Address: The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Signature Dishes: Parkerhouse Rolls and Roasted Oysters
Renowned as one of the world’s top culinary schools, a trip to the Culinary Institute of America is filled with sights and smells that will delight every food lover and wannabe chef. During a visit you can walk through the halls where many of the country’s top chefs had their start and see the culinarians of tomorrow hard at work in the kitchens.
If you happen to find yourself at the Hyde Park campus, don’t miss your chance to have a meal at one of the four restaurants. Both the kitchens and dining rooms are staffed by students, doubling as classrooms for them to put their first two years of study into practice.
Part of the CIA for nearly 30 years, the American Bounty Restaurant highlights regional and seasonal American cuisine. The always-evolving menu includes a selection of fresh and flavorful dishes where the ingredients speak for themselves, such as grilled cauliflower steak with heirloom carrot salad and garlic and herb-rubbed lamb chops with mint chimichurri. But the real star here is what comes before the meal – parkerhouse rolls.
First created at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1890, the bread is a Northeast specialty. At American Bounty Restaurant, the rolls are served straight out of the oven with sea salt and local butter from Ronnybrook Farm in nearby Pine Plains, N.Y. They are complimentary in the dining room and can be purchased off the menu in the restaurant’s more casual tavern room.
The farm-to-table approach is an important concept taught throughout CIA, particularly in this restaurant. Thankfully, there is no shortage of quality local ingredients in the Hudson Valley.
“The college has a very strong relationship with regional farms and other [local] food and beverage producers,” according to Waldy Malouf, CIA’s senior director of food and beverage operations.
American Bounty Restaurant – and the 41 other teaching kitchens and bakeshops on campus – source ingredients from 60 farms within a 75-mile radius of the school.
After a tour of the campus, you will most definitely be hungry. Treat yourself to a few parkerhouse rolls.
American Bounty Restaurant’s Roasted Oysters With Shallots and Herbs
Roasting oysters on the half shell is a little different from cooking other things at high heat. The purpose isn’t so much to char and brown them as it is to heat them through – just enough for them to release all their flavorful juices and firm up slightly. These oysters are topped with a shallot and white wine butter sauce, which mixes with the oyster juices and reduces in the oven while the shallots get crisp. Six oysters make an impressive appetizer.
To keep the oysters balanced while they roast, line the baking dish with a layer of rock salt dotted with peppercorns. The salt and pepper make for a great presentation. You can buy rock salt at a hardware store. It’s inexpensive, and one bag will last you forever!
If you don’t want to make them yourself, you can order these roasted oysters at the Tavern at America Bounty Restaurant.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth (reduced-sodium if canned) or water
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Rock salt to roast the oysters on
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
Lemon wedges for serving
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots and wine. Cover and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the broth and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and stir in the herbs.
Cover the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish large enough to hold all the oysters with rock salt. Sprinkle the peppercorns evenly over the salt. Open the oysters, discarding the top shell. Loosen the oysters from the bottom shell, being careful not to spill their juices, and lay them in the baking dish.
Stir the shallot mixture and spoon some over each oyster. Roast until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve on the baking dish with lemon wedges.
*Buying and shucking oysters: For this recipe you need to buy live oysters with unblemished shells. When opened, the meat should be pale (its color will vary, but avoid any that are pink, as this indicates they may be off), plump and glossy and should smell like fresh seawater. If they smell off, discard them.
When you get the oysters home, scrub their shells in cold water with a brush. Store them flat on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, covered with a slightly damp paper towel and use within two days.
You can have your fishmonger shuck the oysters for you if you plan to use them immediately. Just ask him to reserve the juice so you can take it home. Before roasting, strain the oyster juice and add a teaspoon of the juice to each oyster. To shuck live oysters yourself, insert a thin-bladed knife (or an oyster knife) into the joint or “foot” of the shell and twist the blade to loosen the shell. Being careful not to spill the liquid, slide the knife along the top of the shell (not deeply enough to cut the oyster). Discard the upper shell and cut through the muscle holding the oyster to the bottom shell.
Makes 4 servings.
For more AAA-approved signature dishes, visit AAA.com/DiamondDish.