Monday, January 30, 2012

Mourad: New Moroccan takes Atlanta

Chef Mourad Lahlou, chef/owner of Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant, Aziza, and the previous winner Iron Chef American has been a bit of a moment. His new cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan has garnered oodles of praise with a the nice little write up in the NY Times, and Bon Appetit named his it one of the year's best cookbooks. Not a bad year!
Woodfire's Chef Kevin Gillespie and Chef Mourad Lahlou

So I was thrilled when I scored an invite to the Moroccan Takeover at Woodfire Grill to sample some of his melding of Moroccan and northern California cuisine!

Mourad New Moroccan dinner.

Hor d’ Oeuvre
goat cheese, tomato jam, hazelnut, argan oil.
roe, cracker, yogurt, urfa.
eggplant, burnt preserved lemon, tomato raisin.
n.v Lucien Albrecht, Crèmant d’ Alsace AOC, France.

florida yellowfin. charred pumpkin. roasted garlic. cilantro.
fried pumpkin seed. satsuma.

First Course
scallop, cauliflower, raisin, vadouvan.
2008 Sanford Chardonnay, Santa Barbera County.

hen yolk, charmoula, smoked potato, long pepper.

Second Course
hudson valley duck a la plancha. roasted parsnip puree.
smoked hibiscus. hot and spicy green tomato.
2010 Henry Marionnet Gamay, Première Vendange, Touraine AOC, France.

Third Course
braised beef cheek, couscous, carrot jam, harissa emulsion.
2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Volant, Earth.

spiced chocolate gel. cinnamon ice cream. hazelnut tuile.
satsuma mandarin gastrique.
2009 Quady Elysium, Black Muscat, California.

Moroccan is one of the cuisines they may actually taste better when cooked in America. When the mister and I traveled to Morocco several years ago we found it very same same. Sure a tajine of lamb, dates, apricots or prunes is delicious, but you can only eat it so many times in a one week period before it's sweetness becomes cloying. Add that to the epic food poisoning I got there, and it's not a place I have super fond food memories of.

Despite my misgivings, I love Moroccan cuisine's unique spices and the fact that it is truly different from every other cuisine commonly enjoyed stateside. We mentioned our qualms about the sameness of Moroccan cuisine to Chef Mourad, and he agreed, even throwing in some rather salty language to describe his feelings about how Moroccan cuisine was begging to be updated. That's just what he's done to such great effect!

The dinner was a delight. Nary a sickly sweet tajines or so-so couscous in sight. The dishes were unusual twists on Mourad's Moroccan childhood and Northern Californian adulthood. Vadouvan, every Top Chef's secret weapon made an appearance, paired with scallop and cauliflower. Chermoula, a North African marinade, contrasted perfectly with a silky hen egg. If you'd previously experienced Moroccan cuisine, it seemed familiar, and yet entirely different.

Yellowfin, charred pumpkin, satsuma
Hen yolk, smoked potato, long pepper
Hudson Valley Duck, parsnip puree, hot and spicy green tomato
Braised beef cheek, couscous, carrot jam, harissa emulsion
Spiced chocolate gel, cinnamon ice cream, hazelnut tuile, satsuma gastrique
We each went home with an autographed copy of his new cookbook. My home cooking has been a little slack lately, but I'm psyched to try my hand at dishes like confit chicken wings with brussels sprouts and apple puree or lamb shank with spiced prunes and brown butter faro. The cookbook is a beauty replete with not only recipes, but also tales of his Moroccan youth and stunning photography. Pick your very own copy up here.

*Full disclosure: Although my meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion about my experience.
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