Last week, I was delighted to have been invited to taste the new dishes rustled up by Westin, Gurgaon Hotel’s new Italian chef Emilianodi Stefano and showcased at their Westin Culinary Academy. The Italian restaurant Prego, a favourite haunt of mine, was humming with activity for the event. A soft-spoken, measured-toned native of Turin with familial ties to sizzling Sicily, Chef Emiliano was all set to tease and seduce our taste buds with Involtini di Gamberoni e Zucchini allabusara -Deep fried crougettes and prawns rolls with spicy tomato sauce; Gnocchi di Patateallasiciliana-Handcrafted potato dumpling with sundried tomato, pesto, pistachio and ricotta cheese and rounded off with Tortinomorbido al Cioccolato con salsa alleFragole– Hot Chocolate volcano with strawberry coulis.
The simple Prawn rolled in sliced and fried Zucchini and doused with freshly prepared, spicy arrabiata sauce kickstarted the palate with its biting heat quotient rendered by liberal use of chillies. The prawn was done perfect, succulent and contrasted ably with the crunchy Zucchini wrap and the spicy sauce.
A staunch Gnocchi lover I couldn’t but marvel how easy Chef Emiliano made it seem to create the Potato Gnocchi, with the odd bits thrown in during the demo as to its provenance, Babylonian… Europe…China… perhaps. The Pesto sauce that drenched the gnocchi detoured from the usual basil- pine nut variety. Chef Emiliano’s Pesto that day was derived from pistachio, dried tomatoes, ricotta cheese- a rich, brown, heavy textured sauce.
However, what took away my personal enjoyment was that the potato dumpling was so soft that it simply slid past my throat in haste, a veritable paste, before I could so much as savour it. When quizzed, the chef opined that gnocchi has to be soft and overcooking shall make it real hard. While I did not expect something in the likeness of peanuts, I would have enjoyed the dish better if the gnocchi stayed put long enough in my mouth to savour the delicacy that it was that day rather than turn into baby food puree.
The Chef’s next offering, not on the day’s menu, was simply out of the world. Lime Risotto with sea bass was exquisite. The simple flavours of the plain al dente risotto were enhanced by the mild, citrusy tang of the lime, playing hide and seek with the palate. The sea bass sitting pretty atop it was the crowning glory, un-adorned, un-embellished, seafood in its purest form. I hope and wish, this dish shall find its way to the upcoming new menu.
Now to the resounding piece de resistance of the day, never mind that it was a simple dessert. The ridiculously simple one going by the diabolical name of Tortinomorbido al Cioccolato con salsa alleFragole was a masterpiece. As you dig into the crunchy baked crust of the chocolate mousse, it gives way to the hot, viscous, lava like hot chocolate within, counterpointed with the lip-smackingly tangy strawberry coulis. It was bottom scrapping delicious.
Through the session, cocktails and palate cleansers were the order of the day while the meal was started with Caesar salad and Fried calamari rings.
While demonstrating his culinary sleight de main, Chef Emiliano handed out some handy tips to the participants:
- Dry the peel of the blanched tomatoes, run them through a blender and voila!…you have a tasty garnish.
- If you do not have time to wait for the peels to dry, then deep fry them and use as a beautiful garnish.
- Fried basil is another excellent garnish.
- While making pesto, never boil but only heat the sauce.
- Roll the cut, ready to boil, gnocchi dough dumplings on the tines of the fork to get a spiral design on your gnocchi. It shall up your chic quotient.
If the dishes showcased at the Westin Culinary Academy that day are any indication, then the new food menu at Prego, Westin Gurgaon drawn up by Chef Emiliano shall give him more reasons to say “benvenuta” to me.
Prego’s Chef Emiliano’s recipe for Tortinomorbido al Cioccolato con salsa alleFragole
Ingredients for the chocolate mousse
65% chocolate- 200 gms
Butter- 160 gms
Sugar- 180 gms
Fresh eggs- 05
Flour- 60 gms
Frozen strawberries- 100 gms
Sugar- 100 gms
Water- 02 tbsp
Method- Chocolate mousse
In a bainmarie (see pic) melt chocolate and butter while whisking gently.
Add sugar and keep whisking.
Add eggs and continue whisking the mixture.
Add flour and keep whisking until you get an even–textured dense liquid.
Ideally the mix is not to be heated beyond 40 C.
Brush small ceramic cups with butter and spoon in the liquid carefully.
Bake in pre-heated oven at 170 C for 10 minutes or until the top crusts over.
Serve hot with the Strawberry coulis.
Method- Strawberry coulis
Cook strawberries with sugar and water for 10 minutes or until you get a viscous, syrupy consistency.
Cool and blend the mix.
Coulis ready to serve.