Two Elegant Dishes for Entertaining with Chef Chris Rendell
Chef Chris Rendell knows how to entertain as he does it every day at Whitehall, a New York City restaurant with modern British cuisine. Rendell shares his secrets to making two simple but incredibly beautiful dishes that he thinks would make a perfect first course at your next gathering.
"I think at home, it's about keeping it simple and making it easy," Rendell explains, which is why he recommends trying his seared scallops, spiced butternut squash puree, apple and shaved fennel salad.
"This is a great easy dish, that's not only quick to prepare but most of the prep can be done beforehand," offers the chef. "It's just a matter of heating the puree, and cooking the scallops and finishing with fresh shaved fennel and apple."
"You can buy scallops form good fish mongers or high-end super markets," recommends Rendell. "You want to look for bright, white scallops that look dry and firm."
12 large scallops
oil for cooking
Preheat a heavy based saute pan.
Season the scallops.
Carefully add enough oil to coat the saute pan.
Once the oil is hot, place the scallops in the pan away from yourself so you don't splash yourself with any hot oil. Reduce heat a little.
Cook the scallops for 2 minutes on one side (until golden brown), flip, and cook for a few more minutes.
You want the scallops to be slightly opaque in the middle.
Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper.
1 pound butternut squash diced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place seasoned squash on lined baking tray and place in oven.
Cook until soft and tender but no color, approximately 12-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and place in blender. Start the blender on low speed, slowly adding the olive oil until the squash is completely blended.
Remove from blender, place in small pot and set aside.
The Apple and Fennel Salad
To pop the core out of the head of fennel, "go in at an angle with a small paring knife," advises Rendell.
1 granny smith apple
1 head fennel
1/2 cup picked parsley
zest of 1 lemon
Finely slide apple in matchstick size pieces.
Remove the end of hte fennel and take out the core.
On a mandolin (carefully) finely slice the fennel and place in a mixing bowl with the apple.
Combine the parsley and lemon zest, season and mix.
To complete the dish, heat the squash puree, place four equal spoons of puree on each plate, place scallops in the middle of puree, place the apple and fennel salad on top and finish with a touch of olive oil.
In this recipe, Rendell used a mandolin to handle the fennel. He says that his two must-have kitchen tools are his mandolin and his microplane for "grating cheese, nutmeg or any citrus."
For his next dish, the roasted duck breast, parsnip, pomegranate and pea shoots entree, Rendell warns not to overcook the duck, which, according to the chef, is one of the biggest mistakes people make.
Prepared duck breasts
In a heavy based saute pan, lace the duck skin side down and cook slowly over low heat until the skin has rendered most of its fat and it's crispy.
Place in preheated 350 degree oven and cook skin side down for a further 4-5 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from oven and place on resting rack, skin side up. Rest for 10 minutes.
"Once the meat is done cooking, we always let it rest," says Rendell. "It allows the meat to continue cooking; it allows the meat to relax."
"Duck can seem challenging to cook, but once you have done it once, you will never worry about cooking duck again," promises Rendell. "You can purchase prepared duck from all good butcher shops and high-end super markets pre-cleaned and ready to cook."
The Pomegranate Seeds
Rendell likes to finish this plate with pomegranate seeds since they are beautiful and add a nice tang.
To get the seeds out of a pomegranate, Rendell notes that you should "hold it upside down, get a kitchen spoon, hit the back and they will pop out."
For this dish, combine the knocked-out pomegranate seeds with pea shoots in a mixing bowl.
The Roasted Parsnips
3 large parsnips
salt and pepper
Peel three large parsnips, cut in half lengthways, removing the hard inside.
Cut eat half into two.
Place in large mixing bowl, season with salt, pepper and oil to coat.
Place on roasting pan and cook in preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
Cook until golden.
The Parsnip Puree
"Vanilla bean goes really well with parsnips," shares the chef.
2 peeled parsnip
1/4 vanilla bean - seeds scrapped out
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Chop parsnip into fine slices.
Place in heavy base pot, add cream, vanilla bean seed, salt and pepper.
Over low heat, cook until soft and tender.
Remove from pot, place in blender and blend until smooth.
Place back in pot and set aside.
To plate the dish, simply place parsnip puree on plates, slice duck into three even pieces and place on puree, lay roasted parsnips on top, add pomegranate seed and pea shoots, season with salt, pepper and olive oil and place in center of plate.
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Finding a simple but elegant dish for entertaining can be a challenge, but with only a few simple ingredients and easy steps, Chris Rendell, executive chef at New York City's Whitehall restaurant, shows us how to make two picture perfect dishes, perfect for your next family gathering or dinner party.
Rendell, at the helm of Whitehall, has cooked on four continents in many acclaimed kitchens. His tenure in London specifically gave him a love for British cuisine which inspired Whitehall, known for its innovative "new British" fare.
Check out the slideshow above to learn how to make Rendell's seared scallops, spiced butternut squash puree, apple and shaved fennel salad appetizer and his roasted duck breast, parsnip, pomegranate and pea shoots entree.