The Biggest, Baddest Blender of Them All

Restaurant North’s Chef Eric Gabrynowicz and his supercharged Vita-Prep.



This isn’t your mother’s Osterizer. We’re talking three horsepower and 120 volts: it’s the kind of tool that’ll dim your lights when you flip its beefy switch. Yet Chef Eric Gabrynowicz of Armonk’s Restaurant North knows that, sometimes, size really matters. His Vita-Prep costs about $750, exponentially more than the usual $50 drinks blenders, but it, according to Chef Gabrynowicz, “makes purées creamier, soups fluffier, and sauces more elegant.”

This young gun’s Restaurant North (opened with fellow Union Square Café alum Stephen Mancini) is Westchester’s buzziest new venue, pulling fans from Manhattan and all over Westchester. North’s décor is breezy, but that’s almost a deception. Gabrynowicz’s dishes are jam-packed with soulful Hudson Valley flavors, all prepared with urbane style. We’re fans of his pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras with (Vita-Prepped) peanut butter and plum-pepper jelly. Gabrynowicz’s take on a PB&J showcases the land around us, but always with a little wink.

Of his Vita-Prep, Gabrynowicz says, “I use it on everything. It grinds my peppercorns and spices, I emulsify vinaigrettes, grind rice into powder. Almost every one of my purées—and absolutely every one of my soups—comes out of this Vita-Prep.” Does it roar? “Noise isn’t a real issue with this machine. In fact, I use it during service to purée gazpacho to order.”

“It can get temperamental with hot liquids, and, sometimes, if I’m really pushing it, it will short out. But you know how it goes with chefs,” he says. “We’re always pushing the limits of our equipment. No one uses their machines according to the manufacturer’s directions!”

Hey, we’ll keep shtum when it comes to warranty time, but only if we can eat the results. Check out these recipes from Chef Gabrynowicz that show the diversity of his Vita-Prep.

Manhattan Granita Oyster Shooter
Serves 6


 

■ 1 cup ice cubes
■ 6 freshly shucked East Coast oysters
■ 1/3 cup rye (Gabrynowicz prefers Michter’s or Tuthiltown)
■ 1 Tbsp Carpano Antica vermouth
■ Dash bitters
■ Dash simple syrup

Blend all ingredients except oysters in Vita-Prep to froth, then divide mixture among six small glasses. Top each serving with a shucked oyster.

 

Kabocha Squash Soup with Maple Whipped Cream and Black Pepper
Serves 4

■ 3 Tbsp olive oil
■ 2 lbs (about 4 medium) sweet onions (like Maui, Vidalia, or Sweet Pine Island), sliced thin
■ 1 Kabocha squash (about 2 lbs), peeled, seeded, and roughly diced into half-inch cubes
■ ¼ cup water
■ Salt and pepper
For the soup
In a large pan with a lid set over medium-low heat, heat olive oil. When hot, place onions in pan and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize. When onions are lightly caramelized, add cubed Kabocha squash and water, and cover. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the squash is tender (about 15 minutes). Transfer mixture to Vita-Prep (or to a home blender or food processor). Purée the mixture in batches (do this carefully; hot liquids can spatter in blenders). Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

for the garnish
■ 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
■ 1 cup heavy cream
■ 1 Tbsp maple syrup

In blender, grind peppercorns fine. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand beater or whisk, whip cream and maple syrup until soft peaks stand.

To serve, place hot soup into four bowls, garnish with maple cream. Scatter a pinch of pepper across each.

 

Arborio Rice-Crisped Lobster with Green VichysSoise, Olives, Pancetta, and frisée
Serves 2

For the leek oil
■ Green tops of 3 leeks, very carefully washed
■ 2 cups canola-olive oil blend (Gabrynowicz uses a 90-10 percentage mix)  

Place washed leek tops in blender with 2 cups of oil. Purée well. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place leek-oil mixture and whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and immediately pass through a very fine sieve. Allow this mixture’s oil and water to separate, then gently ladle off the risen oil and retain for vichyssoise. Discard watery remainder.

For the vichyssoise
■ 3 leeks, green part removed (but saved)
■ 1 medium-large Idaho potato
■ 2 cups chicken stock
■ Salt and pepper
■ 2 Tbsp butter
■ Leek oil (see above)

Split white parts of leek shafts lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices. Wash leeks in several changes of water. In a medium pan set over low heat, sweat leeks until soft and translucent. When leeks are translucent, add chicken stock and bring mixture to a simmer. While leeks are cooking, peel and dice the potato. Add the diced potatoes to the leek mixture and continue to simmer until the potatoes are just cooked through. When potatoes are fork-tender, remove the pot from flame and let rest for 5 minutes. Carefully blend the mixture on low speed (blending hot liquids can cause sudden splatters), then pass mixture through a very fine sieve. Blend with green leek oil.

For the lobster
■ 1 1¼ lbs live lobster
■ 1 cup dry Arborio rice cornstarch
(see below for measurement)
■ 2 Tbsp canola oil
Bring a large, lidded pot of water to boil. When furiously boiling, drop in live lobster and cover pot. Boil for about 8 minutes, then remove lobster and drain it in a colander. When cool enough to handle, remove claw and tail meat, and reserve the body and claws for another purpose. Grind Arborio rice in the Vita-Prep (or home blender) into a very fine powder, then measure rice powder and, in a bowl, add an equal amount of cornstarch. (Up to this point, this recipe may be prepared ahead.) In a small, nonstick pan, heat canola oil. Split lobster tail in half, lightly dredge in rice mixture, then crisp in oil over medium heat. Set aside.

PREPARE GARNISH
■ 1 small head, white interior only, of frisée lettuce
■ 4 slices (1/8” thick) of pancetta, diced very small
■ 1 Tbsp of white balsamic vinegar
■ 3 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
■ 1 Tbsp Cerignola olives, pitted and chopped fine

Tear frisée into bite-sized pieces, then wash, spin dry, and set aside. Cut pancetta into a small dice. In a small pan over medium heat, cook pancetta, turning frequently, until it's well crisped. Toss frisée with olive oil and vinegar. Toss pancetta and olives together. To serve, ladle vichyssoise into two bowls, top with half a lobster each, and garnish with frisée, olives, and pancetta.

 

Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer whose CRMA award-winning Eat. Drink. Post. blog appears at westchestermagazine.com.

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