We hope you'll enjoy these dishes from the five alumni featured in the Alumni Review feature "Top of the Food Chain" (Fall-Winter 2009), all distinguished in the culinary field. They are:

  • Ashley Merriman '98, formerly of Branzino in Seattle and a 2009 contestant on Bravo's Top Chef series
  • Christopher Kostow '99, chef at Meadowood in Napa Valley, Calif.
  • Richard Vellante '86, executive chef at Legal Sea Foods in Boston
  • Daniel Garcia '84, president and CEO of Salsa Caterers & Special Events in New York
  • Stephen Durfee '85, pastry chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif.

Stephen Durfee '85: Chocolate Rum Pots de Crème

Milk, 16 ounces
Cream, 12 ounces
Sugar, 3 ounces
Egg yolks, 8
Dark rum, 4 ounces
Chocolate, chopped, 13 ounces

Combine milk, cream and sugar. Bring to a simmer and gradually whisk into egg yolks. Return mixture to stove and stir with a wooden spoon over gentle heat until slightly thickened and custard coats the back of the spoon, about 180ºF.

Strain custard mixture through a fine sieve.

Stir in rum, then pour half of the mixture over chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir to emulsify. Gradually add remaining milk mixture.

Pour into custard dishes and chill until set.

Garnish with lightly whipped cream.

Christopher Kostow '99: Winter Squab with Cherries

(serves 4)

4 whole squabs
2 ounces Darjeeling tea
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups salt
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
1 liter duck fat

Remove the breasts and legs from squab. Crush garlic and bay leaves and combine with salt. Pack squab legs in salt mixture and allow to cure for 30 minutes, then rinse under cold water. Place legs in duck fat and simmer until tender. Remove from fat and cool.

Mix butter and tea in a food processor. Place breasts in a ziplock bag with the butter mixture.

1/3 cup dried cherries
10 ounces ruby port

In a small pot, bring port to boil. Reduce by half. Pour over dried cherries to rehydrate. Once cherries have plumped, remove liquid and reduce until syrupy.

1 bunch baby radish
1 cup water
3 and 1/2 tablespoons butter

Clean radishes, reserving tops for garnish. Place radishes in pot with butter and water; simmer until tender and well glazed.

To finish:
Poach squab breasts in water at 135 degrees in a saucepot until medium rare. Remove from ziplock bag and roast skin side down in a saucepan until crispy. Top with cherry sauce and radish. Serves 4.

Richard Vellante '86: Quick Marinated Shrimp Kebob with Mediterranean Orzo Salad

(serves 4)

Large shrimp, 16 pieces
Olive oil, 1/3 cup
Garlic. 3 cloves, thinly sliced
Zucchini, 1 seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Summer squash, 1 seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Red onion, 1/4-inch diced
Fresh oregano, 1 bunch, chopped
Lemon. juice and zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Wooden or metal skewers, 4

Mediterranean Orzo Salad ingredients:
Orzo, 1 1/3 cups
Olive oil, 1/2 cup
Red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons
Grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup
Tomatoes, seeded and diced, 1 cup
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped, 1/2 cup
Feta cheese, crumbled, 1/4 cup
Basil, sliced, 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the marinade: 1/2 cup olive oil, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 cloves of sliced garlic and 1 tablespoon of chopped oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together and reserve.

Skewer the shrimp (4) and vegetables. Start with a shrimp, then summer squash, red onion, shrimp, zucchini, onion, shrimp, summer squash, etc. Brush marinade onto shrimp and vegetables and let it marinade for 5-10 minutes. Place on medium hot grill or grill pan, basting every few minutes with marinade. Cook 3-4 minutes a side

For the orzo salad: In a large saucepot, bring one quart of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until tender (or al dente) about 7-8 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and cool under running water, reserve in large bowl. Toss in olive oil, olives, feta cheese, basil, tomatoes, parmesan, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Place orzo salad on plate and top with shrimp kebob. This dish can be served hot or cool. Serve with a crisp white wine.

Daniel Garcia '84: Adobo Criollo Seasoning

3 ounces fresh peeled garlic
1 tsp. Caribbean oregano (Italian is OK)
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/3 tbsp. salt

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and mix to a purée. Keep refrigerated for use on pork, chicken or beef.

Ashley Merriman '98: Braised Pork Belly with Stone Fruit and Cocoa Nib

3 pounds pork belly
3 cloves garlic, roasted
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
1/4 cinnamon stick, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. black peppercorn
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cocoa nib
1 gallon pork stock if available; if not, substitute chicken stock
1 yellow onion, large chopped
1 celery stalk, large chopped
1 carrot, large chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. juniper
4 sprigs thyme
2 cups of best available stone fruit – peaches, pluots, plums, etc.
1 tsp. shallot, minced
3 ounces demi-glace
Olive oil
Kosher salt

  1. The day before you are planning to serve the belly, it will need to be cured. In a Robot Coupe/Cuisinart place roasted garlic cloves, parsley, cinnamon stick, Dijon mustard, peppercorns, salt, sugar and 1 tbsp. of cocoa nib. Blend together until the all ingredients are incorporated like a wet sand or paste.
  2. On a large sheet tray, place the belly skin side down and rub the cure on the pork.
  3. Cover with parchment or plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the cure off the pork belly and pat dry.
  5. In a stock-pot large enough to hold the pork belly and stock, drizzle olive oil into bottom of the pan until it creates a thin even layer. Add in the roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery. Sweat the vegetables about 5 minutes.
  6. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half. Gently lower pork belly into the pot and cover with pork stock. Add in bay leaf, thyme and juniper. Cover with foil and place in oven for approximately 4 hours. The belly is done when it is easily pulled apart with a fork but not falling apart on its own.
  7. Remove the belly from the braising liquid and set aside. Reduce the braising liquid by half and strain.
  8. When belly has cooled, score the skin side and cut into square portions, about 4 ounces each.
  9. Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil. Over medium-low heat add in the pork belly pieces, starting with the skin side down, and gently brown on all sides.
  10. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan start the sauce by sweating the shallot in a small amount of olive oil. Add in picked thyme and deglaze with 1/8 cup of white wine. Reduce by 1/2.
  11. Add in the reduced pork braise and demi-glace and reduce the sauce together. When the sauce is nearly finished, add in the slices of stone fruit. Mount with butter and season to taste.

Contact Information

Stacey Himmelberger

Editor, Hamilton Alumni Review
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
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