By Sara Johnson
Editor’s Note: This is another installment of our “One Dish” series—a look at how restaurants are using sous vide around the world, from the perspective of a single menu item.
A Southern California restaurant recently unveiled a new menu inspired by—and taking ingredients from—the restaurant’s own 1,000-square-foot garden. Chef Benjamin Martinek introduced his Garden Menu earlier this year at Studio, the restaurant he oversees at the Montage Laguna Beach resort. Featuring six courses, the vegetarian menu follows the life of a plant, from seeds to sprouts to “roots and shoots” to flowers to fruit and finally, back to seeds once more. We spoke with Martinek over email about the menu’s third course, a confit of root vegetables, which relies on sous vide to achieve the desired flavors.
The Dish: Confit Root Vegetables with Coconut Curry
The Restaurant: Studio, Laguna Beach, CA
What was the inspiration for the dish? Studio’s newly replanted garden inspired the Garden Menu in general. However, it’s thanks to a fellow chef who came up with the sous vide technique for preparing kohlrabi, one of the staples on the confit vegetables dish.
Tell us about the ingredients. The main ingredients are kohlrabi, carrots, and cipollini onions. We source as many vegetables as possible from our on-site garden. Each vegetable is prepared sous vide, individually. We also use fresh elements of the same vegetables on top of the dish, shaved paper thin. Pickled chestnut royale mushrooms add a tangy earthiness to the dish. The sauce is coconut curry made with vadouvan curry.
How is it prepared? We sous vide the carrots with coconut oil and vadouvan curry; and sous vide the kohlrabi and onions in olive oil with aromatics. The vegetables are simmered at 190°F (88°C) for 30 minutes, followed by an ice bath. After cooking, we roast them in the pan to give them some color and added flavor. The sauce is made from lots of aromatics, coconut oil, coconut milk, brown rice vinegar, and vadouvan curry. The dish is topped with the pickled chestnut royale mushrooms, a salad of shaved raw vegetables, and garnished with flowers from Studio’s garden.
Why did you decide to use sous vide? Sous vide is such a great way to cook because you can infuse flavors, seal in the natural flavors, and cook for an extended amount of time without losing flavor. We find that a temperature of 190°F (88°C) works well for most vegetables.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Read more from our One Dish series: Octopus Carpaccio at Olivia in Washington, DC.