Interview with Chef Dean Maupin at Keswick Hall – Scallops with Ratatouille and Parmesan Sauce

 

Keswick Hall in Keswick, Virginia is not only known for the history of the property and the beautiful grounds, it is also known for great dining.  Keswick Hall was recently recognized as the #1 hotel in North America for food in Conde Nastè Traveler’s Gold List for 2011Chef Dean Maupin, the Executive Chef at Keswick Hall, was the Chef de Cuisine at Fossett’s (their fine dining restaurant) for two years when it opened in 2004.  After spending a few years away at the nearby Clifton Inn, Maupin returned to become the Executive Chef of Keswick Hall in September 2010.

Maupin, originally from Crozet, Virginia, has never wandered too far from home and loves this area where he grew up.  A graduate of the prestigious Greenbriar’s three-year apprenticeship program, Maupin, who is French, was trained in a traditional European manner.  The emphasis at Greenbriar was on teaching the fundamentals of making stocks, sauces and butchering.  The focus was on repetition, doing one thing for three to four months to get it right.

It is this kind of training that has been a great influence on Maupin’s own culinary style.  He likes to think of his cooking as” flavor driven, tasty food”.  There is definitely International influence in his dishes.  He blends French and Italian styles (he loves homemade pasta).  He also enjoys Asian flavors.  Maupin weaves these flavors together with primarily local and seasonal ingredients to create his menu.

Dining at Fossett’s

I love the glow of the evening outside the restaurant

As mentioned in my previous article, Keswick Hall is located near Charlottesville, Virginia, home of Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson’s influence shows up in much of the foods in the area.  Jefferson was quite the gourmand and imported many foods, such as pasta, so Maupin stays with tradition in writing his menus, keeping with a Jeffersonian style of cooking.  The name Fossett’s is directly related to Jefferson.  The restaurant is dedicated to Thomas Jefferson’s personal chef, Edith Fossett, who was with him during his retirement years at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Maupin believes that dining should be focused on dishes that are more compelling (but not intimidating), incorporating and layering simple and interesting flavors.  He is doing this with smaller portions, so emphasis is on the quality and not quantity of the portions.  If you still want to order a large steak, he will certainly cut one for you, but he says he has found success in creating his menus this way.

What’s for dinner?

When asked about the impact of all of the food shows on television, Maupin jokingly said that he thinks it is making us all fat.  He says that when he watches certain shows, he wants to head to the kitchen to make the dish!  On a more serious note,  the shows he prefers to watch are The Best Thing I Ever Ate and Top Chef.

Sous Chef Karma Gurmey

William Scatena, Chef de Partie

Caitie Paxiao works with pastries and desserts

Chef Maupin conducts cooking classes at Keswick Hall periodically.  He demonstrates cooking restaurant cuisine, but makes it more approachable to the home cook.  One of the last classes was a French themed class where he prepared Coq au Vin and Fois Gras.

When we asked him what his best advice is to a home chef, he said that he always tells the class participants “not to dumb down the ingredients.  If you gather great ingredients, you will have a great meal”.  Buy the very best ingredients.  It does make a difference.  Stores like Whole Foods and Wegman’s and the many Farmer’s Markets that are sprouting up around the country have made it possible for almost everyone to purchase what he or most chefs have in their own kitchens.

This smells incredible…

“You will become empowered to do great things in the kitchen if you acquire great products and fill your pantry with them.  You will be surprised at what you can create when you start with great ingredients, don’t cheapen the process, cook with your gut, have fun and don’t be afraid to mess up.”

That is some of the best advice I have heard and I agree wholeheartedly.  My personal philosophy has always been that the love for cooking comes from your soul and good food is made by cooking with your heart and using the best ingredients you can find.

Having a little laugh in the kitchen

Thank you to Chef Maupin for taking the time to meet with us.  It was one of the many highlights of our visit to Keswick Hall.  Now I need to find time to go back and relax on the next visit!  We also will look forward to trying some of the new pastry chef’s creations.  Stacey Pease (formerly of Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia) joined their culinary team right after our visit.  We’ll let her get settled in before we head back to Virginia. 😉

Chef Maupin has graciously shared several recipes with us.  I prepared his Spinach Salad with Spicy Tomato Vinaigrette with Hard Cooked Egg and Edwards Bacon for my last post.  We have had this salad several times and we love the vinaigrette.  It is perfect for a summertime meal.

Seared Scallops with Parmesan Sauce and Ratatouille is the second dish I have prepared from this chef’s recipes.  It is a beautiful dish and the flavors complimented each other perfectly.  This will definitely be a go-to recipe when entertaining  guests.  I chose this recipe since it a great time of year to make Ratatouille with all the beautiful local squashes and produce.  It also can be made in steps ahead and put together at the last minute.

Enjoy!

What a beautiful dish to serve to company!

Disclosure – Thank you to Fossett’s for providing dinner during our stay.

Seared Scallops with Parmesan Sauce and Ratatouille

Ingredients:

For Scallops:
12 each sea scallops

For the Parmesan Sauce:
1 cup white wine (I used a dry white wine)
1 shallot, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Squeeze of fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

For the ratatouille:
1 cup small diced zucchini
1 cup small diced squash
1 cup small diced eggplant
1/2 cup small diced onion
1/2 cup small diced bell pepper
2 cups good quality tomato sauce (I made my own with Italian crushed tomatoes)
1/4 cup each fresh chopped basil, chive, Italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil (I used Extra-Virgin)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

For the Parmesan Sauce:
In a sauce pot, add the white wine and shallot and reduce by 75%.
Add the cream and reduce by 50%.
Remove from heat and wisk in the cheese, lemon, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Puree in a blender for 30 seconds, reserve warm until use.

For the Ratatouille:
Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.
Add the diced onion and bell pepper and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the diced zucchini, squash and eggplant and allow to saute for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to low, allow to cook for 10 minutes.
Finish with the fresh herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Reserve warm until use.

To finish the dish:
Heat a large saute pan with a bit of olive oil in it (let the pan get hot enough that you start to see a bit of smoke coming off the oil).
Season the scallops with a bit of salt and carefully place them into the pan.
Allow them to sear for a couple of minutes, then flip them and sear the other side for a minute or two, depending on how well done you like them.

Place them onto a plate, top with the ratatouille, and finish with the Parmesan Sauce.

Enjoy!