By Cody Worsham
The Big Apple is about to get a delicious bite of Creole-meets-Italian fare, courtesy of Ruffino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge Chef Peter Sclafani.
This week, Sclafani and his crew head to New York City for a trip to the prestigious James Beard House as the featured visiting chef for Saturday, Sept. 13. It’s the second such trip for Sclafani and the Ruffino’s crew, who previously cooked for the Beard House – one of the culinary world’s most famous locations, a “performance space for visiting chefs” – in April 2013.
“Cooking for the first time at the Beard House was a true bucket list experience,” said Sclafani. “Now I’m looking forward to presenting something truly original with my ‘Creole meets Italian’ cuisine. It’s an authentic cross-cultural fusion we’ve developed at Ruffino’s that’s unlike anything you’ll find outside our restaurants.”
For the Beard menu, Each menu item starts with traditional Italian but is then re-interpreted through a Creole lens.
Last week, Ruffino’s hosted a preview dinner for locals, and DIG sampled the one-of-a-kind menu. Here’s what New York can expect Saturday:
Shrimp Corndogs, Corn & Crab Shooters, Butter Poached Oysters, Tuna Tartare Cones, Braised Pork Cheeks.
Sclafani: “It’s very seafood-centric. I grew up hunting and fishing in Louisiana, so seafood has always been important to me.”
Editor’s Note: Love the Tuna Tartare. The raw Gulf yellowfin tuna is cleverly presented on a minuature cone and has the perfect spice combination for a truly appetizing and tasty treat.
Course 1: Handmade Mozzarella A La Minute
With Olive Salad Bruschetta
Sclafani: “It’s not normal mozzarella. We’re making it when you order it. It comes out really warm and soft, and we think it’s just delicious. To give it a Creole feel, we do the olive salad.”
Editor’s Note: Smoothest mozzarella you’ll ever get. The olive salad is full of Southern flavor and pairs perfectly.
Course 2: Sclafani Salad
Creole remoulade dressing, boiled Gulf shrimp, heirloom tomatoes
Sclafani: “It’s the quintessential Creole/Italian dish. It takes the base of a Caesar salad dressing but adds some remoulade sauce to it, with some bell pepper, onion, egg, cheese, and heirloom tomatoes.”
Editor’s Note: The dressing isn’t for the faint of heart; it’ll take the sting out of an onion, but any true Southern stomach will love it.
Course 3: Pappardelle
Handmade pasta, Mississippi rabbit ragu, chantrelle mushrooms
Sclafani: “I don’t think you can be an Italian restaurant and not serve pasta. I think there’s a law against that. Pappardelle is like fettucini but much wider. We took some Misssissippi rabbit and braised that, and we have some chantrelle mushrooms we put in there. It’s one of my favorite dishes.”
Editor’s Note: The ragu is rich and the rabbit tender. Together, they’re irresistible.
Course 4: Chappapeela Farms Duck
Seared breast, wild mushroom bread pudding, duck leg boudin, foie gras reduction
Sclafani: “It’s a savory bread pudding. It’s like regular bread pudding but we left the sugar and vanilla out, but we added some porcini and shitake mushrooms. For the sauce, we roasted the duck bones, made a rich brown sauce, and reduced that and added some bits of foie gras.”
Editor’s Note: Who knew bread pudding was so good savory? This should be mandatory at every Louisiana Thanksgiving dinner. This is the star of the show.
Course 5: Café Au Lait Panna Cotta
Community Coffee with chicory, beignets, raspberry sauce/almond crème filling
Sclafani: “We thickened the café au lait with gelatin. Panna Cotta is like a custard, and we’re serving it in a coffee cup. Next to the beignets we have squirt bottles of raspberry sauce and almond crème sauce. You can just stick that bottle in your beignet and make a sort of jelly donut.”
Editor’s Note: You’ve never had coffee like this. Maybe the most creative dish of the night, and that’s saying something.