Seasonal Inspiration

Seasonal Inspiration

The Essence of Spring with Chef Shawn Doyle

As the earth reawakens, a host of fresh delicacies arrives to rejuvenate winter-weary palates. The fleeting appearance of many springtime tastes, both exotic and familiar, only seems to add to their ephemeral appeal. Culinary experts celebrate the most sought-after examples of nature’s early bounty, and home cooks who follow their lead will discover how seasonal veggies can reinvigorate both the plate and the palate. Think of it akin to the way that a man who wears a suit to work might choose a bright, eye-catching tie to distinguish his appearance.

“It’s really just a matter of letting the ingredients talk to you. They have a lot to say”

To explore the mindset and creative process of a chef, we invited Shawn Doyle of Savory Grille in Macungie to prepare an impromptu spring-themed meal in the kitchen to visually document this gastronomy-in-action.

Shawn was presented with a market basket of varied fresh produce from which to choose accompaniments to a main-dish protein. “When we jump seasons into spring, it’s a transition into lighter fare, and I look forward to the change of tastes, like garlic scapes, morels, fiddleheads, ramps, things like that,” he says. “These ingredients have such good flavor by themselves, you don’t want to do a lot to them—but they can accentuate whatever the main course is.”

For the entrée, Shawn selected French-boned spring lamb chops, which were seasoned simply with salt and pepper, seared in a cast iron skillet and finished by roasting briefly in a hot oven. Perusing the produce, he decided that the rhubarb looked “really sexy,” and, in fact, these chunks of the vibrant, rosy-hued stalks brought an unexpected architectural element to the plate. The rhubarb was cooked in a basic simple syrup of white balsamic vinegar and sugar until fork tender—which is a markedly different approach from this area’s traditional Pennsylvania Dutch method of stewing rhubarb into a sauce, often prepared with other fruits such as apples, pears, or strawberries. The tart-sweet rhubarb proved to be an excellent complement to the mild succulence of the lamb.

After considering making a salad with shaved asparagus—a departure from typical steaming or grilling—Shawn instead chose to highlight young arugula. The accompanying salad made with these tender greens, which brought texture to the plate, was dressed in a bright vinaigrette made the juice of a blood orange. (This exquisite, jewel-toned winter fruit remains in season through April and should be used as often as possible while available. It’s a long wait until it returns to market.) 

For a companion beverage, Shawn selected Magic Hat #9, a not-quite-pale ale with a citrusy finish. And with that bubbly flourish, the mission was deemed a delicious success—though any one of a dozen or more possible variations would have been equally delectable, and as easy to make on-the-fly. It’s really just a matter of letting the ingredients talk to you.

They have a lot to say.

Although specific crops and harvest dates are obviously a function of the regional and national climate, experiment with these spring fruits and vegetables at the market to add value, personality, and flavor this season.

Spring Onions
Baby Arugula
Breakfast Radish
Mandarin & Blood Oranges

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