A Vegetable Cornucopia with Chef Naomi Pomeroy

Posted on May 7, 2014 06:56 pm

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This guest blog post comes to us from food blogger Layla Khoury-Hanold of Glass of Rosé. Follow her adventures in eating, cooking and drinking on Twitter @glassofrose and Instagram @theglassofrose.

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_hero.jpgYou may recognize Chef Naomi Pomeroy from her stellar performance on Top Chef Masters, an experience that she describes thusly: “It’s harder than it looks, which is saying something ‘cause it looks hard. You learn a lot about how to work well under pressure, and learning to just go with what you’re doing.”

Naomi has obviously done well to just go with what she’s doing – she’s a Food & Wine Best New Chef and this year marked the third consecutive year she was nominated for a James Beard Award as Executive Chef of her Portland restaurant, Beast. Third time’s a charm – on Monday she won Best Outstanding Chef in the North West.

So I knew going in that she’s got the culinary chops, but I was delighted to discover how gifted she is with vegetables. She transformed wild mushrooms into a savory pate, let carrots shine their brightest in velvety soup and made blistered Brussels sprouts practically dance off the plate with Szechuan vinaigrette.

What’s also remarkable about Naomi is that she’s completely self-taught; that, along with her sense of humor and no-nonsense advice makes her an extremely approachable teacher. Her best advice for elevating your cooking game is to taste. “What makes us chefs different than home cooks? We’re tasting all the time.” Never has cooking advice been more practical – or delicious.

Here are the veggie-centric dishes we enjoyed and some of Naomi's top takeaway tips.

Hazelnut and Wild Mushroom Pate

The base recipe yields a delicious and versatile vegetarian pate – it can be spread on crostini for an elegant entertaining appetizer, makes the perfect addition to a fall or winter cheese plate and is equally at home inside a savory tart. The recipe calls for a mix of wild mushrooms like – Chanterelles or Morels – and Crimini, sautéed in butter with shallots, garlic and finished with Marsala. When adding mushrooms, Naomi advises that you should always blast the heat – they have high water content, so the high heat helps to dry them out. The mixture then gets blended with toasted hazelnuts, melted butter (“fat is flavor”) and both apple cider and 30 year aged balsamic vinegar, for a supremely well-balanced and round flavor. Naomi likes to serve it on crème fraiche dough for a bite that’s rich, but not overly. 

Takeaway tip: “Always taste the wine you’re cooking with. Everything that goes in comes out in cooking.”

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_Mushroom_Pate.jpg

Curried Carrot Soup with Tarragon Sauce Verte

When making vegetable-based soups, Naomi prefers to only add water and/or diary to highlight the flavor and seasonality of the produce she’s using. Unbelievably, this incredibly velvety carrot soup had no dairy whatsoever! The carrots’ natural sweetness played perfectly with the curry powder (Namoi makes her own by toasting over 10 different spices, including brown mustard seeds, fenugreek, dried ginger and turmeric and fresh ginger. Naomi is a devout fan of Vitamix; blending the soup in it helps yield that creamy, smooth consistency that lends this soup such a gorgeous mouthfeel. When she demonstrated how to make the sauce verte, we learned that you should keep the shallot vinegar mix separate from the herbs until the last minute. Otherwise, the acid from the vinegar will turn the bright green herbs yellow.

Takeaway tip: “Taste your food all the time. Taste for balance: salt, acid, possibly a pinch of sugar – you want it to feel well-rounded in the mouth.”

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_Curried_Carrot_Soup.jpg

Blistered Brussels Sprouts, Napa Cabbage & Mint Salad with Szechuan Vinaigrette, Peanuts & Fried Shallots

This dish is a great example of the kind of food Naomi serves at her bar, Expatriate; it’s the kind of dish that can stand up to cocktails. The symphony of different crunchy textures – frizzled shallots, hardy cabbage and toothsome sprouts – married perfectly with salty, creamy peanuts and a zesty, funky Szechuan Vinaigrette laced with spicy pot sauce, Red Boat fish sauce and rice wine vinegar. In the summer they do a refreshing variation with cabbage, mint and shredded watermelon, sprinkled with a little toasted rice powder.

Takeaway tip: “The best way to toss a salad is with your hands. I’m old school like that.”

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_Sprouts_Salad.jpg

Lentil Pastry with Ramp Remoulade

This is another dish that Naomi and her team make at Expatriate; and she loves it for its versatility. These samosa style pastries can be filled with anything: potatoes, chickpeas, delicata squash or even lamb. Ours combined slightly crispy lentils, mirepoix and umami boosters like anchovy paste, tomato paste and 30-year aged balsamic vinegar. The hardest part to nail down is forming the pastries, which Naomi advises shaping like a little hat, or a pastry bag. As a bonus, these can be made ahead of time, frozen and thawed about half way before frying.

Takeaway tip: “Always caramelize your tomato paste. It’s very important.”

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_Lentil_Pastry.jpg

Roasted Rhubarb & Brown Butter Crepe

Crepes are one of Naomi’s favorite things to make, which is a good thing considering she made 1,200 of them as part of an appetizer for the James Beard Foundation Awards gala! The trick to super light crepes is to allow the batter to sit on the counter for two hours – when you actually make them, you should make two or three ‘practice’ ones to allow the pan to settle into itself. Roasting the rhubarb, instead of cooking it, gives you more control and you don’t have to worry about it turning into a sauce. It’s an ingredient that plays exceptionally well in desserts, further elevated here by orange zest and vanilla sugar.

Takeaway tip: “Cardamom is the most underrated ingredient.” (It was used in the whipped cream here).

Naomi_Pomeroy_-_Crepes.jpg




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