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Food That Feels Like Home by Crystal Chiu


Following her Gentlewomen Series interview, we had to ask Crystal Chiu, ex-Executive Pastry Chef at Canlis Restaurant on her signature dessert and her comfort food whenever she misses home. Little did we know when it comes to making desserts in a fine dining restaurant, there are many components that needed to be considered. "I have to think about a lot of things, is it familiar for people? Will it transport well in takeout boxes? Does it taste good? We have had to really understand what people like, and now more than ever they are eating more simpler than before. Over the course of 2020, we have had people who kept ordering out from us, so takeout desserts are more simple but just as thought out as everything else."
What is your signature dish?
I have created so many little different desserts and I have a thick binder full of desserts that we made just this past year! (laughs). It is hard to pinpoint my signature dish because everything I do seems very different, but it all comes from the same place. In a fine dining restaurant it has to be something composed, it is not just one thing, an ice cream nor it is just a cake.

RASPBERRY CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT

At Canlis, they way they write their menu is a little bit different, but I would have to say one of my favorite things is a combination of the place I have lived in and the places I have been before. The Raspberry Chocolate Hazelnut is my signature dish. It is a combination of pink raspberries, chocolate and hazelnut. It is really special to me because I learned that pink berries in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) are only great for a very short period of time, so you really have to take advantage. I would make a granita out of pink raspberry juice and use a meringue technique, it turned pink obviously and had this thin triangle flame of granita.

RASPBERRY CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT

Image Source: Crystal Chiu's archives

Usually in pastry there are 3 different types of meringues you can make: Italian, French, and Swiss meringue. Those are the meringues that every pastry chefs knows how to make. However during my tenure in Bali, I learned the Balinese meringue techniqueI loved telling my cooks there are not only 3 common ways to make a meringue, there are other ways. In addition to the pink raspberry juice, and hazelnuts, I would take some hazelnut oil, and put a dark chocolate cake in there, so it would stack on top of each other, it is truly one of my favorite desserts. This is perfect example for you to just get out of your brain, and to stop thinking that everything has been created already, it hasn’t. You just kind of have to think about it a little differently.

STIR-FRIED EGG & TOMATOES

This dish ran the spectrum of a breakfast, lunch and dinner option for my mother to prepare when I was growing up. It is a simple and humble dish commonly found in Taiwan where my parents are from. It is no wonder my immigrant mother would lean on this recipe as a working mom, raising two children in America, a country that did not sell much of the produce and ingredients she was used to in the eighties and nineties. But if there were eggs and tomatoes available, which there always was in American supermarkets, then this dish could be made. 

Crystal Chiu and Mom

Photographed by Kris Ladera

As I entered adulthood, I would make this dish often and I could see why my mom relied on it too. When I did not have much money, I would make this dish. When I did not have much time, I would make this dish. This recipe comprises the most basic ingredients and technical requirements, but the level of comfort it creates is boundless.

STIR-FRIED EGG & TOMATOES

Image Source: The Woks of Life

The Recipe
Serving size: 1 person

Ingredients

  • 1 tomato
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil to fry
  • Salt to season

Method

  • Crack and beat the eggs. Add salt to season — set aside
  • Quarter and oblique cut the tomato into 1-inch sections
  • Heat up a scant amount of vegetable in a wok or frying pan on medium high heat
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until it begins to break down slightly
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add the beaten eggs over the tomatoes. Gently scramble the eggs with the tomatoes
  • Keep the eggs from browning too much. You are looking for a pale yellow color on the eggs until just cooked through
  • Remove from the heat and serve immediately
This dish can be eaten with rice, congee, or as part of a larger spread of dishes. Enjoy! 
[The interview was conducted during Crystal Chiu's tenure as Executive Pastry Chef in Canlis Restaurant, Seattle on 12 March 2021]



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