By Flavor & The Menu
July 7, 2021
CHEF SPOTLIGHT: JENNIFER ETZKIN OBrien
“Roots and wings” is an idiom most often associated with the raising of children. But it’s one that could easily apply to the three recipes created by Jennifer Etzkin OBrien, Senior Manager, Culinary Development, Global US and Canada Food & Beverage, Marriott International, for Kitchen Collaborative. In each—Roasted Vegetables with Dairy Free Boursin® Crema, Aussie Lamb Tinga Tostada and Roasted Chicken Farro Salad—she begins with a dish rooted in classic, familiar tradition and lets the flavor take flight.
ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH DAIRY FREE BOURSIN® CREMA
Roasted vegetables, with their sweet depth of flavor, are irresistible to the palate, making them an enduring menu staple across numerous cuisines and concepts. Modern menu developers like Etzkin OBrien use the fundamentals of roasted vegetables as a canvas for culinary creativity. In this recipe, she transforms autumn harvests with the addition of roasted grapes, pistachio clusters and a crema made with Boursin Dairy-Free. “I wanted to showcase the Boursin spread as the difference between a common side item and a menu showstopper,” says Etzkin OBrien of her inspiration. “Its creamy and tangy qualities are the perfect counterpoint to the rich fall flavors of the roasted vegetables.”
The dish features vivid rainbow baby carrots with their tops and greens intact and cleaned, baby golden beets, Brussels sprouts, fennel and red grapes. During the roasting process, Etzkin OBrien seasons the produce with za’atar, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and honey. For service, she spreads the whipped crema (made from the non-dairy herb spread, lemon zest and juice, plus water) in the center of the plate, mounding the vegetables on top. Pistachio clusters made with egg whites, sugar, salt and cayenne provide a finishing touch.
“The grapes add a nice pop of sweetness that contrasts with the savory cheese. The pistachio clusters provide texture and a satisfying crunch. All together, this is a satisfying, composed, vegetarian and dairy-free option,” says Etzkin OBrien. “The range of flavors all come together as a nod to the Mediterranean region of the Middle East.”
AUSSIE LAMB TINGA TOSTADA
While tinga dishes traditionally put chicken front and center, Etzkin OBrien was intrigued by the idea of transforming this Mexican classic with True Aussie Lamb Shanks. “Tinga is such a simple, yet delightful style of cooking and serving chicken. The richness of the lamb, alongside the crunch of a tostada, together seemed to be the perfect application for the tangy, bold sauce,” she explains.
The lamb shanks cook for a leisurely 3 ½ hours in a sauce built from onions, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, chipotle paste and chicken stock, leaving the meat so tender, it falls off the bone. To assemble the dish, Etzkin OBrien spreads refried beans in the center of the tostada, portioning a generous amount of the braised lamb over top. Avocado slices are fanned along the side, and the combination is drizzled with crema and a sprinkle with queso fresco, before being topped with a poached egg and a garnish of radish slices, jalapeño, pickled onions and cilantro.
It’s an impeccable union of craveable, comforting flavors and textures, from the smoky lamb and the creaminess of the egg and refried beans, to the crunch of the tostada and the tang of the pickled red onions. “The dish practically screams ‘Perfect Hangover Breakfast!’” says Etzkin OBrien. With or without the egg, it also would be well-suited for lunch, dinner and appetizer menus, especially when “paired with an incredible local ale,” she adds.
ROASTED CHICKEN FARRO SALAD
“I love a hearty salad,” says Etzkin OBrien of her decision to make Tyson’s Pre-Cooked Pulled Chicken the star of her Roasted Chicken Farro Salad, with the ultimate aim being to “hit all the marks for texture, flavor and appearance.” Use of the prepared chicken is a smart strategy, she says, as it eliminates a laborious preparation step and allows greater focus on building flavor. Her choice of farro, rather than another ancient grain, to costar in the salad is another thoughtful touch. “To me, farro is such an incredibly satisfying, delicious and hearty grain. It also has the most wonderful texture when served cold, which is a fantastic attribute for a salad.”
Etzkin OBrien sautés the chicken briefly, before folding in shallots for another minute of cooking. (Warm chicken is a critical element to the success of the dish, she advises.) This is added with the farro and mixed with a sherry vinaigrette, before gently folding in raspberries. For service, the farro-chicken mix is centered in a bowl, paired with a fan of avocado slices along the side and garnished with cashews, goat cheese crumbles, a few extra raspberries, upland cress or mache and a drizzle of olive oil.
Revisiting her goal for the salad, Etzkin OBrien is pleased: “The chew of the farro, alongside the crunch of the cashews, provides textural interest. The bright pop of the raspberries contrasts nicely with the rich, creaminess of the sherry vinaigrette-dressed chicken. It’s a combination I would go back for.” Mission accomplished.