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Allumette's ambitious chef is back, and his mind is on squash.
“This city has changed so much,” Thompson says. “It’s an exciting time to be here. It feels like a real homecoming.”
At Allumette, the food was brainy and untethered (shellfish-infused tapioca and tomato salad, monkfish liver with apricot ume), but once the restaurant shut down in summer 2014, he went off to study the “honest and slow food way,” as he likes to call it, at SHED in Healdsburg. For the last year, he's been learning the art of hyperlocal sourcing at Christophe Harbour in St. Kitts.
“When you’re younger, you want to show people what you can do and how you can manipulate things,” Thompson says. “But you can make jam with four ingredients that will blow people away if you just apply a smidge of technique.”
And that’s what he’s doing at Michael’s, where he’s confiting pork shoulder and transforming the collagen that settles in the oil into anchovy-laced broth for a twist on the classic pork-and-peaches trope. It’s part throwback to classic California cooking of the '70s and '80s, but “more cerebral,” Thompson says.
As he and the team prepare to unleash their new menu tomorrow, Thompson can’t help but already think about fall produce.
“I’m trying to live now in one part of my brain, but I'm also getting excited about what’s coming in the next season,” he says.
Creamy squash is one of those he can’t knock out of his brain, and here’s how he loves to go sweet and savory with the glorious gourd:
Savory = Delicata Squash
Thompson picked up this squash treatment after working at Animal in L.A. He buries the squash in a mixture of brown sugar, salt and oil and roasts at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then dusts off the mixture and bakes again for a few minutes with more brown sugar. “It gets this jammy texture, almost like a raisin,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do with Delicata.”
Sweet = Cinderella Squash
Squat and covered in vermillion skin, these Asian pumpkins scream dessert to Thompson. “When they're poached, they get this sort of funky flavor, which would be amazing with baking spices and honey.” He’s dreaming of poaching these squashes in cream, then pureeing them with warming spices, like cloves and cinnamon.