Prelude to Palo Alto Grill part 1 - Intro and Caesar

Exciting news: this chef has found a new home!  Palo Alto Grill is a New American Steakhouse on

University Ave


Palo Alto

.  Bruce Schmidt and Luka Dvornik, previously of Lavanda, will be running the show.  We will be featuring a variety of Steaks and other grilled entrees prepared a la carte with garnishes featuring quality Californian ingredients.  We will have an exciting selection of seasonal sides, as well as a full complement of creative appetizers.  Unlike many steakhouses, however, we will have many items on the menu, designed to please the vegetable lover or vegetarian palette.  Palo Alto Grill has adopted the philosophy of supporting local, sustainable and organic farms.  We believe in preparing food which showcases these ingredients in a modern, refined, yet casual context. 

We've got a lot to do before estimated opening at the end of February.  I will be demoing all of the dishes, as they are developed.  So the good news is, if you follow this blog, you'll get to see the menu as it comes together.

Starting at the top, I'll be popping out the salads.  My favorite salad being the Caesar.  Interesting thought I had while putting this salad together: In Italian cooking, it is mostly taboo to combine seafood and cheese.  I concur with this assessment, its really hard to appreciate the freshness of fish and the funkiness of cheese in the same mouthful.  This salad is one of those very rare exceptions, since the anchovies are quite cured.  Also, it's Mexican food.  It was invented by Caesar Cardini in Tijuana.  Bet you didn't see that coming!

I will be giving an expansive description of emulsion-style dressings in my next blog post.  To make a long story short, Caesar dressing is a combination of anchovy, egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic paste, grated Parmesan, black pepper and mustard, into which one whisks a slow stream of olive oil until a smooth emulsion is achieved.  I recommend using a food processor.  More on this process to follow.

This salad shall be filling two spaces on our menu.  In addition to providing an interesting take on the Caesar, I will be serving it as a Lettuce Wedge-style salad, also traditional to a steakhouse menu.

The dressing that we make is quite strong.  The creaminess of it is definitely secondary to the sharp flavors of garlic, lemon and parmesan, as well as the deep savory character of anchovy.  Because of this, one needs little more than a patina of dressing over the outside.  I love these flavor contrasts.  Instead of a delicate, light flavor release, like one would find in a completely tossed salad, the intense dressing hits your tongue with all its fury and is immediately washed away in a crunch of watery romaine.  Very bright and refreshing, a great way to start a meal.

Spanish white anchovies, or boquerones bring a briny richness.

But I'd like to add one more layer of intrigue to this Caesar.  Instead of croutons, I will be making warm Parmesan Gougeres.  Gougeres are like cheesy, airy pastry puffs, almost like a popover.

Ingredients for Gougeres:

1 cup Water

1 stick Butter

3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour

5 each Eggs

1/4 cup Parmeseano Reggiano, grated

1/4 cup Swiss melting cheese, grated

Black Pepper, to finish

- First, begin by placing the butter and water in a pan over high heat.  Let this come to a complete and roiling boil.

- Then add the flour and remove from the heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.  When the water reaches a boiling point, it is almost moving rapidly enough to emulsify with the butter.  Adding the flour at this point, almost freeze-frames the water and butter into this matrix.  This is what gives Gougers, eclairs and other choux-based pastries their puff.

-When the dough has come together, remove from the stove and place in a Kitchenaid or other stand mixer.

- Allow to paddle for a few seconds, then begin 

adding the eggs, one at a time.

- Be sure to allow each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next, or your gonna have a bad time

- When the batter is mixed, check the texture.  It should be just fluid enough to drip to a point from a spatula or the mixing paddle.  This is easy enough to achieve, but surprisingly difficult to photograph!  If you need to add more liquid, tradition says to add a bit of milk.  I say put a little bit of egg white.

- Finish by adding 75% of the shredded cheeses, saving the rest for sprinkling on top.

- Transfer the batter to a piping bag and 

pipe small domes of the dough onto a 

baking sheet.  If available, line with parchment

- Sprinkle with remaining cheese and lots of freshly cracked pepper.

- Bake at  350 F until bubbly brown and sexy.

Much more exciting than a crouton.

- Finish by shaving a bit more Parmesan,  and that's the Caesar Lettuce Wedge. 

Coming soon...

Ryan Shelton