TAKE IT FROM THE CHEF
AWARD-WINNING CHEF, HOTELIER AND ENTREPRENEUR
By Chef Charlie Palmer
This is an exciting time of the year for the chefs at Charlie Palmer restaurants all around the country: It’s Farmer’s Market season (when the local produce starts to blossom and greenery is everywhere). Although many home cooks save their vegetable gusto for the spring and early summer—and rightly so—side dishes are our passion all year long, even during those months when the offerings are slim. “Sides add another dimension to the meal, and can bring a lightness to the plate,” says Stephen Blandino, Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Palmer Steak Las Vegas, voted “Best Steakhouse in Las Vegas” by the Las Vegas Review Journal. “There are always specific dishes that people associate with steakhouse dining. These are the classics that people grew up eating with steak; they understand the flavor. Our diners are crazy about spinach, which we do in creamed style with a jalapeño bacon undercurrent. And they love their potatoes, so we offer them the best and freshest spiced fries, hand-cut so there are no preservatives, which really lets the taste of the potato come through, as well as potatoes enriched with parmesan (another iconic steakhouse side). However, adding new dishes as the markets bring forth change lets me be more playful in the kitchen and keep our sides exciting.”
It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when sides didn’t play such a major role on the steakhouse menu. In fact, in the late 19th century, instead of the steakhouse, there was the Beefsteak, not a food but an event, often hosted by political and fraternal organizations in which men—and only men—sat at long tables in rustic taverns and back rooms and ate nothing but beef with gravy sopped bread. No preliminary shrimp cocktail, no sides of potatoes or greenery. It was all meat, all the time, washed down by copious amounts of ale and some old-fashioned storytelling. Beefsteak clubs were such a part of Manhattan’s past that the Museum of the City of New York devoted an exhibit to their history. The 19th amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, brought the female touch into the social mix and out of that presence came the steakhouse, a more genteel way of devouring meat. Menus were developed to include options that would create a full meal and side dishes took their place, front and center.
“It’s not unusual for a steakhouse to become famous for its sides, and our diners often make a meal out of their favorites,” Blandino says. “We do our Brussels Sprouts with fish sauce and Togarashi, (a Japanese spice mix that includes red and black pepper, sesame seeds, dried mandarin orange peel and green nori seaweed flakes), creating a great interplay of natural sweetness and salinity. Recently a guest came back three nights in a row, just for that dish. And even when asparagus is out of season, I have to find it. The way I prepare it changes with the season, but a guest favorite is our adaptation of the classic amandine, but instead of adding slivered almonds, we use almond milk foam with rich browned butter and some lemon juice tang.” There are other side dishes that stand out on the menu at Charlie Palmer Steak, like dry roasted chiles—kept in the moderate heat range—an earthy mix of Anaheim jalapeño and small, bright green Pardon chiles made crunchy with sea salt. “I can’t wait until the Hatch chiles come in,” says the chef, talking about the famous peppers grown along the Rio Grande for which New Mexico is famous. And the lobster fried rice, a luxurious combination with fragrant jasmine rice, ginger, scallions and Maine lobster. “Despite our mission to keep interesting sides on our menu all year round, I really look forward to shopping the green market,” says Blandino. “It not only deepens our relationship to local growers. It gives us a chance to show off the season.” —Charlie
Charlie Palmer Steak • The Four Seasons Hotel
3960 Las Vegas Blvd S. • 702.632.5120 • CharliePalmer.com