The Dish: Chef Craig Koketsu

As a teenager growing up in San Jose, California, Craig Koketsu was inspired by early TV chefs like Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and he showed off his skills by cooking for friends at parties. But while studying pre-law at Berkeley, he found himself more intrigued by his part-time job at Gourmet Grocery - and started considering food as a career. 

After graduation, he worked in top restaurants on the west coast and in New York. Now, Koketsu is executive chef and partner at Quality Branded where he creates the culinary concept and menus for Quality Meats, Quality Italian, Quality Eats and Park Avenue Spring.

Here are some of Koketsu's signature recipes: 

Bacon with peanut butter and jalapeño jelly

Serves four

Peanut butter ingredients

100 grams heavy cream

100 grams corn syrup

50 grams butter

90 grams sugar

35 grams white miso

1/2 jar Planter's peanuts 

Directions 

1. Combine cream, corn syrup, butter and sugar

2. Put in heavy bottom pot and cook until light caramel

3. Add in remaining cream to stop cooking

4. Let cool slightly and whisk in miso until smooth

5. In a food processor, process half a jar of Planter's Peanuts until smooth. 

6.  Add the other half and process until chunky

7. Combine equal parts miso caramel and process peanuts.

Jalapeno jelly ingredients

375 grams jalapeno (roughly chopped, no stems)

300 grams sugar

300 grams cider vinegar

2 grams salt

100 grams sugar

30 grams pectin

Green food coloring

Directions

1. Blend jalapenos, sugar, vinegar and salt together on high speed for at least one minute

2. Pass mixture through chinois, pressing solids to extract all the liquid

3. Pour liquid into a small rondeau

4. . In a small bowl, whisk remaining sugar together with pectin and then whisk into jalapeno liquid and place over heat

5. Whisk constantly until liquid boils and thickens

6. Taste to make sure the pectin is not grainy

7.  Add food coloring and mix well and refrigerate

Corn crème brûlée

Ingredients

4 ears yellow, white or bi-color corn (shucked and cleaned of all silk)

1 cup half and half 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar 

1 teaspoon salt 

½ teaspoon ground white pepper 

1 ½ cups heavy cream 

4 egg yolks, beaten 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (to brulee) 

Directions

1. Set oven rack in the center of oven. Remove any other racks from oven. Place a large baking pan or casserole dish on rack and fill one inch deep with warm water. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Cut corn kernels from cobs using a sharp knife. Divide corn kernels in half. Using the back of the knife, scrape cobs to extract any remaining pulp.

3. Place pulp, half of the corn kernels, half and half, sugar, salt, and white pepper in a blender and blend on high until corn is completely dissolved. 

4. Strain corn mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl, using the back of a spoon to press out any remaining solids. 

5. Mix heavy cream into strained corn mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more sugar, salt, and/or white pepper. Mixture should be sweet, but not cloyingly so. 

6. Whisk egg yolks into corn mixture to fully incorporate, but be careful not to make lots of bubbles. 

7. Divide other half of corn kernels equally into four 4-ounce crème brulee ramekins and fill ramekins almost to top with corn mixture. Carefully place ramekins into water bath in oven.  

8. Bake until custards are just set, about 25-30 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer ramekins to a rack to cool, and then refrigerate for about four hours. 

9. Before serving, place ramekins back in the water bath in the 325 degree oven.  Let warm for 10 minutes.  Remove and lightly sprinkle with sugar.  Quickly pass over sugar with a blowtorch or burn with a brulee iron.  Serve immediately.

Long-bone short rib steak with steak sauce butter

Steak ingredients

4 long bone short rib steaks (ask your butcher to cut a short rib into ¾-1" thick strips, lengthwise with bone)

Salt

Black Pepper

Directions

1. Prepare a grill by lighting charcoal and letting it burn down to red embers 

2. Season steaks generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper on all sides

3. Place steaks on grill and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes on each of the two main sides for medium rare (be careful of flare-ups - use a spray bottle with water to douse large flames).

4. Remove steaks from grill, top each steak with a generous slice of steak sauce butter, and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Steak sauce butter ingredients 

8 cups unsalted butter, slightly softened 

½ cup shallots, finely chopped 

1 ½ tablespoons anchovies, chopped into a paste 

½ teaspoon red chili flakes 

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped 

½ cup garlic confit puree 

½ cup tomato paste 

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard 

½ cup white vinegar 

1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce 

1 teaspoon salt 

¾ tablespoon sugar 

1/8 cup prepared horseradish 

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped 

1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped 

1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated 

1 tablespoon butcher grind black pepper 

Directions

1. Using 1/8 cup of butter, sweat out shallots, anchovies, chili flakes, and chopped garlic until shallots are translucent

2. Add garlic puree, tomato paste, and mustard and cook out for two minutes

3. Add vinegar and Worcestershire and mix in well. Season with salt and sugar and adjust if necessary. 

4. Remove from heat, add horseradish, thyme, rosemary, orange zest and black pepper and mix well. 

5. Spread mixture into a flat pan and cool

6. Using a Kitchen Aid mixer, mix butter until smooth and then incorporate the chilled flavor base and mix well

7. Roll into 1 ½" diameter logs and freeze


Scalloped sunchokes 

Ingredients

2 shallots, thinly sliced 

3 tablespoons butter 

8 cups sunchokes, washed well and sliced into 3/16-inch thick discs 

1 tablespoon Wondra flour 

1 quart whole milk 

1 pint heavy cream 

2 cups aged gouda, grated 

2 cups parmesan, grated 

Salt & pepper 

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Prepare a large, oven-proof casserole dish by spraying with PAM and wiping clean with a paper towel

3. In a large pot, sweat shallots in butter until completely limp. Add sunchokes and sweat. Season with salt and pepper. Dust with wondra and continue to sweat. 

4. When sunchokes become starchy, add cream and milk and simmer until sunchokes are cooked through. 

5. Add cheeses and mix in until smooth, being careful not to break up the sunchoke slices.

6. Spoon sunchokes into the casserole, making sure that they are evenly spread out. Bake for about 10 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.