Executive Chef Paul McCabe of Kitchen 1540 is a traditionalist at heart

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Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crab (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crab (Photo by Maria Desiderata Montana)

Having cooked for some of Hollywood’s hottest stars, world figures and epicureans from around the globe, while heralded as a “rising star” by the James Beard Foundation, Executive Chef Paul McCabe’s menu at Kitchen 1540 showcases the best of each season.

Recently, I spent the day pampering myself at the L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa and decided to stop in for dinner at Kitchen 1540.  I must say I loved every fresh ingredient McCabe masterfully crafted.

Although his cooking style is imaginative, McCabe is still a traditionalist at heart, creating  cuisine that is centered on organic and sustainable ingredients. Updating his seasonal menu on a regular basis, guests will know that they can always enjoy the freshest ingredients when ordering one of McCabe’s creations.

Below, McCabe provides a fantastic recipe that is great anytime of the year.  I tried this recipe at home, and my family couldn’t get enough!

Chef Paul McCabe (Courtesy photo)

Chef Paul McCabe (Courtesy photo)

Sautéed White Shrimp, Sweet Pea Risotto, Cremini Mushrooms, Basil Oil

Serves 4

For the Shrimp:

12 U-10 Mexican white shrimp

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1/4c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T. fresh thyme (chopped)

Combine garlic, oil and thyme, toss the shrimp in the marinade and refrigerate over night.

For the Risotto:

3 good handfuls fresh peas

1-cup stock or water

1 basic risotto recipe, recipe below.

1/2 handful mint, chopped 
 lemon juice

Cook peas in boiling stock or water. When the peas are tender, puree in a food processor and set aside.  At Stage 4 of the risotto recipe throw in the pea puree, fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Risotto: 1 tablespoon olive oil, 
3 shallots or 1 medium onion finely chopped, 
2 cloves garlic finely chopped, 
14 ounces arborio rice, 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
2 wine glasses of dry vermouth or dry white wine, 
2 1/2 ounces butter, 
3 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan.

Stage 1. Heat stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallots or onion, garlic and slowly sauté for about 3 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice, season with salt and pepper and turn up the heat.

Stage 2. The rice will now begin to fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent having absorbed all the flavors from the vegetables. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring. Any harsh alcohol flavors will evaporate and leave the rice with the essence of the wine.

Stage 3. Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a medium simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladles of stock, stirring and allowing each ladle of liquid to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to carefully check the seasoning.

Stage 4. Remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmesan, mint and pea puree.  Stir gently. Place lid on pan and allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes. This is the most important part of making the risotto, as this is when it becomes creamy like it should be. Eat as soon as possible while the risotto retains its perfect texture.

For the Cremini mushrooms:

12 Cremini mushrooms

3T. Extra Virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic (minced)

salt and pepper

Toss mushrooms with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350* for 10 minutes.

To assemble:

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and sauté in olive oil until just cooked. Place three mushrooms, cap side down, on a rectangular plate and fill the cavity with risotto. Place one shrimp on top of the mushroom and continue the process with all twelve shrimp. Drizzle the plate with basil oil and serve.

Recipe by Paul McCabe

Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents, who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.

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