10.13.2010

A Veggie-Centric Chat With Jean-Georges



It seemed almost sacrilege to be sitting down with superstar chef
Jean-Georges Vongerichten in his elegant J&G Steakhouse talking vegetables. But there we
were, shunning the restaurant's red meat headliners, in favor of a chat
about chestnuts, Jerusalem artichokes and butternut squash (more on that
later), some of the chef's favorite fall ingredients.


"When I
grew up, with my family it was always 70 percent vegetables, 30 percent
meat on the table," Vongerichten said. "It feels like we're returning to
that."


In light of our meatless conversation, I of course had to
take the opportunity to tell him about my husband's addiction to the
healthy, heat-packing Fire
Breather elixir shot
from Vongerichten's ABC
Kitchen
in New York. (Though Mr. Metrocurean got pretty close to
recreating it, the chef kindly sent me the real recipe, much to my
husband's delight.)


"I've been juicing for 20 years. After you turn 50, you do anything to
live longer," the Frenchman laughed. "I don't even need coffee anymore."


The chef, whose wife grew up in McLean, was headed to Kushi
for dinner that night, so I had to ask where else he'd managed to eat
in DC. He raved about a meal at Komi and chef Johnny Monis' goat
shoulder. (Man's got good taste.) He also professed a love for soul
food and mentioned a stop a Georgia Brown's for Southern fried
chicken.


The day after sitting down with Vongerichten, I returned to J&G for a
media lunch showcasing the dishes from his fall menu. (I loved this
genius little
packet of grits folded into a crispy spring roll
served alongside
short ribs.)


The second course was a smooth and rich butternut squash topped with
earthy mushrooms. (See, I would have topped it with bacon, but I'm
learning from you, chef!) Vongerichten assured me that the recipe was
extremely easy. And when a chef says that, to be honest, I rarely
believe him.


But a few emails later and I had the recipe, which did look pretty easy. I
made it last night and indeed, this could be the simplest butternut
squash soup I've made. Check out the recipe: J&G's Butternut Squash Soup.

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