2013 ICC Savory Wrap-up

2013 ICC Savory Wrap-up

Day 1: Guts and Glory at ICC

Fried Chicken Collaborative
Jeff McInnis of Root & Bone – New York, NY

On Day 1 of ICC, Jeff McInnis shared pieces of crisp, hot, and juicy chicken with ICC attendees—along with his best tips for running a high-volume fried chicken joint. With the help of the small-footprint Winston Pressure Fryer (and an assistant clad in sexy black safety gloves), McInnis fried bone-in birds in 14 minutes flat. The magic of the pressure cooker, he said, is the quick, high-temperature equivalent of searing the chicken, followed by a release in pressure and lower temperature cooking. It also uses a third of the oil of an open fryer, saving on product costs. There’s more than one way to fry a bird, but for more than 50 seats, good old-fashioned cast iron and open fryers simply can’t keep up the pace.

eff McInnis frying stacking chicken in the basket of a Winston pressure fryer
eff McInnis frying stacking chicken in the basket of a Winston pressure fryer

Before his birds ever hit the rice oil (he loves lard, too), he brined them in a potent solution of sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne, infusing the flavors up to 24 hours. Although he loves a buttermilk brine, for high-volume, McInnis recommended staying away from the alkaline solution—if you leave chicken in buttermilk for more than 12 hours it breaks down the protein too far. To further enhance flavor, McInnis leaves in all the bone he can, including the backbone, whose marrow and fat punches up flavor. Flavor that will be on full display at McInnis’s Root & Bone, which will be launching in New York City this fall. Get in line NYC, it’s chicken time.

Boston Does Brisket
Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 – Boston, MA

"You get one bite and one bite only." Chef Andy Husbands of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in Boston started the morning off with his secrets for competing (and winning) BBQ competitions. His winning method involves injecting wagyu brisket with "Butcher BBQ," what he refers to as the Lance Armstrong of meat injection, because early marination preparations are not permitted in competition. Flavor injections are key to quick preparation and flavor maximization. Along with Butcher BBQ, he injects a beef, mushroom, and Worcestershire broth to pack umami punch.

Andy Husbands smoking Australian beef brisket in a Southern Pride Yield King Smoker
Andy Husbands smoking Australian beef brisket in a Southern Pride Yield King Smoker

From meat injections to meat glue, Husbands demonstrated how to achieve the ultimate competition “one-biter” with his BBQ chicken, creating what he terms the “crispiest skin.” After de-skinning chicken thighs, he carefully scrapes off a thin layer of fat to prevent a soggy crust. Husbands uses his secret weapon of meat glue to adhere the skin to the protein. He then coats his chicken in a white gastrique-style BBQ sauce.

A bite may just be a bite. But a perfect bite is forever.

Delicious Decapitation with Michael Toscano
Michael Toscano of Perla – New York, NY

On Day 1 of ICC, New York Rising Star Michael Toscano brought all his style and childhood memories straight from his mother’s kitchen together in one single moment of delicious decapitation. In his savory workshop, Toscano presented the signature dish of his West Village haven Perla—a roasted veal head in all its glory. He showed participants how to dry rub the entire head, steam it, roast it, brine it, sear it, and schmear it.

Michael Toscano showing the stages of his Roasted Veal Head
Michael Toscano showing the stages of his Roasted Veal Head

He started by aggressively seasoning the raw veal head with salt and pepper and sealing it in plastic wrap before Cvap-ing for 11 hours. Once it had cooked in its own heady juices, Toscano got to work, using all the different parts of the head and bringing them together on one delicious platter. The tongue had been brined for a week; he seared the Cvap-ed, caramelized cheeks in canola oil; he cracked open the jaw, picking it clean and combining the meat with flesh from behind the eye sockets to make a patty. The brains were puréed with mascarpone, Champagne vinegar, and salt. Finally, Toscano served it all up with a soothing ribollita. Not for the faint of heart, Toscano’s Roasted Veal Head was an unforgettable carnivore’s dream.

The Missing Link: Charcuterie Secrets from Olympic Provisions
Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions – Portland, OR

Elias Cairo breaking down lamb from Meat & Livestock Australia
Elias Cairo breaking down lamb from Meat & Livestock Australia

Let’s just start off with the fact that participants in this morning’s interactive charcuterie workshop were greeted at each of their respective worktables by a pig’s head. Yes, Portland Rising Star Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions knows how to throw a coppa di testa party, and he had some tips on hand for anyone looking for “something fun to do on the weekend.”

Cairo is no stranger to churning out quality-focused, mass-marketed charcuterie at his establishment, the first USDA approved charcuterie in Portland, Oregon, which processes for 8,000 pounds of meat per day. Over the course of an hour, ICC goers learned how to slice properly and tie an extra-tight, double-cinch butcher’s knot, and devoured recipes and expert tips on the right way to prepare coppa di testa and lean bratwurst. And for all those chefs out there looking for a good scare for the kids this Halloween, Cairo recommends a pig’s skull on the doorstep (that is, if you don’t end up using it to make some of the richest gelatin you’ll ever render).

Micro Greens, Macro Flavor Combinations
Phillip Foss of EL Ideas – Chicago, IL

Phillip Foss plating a dish with Fresh Origins micro greens and Jamón Ibérico
Phillip Foss plating a dish with Fresh Origins micro greens and Jamón Ibérico

Just so we’re clear: when you visit Chef Phillip Foss’s “26-seater back-alley,” you are not going to be served a dish that is all form and no function. The components of Foss’s plates all have a purpose, down to the tiniest grain of basil crystal or tweezed tuft of tangerine lace: In other words, the micro greens are as much the focus as anything else. His purpose is to provide a “dramatic and approachable experience” for his diners, where flavor and presentation both share the limelight.

On Day 1 of ICC, Foss shared some of his favorite ingredients, including Fresh Origins cucumber blossoms, petite nutmeg basil, and tiny radishes, with leaves that can be flash fried for added texture. He proceeded to plate the ingredients two ways: using an array of Mediterranean flavors including braised octopus, Cinqo Jotas Bellota ham, and watermelon (wow!). Participants had their chance to get involved as well, with an added incentive—dinner for two at EL Ideas for the best presentation. Chef Peter Sclafani of Ruffino’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, took home the delicious deal, impressing Foss with his artistic eye and use of negative space. “You could see every ingredient on the plate.” All in all, Foss’s workshop packed a macro punch with its micro-details.

Day 2: The Guts and Glories Continue

Deep-fried Techniques from the Trenches
Mike and Pat Sheerin of The Trenchermen – Chicago, IL

Mike and Pat Sheerin of The Trenchermen – Chicago, IL
Mike and Pat Sheerin of The Trenchermen – Chicago, IL

Day 2 of ICC kicked off with Mike and Pat Sheerin’s lessons in frying applied as science—the rapid reduction and/or expansion of moisture to manipulate texture and flavor. With deep fryers roiling, attendees learned to make the duo’s signature Pickle Tots and Fried Chopped Liver. For the former, the Sheerins cooked shredded Idaho potatoes over low heat with added agar agar and potato starch to stabilize the mix, which they set up under weights in the fridge. Dropped into the oil, the established “gel matrix dissipates,” yielding a crunchy exterior and creamy center. Fancy words for what’s essentially a jacked up tater tot with a built-in acid component, further heightened by just-sweet red onion yogurt (dehydrated onion, beet juice, and yogurt, drained overnight). The dish is finished with slices of chicken bresaola that the brothers cure, dry, cook briefly, and finish in the Alto-Shaam smoker. “We figured out a way to change the texture of chicken,” said Mike.

For the second dish, the Sheerins poached duck hearts and gizzards at 140°C and mixed them with marinated livers and onions. They formed the mixture into rolls with plastic wrap, that were then frozen, sliced, dredged, and fried. They paired the livers with an unctuous egg yolk “jam,” kohlrabi-apple salad, dehydrated capers, and herbs—all for optimal textural and temperature contrast. After attendees devoured every fried morsel they could put their hands on, the Sheerins talked about some of their latest frying experiments: frying grains for extra crunchy granola and coarsely ground grits for a pop corn-flavored garnish.

Pimp My Grits
Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer – Kinston, NC

Attendees "pimping their grits" during Vivian Howard's workshop

Chef Vivian Howard needs to get a trademark, and quick. Otherwise, we suspect versions of her “Pimp My Grits” menu could land in restaurants across the country. On Day 2 of ICC, Howard set out her Eastern Carolina mise-en-place: fermented green tomato pickles, ham chips, preserved tomatoes, salsa, pickled jalapeños, fig jam, sweet potato mostardo, sausage, cider-braised collard greens, house-cured bottarga, caramelized onions, blue cheese butter, Parmesan, goat cheese, pimento cheese, and butter bean conserva. “Eastern Carolina is a distinct region; there’s not one blanket of Southern food,” said Howard, whose quart cup contents represented what she calls “cuisine of the frugal farmer.” These ingredients not only provide a sense of place on her menu, but they also allow Howard to “express the five elements of taste” and texture through the ubiquitous Southern staple of grits.

In her workshop, attendees sampled various forms of heirloom grits, including Carolina rice grits, from Anson Mills. Next they went back to their stations and pimped out grits to their heart's desires (this writer went with butter beans, pickled jalpenos, and pimento cheese) and popped them into a hot Montague oven until bubbly and beautiful. At her restaurant, Howard and her team decide how grits are “pimped,” and she says it’s a great way to empower cooks and give them menu input—all the while teaching them (she mostly imports her cooks to tiny Kinston, North Carolina) the true heart of her native cuisine.

Israel Alive: The Bold Flavors of Zahav
Michael Solomonov of Zahav – Philadelphia, PA

Despite the automatic categorization of Michael Solomonov’s Zahav as “modern Israeli,” the Philly-based chef is calling on a far more ancient stash of techniques and ingredients—a kind of regional mosaic that make Israeli cuisine a historical patchwork of cuisines and cultures. As Solomonov admitted in his presentation, even his investors didn’t know what to expect of his Israeli restaurant. Half explicating, half proselytizing, the old school-styled chef introduced attendees to a few of the most important ingredients in his kitchen, most notably tahini.

“Zahav” translates to “gold” in Hebrew. Tahini may well be the liquid gold of Middle Eastern cuisines. And we’re not talking any old jarred tahini here: Israeli tahini is incredibly rich, nutty, earthy, and complex—exactly the kind of ingredient Solomonov is trying to highlight as an assertive regional staple. Attendees began by tasting the tahini itself—as complex as promised—then aerated it with the help of a Vitamix (the tool of the day) and some lemon juice and garlic (soaking the garlic in lemon juice prevents fermentation, less you desire a hummus cocktail for your menu).

Solomonov dressed a favorite Zahav dish—dill-flecked, roasted beet salad—with the aerated tahini before transforming it into classic Israeli hummus—“less garlic and lemon” than typical, again with an emphasis on tahini. The chickpeas were unexpectedly, and intentionally, mushy, soaked in water and baking soda, then rinsed and boiled in the same mixture the next day, yielding a softer chickpea.

Attendees plated hummus with some freshly prepared harrisa—aggressively spicy, earthy, and, as Solomonov tends to prefer, a bit grittier, staying true to his rustic, old world sensibility. As attendees dug in to taste their creations, they used freshly made laffa (Israeli pita-style flatbread) coated in olive oil and bright za’atar. It was ancient flavors early morning at ICC, as prepared by a modern Israeli chef from Philly.

Going Deep: Temps, Times, and Tips for Sous Vide
James Briscione of Institute of Culinary Education – New York, NY
Anthony Sasso of Caso Mono – New York, NY

James Briscione and Anthony Sasso using a PolyScience immersion circulator
James Briscione and Anthony Sasso using a PolyScience immersion circulator

It was the first Interactive Demo of Day 2, 9am on a Monday, and ICC attendees were lining up to dive into Full Sous Vide Immersion with James Briscione and Antony Sasso. And their demo proved that there’s no hair of the dog like immersion circulator-cooked Rack of Cervena Venison, Charred Maitake Mushrooms, Butternut Squash, Crispy Prosciutto, Pears, and Gin; and “Under Pressure” Berries, Strawberry Gelee-filled Donuts, Buttermilk Ice Cream, and Compressed Strawberries. Besides the insightful sous vide techniques, the enthusiasm of attendees was all thanks to the presence of chefs and sous vide aficionados Briscione and Sasso. Safe to say ICE instructor Briscione’s reputation as a culinary renaissance man—he’s also a writer and consultant—and Michelin-starred Sasso from Casa Mono were key in making the workshop popular, drawing in Congress goers well into the hour long demo.

While they mainly taught creative applications for sous vide, the dynamic deep-water duo also laid out the various temperatures and times to cook useful and flavorful ingredients: Fish, 50°C, 20 to 40 minutes; poached eggs, 63°C, 75 minutes; octopus, 85°C, 4 hours; and for the molecularly inclined, hydrocolloids gellan, agar agar, carageenans, 85°C, 20 minutes.

Unusual applications for sous vide included vacuum sealing ice cream base and cooking it at 85°C for 15 minutes. After the base is transferred to an ice water bath to cool, massaging the bag with your fingertips will prevent lumps and makes for smoother, less tense, more relaxed ice cream.

One important tip for thinking ahead when sous vide-ing involved the venison rack. The rack should be cooked at 57°C for two hours, and rested 30 minutes at room temperature while the vacuum bag remains sealed. Upon pick-up, the rack needs to be quickly charred on a hot grill. To make this step (and service) as smooth and quick as possible, the bones were wrapped in foil before the rack was sealed and ever hit the immersion circulator.

The workshop ended with attendees slicing and chowing down their freshly sous vided Cervena venison.

Pile It On: Making the Perfect Sandwich
Peter McAndrews of Paesano's – Philadelphia, PA

Peter McAndrew's wilting greens in a Williams-Sonoma sauté pan
Peter McAndrew's wilting greens in a Williams-Sonoma sauté pan

"It's against the human condition to be a vegetarian," professed Chef Peter McAndrews of the ever-expanding Philly sandwich-shop Paesano's. He was setting the tone for his down-to-earth sandwich workshop on Day 2 of ICC. One of the most meaty (and also his favorite and best selling) concoctions from Paesano's daily, 11-sandwich menu is the "Statatucci," his version of the Staten Island brisket sandwich with fried egg, horseradish, sugar-roasted tomatoes, and hot peppers.

His decadent "Liverace" sandwich includes fried chicken livers, blue cheese, and orange marmalade, among other luscious layers, and is meant to "make your mouth sing like Liberace played," said McAndrews—taste buds and teeth subbing for the piano keys. Aside from technique and concentrating and combining flavors, McAndrews said, "the name of a sandwich is very, very important. It's an additional way you can set yourself apart from the competition." And so he introduced the sandwich for demo, the "Torayzoo," a fun-to-say word that McAndrews made-up. It’s based on a term referring to the inside of the breast—a double entendre of sorts, playfully blurring the line between cleavage and chicken flesh. The hot sandwich which he made and served to the crowd contained chicken breast, mushrooms, caramelized onions, arugula, cream, sriracha, and smoked provolone.

McAndrews pointed out that the difference between a lousy shop and an excellent one is seasoning. He could not emphasize enough the importance of salt . He also explained the importance of each individual component of a sandwich being done well: making sure onions are caramelized perfectly and that fried components maintain their crispness.

Shedding light on his creative process, McAndrews revealed that many times his creative juices are stoked by consuming a bad sandwich. He then goes about figuring out how to make it better. He also often starts with an established idea and enjoys the trial and error of how to make it the perfect sandwich. Case in point, Paesano's fried lasagna sandwich.

The most important factor to understand when managing a sandwich shop, says McAndrews, is that bread is the most expensive cost. It's crucial to get that cost under control and understand which breads you can freeze, what the various shelf lifes are, and how you can utilize excess bread. Bread is not only the key to a successful business model but also to the sandwich. McAndrews says the worst mistake you can make is serving a sandwich on bread that will disintegrate in the customer’s hands.

McAndrews sandwich savvy and imagination have served him well. Paesano's is in every major sports arena in Philly, and he aims to be on every college campus before too long. Another secret to success that sets Paesano's apart: no ketchup, not in any sandwich or shop.

Day 3: Guts and Glorified

This is How We Dough It
Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table – San Francisco, CA

Evan and Sarah Rich making pasta with Waring Induction burners
Evan and Sarah Rich making pasta with Waring Induction burners

The Italy-inspired and California-loyal duo, Evan and Sarah Rich, brought their take on Old World cuisine to this year’s ICC. By combining the age-old art of pasta making with the creative, vegetable forward food of northern California, the Riches have created a cuisine all to their own, and one they purposely keep boldly different and forward thinking. Their pasta technique is as common as one can call something that takes years to master. In the demo, as in their kitchen, they used only egg yolks and all-purpose flour for their dough, vacuum sealing it for better hydration. After rolling the pasta, they lightly dry the pasta overnight on sheet trays. “Texture is important, and this is a way of being able to make fresh pasta that can still be cooked al dente,” said Evan.

The Riches cooked their pasta’s with a tab of house-cultured butter, which they made back home using a ratio of 1.5 gallons to 1 quart goat’s milk yogurt. They age the cream and yogurt with a sachet of raclette cheese rinds for 36 hours (or to taste). After churning the cream, the butter is lightly kneaded to remove extra moisture and aged again overnight for that extra tang and flavor … because they can. In the end, the couple made sure to include their Californian influence with gusto. Jimmy Nardello peppers, pickled okra, fried sorghum wheat (that looks and tastes exactly like mini popcorn), and a local vegetable purée rounded out the dish they presented. Evan plated the purée first, explaining that vegetable purées clump and take on an awkward texture when tossed in the pan, and gently draped the pasta on the plate using a small rubber spatula—making sure to get every bit of delicious sauce on the plate.

Forgione Foraging for Foie at ICC
Marc Forgione of Marc Forgione – New York, NY

Marc Forgione making a purée in a Vitamix blender
Marc Forgione making a purée in a Vitamix blender

Iron Chef Marc Forgione has a knack for reinventing everyday things and making them better. Take his modern refinement on bread and butter service at Marc Forgione: Black Pepper Brioche and Foie Gras Butter. The brioche recipe is an ode to his father, legendary Chef Larry Forgione of An American Place. As for the foie gras butter, that’s a creation all his own.

In his Day 3 demo at ICC, Forgione submerged the vacuum-sealed foie gras in a PolyScience Immersion Circulator for 40 minutes. After poaching, he transferred the foie gras to a Vitamix along with cognac, black truffle oil, and a healthy dose of heavy cream (because foie isn’t rich enough for his taste). After a quick pass through a chinois, the liquefied “butter” was ready to be chilled and then piped into small serving jars. Last but not least, he topped the jars with melted clarified foie gras fat before returning the jars to the fridge to set.

As if the foie wasn’t enough, Forgione brought along a special guest, Tama Matsuoka Wong, author of Foraged Flavor. Together they explained the significant benefits of using wild ingredients as opposed to farm grown. Forgione claims to have never actually tasted mint before tasting wild mint. There was no turning back for the chef. As he put it: “A coddled baby is not nearly as strong as a baby raised on its own in the wild jungle.” Wild ingredients are naturally cleaner, brighter, and stronger in flavor. They grow where and when they want to, forcing them to stand up to the natural conditions around them.

Before you venture into the wild and pick the forest floor bare, both chefs highly recommend only foraging with an experienced forager.

Smart Sous Vide
Richard Rosendale of Rosendale Group – Maxwelton, WV

Richard Rosendale during his Smart Sous Vide workshop
Richard Rosendale during his Smart Sous Vide workshop

Chef Richard Rosendale (artfully) crammed as many golden sous vide nuggets and techniques as one presenter could into his Day 3 workshop, jumping in between dishes focused on salmon, carrots, short ribs, and lamb rib-eye—plus a bonus sous vide egg and terrine.

For his sous vide salmon (or any seafood, for that matter), Rosendale recommends soaking the flesh for eight minutes in a solution of 10 percent salt, 30 percent ice, and 60 percent water. The solution doesn’t impart flavor, but it does extract moisture and prevents an unpleasant layer of albumin from forming on the fish as it cooks. After the saline dip, Rosendale patted the fish dry, dropped it in a vacuum bag with a scant pour of olive oil and whole rosemary (preferable to chopped for sous vide applications), and cooked it at 62°C in a Julabo fusionChef immersion circulator. Rosendale checked the internal temperature by inserting a probe thermometer though a piece of high-density tape, the bag, and fish flesh—the tape prevents water from entering the bag. Once the fish was cooked, Rosendale plated the flesh with pickled beets, everything bagel topping, olive oil, and compressed spinach (olive oil, pepper, and greens go under pressure to “cook” the vegetables, keep them staple, and reduce their walk-in foot print).

For his “super carrot” dish—one, which was presented at the 2013 Bocuse d’Or, Rosendale cooked carrots in carrot juice at 80°C before hollowing them out and filling them with carrot trim purée. He then wrapped the carrots in carrot noodles (made with gelatinized carrot purée), and brought them to temperature slowly in an Alto-Shaam.

One of the most difficult proteins Rosendale has mastered with sous vide is the short rib. He first seasons and sears the ribs for a Maillard reaction and also to kill any pathogens on the outside of the meat. To cook them to medium rare, he first cools the meat down, vacuum seals it, and cooks it at 62°C for 48 hours—after which point the fat is still inside the meat and the shelf life is stable. “I love traditional braises,” said Rosendale. “But with sous vide, you have a higher yield and can save tens of thousands of dollars over a year—maybe even recover 15 percent of product.” To finish the dish, Rosendale simply seared the meat to warm it through and plated it with carrot purée, baby vegetables, crispy onions, beef jus, and chives.

Barely wrapping up his demo in time, Rosendale dived into his final dish of lamb rib-eye. Because it’s a prime cut, Rosendale didn’t pre-season the meat with salt, less it cure while cooking. He also left on the silver skin to add flavor and crisp up later in the pan. After wrapping the meat in plastic wrap (to control the shape), sealing, and cooking the meat one hour with butter and whole basil, rosemary, and thyme, he shocked the meat in ice water to chill, hold, and eventually sear off to medium rare perfection.

Additional sous vide tips from Rosendale:

  • Don’t bend bags as you insert food, or the quality of the bag will be compromised.
  • Vegetables require a higher cooking temperature than meat to tenderize the product—think 85°C.
  • Never seal warm meat in a vacuum bag. Under pressure, the boiling point lowers, and the meat will boil and cell walls rupture while cooking sous vide.
  • Use filtered water in your immersion circulators to help maintain the machine.
  • Pick a minimum serving temperature, and bring meats to that temperature sous vide.
  • It’s helpful to rest meat that has cooked sous vide, but it’s not as urgent as meat cooked in more traditional ways.

Urban Farmer John
John Mooney of Bell Book & Candle – New York, NY

Farmer John Mooney describing the technology he uses to grow crops year-round
Farmer John Mooney describing the technology he uses to grow crops year-round

On Day 3 of ICC, John Mooney brought farming to the Hudson River—or at least the foundations of his urban farming operation to the SuperPier. He discussed with attendees how he got his start in urban farming after partnering with Drew Nieporent to travel the world and open restaurants. After spending time in India, where many restaurants were vegetarian, Mooney’s interest in sourcing better ingredients led him to start a farm. Mooney later returned stateside and purchased a 22-acre plantation near Orlando, Florida, to use as a venue and catering business for weddings and large events. Even with the Florida sunshine, growing conditions were difficult and really only friendly to citrus. To salvage his efforts, Mooney turned to technology and the Tower Garden by Future Growing. If the towers could produce results in pest and disease-ridden Orlando, surely they would work in the inhospitable urban conditions of New York City.

With the public’s renewed interest in farm-to-table cooking, Mooney sold his stake in the farm and moved to New York, where he built out a rooftop garden to supply his restaurant, Bell Book & Candle. Mooney brought one of the towers to his demo, showing off to attendees its vertical, aeroponic planter that uses a soil-free, hydroponic system. The base is a four-gallon reservoir that allows for intermittent self-watering and can accommodate up to 11 stackable pots. In his 2,400 square-foot garden in the West Village, he grows 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, peas, and basically anything that is not tuber or root vegetables. Each seed germinates in a slot and the water is recycled throughout the system, controlling evaporation. His set-up features 60 planters, and he’s starting a new roof-top farm in D.C. soon—his expansion as proof of the power of responsible, successful, and flavorful restaurant (and veggie) growth.

Slurping Ceviche with Hector Solis
Hector Solis of Fiesta – Lima, Peru

Hector Solis and attendees tasting and discussing the flavors of Peru
Hector Solis and attendees tasting and discussing the flavors of Peru

At Fiesta, the flagship restaurant of pioneering Peruvian Chef and Restaurateur Hector Solis, the ceviche is made simply, as has been the tradition for ages, with only salt, chile pepper, and lime. For The Ancient Art of Ceviche, his interactive demo on Day 3 of ICC, he altered his technique a bit to fit the setting and added an aji amarillo sauce and cilantro garnish.

The ceviche Solis prepared was made with grouper, but he noted that at Fiesta, the day's catch dictates the menu. Generally, fish with a high fat content works best for his ceviches. For his demo, he used a plancha to just cook the ceviche, but at home he uses a charcoal grill. He placed small portions of ceviche on green corn husk leaves and transferred them to the hot plancha. The leaves serve a dual purpose: protecting the ceviche from the harsh direct heat and when the leaves—full of barely cooked ceviche—are plated, their purpose is purely for decoration. The leaves don't impart flavor to the fish and Solis said that when placed on a grill, only require a few minutes to cook the ceviche.

When plated, Solis spooned a smooth and rapidly-spreading aji amarillo sauce over the ceviche and garnished with red chile rings and cilantro. The crowd converged to nab a leaf of ceviche and slurped it down—bright, spicy, rich from the fatty fish, and totally addicting.

This particular style of ceviche is typical of northern Peru. Solis said his approach to cooking uses old recipes to which he applies new techniques. With 30 years experience in the business and six restaurants throughout coastal Peru, Solis has no interest in expanding outside his native land. He enjoys traveling and spreading the ancient flavors and techniques of his country's food. But to taste Solis's cuisine in its natural habitat you'll have to book a ticket to Lima. Solis highly recommends that you do and we second that idea.

Contributing Writers: Leah Adelman, Emily Bell, Dan Catinella, Meha Desai, Jessica Dukes, Caroline Hatchett, Sean Kenniff, Ashley Lopes, Sunny Liu, Krystin Mazza