Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

January 16, 2011

So the soup that went on the menu tonight, replacing the lentil soup at dinner (though we’ll still serve it at lunch for a while), is basically a Southern winter minestrone.  On the menu, it reads smoked ham shank broth, which says a lot but kind of understates the case.

This whole mamajama was Ryder’s idea, and I think it came off quite well:  we wanted a lot of complementary ingredients without the sense of everything being stewed, or getting tomatoed, or too smoky–all the flavors, shapes, and colors had to be clear and identifiable, just like with a classic French consomme, but with a certain connectivity of place that can be elusive when the ingredients haven’t been simmered together over time.

So it got Southern.  Ham shanks led to beans and greens, sweet potatoes, pepper vinegar (in the form of piparra peppers), and chunks of smoked ham shank meat, which was picked from the bone after simmering to make the stock.  And the addition that served as both ne plus ultra and sine qua non, and which was another Ryder idea (this while he was butchering striped bass and telling a prep cook to xxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx x xxxxxxxx [directive deleted at insistence of Auberge Resorts' lawyers]), was the buttermilk biscuit croutons.

Rebel yells all around.

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