At the swank Margeaux Brasserie in Chicago’s Gold Coast—the first Windy City venture from San Francisco-based mega chef Michael Mina—there’s a new sheriff in the kitchen. Greg Biggers, who’s worked under the likes of Chicago chef Rick Tramonto and Masaharu Morimoto, rang in the New Year with the announcement of him signing on to be executive chef, running the kitchen throughout the restaurant as well as the hotel it’s housed in, the Waldorf Astoria.
The Alabama native, who’s had his fair share of Chicago hotel experience—he was most recently the executive chef at Café des Architectes and Le Bar in the nearby Sofitel—is known for fusing contemporary French cooking with local and artisan products in his approach to cuisine.
"For most of my career, I've been cooking more modern and contemporary food, so having a chance to explore the root of where the contemporary French movement comes from brings out the culinary nerd in me," says Biggers. "I have been studying 1960s French brasseries and detailing what made them great and so groundbreaking at the time, and I'm looking forward to really bringing that mindset, mixed with what already makes this restaurant great, to our guests in Chicago."
Salmon WellingtonCourtesy of Executive Chef Greg Biggers, Margeaux Brasserie, Chicago
Yield: two servings
2 cups artichoke bottoms, poached and roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and white pepper, to taste
4 egg yolks
2 cups clarified butter
1 cup Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
Two 6-ounce portions of Atlantic salmon
2 large sheets puff pastry
1 cup liquid egg yolks
1. Prepare the artichoke and spinach duxelles: Place artichoke bottoms, baby spinach, cream cheese and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until fine; season to taste with salt and white pepper; reserve.
2. Prepare the dill Béarnaise: Over a double boiler, whip the whole egg yolks until doubled in volume. Slowly stream in the clarified butter using a hand blender to incorporate. Do not go too fast, as the sauce will break easily. In separate small sauce pot, add the vinegar, dill and shallots and reduce until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the dill reduction to the egg yolk-butter mixture and season with salt and white pepper. Place in sauce bowl and reserve for service.
3. Brine the salmon: Brine Salmon in a 5% salt to water solution for 1 1/2 hours; remove from brine and pat dry. On plastic wrap-lined cutting board, coat salmon with a 1-centimeter layer of the spinach and artichoke duxelles on all sides and wrap in plastic. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
4. Assemble the Wellington: Remove puff pastry from freezer until tempered to just below room temperature. It is important to make sure that the puff pastry is not too thawed that it gets sticky, but not too frozen that it is not pliable. Then cut the puff pastry into two 4-by-6-inch sheets and brush with liquid egg yolks on one side. Place duxelles-wrapped salmon in center of first sheet with egg yolk brushed side facing up. Place second piece of puff pastry on top with egg yolk side facing down. Carefully enclose the fish completely by crimping the sides shut with fingers or using a metal fork. Brush the entire top surface with liquid egg yolks and place in refrigerator for at least one hour.
5. Cook the Wellington: Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Remove the salmon Wellington from the refrigerator and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. The outside should be golden brown when ready. Serve with the reserved dill Béarnaise.
Photos by Neil Burger.