Q & A with 2006 Chef to Watch Slade Rushing

Photo by Randy P. Schmidt

Brennan’s has a slate of very important, historic recipes. How do you balance expectations of longtime diners while keeping the dishes relevant to modern diners (who possibly haven’t had the classic dishes before)? It is very important to respect these old dishes, in a way, by elevating them without losing the integrity of what they were in the past. So, if you can’t improve the dish by either adding freshness or some other new technique, then the dish should be left alone. You have to make it as good or better than the original; otherwise, what’s the point? You’re not really doing the dish justice. The key thing that we do is we always try to give the dish clarity. With the Marchand du Vin sauce, we’ve actually seared porcini mushrooms and arranged those on the plate so you can get a little bite of porcini and you can get a taste of the filet. All the elements are free to speak on their own without being lumped together, but they’re meant to be together, if that makes sense.

So, it’s about being sure all the parts make a better whole? Right. But I’ll say this. What’s interesting is, when I look at this dish, Vadouvan spice has more toasted shallots and more mustard seed. It’s a French curry blend, but what I like about it is that those two things, the mustard seed and the shallot, go well with the horseradish element, and the yogurt is kind of a cooling effect, which is very typical with Indian food or Middle Eastern food. So, it all kind of works together in harmony with the horseradish, which goes great with the mustard seed and shallot and goes great with prime rib and horseradish sauce. It all kind of has some sort of familiarity to it to where it all works.

Have there been any classic Brennan’s recipes that you feel like you can’t change? Bananas Foster is something that I have done takes on before, but I don’t dare try to change the original here because it can’t be improved. It works. It’s a great combination of flavors, and it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Bananas Foster is so much of a show. It’s the aroma from the flambéed action tableside. It fills the room with this amazing smell…. People know they’re at Brennan’s when they walk through that front door. It doesn’t need to be changed. It’s truly great. But we updated a lot of [other] things. For instance, the Soft-Shell Crab Chârtres. We’ve done it our way. We are using our own Canadian bacon. We’re using fresh cherry tomatoes. Again, we’re talking about the refinement or lightening up of some of these dishes. We’ve come up with our own new turtle soup. Our gumbo’s slightly different. But the Bananas Foster is the untouchable.

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