RJ Cooper

1990 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 659-1990

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RJ Cooper
Vidalia | Washington DC

As a ten year old growing up in Detroit, Michigan, RJ Cooper imagined himself a rock star chef playing in the kitchen with his mother and Sicilian grandmother who made everything from scratch. An apprenticeship at a local bakery confirmed Cooper’s dream of becoming a chef and he enrolled at the culinary school in Kendall College before going on to work with Eric Ripert and Gilbert LeCoze. After a three year stint in Anchorage, Alaska, Cooper moved to Washington DC where he met mentor Jeffrey Buben and joined the staff of Vidalia as chef de cuisine. In dishes like Truffled Heirloom Potatoes with Garlic Cream, Crispy Pork Belly and Juniper-Infused Sea Salt, Cooper uses a delicate hand to transform ordinary potatoes and pork belly into a composed and elegant dish. While keeping things fresh and modern with a precise presentation, heirloom vegetables, and a flavored salt, it’s clear from the juniper scent, reminiscent of a classic French cure, and the fragrant, smooth-as-silk garlic cream, that Cooper’s schooling is well-grounded in the fundamentals of classic French cooking.


Truffled Heirloom Potatoes, Crispy Pork Belly, Garlic Cream and Juniper-Infused Sea Salt
Chef RJ Cooper of Vidalia – Washington, D.C.
Adapted by StarChefs.com

Yield: 4 Serving


    Juniper-Infused Salt:
  • 1 part juniper, roasted and ground
  • 3 parts sea salt

    All Blue and Peanut Potatoes:
  • ½ pound All Blue potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Juniper-Infused Salt, to taste
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ pound Peanut potatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon duck or pork fat

    Garlic Cream:
  • ½ pound Yellowfin potatoes, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Fresh nutmeg

    Fingerling Potatoes:
  • 1 Banana Fingerling potato
  • Oil for frying
  • Juniper-Infused Salt, to taste

    Pork Belly:
  • ½ pound pork belly
  • 1 quart ham hock stock

  • 2 ounces chicken glace
  • 1 ounce fresh shaved truffle, Alba White, Périgord or Burgundy

For the Juniper-Infused Salt:
Mix juniper and salt together. Infuse for one month.

For the All Blue and Peanut Potatoes:
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Make two aluminum foil pouches. Toss the All Blue potatoes in olive oil and Juniper-Infused Salt. Place in one pouch with 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary and one garlic clove. Seal the pouch.

Toss the Peanut potatoes in the melted duck or pork fat in the second pouch. Add the remaining herbs and seal.

Roast both pouches for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.

For the Garlic Cream:
Simmer yellowfin potatoes, garlic purée and cream in a heavy-bottom pot until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Strain the potatoes and garlic and reserve the cream. Blend the potato mixture in a Vita-Prep on medium speed and slowly add the reserved cream, taking care not to break the emulsion. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Pass through a fine mesh sieve and set aside, keeping potatoes warm.

For the Fingerling Potatoes:
Slice the fingerling potato very thinly on a mandolin. Place the slices, one at a time, into a deep fryer. Fry until golden brown and season with juniper sea salt.

For the Pork Belly:
Cover the pork belly in ham hock stock and braise at 200ºF for 4 hours, or until tender. Cut into 2-ounce cubes. In a heavy-bottom sauté pan, pan roast the pork belly over medium heat until golden brown on all sides. Keep warm until ready to plate.

To Assemble and Serve:
Place garlic cream in center of plate, using the back of a spoon or a small palette knife to spread the cream to desired thickness. Top the cream with pork belly, then place the All Blue and Peanut potatoes on either side. Top belly with the Fingerling potato chips. Drizzle chicken glace on either side and shave truffles over the entire plate.

   Published: October 2006