Chef Roberto Cortez was recently back in town before he relocates permanently from Santa Barbara to Berlin (imagine that!). I first got to know Roberto thru his private cooking classes in Santa Barbara. I was inspired by his elaborate inventiveness, knowledge and artistry. I will never forget when two years back, he cooked an amazing multi-coursed birthday dinner for me, complete with one of a kind, only to be made for me, ever, Valerie’s Coconut Cake.
I thought it would be fun to fashion a “bon voyage” party of sorts. I invited a few girlfriends over for a private farewell cooking class. The plan was to create a menu inspired from my garden, drink some wine and watch his magic in my kitchen. Well, six innovative recipes and five bottle of wine later…our mission was accomplished!
Roberto has an incredible career of culinary pursuits, mainly private “chefing” for stars and musicians such as Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Paul Allen (yes, he is a musician, as well as Micorsoft co-founder), the Rolling Stones, the Eurhythmics, the list goes on…. He has attended four cooking schools in France, including the famed Le Cordon Blue and Ritz Escoffier School in Paris. If that wasn’t enough, he photographs gorgeous images of his food, is a pastry chef and a molecular whiz in the kitchen. He is featured in the current issue of Santa Barbara Magazine, in the food and wine section – check it out! Roberto is truly an artist, a gourmand…this blog entry is a labor of love for a man I hold dear. Enjoy!
Before the class began that night, I asked Roberto a few questions.
What is your favorite regional cuisine?
It is a tie between Rustic French and Interior Mexican. I love them both the same.
Name three of your favorite ingredients to cook:
What are three of your favorite local ingredients?
Santa Barbara prawns
What is your favorite resource on the web…
for recipes? Epicurious.com
for kitchen supplies? JB Prince.com
for specialty items? Le Sanctuaire.com
Our favorite recipes from the night.
A couple months back, I had lettuce soup in at Joel Robuchon in Vegas. I wanted Roberto to show us how it’s done. With the weather turning colder it’s a nice way to turn crisp greens into a warm soup.
6 6oz heads of Boston lettuce, trimmed
1 1/4 c chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 tbsp crème fraîche
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
To begin, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp. of salt and the heads of lettuce and blanch, stirring gently for 3 minutes. Drain the lettuce and rinse under cold water. Lightly squeeze out excess water. Transfer the lettuce to a blender and puree until smooth. Place in a bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Whisk in the lettuce puree and simmer over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Strain and add back into the saucepan. Blend in the crème fraîche and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually blend in the remaining 2 tbsp of butter with a hand blender. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg if desired.
Broccoli is prolific in my garden and I quickly grow tired of steaming it at all the time. This following dish is flavorful and delicious. Additionally, the way it is trimmed and sliced makes it really pretty on the plate. Here is Roberto’s take on broccoli from the garden.
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads of broccoli, stems peeled and heads halved lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a large, deep sauté pan, heat 2tbsp of olive oil. Add the broccoli, cut side down, cover and cook over moderate heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Add the water, cover and cook until the broccoli is just tender and the water has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining 1tbsp of olive oil with the garlic and the crushed red pepper. Cook uncovered until the garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Season the broccoli with salt and black pepper, drizzle with the lemon juice and serve.
This chicken is simply amazing. We devoured it at class that night and I just made it again for my daughter’s sixth birthday party and it was a huge hit. All in attendance wanted the recipe. The easiest way to remove the backbone is with kitchen shears.
Ideal internal temperature for chicken is160F (71C)-170F (76C).
New Style Roasted Chicken
Preheat oven to 500 degrees
1 3-4lb. roasting chicken
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. fresh ground pepper, roughly cracked
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
Remove the wishbone and backbone of the chicken and make an incision in each of the chicken’s thighs. Next, tuck the legs into the incision. Dry thoroughly and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, breasts side down and then immediately place in the oven. After 12 minutes, flip the chicken over and continue to roast for about 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 155F. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Roberto Cortez and his New Year’s Eve menu are featured in the Food + Wine section of the December/January 2010 issue of Santa Barbara Magazine. You can take a peek at the article by clicking on the PDF link, below.
Read the Article | 240 kb Acrobat PDF