Vidalia | Washington
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
- 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
- ½ pound Yellowfin potatoes, peeled
- 1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and white pepper
- Fresh nutmeg
- 1 Banana Fingerling potato
- Oil for frying
- Juniper-Infused Salt, to taste
- ½ pound pork belly
- 1 quart ham hock stock
- 2 ounces chicken glace
- 1 ounce fresh shaved truffle, Alba White, Périgord
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
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