MEET THE SOUS CHEF
REBECCA MEEKER, CHEF DE CUISINE, CONGRESS
Rebecca Meeker, the chef de cuisine at Congress in Austin, Texas, knows the secret to Joël Robuchon’s famous pommes purée: a lot of butter (the good, French échire variety) and a little bit of potato.
It’s just one of the many things the 30-year-old cook learned when she worked for Robuchon, first in Manhattan and later as part of the opening team for the famed chef’s restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan. Although she enjoyed the travel, she was happy to return to her hometown of Austin in 2010 to open Congress, and plans to stay in the city, near her family, for the foreseeable future.
To combat the summer heat in the heart of Texas, Meeker has perfected her gazpacho recipe, loaded with cucumbers and tomatoes and spiked with sherry vinegar. She serves the soup topped with homemade ricotta cheese, a lily-gilding we heartily endorse.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
Running Down the Dream
Meeker, an avid runner, prefers a route on Town Lake in downtown Austin, a reservoir on the Colorado River. "I just do it for fun," she says, "to balance my days spent under fluorescent lights."
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Swap the Vegetables
For Meeker’s basic gazpacho she calls for red tomatoes and peppers, but advises that you can swap in yellow tomatoes and peppers for a soup with a sunnier hue. Peel the cucumber, though, as the skin will discolor your soup.
According to Meeker, “There is nothing worse than warm gazpacho.” She likes to serve the soup ice-cold, in chilled bowls. Cold soups should be seasoned assertively, as the flavors are muted when chilled.
4 to 6 servings (plus leftover ricotta)
Whole milk, 4 cups
Buttermilk, 2 cups
Heavy cream, 1 cup
Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon, plus extra for seasoning
Ripe tomatoes, 3 large (coarsely chopped)
Red bell pepper, 1 small (coarsely chopped)
English cucumber, ¼ (peeled and coarsely chopped)
Garlic cloves, 2 small (smashed and peeled)
Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons, plus extra for serving
Sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon
Country bread, 2 thick slices (½ slice cubed--about ½ cup--and 1 slice roughly torn)
Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
1. Make the ricotta: In the medium pot over medium heat, bring to a simmer the
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
Cook, stirring with the wooden spoon occasionally, until the liquid looks separated, and curds separate from the whey and sink to the bottom, about 20 minutes. Stir in the
- Lemon juice
- Generous pinch of salt
Set the fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and strain the mixture. Taste and add more salt if needed. Transfer the ricotta to the airtight container and refrigerate (discard the whey).
2. Make the gazpacho: In the large bowl, use your hands to crush together the
- Red bell pepper
- English cucumber
- 1 smashed garlic clove
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cubed country bread
Place the gazpacho in a blender jar and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Remove the gazpacho from the refrigerator and blend until smooth.
3. Make the garlic croutons: In the medium skillet set over medium heat, add the
- 1 smashed garlic clove
Once the butter has melted, add the
- Torn country bread pieces
Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 8 minutes.
4. Divide the gazpacho among 4 bowls. Top each with a spoonful of the ricotta and a few garlic croutons. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh basil before serving.