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
■ 1 cup ice cubes
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
■ 3 Tbsp olive oil
for the garnish
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
For the leek oil
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
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
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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