Seasonal and local ingredients are the foundation of the classic American cooking of The Water Club, a fine dining restaurant in New York City.
During the harvest season, executive chef Aaron Bashy regularly shops at the local Greenmarket and buys fresh produce from farms in nearby Rockland County and Long Island. Although items like Lobster Thermidor and Beef Wellington stay on the menu year round, the bulk of his menu changes four times a year in tune with the seasons.
Bashy spoke about his menu approach in late summer, when fall-winter ingredients like hard squashes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, kale, apples, dried fruits, nuts and cured meats like soppresetta, an Italian dry salami, begin to edge out sweet corn, peaches and tomatoes. He discussed his Double Cut Stuffed Pork Chop with Soppresetta, Toasted Almonds and Dates, a creation that embodies this change.
Q: What were you thinking when you created the Double Cut Stuffed Pork Chop?
I love doing a stuffed pork chop, but I wanted to find different ingredients. When you use soppresetta you don’t have to use a lot of salt, and when you combine it with dates and pickled red onions, it creates a nice balance of flavors. The toasted almonds are pulsed with the soppresetta, onions and the dates and rolled with the pork. It all amounts to a really nice combination with the seared pork.
Q: What do the almonds bring to the dish?
The toasted almonds bring meatiness and a filling, earthy quality to the dish, without having to use cream or butter. It is a natural way of adding crunchy meatiness. We use whole almonds, sautéed in a hot pan with vegetable oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and chopped. Also, almonds give you a bit of a chew. There is a sweetness and crunch. And the almond flavor comes across like sweet vanilla. Actually, it reminds me of one of my favorite ice cream bars of all time, the Toasted Almond Bar from Good Humor.
Q: How are your customers reacting to the dish?
They love it. Those who are not in the mood for fish and prefer a pork chop often say how pleased they are with it.
Q: You also have a side dish with almonds, Lentils and Quinoa with Crushed Almonds. How do customers like that?
That is one of our signature vegan dishes. Again, the almonds carry it over the top. A guest can order it knowing they will have a satisfying item.