Peter Adams, the executive sous chef at Santé Restaurant and Charcuterie in downtown Spokane, has been cooking professionally since 2004.
At home, brunch is his favorite meal to prepare.
Citrus and chilies are among his top go-to ingredients. So are oysters.
Here, he shares his recipe for seared scallops with pancetta, blood oranges, fennel and creamy polenta. But someday, the 30-year-old wants to cook Lapin a la Royal.
Find out more about him – and the centuries-old dish – in today’s Chef Spotlight.
What’s your favorite dish to cook at home? Brunch. It’s always relaxing on my few days off to throw down a big brunch for my wife and two children. There’s no time frame and always an abundance of flavors, textures and items that you can never go wrong with.
Where do you eat when you eat out? When my wife and I do have time, it’s usually Gordy’s, Bennedito’s, Fleur de Sel and Inland Pacific Kitchen. But there is a lot more in Spokane now, and we are eager to try all the new restaurants in town.
Who or what inspired you to become a chef, and how? My first inspiration to become a chef came from my father. He worked two jobs most of my life, as a graphic designer and sous chef. And, just as it is for as many young men, my dad was Superman to me, and I wanted to be just like him. In a family of four children, cooking was a way for me to peek over his elbows and share precious time one-on-one with him.
What are your go-to ingredients? Citrus of any kind, chilies, ginger, rosemary, mushrooms and cured pork.
What was the first dish a customer ever sent back to you, and how did you handle it? I can’t really recall the first time I ever had a dish sent back to the kitchen. Early in my career, the chefs were always at the pass, the area in the kitchen where dishes are plated, garnished and finished before they are served to guests. So rarely did mistakes ever make it to the guests. But I do very vividly remember a very important time I was reprimanded for sending a dish to the pass that was not up to par. I was working for chef Victor Dambrowski. He had a stone crab salad on the menu, and it was my first night working garde manger by myself. I sent three crab salads to the pass plated in what I had thought was the way my predecessor had shown me, but I was wrong. Chef looked at them once, brought them back, removed the crab from the plate with his tweezers, and tapped the rest of the plate into the waste bin and said, like a thunderstorm, “AGAIN!”And I began again, for what felt like eternity, over and over putting a spoon swipe of ginger carrot puree on a plate only to have chef tap it into that waste bin again and again, saying “Swipe 1 o’clock to 6 o’clock.” He used the face of a clock, like famed chef Marco Pierre White, as a compass on how to plate. All of a sudden, he said, “I guess that will do,” and served the salads. It was a very defining moment for me. I learned to focus on the little things and then the bigger pieces would just fall right into place. That night, I drew the face of a clock on some pieces of parchment paper, bought some yogurt and practiced over and over till I had a feel for the motion of that particular plating.
What’s a dish you’ve never made but would like to, and why? A dish I have always wanted to make is Lapin a la Royal. Essentially, it’s a braised wild hare stuffed with … foie gras, the animal’s liver and morel mushrooms, and cooked in court bouillon and red wine. The braising liquid is thickened with the fresh blood of the hare, and basted with it over and over until it’s lacquered like fine furniture. I love dishes like this because it shows how to use every part of an animal or ingredient to transform it into something marvelous. Plus, this dish is old. I mean really old. It would be super cool to have a dish that monarchs and nobles dined on for centuries in your back pocket.
What dish or ingredient best represents you? Oysters are probably my favorite thing in the world. They are so temperamental to their environments that they can vary in their flavor so much it’s as if you can travel the oceans of the world in a single sitting. That’s probably the greatest thing about food of that nature – that transcendental feeling it can summon in you.
Seared scallops with pancetta, blood oranges, fennel and creamy polenta
From Peter Adams
For creamy polenta:
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 ounces ( 1/2 stick) butter
1 cup yellow polenta
6 blood oranges, with juice reserved
1 fennel bulb, fronds reserved for garnish
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup olive oil
6 slices pancetta
salt and pepper, to taste
18 dry sea scallops
2 cups arugula
Make the polenta: Bring water, salt and butter to a boil and gently rain in the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. After a few minutes, the polenta should be viscous. Turn heat to medium-low and stir often but there’s no need to babysit it. It should cook for another 45 minutes or so until it has lost its grittiness.
Prep the fruit and veggies: Segment the blood oranges, reserve the juice and set aside. Slice fennel bulb into julienne strips, and save the wispy frond tops for garnish. Slice radishes as thin as possible into coins, and slice the scallions as thin as possible and on a bias and set aside. (Editor’s note: For the blood oranges, he’s describing the process of supreming citrus. For a tutorial, search for “supreme citrus” at www.marthastewart.com.)
Make vinaigrette: In a Mason jar, add Dijon mustard, honey, blood orange juice, remaining salt, chili flakes and olive oil. Put lid on jar and shake until emulsified. This is the vinaigrette that will dress the arugula, and all the vegetable components above
Make the scallops: In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, render the pancetta over medium heat turning each piece over to crisp. This should take about 10 minutes. Reserve the crispy pancetta for garnish, salt and pepper each scallop, and sear over medium-high heat. (Don’t move them around; moving them will ruin your crust.) After the scallops look white around the edges and opaque in the center, flip them over once and with a spoon. Ladle pancetta fat over the seared side (this is your presentation side so make them pretty). This should take about 4-5 minutes.
To plate: Ladle some polenta in a shallow bowl and dress the arugula, blood orange segments, fennel, radish and scallions with the vinaigrette. Make a small pile of salad in the center of the polenta, and add three scallops around the rim. Garnish with the crispy polenta and fennel fronds.
Yield: 6 servings