Wine Country Cuisine

Valette-Splice-Chris-Hardy

Photography by Chris Hardy

Valette, nestled in the heart of wine country, is the passion of two brothers and their dedication to sharing the best of Sonoma County. Fresh ingredients are key to this unique restaurant in Healdsburg, California.

Award-winning restaurant Valette is the lifelong dream of brothers Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini. Their goal was simple—to provide a place for Sonoma County farmers, winemakers, and artisans to share their crafts with locals and visitors alike. With Dustin in the kitchen and Aaron running the front of the house, the brothers have done just that at their popular restaurant in the heart of California’s wine country. Dustin’s menu changes every couple of weeks since it is dependent on what is in season in the area. With constantly evolving cuisine, Dustin has no rules and doesn’t strictly follow recipes. He just makes great food with the freshest ingredients he can find.

For a taste of the authentic, delicious dishes Dustin creates at Valette, try a few of his favorite recipes.

Diver Scallops and Warm Lentils
Makes 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups diced red onion
  2. 1 (750-ml) bottle Pinot Noir
  3. 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar
  5. 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and diced
  6. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  7. 2 (1-ounce) packages fresh thyme, divided
  8. 11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  9. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  10. 1⁄2 pound thick-cut bacon
  11. 1 cup dried green lentils*
  12. 1⁄2 cup chopped yellow onion
  13. 1⁄4 cup chopped peeled carrot
  14. 1 clove garlic, halved
  15. 2 to 3 quarts vegetable stock
  16. 1 pound large fresh diver scallops
  17. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  18. 2 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine red onion, wine, vinegar, and sugar over medium heat. Simmer until liquid has reduced by three-fourths and onions are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine parsnips, cream, 1 sprig thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper over medium heat. Simmer until parsnips are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat,
  3. and let cool for 15 minutes; remove thyme sprig. Spoon mixture into the container of a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece of lid to let steam escape; place a clean towel over opening in lid to avoid splatters. Process on high until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, combine bacon, lentils, yellow onion, carrot, garlic, and remaining thyme. Add 2 quarts vegetable stock to cover. Simmer over medium heat until lentils are tender, adding more stock as necessary. Strain off any excess liquid; remove and chop bacon.
  5. Remove muscle from the side of each scallop. Dry thoroughly with paper towels, and season with remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper.
  6. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Place scallops in skillet; add butter. Sear until medium rare, about 3 minutes.
  7. To serve, make a circle of parsnip mixture in the center of a plate. Place a small scoop of lentils in center. Place 2 scallops on top of lentils, and sprinkle with chopped bacon. Drizzle onion mixture around scallops. Repeat with remaining plates, and serve immediately.
Notes
  1. *Chef Valette prefers Le Puy brand.
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Roasted Sugar Pie Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Prosciutto and Toasted Pepitas
Makes 4 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (2- to 21⁄2-pound) sugar pie pumpkin, cut into eighths
  2. 1⁄2 cup plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  5. 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  6. 1⁄2 (1-ounce) package fresh thyme
  7. 3 cloves garlic, cut in half
  8. 2 cups fresh chicken broth
  9. 2 cups fresh vegetable broth
  10. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. 1 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
  12. 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  13. 1⁄4 teaspoon medium-size sea salt*
  14. Vegetable oil, for frying
  15. 1⁄4 pound prosciutto
  16. 1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette pepper †
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place pumpkin slices cut side up on prepared pan. Top with 6 tablespoons butter, salt, and pepper. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes. Peel and discard skin; reserve flesh.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat; cook onion, thyme, and garlic until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add reserved pumpkin; cook 10 minutes more. Add chicken broth and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add cream, stirring to combine. Let cool for 15 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs.
  4. Spoon pumpkin mixturein batches into the container of a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece of lid to let steam escape; place a clean towel over opening in lid to avoid splatters. Process on high until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. In a small bowl, combine pepitas, olive oil, and sea salt, stirring to combine. Spread onto prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and keep warm.
  7. In a medium skillet, pour olive oil to a depth of 1⁄2 inch, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Add prosciutto, and cook until crisp. Remove prosciutto, using
  8. a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels.
  9. In a shallow soup bowl, make a small pile of toasted seeds; top with prosciutto. Slowly pour soup into bowl, being careful not to disrupt seeds and prosciutto. Sprinkle with Piment d’Espelette. Repeat with remaining bowls; serve immediately.
Notes
  1. *We used Maldon Sea Salt.
  2. †Piment d’Espelette can be purchased at specialty stores such as Sur La Table.
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Liberty Duck Breast
Makes 4 servings
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups red verjus*
  2. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  4. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  5. 8 ounces chanterelle mushrooms†, cleaned and divided
  6. 1⁄4 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
  7. 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  8. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  9. 4 ounces baby turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
  10. 4 ounces baby carrots, peeled and cut into wedges
  11. 4 ounces baby king trumpet mushrooms†, cleaned and cut into wedges
  12. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  13. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  14. 4 fresh Liberty Duck breasts, tenderloins removed
  15. 2 tablespoons crushed whole coriander seed
  16. Fleur de sel
  17. Garnish: fresh thyme leaves
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine verjus, vinegar, and turbinado sugar; cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by 85-95 percent and resembles a syrup, about
  2. 40 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add 4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, and cook for 3 minutes. Add white wine; cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more. Spoon mixture into a food processor or blender, and process on high until smooth. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Reserve warm.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Cut remaining 4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms into wedges, and place in a large bowl. Add turnips, carrots, king trumpet mushrooms, 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and
  6. 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper, stirring to combine. Spread onto prepared pan. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Reserve warm.
  7. Using a sharp knife, slice through duck skin and fat, making a crisscross pattern and being careful not to touch flesh. Season with remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Gently press coriander seed into the skin.
  8. In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat; add duck breasts, skin side down. Cook for 1 minute; reduce heat to medium, and cook until fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Turn breasts, and cook, flesh side down, 2 minutes more. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  9. To serve, place chanterelle mushroom purée on a warm plate. Cut duck breast in half,
  10. and place near center of plate. Place vegetables around duck and chanterelle purée. Dot plate as desired with red verjus mixture. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves,
  11. if desired. Repeat with remaining plates, and serve immediately.
Notes
  1. *We used Fusion Napa Valley Verjus; Verjus Rouge, purchased from amazon .com. Red verjus can be substituted with 1 cup Pinot Noir and 1 cup red wine vinegar.
  2. †Chanterelle and king trumpet mushrooms can be substituted with 3 (4-ounce) packages gourmet blend mushrooms.
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