Executive Chef James Balchak at Aurelia in Chagrin Falls changes his menu daily to feature what is available during the season or even that very day. He sources all his ingredients from local farms, fisheries and suppliers. This "local fresh" approach allows him flexibility and creativity in the kitchen, supports local agriculture, and it also makes him a food waste warrior. James' methods embody our "use what you've got" mentality; he's helping farms move what needs to be used now and he's got everything covered from the broccoli stalk to the orange zest. We get him and he gets us. So we brought James this week's box of Perfectly Imperfect Produce to see how he'd use it to create today's daily special. He's a pro at this because this is how he always works. And, like a pro, he proceeded to create three delicious dishes. He EVEN shared his secret recipe for Aurelia's Brussels Sprouts for which people travel far and wide to devour and then dream about for days after. Here's the tasty transformation.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 Perfectly Imperfect butternut squash, cubed
3 to 5 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
a pinch of thyme
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup vegetable stock
Place cubed butternut squash in a bowl. Add garlic, salt, pepper and thyme and drizzle with olive oil. Toss until squash is covered. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees until tender and lightly browned. Transfer the squash to a pot and add cream and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Then using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor, puree the soup. Reseason with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with micro greens on top.
Aurelia's Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Perfectly Imperfect Brussels sprouts
Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (found at Asian grocery markets or online)
Wash the sprouts and cut off the stems. Cut them each in half. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the sprouts with sunflower oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees just until brown and until the core is soft. Flash fry them in sunflower oil at 375 degrees (or you can use an air fryer). Let cool slightly and toss in Mae Ploy sauce. Or you could use maple syrup and chili oil.
Walleye with Broccoli & Romanesco Risotto & Fennel Apple Slaw
For the Risotto:
1 head Perfectly Imperfect broccoli
1 head Perfectly Imperfect romanesco
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 quart liquid (vegetable stock or water)
Trim the broccoli and romanesco down to the florets. Set aside. Then slice the remaining stems of each. Add most of the stems (set some aside for later) and garlic to a pot of water and boil. When stems are tender, puree the mixture using an immersion blender or food processor and then strain it. Use the liquid to constitute the risotto or rice adding in 1/4 cup batches, until the rice is tender, stirring constantly. Small dice the rest of the stems of the broccoli and romanesco and add it to the rice. Toss the florets with butter and salt and steam them.
For the Slaw:
1 Perfectly Imperfect orange or lemon, zested (save zest for your afternoon tea)
1 bulb fennel
In a small mixing bowl juice your citrus. Thinly slice the fennel and apple (you can use a mandolin if preferred.) Toss in the citrus juice and add a pinch of sugar and salt. Cut off some of the fennel fronds and add to the mixture.
For the Walleye:
1 to 2 walleye filets
oil and butter
Coat pan with oil and butter. Pan sear the fish on medium to medium hight heat in a skillet with the skin on. Don't touch it for 2 to 3 minutes. Then move it to a 350 degree oven to finish cooking it. Look for no bounce back and an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Spoon risotto into serving bowl or plate. Place fish on top. Spoon steamed broccoli and romanesco on top and top with slaw and a fennel frond.
Watch our Instagram stories @perfectlyimperfectproduce for a peak behind the scenes in Aurelia's kitchen as James reveals some of his own food waste fighting tips. And check back here on the blog soon to see how Aurelia's bartender Mick McGuire used this week's organic blackberries and minneolas to create a smashing cocktail. It's just too amazing to squeeze it in here. It deserves its own spotlight!
We hope you'll visit our friends at Aurelia located in the heart of the Chagrin Falls village at 16 North Main Street. You can learn more about them and make reservations online at www.aureliabistro.com. Follow them on Instagram @aureliahonestfooddrink. For more background about James' "local fresh" approach read this article just published by Cleveland Magazine!
What to pair? We're now partnering with Cindy Davis from A Wine Affair who will provide us with recommendations on wines to pair with our weekly recipes. Here's what she suggests for this week!
"A crisp dry rose wine would be a refreshing pairing with Chef James' Walleye recipe. It's a lighter bodied wine with enough acidity to balance out this dish. There are lots of affordable choices out there. One I like is Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses. It's a beautiful bottle, and the bottom is a rose!"
You can learn more about A Wine Affair at www.awineaffair.net. More information coming soon about her wine pairing parties where she'll serve dishes made with our imperfect produce and teach you how to properly pair wines.
Photos by Karin McKenna, @karin.mckenna, www.karinmckenna.com