Chef Chris Kastner
Al Fresco Flair
Photography: Paulette Phlipot
Chef Chris Kastner says he has an intentionally relaxed attitude toward eating. That statement may surprise anyone who has worked with Kastner over his double-decade career in the Wood River Valley. An intense perfectionist in the kitchen, he is not known for his patience—that’s true. But, eating? Ah, that’s different.
Kastner and his wife, Rebecca—a formidable culinary duo whose creations satisfied even the most discriminating palates during an 18-year tenure at Ketchum’s Evergreen Restaurant—recently opened their own venue in Hailey. Simply named CK’s, the popular restaurant offers a slow-food special every day, an offering that takes several hours to prepare.
“Seasons dictate what we do in our kitchen,” explains Kastner. “We take an artisan approach to food, and that takes time. A lot of time. We try to buy from local gardeners and local purveyors whenever possible, and we buy what’s in season. It’s a very personal approach.” And that approach adds immeasurably to the experience of eating.
While savoring good food is a key part of Kastner’s life, he sees it as more than just the next meal. He looks into the future, eyeing the prospect of ethnic and cultural cuisine characteristics being lost, or of certain foods becoming extinct. For this reason, both Chris and Rebecca advocate the slow-food approach, a worldwide movement encouraging consumption of locally raised, in-season foods, and the practice of enjoying the very nature of eating. In CK’s world, we would not just eat: we would eat well, with forethought and consciousness.
Kastner’s idea of a picnic, although not simple, isn’t difficult to prepare. True to form, however, his recipes do take time. The process of preparing this picnic is every bit as important as eating the meal, according to Chef Kastner: Cold Roast Rack of Lamb with Argentinean Chimichurri Sauce; Beluga Lentil Tabbouleh with Tzatziki Sauce; Artichokes and Lemon Aioli; Belgium Endive with Roquefort Mousse; Roasted Eggplant Puree Crostini; Lemon Bars; Cline Mourvedre-Ancient Vines, 2001.
Rack of Lamb with Chimichurri
3 12- to 14-ounce racks of lamb (frenched)
Kosher salt, black pepper, rosemary-olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub lamb with kosher salt, black pepper, and rosemary-infused olive oil. In a sauté pan, quickly sear the racks on both sides, then place in preheated oven, fat cap up, for 17 minutes. Check for doneness (if using a meat thermometer, 120 degrees indicates rare to medium rare). Remove lamb from oven and cool completely before carving into single bone chops.
1 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons shallot, chopped
3/4 cup good quality olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Combine all ingredients, except the oil, in a food processor, pulsing four or five times. Add the olive oil while the machine is running, over a period of 5 seconds. Stop the machine, and taste the chimichurri for acidity. If the flavor is too sharp, add a bit more oil. If the flavor is too mild, add a bit more vinegar or lemon juice. Serve over the lamb, or as a condiment on the side. The color of this Argentinean sauce will fade over a few days, but the flavor only improves.
Beluga Lentil Tabbouleh
11/2 cups Beluga lentils
3 cups water, or vegetable or
2/3 cup chopped parsley
1 cup onion, finely diced
11/2 cups tomato, seeded, peeled, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped mint
Add lentils to boiling water or stock. Cook about 20 minutes. The liquid should be nearly absorbed. Taste for doneness (a little resistance is good, so the lentils will hold their shape during mixing). When lentils are cooked, spread them immediately on a small baking sheet so they won’t continue to cook in their own heat. When cool, combine with the rest of the ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Adjust flavors for acidity and salt.
Belgium Endive with Roquefort Mousse
4 heads Belgium endive
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
3/4 cup Roquefort or other good blue cheese
1 tablespoon sour cream or crème fraîche
2 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped stiff with no sugar
1. Carefully separate individual leaves of endive, reserving the small, central core leaves for another use.
2. Crumble cheese and mix with sour cream until combined but not smooth. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture until soft enough to scoop onto the endive leaves.
3. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts just before serving.