When it comes to the creations on his winter menu at Malcolm’s in Palm Beach, Michael Wurster admits that history is in the making—of the cuisine, that is. Specifically, his own history with culinary heavyweights from coast to coast.
Over the years, in addition to a stint at (then) Le Cirque 2000 in New York City, the graduate of the Culinary Institute of America has worked with the likes of Thomas Keller at the famed French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Alain Ducasse at his eponymous restaurant (which closed in 2007) at the Essex House in the Big Apple.
“These are the chefs that influenced me the most because they changed the way I approach food and technique in the kitchen,” says the native New Yorker. “From Le Cirque, I’m testing the ingredients, showing them off but not disguising them. A lot of the tongue-and-cheek approach, I take from Keller. [And] I see the classic influences from Ducasse.
What guests at the beachfront restaurant inside The Omphoy Ocean Resort (2842 S. Ocean Blvd., 561/540-6440, omphoy.com) are seeing is a charismatic chef making his own name with inventive, flavorful dishes plated to aesthetic perfection. A recent visit to Malcolm’s revealed Wurster’s vivid imagination—and prodigious talent—on full display, with an emphasis on simple, seasonal ingredients.
Entrées included butter poached Maine lobster with coral orzo pasta, black truffle and pea shoots; Scottish salmon with watercress, coriander, almonds and crushed peas; yam ravioli with pine nut and sage granola, and pomegranate; and 48-hour beef short ribs with celery root puree, onions braised in red wine and cauliflower couscous.
“This is forward, modern American cuisine,” says Wurster, who arrived at Malcolm’s last year after a three-year stretch at ICON New York. “We approach classic ideas with more modern approaches to how we change the ingredients.”
Wurster complements the winter menu with a daily classic—from chicken pot pie on Mondays to bouillabaisse (think monkfish, shrimp and mussels) on Fridays. His diver scallops, meanwhile, qualify as an instant classic. Wurster was kind enough to share with Boca Raton the secret of this seafood success.
With leeks, baby onions, pancetta, Marcona almonds and brown butter powder
Notes on the dish: Marcona almonds are from Spain and more rounded and plump than the California variety that we are used to. They also have a softer and somewhat wet texture, similar to a macadamia nut and are sweeter than domestic almonds. … The initial idea for this dish was scallops and bacon. The combination of the onions with both the bacon and the scallops is meant to complement both as individuals and as a whole. Both the almonds and the brown butter add a nutty ﬂavor and texture to the ﬁnished dish.
4 diver sea scallops
2 quarts leeks, sliced thin
1 /4 pound butter
1 quart white pearl onions, peeled
1/ 2 cup blended oil
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
Scallion, white bottoms
2 tablespoons butter
1 /4 cup chicken stock
2 pounds pancetta, sliced thin
1 cup Marcona almonds
2 tablespoons clarified butter
Brown Butter Powder
1 cup butter
12 tablespoons milk powder
Pearl onions: In large bowl toss onions with oil and thyme leaves, season with salt & pepper, transfer to a sheet tray lined with aluminum foil. Spread onions on tray and roast in convection oven at 375 degrees until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer and hold for finish.
Scallions: In pot of salted water, quick blanch scallions for a minute and drain. Do not shock in ice water. In a pot, heat stock and stir in butter to emulsify. Add blanched scallions to the beurre fondue and cook slowly until scallions are tender. Drain and reserve for finish.
Melted leeks: In a rondoue, melt butter and add rinsed leeks. Cook over low heat to braise leeks, stirring often until very soft. Season with salt and pepper; hold for finish.
Pancetta: Slice pancetta thin; lay out slices on sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Top with another piece of parchment and another sheet tray and cook in oven at 375 degrees until crisp, about 20 minutes. Let cool and then chop fine for finishing.
Almonds: Heat clarified butter and toast almonds until slightly browned and a nutty aroma. Drain fat on towel and hold for finish.
Brown butter powder: Melt butter in pot and slightly brown before stirring in milk powder. Remove from heat to incorporate. Return to very low heat and cook slightly stirring entire time to avoid scorching the solids. Transfer to chinois to let excess liquid drain to cool. Transfer to sheet pan lined with parchment and break up solids with a whisk to fine powder.
To finish: In very hot pan with layer of oil, sear scallops on both sides to brown evenly to order. Heat pancetta with almonds and onions in pan to order. Heat leeks in pan with a little more butter over low heat to order.