Lacroix at the Rittenhouse
| Philadelphia, PA
Ever since working at his cousin’s bakery as a kid, Ridgway
knew he was destined to spend his career in the kitchen. With culinary
school and a west coast externship behind him, Ridgway made his
way back to Pennsylvania and eventually hooked up with Executive
Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix and Chef Martin Hamman at The Fountain Room
in Philly’s Four Seasons Hotel. Ridgway immediately took to
the artistry and discipline of French cuisine, and when Lacroix
opened his namesake restaurant, Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, Ridgway
was offered the position of chef de cuisine. The menu at Lacroix
varies weekly, but Ridgway’s passion, perfection, and creativity
are constants in every dish.
Lobster Aspic and Cauliflower
Chaud Froid with Savory Mornay
Chef Matt Ridgway of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse – Philadelphia,
Adapted by StarChefs
Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 cup soy oil
- 5 pounds lobster bodies, broken down
- 5 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 pounds tomatoes, cut and drained
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bouquet garni (black peppercorn, basil, bay leaf, parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground annatto seed
- 1 cup cognac
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 quarts reserved cooking liquid from a lobster court bouillon
- 1 ½ sheets bloomed gelatin
- 1 cup reduced lobster stock
- ½ cup cream
- 2 ounces lobster coral or tomalle, uncooked
- ¼ cup smoked hard cow’s milk cheese, such as Idiazabal,
Cauliflower chaud froid:
- 1 head of cauliflower, stems trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 sheets gelatin, bloomed in cool water
- 1 cup heavy cream whipped to soft peaks
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
For lobster aspic:
Heat soy oil in a rondeau or flat sauté pan until smoking.
Add lobster bodies and sauté until red and slightly caramelized.
Add shallots and garlic. Stir over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
Add tomato product, tomato paste, bouquet garni and annatto seed,
and cook until all the liquid is evaporated and ingredients begin
to caramelize on the bottom. Deglaze pan with cognac and white wine
and reduce. Add the reserved cooking liquid from a lobster court
bouillon and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain through a chinois. Divide
stock in half. Reduce one half until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
Take half of remaining stock ( ¼ of original amount) and
add bloomed gelatin. Pour lobster stock with gelatin onto a half
sheet tray. Let cool.
For lobster mornay:
Heat reduced lobster stock and add the cream. Whisk in two
ounces of coral, careful not to bring the mixture to a boil. Remove
from heat and whisk in finely grated Idiazabal until smooth. Chill
For cauliflower chaud froid:
Place cauliflower in a steamer and cook until tender and almost
over-cooked. Place cauliflower in cheese cloth to squeeze out any
excess water. While still hot, puree cauliflower in blender with
butter and heavy cream until smooth. Place hot cauliflower puree
in a non-reactive metal bowl over an ice bath. Gradually add gelatin
and whipped cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture
onto plastic sheet tray and spread evenly. Allow to cool.
Cut lobster aspic into four ½-inch squares. Cut cauliflower
into four ½-inch squares. Carefully remove the squares from
sheet trays, keeping them intact. Layer squares in an alternating
pattern, beginning with the cauliflower. Repeat the steps until
there are eight layers. Plate and drizzle with the lobster Mornay
and garnish with baby red chard.
MR: Jean-Louis Palladin. He
helped create the French/American food movement in the United States.
Freddie Girardet cooks simple food but its so exact and precise…
he’s definitely one of the masters. I admire Thomas Keller
because he started with nothing and built his own empire. Charles
Saunders, who I feel lucky to have mentored with is a great inspiration.
All these chefs are ahead of their time. I also look up to David
Myers and his wife from Sona in Los Angeles. I admire their talents
and they’re doing great things.
PL: You’ve traveled
across America tasting different cuisines. What cities do you like
most for culinary travel?
MR: New York and San Francisco.
New York is refined technically and San Francisco has some of the
best products in the country. San Francisco also has great markets
and everything is impeccably fresh. Both cities have a great food
culture and great appreciation of food.
PL: What are your favorite
food haunts in Philly?
Vietnam, Pif, and Morimoto.
PL: What is your most indispensable
kitchen tool? Why?
MR: I can’t live without
my French omelette pan. If you can’t make a good omlelette,
then you can’t cook food like foie gras or beef. The first
thing a chef should learn is how to make a proper omelette.
PL: What are your favorite
MR: Juniper berries are very
versatile. I like to use them for fish, not just game, They also
go well with shallots and you can combine them with many other spices
and ingredients. I also like star anise because they have a strong
flavor but not the same as licorice and fennel.
PL: Is there a culinary technique
that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
MR: I poach meats in different
mediums such as milk to give it more flavor and to keep the meat
moist. I also sometimes poach eggs in salmis, a French game sauce.
PL: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
MR: I like to let them do
most of the talking. I usually let them trail at first and let my
cooks feel them out. After that I work with them on a second stage
to get a better read on them and see how they work. I like to hear
that they are well rounded and that they read other books than just
culinary, like James Joyce or Tolstoy.
PL: What advice/tip do you
have for culinary students just getting started?
MR: Marty Hamman once said
this to me: “this business is eating a lot of crow,”
meaning you have to discipline yourself and truly want it. Always
keep an open mind. I’d rather have them start at the bottom
of great restaurant than start at the top in a mediocre place.
PL: Where do you see yourself
in 5 years? In 10 years?
MR: Good question. Eventually
I’d like to own my restaurant. But right now I like doing
what I’m doing. I love being close to the food.