MEET THE SOUS CHEF
GARETT MCMAHAN, CHEF DE CUISINE, PERILLA, NYC
Garett McMahan, the chef de cuisine of New York City's Perilla restaurant, really wanted an '85 Cadillac. So at age 14, he took a job washing dishes at a restaurant in his hometown of La Porte, Indiana, and worked there until he was 18. By then he’d been bitten by the restaurant bug, and following his high school graduation, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.
For his culinary school externship, McMahan worked at Erna's Elderberry House, then staged at Bouley in New York City, where he was eventually hired him for a paid position. He then went on to work at New York’s Citarella and The Harrison, where he first made the acquaintance of Perilla chef-owner (and winner of the first season of Top Chef) Harold Dieterle.
He's worked at Perilla since the restaurant opened in 2007. And though the restaurant serves dishes as varied as baked eggplant stuffed with paneer and spicy duck meatballs, for Sous Chef Series, McMahan focused on a basic dish: A green salad with a sprightly vinaigrette.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
McMahan met his wife in cooking school; today she works at Del Posto. According to McMahan, the shared profession means "we're on the same page. Sometimes you have a really shitty day and want to vent, other days you just don't even want to talk about work. We know where the other is coming from."
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
"A vinaigrette is just a cold emulsion," explains McMahan. "You start with the base and the acid and build from there with the fat." He fortifies and sweetens his vinaigrette by adding caramelized shallots.
McMahan started using bee pollen a few years ago after discovering it at the Union Square Farmers' Market. He first toasted it and used it as a garnish, but now he adds it directly to his vinaigrette, giving it a warm saffron-orange hue.
2 servings (with enough spiced pecans for 4 salads)
Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon
Pecan halves, ½ cup
Granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon
Aleppo or cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon
Extra-virgin olive oil, ¾ teaspoon
Shallot, ½ small (peeled, halved crosswise and thinly sliced)
Honey, ¼ teaspoon
Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons
Bee pollen, ½ teaspoon (optional)
Grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons
Freshly ground black pepper
Romaine, ½ head (leaves separated and roughly torn)
Apple, ½ (preferably Honeycrisp; cored and thinly sliced)
Wedge of Pecorino cheese, 1 ounce (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
1. Make the spiced pecans: In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the
• Unsalted butter
Stir in the
• Pecans halves
• Granulated Sugar
• Aleppo pepper
Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir occasionally, until the pecans are toasted and glazed, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a large plate and set aside to cool.
2. Make the vinaigrette: Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet and then place back over medium heat. Add the
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Sliced shallot
Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then stir in the
Continue to cook the shallots until they are deep brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes (reduce the heat to medium-low if the shallot-honey mixture starts to burn). Use the rubber spatula to scrape the shallots into the blender. Add the
• Apple cider vinegar
• Bee pollen (if using)
Purée until smooth, then slowly add the
• Grapeseed oil
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
Blend until emulsified, thick and creamy.
3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the
• Torn romaine leaves
• Apple slices
• Spiced pecans
• Shaved Pecorino cheese
Add the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.