Recipe by Nathan Coulon, executive chef, Quarter Kitchen.
I started cooking before I can remember. My grandparents owned the Belgian Lion in Ocean Beach and my mom is a pastry chef, so it definitely runs in the family. At the restaurant when we were little, we would turn over five-gallon buckets and stand on them to peel potatoes and carrots. My grandparents got some free labor while they kept us busy. I learned a lot from them. The Belgian Lion was a French and Belgian restaurant, and I am still influenced by those styles.
I would eventually like to open my grandparents’ restaurant again. When they were ready to retire, I wasn’t old enough yet to buy them out. But it would be fun to redo that.
My personal philosophy is to use the best products available and to stay local. To use organic whenever possible. I really like to know where the products are coming from and to have a relationship with the farmer. And that applies to meat too. There are so many middlemen now that a lot of times relationships with growers get lost. I’ve been in San Diego my whole life, but growing up, no one thought about where food was coming from. Farming is definitely more in the spotlight now.
Now that I am the executive chef, I am cooking less day-to-day, but I develop the menu and still work on-line with the cooks and teach them how I want it done. At night I am still at the front of the kitchen and all the plates come over my pass. I taste the sauces and make sure everything is just right.
I like simple foods. Soups, things that I can make in one pot. You put vegetables in a pot, maybe some chicken and broth and beer. When it’s done you have soup. I have a great recipe for Belgian endive soup, and I like to use Hoegaarden Belgian white beer. It makes a difference.
2 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium leek, washed (white part only)
1 stalk of celery, chopped
4 large Belgian endives, cored and chopped
1 Tbs. flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 bottle Hoegaarden Belgian white beer
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 or 1/2 nutmeg, grated, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chives, chopped, as garnish
HOW TO DO IT
Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over low heat to cover the bottom of the pot. Sweat the onions, leeks, celery, and endives by cooking over low heat and stirring occasionally. They will be done when translucent and soft. Do not allow vegetables to brown. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook for two more minutes, until the flour is golden brown.
Add the chicken stock and beer to the vegetables and continue to cook. When the vegetables are tender, add the cream and salt and pepper. Be careful not to overcook. If desired, grate in some nutmeg with a grater or microplane. Let the soup cool for about ten minutes and then blend either with a handheld immersion blender or by batches in a blender.
To serve, reheat the soup but do not boil. Garnish with fresh chives and season to taste.