Iron Chef Garces

Award-winning chef brings varied influences to his recipes—and to his restaurants in the region. By Deborah Boerner Ein

by Deborah Boerner Ein

Jose Garces has become well known in southern New Jersey, since he is chef owner of restaurants in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. He is known as a leading culinary authority of Spanish and Latin-American food, but his skills and passion include other influences as well. Garces debuted as an Iron Chef in January of 2010, when he defeated Seattle chef Rachel Yang in Battle Hawaiian Moi.

Chef Garces recently owned a 40-acre farm in Bucks County, where he and his team grew much of the produce for his Philadelphia restaurants. Talking with him at a recent Atlantic City event, where his Amada restaurant holds court at the Ocean Casino Resort, I learned that Garces has sold the Bucks County farm and plans to buy acreage in southern New Jersey, exact location as yet undisclosed. Could it be Cumberland County?

Amada—described as Spanish, Tapas/Small Plates, Casual Dining—where Chef Garces puts a modern spin on traditional Spanish tapas against a contemporary rustic backdrop. Specialties include lobster paella, tortilla española and a whole roasted suckling pig.

Also in Ocean Casino Resort, Distrito is described as a “modern Mexican, casual eatery with authentic and fresh cuisine celebrating the culture of Mexico City in a colorful and energetic environment. Full bar with 100+ tequilas. Distrito is a vibrant celebration of the culture and cuisine of Mexico City.”

Here is a recipe Garces shares on his website and as a YouTube video. You can find this and other recipes on his Cooking Space.

Tortilla Espanola
For the tortilla
8 Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced 2 1/2 cups white onion, sliced
2 cups shrimp (70/90)
1/2 cup bacon lardons
1 cup spinach, blanched and chopped
3 tbsp oil
Kosher salt
For the chive aioli
4 eggs
2 tbsps lemon juice
1/4 cup oil (for emulsification)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup chives
1/4 cup basil, blanched
1/4 cup parsley, blanched
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In a sauté pan over medium high heat, add a touch of oil and add the bacon lardons. Cook to render the fat from the bacon, about five minutes.

Lower the heat to medium and add sliced onion and garlic to the same pan, and sweat for four to five minutes.

Once the onion and garlic are almost done cooking through, add the shrimp into the same pan. Stir gently to coat the shrimp as it picks up the fond from the pan, for about one minute. Add salt to taste.

Remove from heat and transfer contents to a half sheet tray to cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add sliced potatoes and blanch for five to six minutes, until they’re mostly cooked but still toothsome. Strain the potatoes and place in a medium bowl.

Add the bacon, onion and shrimp mixture to the bowl of potatoes. Add in blanched and chopped spinach. Gently fold the ingredients together.

In a small bowl, beat eight Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs. Once beaten, pour eggs over potato mixture and gently fold together.

Place a pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add one tbsp. of oil to coat the bottom. Pour your tortilla mixture into the pan and tap gently to settle.

Cook until tortilla is just set, about four minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the outside of the tortilla to ensure that it won’t stick. Place an identically sized pan over the top of the tortilla pan, align the handles and grip tightly. Quickly flip them over so the original pan is on top, and the tortilla mixture is set in the new pan (watch the video for the technique). Remove the original pan and give the bottom pan a quick shimmy to ensure that it’s seated properly.

Cover the pan with foil and place in your preheated oven for 12 minutes. Remove, uncover and flip onto serving platter.

Prepare your chive aioli: You can perform this step while the tortilla is baking in the oven.

Add chives, garlic, parsley, basil and lemon juice to a blender with a small amount of oil. Blend to puree. Once pureed, add 5 egg yolks. Blend again.

To create the emulsification, open the top of the blender and while blending, slowly add oil.

For more information on Jose Garces and his recipes, visit chefgarces.com