve lunch so I have a very personal connection with the growth of this service.  It started very small and has become one of the most decadent and relaxing ways to spend an afternoon in Boston treating yourself right.

These days, we are finding that many guests are looking to lunch as an affordable luxury.  Some choose to sit in our Salon and nibble on selections from our cheese cart and wash it down with Champagne for a casual snack and respite from shopping on nearby Newbury Street.  Some come for quick and efficient business lunches on their lunch breaks.  And yet others start with a martini and go for the 12 course chef’s tasting journey paired with wines chosen by Erich to match with Chef McClelland’s culinary whims.

It’s been a very satisfying experience to see our clientele develop over the years.  Little by little, it’s becoming a tradition for some guests in the know, though still a well kept secret to the general public.  Many, in fact, have “their” table by the window or even one of the semi-circular Hollywood style banquettes in the corner where they can watch all of the goings-on in the Corner Room while still enjoying the view of bustling Boylston Street.  Developing a close connection with many is likely the most rewarding part of the job.  Our regulars come from many walks of life and all social circles and each has a pretty neat story to tell.

I hope that anyone who reads this will take the opportunity to stop by and personally experience what we have to offer.  We look forward to serving you lunch very soon.

Crab Salad Roulade with Carrot Gelee

My sous chef asked me to taste some carrot juice he had just made and asked me, “What do you think about pairing this with crab salad?”  I have to admit, I didn’t really know what to say.  The bright, intensely orange colored liquid was fresh and sweet, the essence of carrot.  I liked it.  I like crab salad.  But, I couldn’t really picture what kind of dish he had in mind.

I had no idea the dish would look like this:

As it turns out, the crab salad roulade with carrot gelee is one of my favorite new dishes off the spring menu.  Not only because it is extremely visually appealing with the white and red-rimmed overlapping discs of radish against the shiny, almost shockingly orange pool of carrot juice, but also because of how the flavors and textures work together as well.  It is a pleasure to make and plate this dish from start to finish everyday.

The Ingredients

Crab Salad Roulade

  • lemon zest
  • orange zest
  • fresh lemon juice
  • red onion brunoise
  • jalapeno pepper
  • minced fine herbs (parsley, chervil)
  • 3-4 Tb aioli
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb fresh Johah crab meat
  • shaved radish
  • 2 sheets of gelatin
  • 1/4 cup of cream

Initially, I was a little intimidated by how difficult the dish seemed to be, but looks can be deceiving.  As long as you have all the ingredients prepared in advance and ready to go, the crab roulades are actually incredibly simple to make once you’ve mastered the technique.

The Process

Bloom 2 sheets of gelatin in ice water.  Pour the cream into a small pot and set aside.

Drain and press dry 1 lb of fresh Jonah crab meat and gently pick through the meat to make sure there are no shell remnants.  In a large mixing bowl, gently fold in all of the above ingredients (citrus zest, onion, jalapeno, herbs, aioli, salt).  Taste the mixture. The crab salad needs to taste bright and citrusy.  Add more fresh lemon juice and salt if necessary.

Once the crab salad is ready, warm up the cream until it is hot enough to melt the 2 sheets of gelatin.  Do not let the cream boil, since gelatin will become deactivated if it gets too hot.  Fold the gelatin-cream mixture into the crab salad.  Refrigerate to allow the crab salad to set.  Adding gelatin to the crab salad allows you to pipe the mixture into a nice, tight cylinder that will hold its shape without bleeding any of the juices.

In the meantime, prepare the radishes for wrapping the roulade.  Wash radishes thoroughly, trim off both ends and shave into thin coins using a mandolin.  The slices will be about 1.5 millimeters thick…they should not be paper-thin.  Blanch very briefly in salted boiling water (2 seconds) and drain immediately onto a tray lined with paper towels.  Press dry with paper towels.  The radish coins should be pliable but with the red rims bright and intact.  If the radishes are cooked for too long, they red color will bleed into the white part of the radish and the color will fade very quickly.

At this point, the gelatin in the crab mixture should be set.  Transfer the crab mixture into a piping bag and trim the tip til it is a half inch wide.  Spread out a piece of plastic wrap onto your work surface.  Lay out 2 overlapping rows of the radish coins.  Pipe the crab salad mixture.  Lift up the edge of the plastic wrap closest to your body and carefully roll.  Tie off the ends securely to ensure a tight cylinder.

Plating

Slice off both knotted ends of the roulade.  Find the seam of the plastic wrap. Carefully unroll.  Place in the center of the carrot gelee set in the plate.  Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, caviar, shaved carrot, micro herbs, edible flowers, and (not pictured) a half of a deep-fried, tempura soft shell crab claw on either end of the roulade.  Served table-side with a drizzle of simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.

Welcome & Happy Spring!


Dear Friends,

We are very excited to share this blog with you!  This is a place for us to show you a behind-the-scenes look at L’Espalier.  You can expect posts from the kitchen team about new menu items, products, techniques, recipes, and posts from the front of the house on aspects of service, wines, cocktails, our cheese program, and more. We will share news of upcoming events and exciting milestones. We’ll share news from our own Apple Street Farm and visits that we take to other farms.

We look forward to sharing with you all of the things that inspire us each day to create the L’Espalier dining experience.

Cheers,

Frank McClelland