At BOKA, Cucumber is Summer's Unsung Hero

By Gabby Romero | Will Blunt

By

Gabby Romero
Will Blunt
Chef Jonathan Dockter of BOKA
Chef Jonathan Dockter of BOKA

Charred cucumbers are a fixture on the table any time Chef Jonathan Dockter fires up his home grill. When BOKA brought in cucumbers from Butternut Sustainable Farm in southern Michigan, his favorite off-the-clock side dish found its way onto the menu. Dockter utilizes the vegetable in multiple ways in this bright, creamy dish. “The original thought behind this dish was to use cucumbers in a way that highlights the cooked and raw flavors,” he says. Here, we break it down.

Grilled Cucumbers
Just like in Dockter’s home-cooked version, he throws whole cucumbers onto the grill until the outsides are charred and smoky and the inside, still slightly crunchy, toes the line between raw and cooked. Next, they’re submerged in a soy braising liquid for an hour to soak up the marinade’s deep, savory flavor before being thinly sliced. 

Compressed Cucumbers
In addition to the grilled cucumbers, Dockter shaves raw ones into ribbons and compresses them with a pickling liquid. The raw cucumbers are dressed with lemon oil and dill as a fresh contrast to the grilled ones.

Halibut
BOKA sources halibut from the California coast because the fish there more closely resemble flounder than their East Coast relatives. Dockter amplifies the fish’s dense, meaty texture by brining it, which consistently seasons the halibut and prevents the albumin from leaking out during the cooking process. He finishes the halibut by slowly poaching it in olive oil until the center is a touch warmer than body temperature and the fish is juicy, soft, and unctuous. 

The Seaweed Relish
To complement the fish, Dockter uses sea spaghetti, which is farmed in California and packed in salt. “Compared to kombu, it's not quite as assertive,” he says. “It has a bit more of a fresh sea sort of flavor.”  He finely chops the seaweed and cooks it down with shallots and white wine. A hearty dose of brown butter at the end adds a toasty richness to the umami-packed relish. 

The Cauliflower Purée
Cauliflower and half-and-half join forces to make a creamy purée for the plate. Dockter sweats the vegetable carefully to avoid gaining any color and makes the straightforward cauliflower flavor the star. “The earthy backbone pairs well with the freshness of the cucumber,” he says. 

The Beurre Blanc
All the components tie together with Dockter’s unconventional take on a beurre blanc. In his rendition, he steeps cream with the reduced interior of cucumbers, white wine, and shallots to add a concentrated vegetal flavor. Then he blends the cream with cucumber peels to impart earthiness and a bright green hue. “It’s a fun, different way to make a butter sauce that reinforces that cucumber,” he says. The infused cream is later emulsified with butter and combined with trout roe before being spooned over the halibut tableside. The vibrant beurre blanc reinforces the dish’s purpose: to celebrate the cucumber, summer’s unsung hero. 

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