Photo Credit: Courtesy WaterbarChances are you’ve tasted Parke Ulrich’s food. How could you not? He’s the executive chef at Waterbar, widely regarded as San Francisco’s foremost seafood restaurant—and offering one of the city’s most extraordinary views of the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, the famed Ferry Building and the Embarcadero skyline— and EPIC Roasthouse, a contemporary waterfront roasthouse featuring interpretations of traditional steakhouse favorites and more. He took time out of his busy day to talk shop and share his recipe for Dungeness crab benedict with artichokes, an ideal dish this time of year.
Photo Credit: Courtesy WaterbaGrowing up in Philadelphia, what was your usual Christmas meal?
In celebration of our German heritage, our Christmas meal consisted of the traditional roast pork – Schweinebraten served with side dishes such as, Brussels sprouts, green beans, roasted apples, and bread pudding. Pork symbolizes abundance, plenty of food and luck. A nice cap of fat and skin on the roast flavors the meat, while the skin turns crisp – adding a wonderful flavor and texture to the roast.
How do the menus at Waterbar and EPIC change for the holidays?
We revel in the holiday the season with decadent dishes such as truffle chicken, steak and lamb at EPIC and caviar, sea urchin and king crab legs at Waterbar. We also use warmer spices at EPIC like our signature apple pie spice mix which consists of cinnamon, vanilla, and cardamom to embrace flavors of the season. Each year at Waterbar, our executive pastry chef Angela Salvatore creates an elaborate gingerbread house which is displayed at the entrance of the restaurant. This year’s display is a replica of AT&T Park to commemorate the San Francisco Giants’ third World Series victory in the past five years.
Photo Credit: Courtesy WaterbarWhat is the one thing that there would be an uproar about if you took it off the regular Waterbar menu?
The Waterbar menu is always evolving. We believe in serving the freshest seafood available. Our menu changes almost daily, representing freshly caught sustainably raised fish as well as the most expansive selection of oysters on the West Coast. If we removed the oysters from the menu, that would not be received very favorably by our guests!
Photo Credit: Courtesy WaterbarWhat’s the secret to cooking a steak perfectly?
The larger the cut of meat, the longer it needs to be seasoned. For cuts one to four pounds, season the meat the night before serving it. Massage the meat with extra virgin olive oil (so the rub will adhere to the meat) and add salt and pepper and then refrigerate. For smaller cuts, season the meat one to two hours before grilling. Once meat is seasoned, let meat come to room temperature, and then sear it on a charcoal grill to create grill marks. Not overcooking the meat is key. Put meat into the oven at a low temperature (or turn down the grill to a lower temp). Cooking at meat at a lower temperature will ensure that it won’t shrink, and will be tenderer. For large roasts, use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Remove the meat at 10 degrees under the desired cooking temperature as “carry over cooking,” will occur, which means the meat will continue to cook once it’s taken off the grill/out of the oven. When you remove your meat from your heat source, remember to let it rest before slicing. Resting the meat allows the juices to settle back into the meat and keep the flavor in.
Photo Credit: Courtesy EPIC Roasthouse
You’ve been a chef in Aspen and Philadelphia. How does San Francisco compare?
San Francisco is way ahead of the curve because of its easy accessibility to fresh produce. Other areas are landlocked and receive fresh produce from California only 2-3 times a week. With the freshest produce available, the ingredients can speak for themselves, while technique enhances the experience.
You were an English major in college. Do you use any of that knowledge in the kitchen?
The skills you garner from earning an English degree is definitely useful in the kitchen. From writing creative menu descriptions to recipes to being able to communicate in the kitchen and restaurant, I put my degree to good use every day!
Photo Credit: Courtesy Parke Ulrich
Dungeness Crab Benedict with Artichokes
For the Hollandaise
1# butter, cubed
1T Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
To Make the Hollandaise
1. Bring four gallons of water to a boil. In a medium mixing bowl combine egg yolks and lemon juice.
2. Whisk yolks till they lighten in color and increase in volume. Place bowl of yolks over the boiling water, lower heat to medium-low and begin to whisk the yolk mixture. Gradually add butter one or two cubes at a time and continue to whisk till all butter has been emulsified into the sauce.
3. Continue to cook the hollandaise until it is thick and holds its shape, it should not be runny. To test for thickness dip a spoon into the sauce, then run your finger down the back of the spoon. If a solid line forms and the sauce holds to the spoon, you have reached the desired consistency.
4. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne till desired flavor is reached, strain through a fine mesh sieve and hold warm.
To prepare the crab
Four 2# live Dungeness crabs
8 gal boiling water seasoned with grey sea salt. The water should be salty like the sea
Method for cooking crab
Place crabs into boiling water and set a timer for 13 minutes.
While crabs are cooking prepare an ice bath.
After 13 minutes place crabs into ice bath and allow to cool for a full 20-30 minutes.
Once crabs are cool, remove from ice bath, clean and pick the crabs. Remove the heads, the apron, and the gills from the crab. Using crackers and a shellfish fork, crack the legs and claws of the crab and remove meat from the legs and body using the shellfish fork. Pick through the meat once more to ensure there are no shells.
Ingredients To Build The Dish
1. 4 high quality English muffins, cut in half and toasted
2. 8 eggs poached so that the yolks are still runny
3. 8c raw spinach lightly sauted in olive oil
4. 4 artichokes, leaves and chokes removed and steamed till fork tender. Cut artichokes into wedges
5. 2oz. lightly warmed crab meat
6. 8oz. Hollandaise sauce
7. One bunch thinly sliced chives for garnish.
To Plate the dish
Place halved and toasted English muffins on the plate. Top with sauted spinach and artichoke wedges. Place warm crab on top of artichokes, place one egg on each half of the English muffin. Top each half with 2oz of hollandaise and garnish with chives