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When Alex called Alex

One hour in the kitchen with chef at Blanca, NY, and his friend at Apollo Bunder’s The Table

“My kitchen is squeaky clean, but my apartment is a mess,” said chef de cuisine of Michelin-starred Blanca in New York, Alex Leonard. The one to man the kitchen of the stylish Brooklyn restaurant that seats just 12, Leonard was in town to cook up tiger prawns with peas and cherries for a guest dinner at The Table on the invitation of its chef, Alex Sanchez.

Alex Sanchez and Alex Leonard share a moment in the kitchen. pic/pradeep dhivar
Alex Sanchez and Alex Leonard share a moment in the kitchen. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

On the weekday afternoon we gatecrashed The Table’s kitchen, he was tossing aglio olio pasta with Sanchez. Their camaraderie was evident in the incessant backslapping. The two first met when Sanchez filled in for a missing chef over a weekend at Roberta, a pizzeria that’s a sister concern of Blanca, the year he had just moved to New York.

Here are a few quick lessons from the two, in a span of one hour.

Marinating like a master
Sanchez pointed out that Indians love to marinate foods. “In professional kitchens, we soak our fish, pork, chicken (don’t worry about beef; it’s illegal) in five per cent brine solution. Even two minutes is good,” he said. It makes the meat tender and ensures the white albumen in fish doesn’t spill out. “Adding herbs and garlic to the brine will only enhance flavours,” suggested Leonard.

Making black garlic
One of the most used items in Sanchez’s kitchen is black garlic. For this, he wraps garlic pods in plastic, then silver foil, and places them in a pressure cooker on slow flame. “The warmth creates an environment for healthy bacteria to grow. What you get is a subtle, sweet earthiness in place of pungency,” he shared. Mix this black garlic paste in mayonnaise and you have a dip.

Fighting moisture
Sanchez suggested aging meats to achieve concentrated flavour. “If you have a big refrigerator at home, string the full chicken upside down with a drip tray beneath to let the water run out. Remember, moisture is an enemy.”

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