Chef’s Tip: Christian Petroni of Fortina, Armonk ~ Adds Gremolata (Italian herb condiment) to Add Flavor and Texture

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This vibrant hot spot, but a year old, serves straight forward “peasant” Italian food, cooked in wood fired ovens in an exciting environment. The chef owner, Christian Petroni, shared some of his childhood memories and cooking techniques at one of our classes along with the restaurant’s recipe for Gremolata (see recipe below).

200517393-001Hi! Donna Monaco Olsen here, co-coordinator for the Taste of Westchester Continuing Education program for Westchester Community College to share with you from a past demonstration. All classes are held within Westchester restaurants, where local chefs share their talents and recipes with us in their own dining rooms. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of classes, and I always learn a new trick or two from our great chefs! All demonstration classes are listed below or click here.

Owner/Chef:  Christian Petroni, and Proprietors Rob Krauss and John Nealon

Restaurant:  Fortina

Tip:  When serving meats or vegetables that need a “punch” of flavor, top it with the traditional Italian gremolata just before serving. It will add both flavor and texture. Gremolata is a condiment popular in Italy, with variations found in other countries such as Spain. It can be made in many different ways, by changing the herb such as using mint. Our award winning “Chopped” chef uses toasted hazelnuts for texture and nuttiness along with the traditional parsley, lemon zest and garlic flavors to create just the right touch for topping his “polenta table”.

GremolataGremolata before adding hazelnuts.Fortina - Fall 2013 001Chef Christian says to “always eat in season when possible” to maximize flavor and freshness.

Our chef spoke of the origin of walnut crema. It is an ancient condiment found in Rome in the Jewish ghetto. It is a double dose of healthy fat blended into a smooth, creamy base by pureeing toasted walnuts, shallots and olive oil into a paste. Perfect for adding a little something special to an ordinary vegetable dish. It was the “bed” of creaminess that the wood fired roasted carrots were nestled in.

Fortina - Fall 2013 002Fresh tri-colored carrots blanched and shocked-ready for roasting.Fortina - Fall 2013 007Wood fire roasting can also be done in the oven on very high heat.Fortina - Fall 2013 009Our handsome chef serving the class.Fortina - Fall 2013 011Charred fall harvested carrots on walnut crema.

The polenta table will surprise you, as the concept was taken from his childhood summers spent in Italy, with the family coming together to dine on what they acquired that day. Creamy polenta is served family style on a marble slab (this is also the chef’s table in the restaurant for up close viewing). The polenta is dotted with meatballs, sauce, cheese, fresh basil and topped with our chef’s special Gremolata.

Fortina - Fall 2013 015Stirring the polenta for a long time to ensure a creamy texture.

Gremolata is part condiment and part garnish — it is most commonly used for a final flourish of flavor. It is one of those things where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. What could be be more common in a kitchen than garlic, lemon, and parsley? Chef Christian makes it his own and more special by adding chopped toasted hazelnuts (which can be seen in the foreground of the finished polenta table below). It can be sprinkled over any number of dishes, making everything pop with its bright, fresh flavor.

Fortina - Fall 2013 025Polenta Table Petroni style!Fortina - Fall 2013 022Our chef is adamant about hand torn basil and insists that he sends dishes back in restaurants if he receives the basil “cut” as it becomes black and bruised and makes it taste bitter.

We finished our class with a lesson on making a beautiful sabayon with roasted apples and served with a steaming cappuccino. Our chef grew up on this dessert from his dad’s hands when they had a surplus of fresh eggs from the farm.

Fortina - Fall 2013 036Wood fired roasted apples with a custardy sabayon hand whipped with sugar.Fortina - Fall 2013 041Steamed milk tops our espresso.

Christian Petroni and the gang will be doing a fabulous dinner on May 19th at the James Beard House in NYC, check it out for tickets.  They are a fabulous team both for food and hospitality and the trio continue to explore new adventures both in and out of the kitchen. Follow their escapades on Facebook for a good time. We are thankful that they volunteered their time and wisdom on their day off to teach our class and will be hosting another class this semester in May* and “performing” the polenta table again in November of our Fall 2014 semester. We hope you will join us as they are most knowledgeable and entertaining!

Care to get tips first hand? Check out the current offerings at WCC Continuing Ed, Taste of Westchester. Classes are only $15+ a sampling fee.  Sign up with a friend for one demonstration or a few by contacting WCC via online or by phone at 606-6830×1.

The new Spring 2014 semester has a few great classes still available and the Summer 2014 semester has just begun to take registrations!

Join us at several of Westchester’s most exciting restaurants for a culinary adventure that will tantalize your taste buds. Each chef will offer a private cooking demonstration, followed by a tasting of the prepared items. If you are a chef or restauranteur and are interested in participating in this program please contact the college at 606-6830 x1 and ask for Sarah.

There is still time to sign up for some great classes:

Royal Palace ~ www.royalpalacecuisines.com-Many of the complex flavors used in this restaurant’s cuisine come from fragrant aromatic spices like cardamom, coriander, and cumin. This restaurant serves a daily buffet which includes many traditional dishes. Owner Jagdish Mitter will share a few surprise dishes as well as have his chef demonstrate how to make murg tikka (yogurt marinated char grilled chicken), followed by aloo gobhi matar (cauliflower, potatoes, & green peas slow cooked with an aromatic blend of Indian herbs and spices) served with nan bread. A sweet end to our tasty meal will be a traditional Indian rice pudding garnished with nuts and we’ll conclude with a lesson on jalebi (deep fried flour batter immersed in fragrant sugar syrup). Come share a taste of India! Mon., Apr. 21, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14187

Roasted Peppers ~ www.roastedpeppersny.com-This American bistro with strong Latin influences is the collaboration of the Lepe brothers and CIA graduate Darrell Belcher, who have been chefs in Westchester for over twenty years. The culinary experiences from their past have combined with their expertise and creativity to flourish into Roasted Peppers, their first restaurant venture. These chef’s will show us the techniques used to create a few of their signature dishes. We will start with a seafood and quinoa salad: shrimp, calamari, and scallops over grilled vegetables with truffle balsamic drizzle and roasted pistachio gremolata. Next, a demonstration on the perfect grilled skirt steak, served with Spanish rice, roasted corn and black bean relish, sliced avocado, onion, and tomato. To “sweetly” end our demonstration sweetly, chef Juan Lepe will share the secrets to his mom’s famous flan! Tues., Apr. 22, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14188

Elia Taverna ~ www.eliataverna.com -Delicious homemade Greek specialties from the classic gyro sandwich to the traditional moussaka await you. Nestled on the outskirts of Bronxville in the beautiful Chester Heights section, proprietors Rui Cunha and authentic Greek chef Michalakis Sarris are passionate about good food and great service. Chef Michaliakis will tell stories of growing up in Greece and cooking by his grandmother’s side while he teaches us the techniques to make delicious Greek cuisine. Come sail away to the Greek Isles as our demonstration will begin with melitzanosalata (a roasted eggplant dip) followed by prassini (romaine lettuce, scallions, dill, and feta cheese topped with their famously spiced grilled chicken breast). Next will be a lesson on the classic Greek dish, pastichio (baked pasta with ground meat topped with a bechamel sauce). For dessert learn the art of making loukaumadas (fried dumplings topped with honey syrup and cinnamon) along with miso-miso, equal parts of steamed milk and espresso. The restaurant now has an extensive catering and private party planning menu to meet every need. We will all join in a resounding “OPA!” in celebration of this terrific class so hold onto your dishes! Mon., Apr. 28, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $23 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14189

Cedar Street Grill ~ www.cedarstreetgrillny.com -Located in the quiet downtown, this restaurant offers American themed fare and artisanal beers in a cozy and welcoming way. Family owned and operated, Chef Matt Kay and brother/manager Joe treat everyone like family. On most evenings you can also find mom Cathy (DF Deputy Mayor) greeting guests at the door. Chef Matt’s passion for creating specialty dishes began as he watched his grandmother cook Italian delicacies. Both Matt and Joe are musicians and love to join in during the weekly live sessions. The chef will demonstrate the makings of their crispy Brussels sprouts: bacon, almonds and local maple syrup (they don’t taste like the boiled ones from childhood). Then the secrets to his moist bacon stuffed meatloaf with house brown gravy over garlic whipped potatoes. For dessert a lesson on a great combination, banana and Nutella bread pudding served warm with vanilla ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce. Tues., Apr. 29, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14254

Haymount House ~ www.haymounthouseny.com -Kitchen Visit: The mansion overlooking the Hudson River dates back to the early 1900’s when William Fuller built it and named it for the town in which he was born. It spent the last 50 years as a French restaurant until proprietor David Breschel magnificently restored to its original splendor. Executive chef Bruce Deaty, formally of the Red Hat in Irvington, will treat us to a peek inside his kitchen. He will demonstrate a warm shitake mushroom and asparagus salad with fried local farm egg and shallot sherry vinaigrette. Learn the technique for seared Atlantic halibut in a gingered spring vegetable bouillon with pearl couscous and mustard oil drizzle. Our lovely dessert will be a buttermilk panna cotta served in chilled rhubarb and strawberry soup with mint chiffonade. Don’t miss their live music Sunday brunch! Wed., Apr. 30, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #142558

Ramiro’s 954 ~ www.ramiros954.com -Hands-On: Chef Ramiro Jimenez grew up watching his family work at his grandmother’s restaurant on the water in Acapulco. He is a renowned chef who specializes in taking classic Nuevo Latino cuisine and adding his own contemporary approach and creativity. The chef is a wonderful mentor and will teach us about classic preparations in his open kitchen. In this interactive class we will help to create our meal, starting with an appetizer consisting of empanadas de picadillo (a turnover filled with ground beef cooked with onion, garlic, pepper, olives, raisins, and red wine and accompanied with sweet chipotle cream sauce). Help the chef to prepare the restaurant’s signature dish of pernil con mojo (slow braised pork shank served with tomatillo-avocado sauce and garlic mojo) and rice with beans. Our evening will conclude with flan de vanilla (traditional custard served with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and a chocolate cigar. Arrive hungry; Buen Provecho! Mon., May 5, 6:00-8:00, pm $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14190

The Horse & Hound Inn ~ www.thehorseandhoundinn.com -Ghosts? Just as it must have been for stagecoaches long ago, the Inn is a beacon amid the dark and wooded roads of South Salem. The building dates back to 1749, charming with its wide-planked floors, low ceilings and original beams. During the almost twenty years the Vales have owned the Inn, there have been several sightings of spirits. The husband and wife team, Silvano and Sue Vales, have created good food and fun and will be our hosts (possibly along with some ghosts). For an amuse bouche enjoy the Inn’s famous firecracker shrimp: cream cheese with jalapeno and a bacon wrapping. Our lesson in the dining room will begin with a vegetable goat cheese napoleon with a balsamic reduction. Pork tenderloin with sautéed apricots served with spring onions and glazed carrots is our entrée education for the evening. For a summery treat we will enjoy a mini-lesson on individual short cakes with macerated strawberries and whipped cream. Tues., May 6, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14191

The Melting Pot ~ www.meltingpot.com -Hands-On: Fondue is a fun and interactive dining experience, and we will help to make several of their fondues from The Melting Pot cookbookDip into Something Different: A Collection of Recipes from Our Fondue Pot to Yours. It allows you to create your own fondue at home and will be available for sale for $29.95. We will view a brief slide show presentation followed by a unique demonstration where you will help to make a the following appetizer and dessert fondues: a classic Swiss cheese, the Wisconsin Trio, white chocolate bananas Foster, and s’mores. Our entrée will teach us to prepare a tasting sampler of the restaurant’s seasonal entrée offerings. This evening’s class will be graciously offered with wine pairings for an additional $10. Come and “dip” with us! Wed., May 7, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor; optional cookbook additional $29.95; optional wine pairing additional $10). #14192

*Fortina ~ www.fortinapizza.com -Weekend Lunch/Hands-On: Chef Christian Petroni, along with proprietors John Nealon and Rob Krauss, are three young men who are on the road to something great. Their combined knowledge of good food and great service make for a winning combination. Housed in a grand space, situated in a courtyard setting in Armonk, these vivacious men make it happen each and every night. Chef Christian will wow you with his tasty combinations inspired by his Arthur Avenue/Bronx Italian upbringing, bringing new and exciting things to the plate each and every time. Our interactive demonstration will begin with traditional fried meatballs and a specialty of the house, the red sauce that adorns them and its many variations. A refreshing arugula salad dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan will cleanse the palate to make way for one of their signature dishes. Well known for their inventive pizzas crisped in wood fired ovens, we will learn the secrets to the restaurant’s popular pie, tenderoni, consisting of tomato, spicy sopressata, mozzarella, and chili oil, with a drizzle of honey for a winning combination. For dessert learn the art of making sabayon with wine served alongside an inviting cappuccino. Sat., May 10, 12:00 noon-2:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14196

Fortina - Fall 2013 031Fortina uses upside-down tomato cans to place their amazing wood fired oven pizza on your table.

Thyme Restaurant ~ www.thymerestaurant.net -Hands-On: Located on the main street, on the border of Yorktown Heights and Cortland Manor, is a contemporary restaurant serving great American fare. This warm and inviting setting allows you to view owner and chef Tom Costello on any given night working in his open kitchen. He will give us an interactive demonstration and we will help to create a delicious meal starting with lobster fritters over an asparagus salad with a spring onion remoulade. We will continue our lesson and enjoy Norwegian salmon with a charred onion soubise, served over saffron rice and local grilled ramps. Next help to prep a delicious mixed berry strudel made with seasonal berries and topped with crème anglaise. Mon., May 12, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14199

Albano’s ~ www.AlbanoAppliance.com -Born and raised in France, chef Jehan deNoüe has over 35 years of experience in the area. He is Albano Appliance’s own resident chef, managing the company’s continuing education program, including cooking classes, manufacturer demonstrations, and personal and in-home instruction. He is a most approachable and informed instructor and will give out tips on a variety of methodologies for preparing a fabulous meal, all the while toasting us with wine. Surrounded by the most high tech and modernl appliances, we will learn how to make a wild mushroom and asparagus tart appetizer and then the French technique for a beautifully baked sole in parchment paper with seasonal vegetables. Our dessert lesson will be a how-to on fresh fruit turnovers with homemade crème fraiche. Do not miss this class as it is always a favorite! Thurs., May 15, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14201

Chloe Madison Creations ~ www.chloemadison.com -Sweet: This fabulous dessert spot, known for its amazing cupcakes, is the mastermind of CIA graduate Mike Carroll. He will take us on a tour of plated desserts by showing us how to easily and creatively plate beautiful desserts at home. At this sweet spot you will get to taste four desserts: a deconstructed strawberry shortcake with panna cotta and the technique for spun sugar; the secret to Venetian tri-color cookies; a smooth cheesecake with a blueberry compote; and a beggar’s purse of chocolate cake, ganache, and raspberry coulis. You will leave the shop with a small version of each dessert including the sauces to replicate these presentations. Sat., May 17, 12:00 noon-2:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14245

Tarry Tavern ~ www.tarrytavern.com-Owner and Chef Henry Cabral, who cooked alongside his dad in their family restaurant, Caravela, has come up with a unique formula that fills a niche in a restaurant-heavy town like Tarrytown. His casual American gastro-pub offers creative, locally sourced dishes and seasonal menus inspired by what farmers and fishermen are growing, raising, and catching. Many patrons dine before or after a show at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The chef will show us how to make hand-made ricotta cavatelli with spring peas and asparagus along with a few other delicious tidbits incorporating seasonal fare. He will demonstrate flourishes of spring market inspired ingredients, continuing with a fabulous lesson on the makings of a morel stuffed chicken breast en croute (encased in pastry) adorned with a Madeira wine sauce. For dessert, a lovely vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberries. Join us for a peek into this inviting restaurant’s kitchen! Mon., Apr. 14, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #14183

DeCicco’s Family Market ~ www.deciccos.com-Hands-On: DeCicco’s is a family owned and operated specialty grocery store chain, which has always valued buying local products and supporting local businesses. Each location offers full service, meat, seafood, cheese, produce, and bakery departments as well as an expanded selection of gourmet grocery and specialty beer. Their newest store in Armonk has an upstairs bar, a demonstration kitchen with a viewing screen, and even a bocce court. Learn the art of Shish Kebab in this interactive demonstration. Our treat will be to devour them with some “summer brews,” one light, one dark, and one fruity tasting. The proteins will consist of beef, chicken, and pork partnered with summer vegetables to create delicious shish kebabs for the grill. We will help the chef to prep and then skewer the tasty cubes and get great grilling and marinade tips. A well composed green leaf salad and coffee and cookies will round out our class. Thurs., July 24, 5:30-7:30 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #5970

Peter Pratt’s Inn ~ www.prattsinn.com-Outdoor Pig Roast: This colonial homestead, built in 1780, has been a local inn dating back to 1926. Set in a residential neighborhood, the area has historical presence, having served as General Washington’s command post. A special place to dine, it has been producing fabulous creations from master chef and owner Jonathon Pratt, who took over for his father, Peter, in the kitchen. Known for their summertime BBQ’s on the patio, this chef is a wonderful speaker and will delight us in his informative demonstration on doing a pig roast in the La Caja China (translated “the Chinese box”). This method dates back to the 1850’s when Chinese immigrant workers in Cuba toted this roasting box around to cook their meal as they toiled in the sugar cane fields. We will also enjoy a lesson on some of Jonathon’s favorite BBQ sides. For the dessert tutorial, the chef will surprise us with a summer treat. This class is a favorite so sign up quickly to reserve your spot!  Thurs., July 31, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #5971

Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant & Inn ~ www.kittlehouse.com-Outdoors: Since 1981, CKH has been owned by the Crabtree family. They have returned it to its former glory, including transforming the former stables into an award-winning wine cellar boasting some 65,000 bottles, making it one of the greatest collections in the world. It began humbly in 1790 as a barn, before the restaurant and inn were built. Many hands have touched the stately structure over the years. Executive chef Jay Lippin’s expertise and unique style of cooking will lend for a very special learning experience, starting with an outdoor (weather permitting) lesson on summer grilling. The chef will discuss various grilling techniques along with the types of wood to ignite to produce the desired results. We will begin with grilled pineapple salsa and a lesson on ceviche, consisting of diver sea scallop and Gulf shrimp. Next a tutorial on espresso and ancho rubbed, grilled prime skirt steak accompanied by a refreshing watermelon and corn relish. Our sweet treat will be the chef’s secret to their “shortbread magic bar blondies” made with chocolate, coconut, and pecans. Join us for a special evening! Wed., Aug. 6, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #5972

The Chophouse Grille ~ www.thechophousegrille.com-TCHG hand picks aged steaks to create a memorable meal while offering it at a reasonable price, making it sometimes difficult to get a reservation. Proprietors Matt Camerino and Toni Vulaj have over 25 years in the foodservice industry. Chef Michael Camerino will teach us some trade secrets, starting with their summertime wild cherry, pistachio, and goat cheese water cress salad for a refreshing treat. We will watch how he prepares a pan-seared Branzino with a citrus glaze, accompanied by a refreshing arugula pesto cous-cous. A demonstration on baked Alaska will complete our education with a classic and cooling dessert. Come out to see what everyone is talking about!  Mon., Aug. 11, 6:00-8:00 pm, $15 (+ $20 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #5973

Härth ~ www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/hilton-westchester-RYEHIHH/dining/harth-westchester-Saturday Night: With outdoor and kitchen views from every table, this restaurant is an innovative addition to the Westchester County dining scene. Chef Rafael Velazquez is committed to culinary innovation and believes in using the finest seasonal ingredients, featuring farm-fresh and locally sourced products. Our chef will show us how to make a quick coq au vin (a very traditional French dish that usually takes many hours of cooking) and translate it to the pressure cooker, to produce a beautiful dish in less than 35 minutes time. Our first course will be a lesson on a refreshing endive salad with candied walnuts, stilton blue cheese, and a tarragon vinaigrette. The accompaniment to our spectacular chicken dish will be roasted fingerling potatoes. We will end on a sweet note with a lesson on creating a traditional crème brulee with a summertime berry compote. Grab a friend for an interactive Saturday night dinner out on the town and then relax on the patio with a cocktail or two! Sat., Aug. 23, 5:00-7:00 pm, $15 (+ $25 sampling fee in CASH, payable to instructor). #5974

The Fall 2014 semester will appear online in July. Check it out and share with a friend!

Come out and learn with us!

Gremolata

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch of parsley, washed and dried (enough to make 1 cup loosely-packed)
  • 1 clove garlic, papery skin removed
  • 2 lemons, washed and dried, zest (skin) only
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts

Instructions

  1. Place your parsley leaves, lemon zest, and on a chopping board and bunch everything together.
  2. Chop the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic together very finely until they are well combined.
  3. Add chopped toasted hazelnuts.
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About Author

As a contributing blogger and the author of "Chef’s Tip", Donna Monaco Olsen recaps great cooking demonstrations from local restaurants. As the the coordinator for Westchester Community College’s Continuing Education program, named “A Taste of Westchester,” she writes the program, which offers more than 35 cooking classes each semester, and recruits chefs to do cooking demonstrations in their restaurants. She holds a full time position in the education field, and in her off time develops and contributes recipes for cookbooks. She is an avid baker and a former cake decorator who created many custom designed specialty cakes. Along with her husband, she reviews restaurants on Small Bites during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.

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