Chef Donald Link
Chef Donald Link

Donald Link

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Restaurants: Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Calcasieu, Pêche (New Orleans) Education: California Culinary Academy (San Francisco) What style of cooking are you most famous for? Southern Cajun. New Orleans has always had its own unique food, and Cajun culture is two and a half hours west of here. I wanted to bring the soul of that to New Orleans in a way that wasn’t overly touristy. What dish defines your style of cooking? Gumbo started it all. And the system behind it, of making stocks and getting good ingredients and coaxing the flavors out of them. It’s time-consuming, too, so I think it put me in this mind-set of taking time with food to create something special, as opposed to just knocking out dinner. Is there a culinary skill or a type of dish that you wish you were better at? I’ve had this weird interest in making hand-pulled Chinese noodles. I saw it done recently, and then looked it up on the Internet. It looks so easy, but it’s not. Some people spend three months apprenticing just to learn that one thing. Who taught you to cook? My grandfather, while I was growing up in southwest Louisiana. While everyone else was eating at McDonald’s, my grandfather was cooking squirrel and lima beans and ham hocks. What is the best dish for a neophyte cook to try? Roast chicken. It can be really bad if it’s not done right, awesome if it’s done well. It teaches you about heat and time and doneness, how to crisp the skin, how to get it golden, how to get it cooked through without drying it out. Obviously you can say to cook it at 350° for an hour and 15 minutes, but ovens are different, chickens are different. You need to feel a connection to the food to do it well. You love chile peppers. Do you have a favorite?Criolla sella. It’s an orange Bolivian pepper. I discovered it almost 10 years ago, when a farmer here in town asked to grow things for me. We found it in a catalog. It’s got the perfect balance of sweetness and heat. It’s not like a jalapeño, which can be too spicy. You get more of that chile flavor as opposed to the heat. What’s a restaurant you’re willing to travel for? Hawk’s Crawfish. A lot of places do crawfish, but somehow they always do it better. My cousins are rice and crawfish farmers and they have special fields that they sell to Hawk’s, and the restaurant keeps them in freshwater tanks for 24 hours, so they’re super-clean. And they cook them in a way that makes them super-tender. I’ve made pilgrimages. It’s two and a half hours by car one way. And I’ve done it one day, just to eat the crawfish. Name one secret-weapon ingredient. Anchovies. Mashed into a paste, anchovies are a great seasoning for roast lamb. If I’m boning a leg or a shoulder, I’ll make a paste of garlic, sea salt, anchovies and lemon to rub inside the meat before I roll it up. Once it’s cooked, you can never tell it’s in there.
Chef Donald Link adds extra flavor to his shrimp by poaching them in lemon-and-bay-leaf-infused water, before pickling them with a tasty mix of vegetables. Slideshow: More Shrimp Recipes 
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This incredibly quick and easy dish from New Orleans chef Donald Link's Down South cookbook features tuna steaks poached until rare in a bright, buttery sauce that's infused with tangy lime and kumquats, spicy jalapeños and fresh mint. Doubled or tripled, it would make an excellent dinner-party dish. Slideshow:  More Tuna Recipes 
Cochon, New OrleansWhen Donald Link bakes these cheesy, cayenne-spiked potatoes for himself, he increases the amount of butter and salt because, he says, "They're the two most important ingredients for making really good stuffed or mashed potatoes." More Delicious Potato Dishes
Tangy Apple Salad
Rating: Unrated
New!
New Orleans chef Donald Link serves this salad with Andouille and Sweet Potato Pie. More Apple Recipes
Chef Way To create the flavorings for these ribs, Donald Link combines eight spices for a rub and prepares a barbecue sauce with homemade pork stock.Easy Way Cut back the number of spices in the rub to the five essentials, and use canned beef broth in the barbecue sauce.
Shrimp-and-Crab Gumbo
Rating: Unrated
6
This gumbo from chef-owner Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans owes its flavor to the roux, a mix of flour and oil that's cooked until it's coffee-colored. Plus: More Cajun and Creole Favorites
Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans got the inspiration for this richly flavored homemade sausage burger from Cajun and Creole cooking and its prodigious use of tomatoes and green peppers. Here, Link substitutes chile peppers for the usual bell peppers to add heat to the burger. All-Time Favorite Burgers
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Redfish on the Half Shell
Rating: Unrated
2
Donald Link suggests grilling or roasting this fish, then serving it in its hardened skin ("on the half shell"). You can also use a large, flexible spatula to slide the fillets off the skin and onto a platter, discarding the skin, for a more elegant presentation. Redfish—a white-fleshed fish with big scales that are hard to remove—is an ideal choice, but striped bass is great too. You'll have to buy the fish directly from a fishmonger; ask him to leave the scales on the fillets.
Chef Way Chef Donald Link uses satsuma juice (from an Asian citrus fruit similar to a mandarin orange) to flavor the sweet shrimp here. He then studs the spicy corn-bread cakes with fresh Southern shell beans.Easy Way Replace the satsuma juice with ordinary orange juice and buy baby lima beans (fresh or frozen) as a stand-in for the shell beans.Plus: F&W's Fish and Seafood Cooking Guide More Shrimp Recipes Southern Food
Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans got the inspiration for this richly flavored homemade sausage burger from Cajun and Creole cooking and its prodigious use of tomatoes and green peppers. Here, Link substitutes chile peppers for the usual bell peppers to add heat to the burger. All-Time Favorite Burgers
Redfish on the Half Shell
Rating: Unrated
2
Donald Link suggests grilling or roasting this fish, then serving it in its hardened skin ("on the half shell"). You can also use a large, flexible spatula to slide the fillets off the skin and onto a platter, discarding the skin, for a more elegant presentation. Redfish—a white-fleshed fish with big scales that are hard to remove—is an ideal choice, but striped bass is great too. You'll have to buy the fish directly from a fishmonger; ask him to leave the scales on the fillets.
Chef Way Chef Donald Link uses satsuma juice (from an Asian citrus fruit similar to a mandarin orange) to flavor the sweet shrimp here. He then studs the spicy corn-bread cakes with fresh Southern shell beans.Easy Way Replace the satsuma juice with ordinary orange juice and buy baby lima beans (fresh or frozen) as a stand-in for the shell beans.Plus: F&W's Fish and Seafood Cooking Guide More Shrimp Recipes Southern Food
Chef Way Donald Link makes his own mayonnaise for the delightfully creamy blue cheese dressing.Easy Way Use prepared mayo in this easy-to-eat version of the classic iceberg wedge salad. More Great Salads
Chef Way Chef Donald Link cooks chicken in duck fat until it's meltingly tender.Easy Way Skip the duck fat and opt for olive oil instead. Fast and Easy Chicken Recipes
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Chef Way The creamy sweet potato filling in this sweet-potato pie is actually fairly simple, but Donald Link opts to prepare the crust by hand; he also tosses the salad with mustard greens, which can be tricky to find.Easy Way Make the crust in a food processor and substitute watercress for the mustard greens in the salad. Slideshow: Delicious, Quick Side Dishes Plus: Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide