Culinary Fireworks

Recently, after a well-deserved vacation in Paris, Steven De Bruyn treated his wife to a birthday dinner at Rouge Tomate on the Upper East Side. “It was a perfect evening. The sommelier, Pascaline Lepeltier, paired two wines with each course and asked if she could go out of the box. The cuisine is organic and sustainable and the wine selection amazing. Perfect food paired with the perfect wine makes fireworks. And believe me it was just that—culinary fireworks.”

Steven De Bruyn, Certified Belgian Master Chef, is Executive Chef and Wine Director of Rein, the chic-casual signature restaurant in The Garden City Hotel. He appreciated Rouge Tomate because he has the same philosophy. His cuisine is New American with touches of Classical French. Organic, sustainable and local produce and wine are offered when available. Managing the extensive and well-staffed kitchen and the menu for the restaurant, along with brunch, tea and special events is a major challenge. Adding Wine Director to his job was important to his vision to offer the finest cuisine paired with the finest wine.

Unaware where his education would lead, he entered boarding school at fourteen and persevered. Hotelschool Koksijde ‘Ter Duinen was a top culinary school in Belgium. Steven was honored with his first of many awards, winning the accolade of the Best Junior Chef in Belgium. Later he was inducted into Les Maîtres-Cuisiniers de Belgique, a society of master chefs, and was recently asked to cook at the James Beard House.

“Master Chef Pierre Fonteyne of Restaurant Bruegel in Belgium left the biggest impression on me. I also worked as chef de cuisine at Restaurant Jean-Claude Ferrero in Paris. But my striving for perfection came from Claude Dupont. I served as pastry chef and chef de partie at his restaurant in Brussels. It was almost a military style training. Everything had to be perfect. There was no room for just okay.

“At 21, I was burned out. When an offer came from Club Med for executive sous chef in Bermuda, a dream job, I grabbed it. I met my wife, a girl from Brooklyn, at Club Med in Florida. We then moved to Belgium and shortly after I got a call offering me a sous chef position at The Garden City Hotel. It seemed like destiny that we return to America.”

When asked to describe his life now in one word, in any of his three languages, Chef De Bruyn said in English, “Busy!” And then in French, “Intéressant!” And finally in Flemish with a glint in his eye, “Leuk! (Fun). Well, it is, above all, fun to do what I do!

“I want people to know that I am not mean. I am a perfectionist, but not mean. Chefs are all a little crazy, especially pastry chefs. It must be the sugar,” he said as he winked at his accomplished Executive Pastry Chef David Lugo.

Signature Dish

My Favorite: Roasted Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables. This is a very easy, healthy and tasty chicken preparation that is perfect for a cold winter night and involves little cleanup. The choice of vegetables may vary. I have added acorn squash or delicata squash or even brussel sprouts halved. The Fig Cinnamon Jam is an add-on and if you have never tried making preserves, you will find it very easy.”

Ingredients:

One, 2 ½ pound chicken
3 carrots, peeled, cut diagonally in 1 ¼” pcs
2 Small turnips, trimmed but not peeled, cut in wedges
1 parsnip, peeled, cut diagonally in 1 ¼” pcs
1 celery root, peeled and cut in a rough 1” dice (serrated knife works best)
6 shallots or any small onion (cippollini, pearl), peeled cut in half or left whole for the small ones
6 fingerling or baby Yukon Gold potato, washed well and cut in half
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves chopped (save the stems)
1 small bunch of thyme, leaves removed (save the stems)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
Fleur de Sel salt and ground black pepper
½ Tbsp dried Greek oregano
1 sage sprig
Fresh parsley or chives

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 425°
2. To prepare the chicken, wash and dry off with paper towel
3. Stuff the cavity with 2 whole garlic cloves, the sage leaves, stems of rosemary, thyme. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.
4. Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish that is lightly oiled. (Large rectangular Pyrex or a turkey-roasting pan for two chickens.)
5. Season the chicken well with Fleur de Sel and pepper. Place the chicken in the center of the pan
6. Mix all the vegetables and herbs with the vinegar and olive oil.
7. Season with salt, pepper and scatter the vegetables around the chicken.
8. The layer of vegetables should not be too thick or they will not brown well (For one chicken I use a Pyrex dish 10 x 15.
9. Place a piece of butter on top of the chicken and 1 piece of butter on top of each leg. After ½ hr, mix the vegetable with a wooden spoon.
10. Place pan in oven and cook for 1 hr, if you have a meat thermometer, insert by the thigh and remove at 155°. Let sit loosely covered with tinfoil so it continues to cook for 10 more minutes.

This is a very easy, healthy and tasty chicken preparation that is perfect for a cold winter night (and not much cleanup to add). The variety of vegetables may vary; I have added acorn squash or delicata squash or Brussels sprouts halved.
If you noticed that the legs are not fully cooked, you can put them back in the oven, after you remove them from the chicken. Also make sure the vegetables are done by piercing with a wooden skewer or paring knife. Sprinkle the dish with chopped chives or parsley before serving

Fig Jam with Cinnamon

At The Garden City Hotel, Chef Steven De Bruyn makes all the jams and preserves for our Saturday Afternoon Tea; it’s a great way to use figs that are in season. The jams are all natural—no added pectin or additives. Late summer and fall is a great time to make the preserves this way you can enjoy them all winter long; they also make unique gifts for the holidays, enjoy!

2 # Black Mission figs
1 # Sugar
2 lemons
½ Cinnamon stick (finely grated with a Microplane grater)

Methods:

1. Wash the figs gently and wipe them carefully with a paper towel.
2. Cut off the hard stems and quarter them.
3. Put them in a stainless steel pot with the sugar and grated cinnamon.
4. Let sit for ½ hr.
5. After ½ hr, add the lemon juice and bring everything to a simmer.
6. Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.
7. The next day, bring everything to a simmer, while stirring from time to time and let cook for about 30 minutes or until the liquid starts to thicken slightly (you can check the thickness by pouring a spoonful on a cold plate it should hold its shape somewhat and not run to quickly).
8. Pour into a clean jar, cover and refrigerate a few days before you open it.