Once known for studying charcuterie in France and grilling marinated pig hearts, Chef Jason Bond now focuses much of his energy on vegetables. With delicate plating and layered flavors, Bond has taken the skill and precision he's used with charcuterie and has applied it to produce.
"I now see meat as a condiment, a seasoning element," he says of the shifted focus at his new Cambridge outpost, Bondir. Case in point: Bond's red-cooked butternut squash soup, a study on complex flavor, textural creativity, and seasonality at its best.
Red-cooking is a well known Chinese slow-braising technique used almost exclusively for pork belly and brisket. Sugar and spice break down the protein, redden the flesh, and layer the flavors of the meat. But Bond, no slave to tradition (even if he is inspired by it), decided to try the classic red-cooking technique on winter squash. Bond cribbed his inspiration from his time at Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro, situated right next to Boston's Chinatown. "It's a home-cooking classic," Bond says. "I just decided to use the same seasonings and make a vegan dish instead of pork."
Bond bucks tradition in other ways, too. Instead of the technique's traditional dash of rice wine vinegar, he often uses Sherry vinegar. To build the caramel, the base for the red-cooking sauce, Bond uses local maple syrup instead of natural block sugar, which Chinese purists would demand. And although many red-cooked dishes include hard-boiled eggs as a garnish, Bond keeps the vegan theme with spiced vegan marshmallows to help smooth out the soup.
It's the type of recipe that serves better the day after being made, Bond says, so the spices mellow and distribute, creating a soft harmony in the bowl. By blending olive oil in at the end, the soup gets an added rich mouthfeel, even though the overall flavor is light. "We're layering flavors to get a rich base, a solid middle, and then high notes toward the end," he says. "We're really constructing the dish in a way not to miss any elements." The best part about the soup? "If we have leftover sauce," Bond says, "we'll reduce it to a pretty rich soy glaze for our monkfish. [The sauce] is definitely better the next day."
Step 1: Add 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil to a pot large enough to hold a gallon of soup. Add the maple syrup and cook to a light caramel.
Step 2: Add the spices and toast until fragrant.
Step 3: Add the vegetables, soy sauce, and bouquet garni. Season well and sweat the vegetables. Cover the lid and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Step 4: While simmering, roast the squash flesh-side down until the skin browns and flesh is tender. To prevent burning, add water to the baking pan.
Step 5: Peel the squash, chop, and add to the pot, covering with enough vegetable stock so the squash pieces float freely. Simmer to combine the flavors, and season as necessary.
Step 6: Purée the mixture with olive oil and strain. Serve with toasted squash nuts.