Gregory Gourdet, executive chef at Departure Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Portland, is hungry for spring. “We’re hopeful,” he says. “It’s been pretty wet and miserable.”
As one of Portland’s biggest celebrity chefs, the mohawk-sporting, marathon-running, vegan-friendly “Top Chef” finalist is one of the city’s major trendsetters. He’s known for creating exquisite pan-Asian cuisine from Oregon’s seasonal bounty, his style synonymous with true farm-to-table innovation and locavorism.
We asked him to share his thoughts on the season.
What are your favorite spring ingredients?
We all love rhubarb. It’s always at the top of my list in terms of spring things. Everyone pickles rhubarb but I think it’s one of my favorite preparations as well. Tart, crunchy, floral and sweet. It is fantastic. And pink! Last year we made a rhubarb hand pie, which was absolutely fabulous. Sometimes we revisit preparations, but for the most part we like to push and make new things. We like to explore ingredients in new ways all the time.
Rhubarb is great! What other spring ingredients are you looking forward to this year?
Halibut is also great. I’m a huge seafood fan; I do love all types of fish, especially living in the Pacific Northwest. Halibut is such a clean and beautiful canvas for so many different flavors, especially the beautiful bounty of green vegetables coming, baby carrots, spring onions. It does overcook really easily so it’s a technique challenge. We like to slow cook it and keep it very tender.
How do you come up with your recipes? What inspires you?
Nature and the seasons inspire me. I run in Forest Park and the Gorge fairly often. They are both great places to clear your head. I think the best recipes come when you’re not trying to force ideas. A lot come to me when I’m just waking up from sleep. I like to have a start, components, sleep on it then come back to it in couple days. I collaborate with my teams a lot so we all have buy in and collective input.
What’s new at Departure with your garden and the farms you work with?
Oregon has always been an amazing place for bounty and fostering farmers with support. What I’ve noticed over the past few years is smaller farms and younger urban farmers doing amazing things. We’re really exciting to see what ends up on our tables this year as we work with farms this season like Zenger Farm and The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen.
We also have a rooftop garden we’re working on. We have had it for three years. We’re excited to kick off the season. Our sous chef is leading tending to it, he has gardened for part of his life. We look forward to growing lots of peppers, greens, squash, carrots, radishes, herbs and edible flowers.
Which spring recipe will you share with us?
My roasted carrot salad is a fantastic way to serve spring market carrots with some new and unexpected flavors. The explosive galangal-chili sauce is a bold, pungent and tangy mix of hot chilies, galangal, fish sauce and lime. Search for galangal and fish sauce at your local Asian grocer. In Portland, I shop at Fubonn Supermarket. This recipe makes extra galangal-chili sauce. It goes great with fish and lasts 3 days in the fridge.
Gregory Gourdet’s Roasted Carrot Salad
(serves 4 as a starter)
For the carrots
- 2 pounds rainbow carrots, tops trimmed and scrubbed
- salt, for seasoning
- olive oil, for cooking
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub whole carrots with enough olive oil to form a light sheen. Season carrots gently with salt and roast until just cooked, about 17 minutes, more or less depending on size. Carrots should be tender and caramelized along their edges but have a touch of crispness left. Let carrots cool to room temp. Cut into 2-inch quarter pieces.
For the galangal-chile sauce
- 1 inch galangal, peeled, small diced
- 2 Thai chili, de-stemmed
- 2 fresno chili, de-stemmed
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 small bunch cilantro stems, fine chop
- 6 oz lime juice, fresh
- 6 oz fish sauce
- 3 oz sugar
- pinch of salt
In a mortar and pestle, pound galangal, garlic and chilies with a pinch of salt until well smashed and a chunky puree forms. Add cilantro stems and pound to incorporate. Mix in sugar, lime juice and fish sauce until sugar dissolves.
- 10 Thai basil leaves, whole, large leaves torn
- 1 small bunch cilantro leaves, picked, whole
- 1 large shallot, peeled, sliced thin
- 1 cup peanuts, toasted, crushed
- 1 cup coconut milk
- sea salt, for seasoning
- olive oil, for drizzling
In a large bowl, toss carrots with sea salt, shallots, a light dressing of galangal-chili sauce and herbs. Drizzle with coconut milk and a bit more olive oil. Garnish with crushed peanuts. Enjoy!