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Chefs are reviving the old-school art of pickling to create zingy accents for rich brasserie dishes – sorry, sommeliers.
PICKLES might be scarcer in contemporary home kitchens than they were a century ago, but scan a brasserie menu, or order a bar special at a gastropub or a charcuterie plate at an urban steakhouse, and everywhere: pickles.
The walk-in refrigerator at the Hollywood restaurant Ammo looks like a pickle museum. There are tubs of fennel and haricots verts (thin French beans); buckets of shiitakes, Weiser Family Farms cantaloupe and watermelon rinds; all the pretty fruit and vegetables submerged in brines. As new executive chef Julia Wolfson stacks more containers – ramps (wild leeks) in vinegar with green cardamom pods, Bing cherries pickling in balsamic vinegar spiced with whole star anise – she seems more like a country kitchen pioneer than a young chef newly at the helm of a chic L.A. restaurant.
Wolfson has a nine-vegetable pickle plate on her menu. She pairs braised pork ribs with pickled Santa Rosa plums, or steak tartare with pickled rhubarb. Pickled red onions punctuate a tomato-corn-cilantro salad with house-made duck confit. The dressing? A splash of extra virgin olive oil, Maldon sea salt – and the pickling liquid. “It’s like an instant vinaigrette,” Wolfson says.
Charlie Palmer, most recently at his New York restaurant Aureole. “They can never pair wines with [pickled items]. When I was in New York, I’d buy Mason jars and pickle everything.”