Tasting Room Del Mar is giving diners an unique experience with its tasting portions and beer/wine pairings. Chef de cuisine Jenny Goycochea chats with In the Kitchen about her savory braised lamb belly recipe and her journey leading up to her position as chef de cuisine for Tasting Room Del Mar.
Braised Lamb Belly
Can you tell us about the braised lamb belly dish you prepared in the video?
This dish is a braised lamb belly roulade. We get this beautiful lamb belly from superior farms that is located just outside of Sacramento, California where they've been sustainably raising lambs since 1964. The belly is prepared by marinating in a mixture of harissa paste (we make this in-house, it's a blend of dried chilies and spices central to Moroccan cuisine), preserved lemon, agave and Arbequina olive oil. Then we roll it and fill it with some more preserved lemon, a little oregano and freshly ground black pepper. I tied the loins up to keep them together and then seared them off before braising them with carrots, onion, celery, red wine and chicken stock. They are braised and covered for three and a half hours. It's served with a charred eggplant, yogurt sauce, baby squash, eggplant, mint-dill gremolata. The dish is garnished with pickled pearl onions, purple daikon and purple onion blossoms.
What's the key component to this dish?
The key component is definitely the lamb belly. When you're working with such a beautiful protein, it makes it easy to build a dish around it.
What makes your braised lamb belly unique? Is this a traditional way of making lamb belly?
I think the Moroccan influence definitely takes it in an interesting direction and the fact that we make every single component in-house. You can buy pre-made harissa, but we take the extra time to make it because we care about the quality. Also, the fact that it's a roulade (rolled up) makes it special and visually appealing.
Describe the taste to someone who haven't had this dish?
If you have never had lamb, it can be slightly gamy, but this lamb is so flavorful and tender without being excessively gamy. It has a little spice to it, but the meat is very rich, so the eggplant and yogurt help to balance that with a little tang.
What's a good beer and/or cocktail to pair with this dish?
I would recommend pairing a braise like this with Fall Brewing's 2am Bike Ride because it's usually on nitro which gives it a fun texture and it's not so heavy. It doesn't compete with the dish, it just compliments the flavors.
Watch as the chef de cuisine of Tasting Room Del Mar shares her savory braised lamb belly recipe.
What kind of experience will a diner get at Tasting Room Del Mar?
I believe anyone coming to Tasting Room Del Mar will have an unique experience in that all of our dishes are tasting portions. Diners will have the opportunity to try so many wonderful dishes on a budget and without gorging themselves. We diligently pair our wine/beer with each dish that adds to the overall experience.
About Jenny Goycochea
Are you from San Diego?
I was born and raised, been here (almost!) 28 years.
Did you always want to be a chef growing up?
I always loved food but I originally studied to be a journalist. I realized that cooking was the path I wanted to take when I was 20.
What has your journey been like leading up to your current position as Chef de Cuisine for Tasting Room Del Mar?
I've had the wonderful opportunity to work with amazing chefs in San Diego with incredible talent and that has laid the foundation for me to have immensely high standards when it comes to food and ingredients. I learned that there's nothing wrong with cooking simple. Food doesn't need to have bells and whistles to be delicious. We aren't reinventing the wheel here, but creating new perspectives from which to use it.
What is your favorite dish on Tasting Room Del Mar's menu? Why?
I am biased, haha. But my favorite upcoming dishes have to be our pork short rib with yellow curry sauce, our current 'in the raw' dish which features fresh, rotating crudo with gochujang vinaigrette, watermelon radish, Fresno chili and Thai basil blossoms, and our ice cream which I have been making. Ice cream is hands-down my favorite dessert and I'm really passionate about sharing that with people.
What motivates you as a chef?
I am motivated to be better than I was yesterday. I let yesterday's successes and failures be in the past and start each day fresh with a new perspective and a clean attitude. Too many chefs get arrogant and lazy in their complacence. I know I can always keep learning and make every dish better even when I think I can't make it better. The learning and growing will always motivate me the most.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge when it comes creating new dishes?
The most difficult thing is to not fall into trends in a lazy fashion. It's impossible to do something that no one has done before. It's swallowing your pride and being able to be okay with taking a classic dish and just doing it really well with your own signature on it.
Are you planning on creating any new items for the menu?
Absolutely. Our menu is always fluid and changing. It keeps things fun and interesting which allows us to give our staff some say in what direction we head in next.
When you're not coming up with delicious dishes, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I hang out with my dog, cook at home (duh), visit the beach, check out new breweries and I'm always looking for new places to eat!
What's next for you?
I just want to keep playing my small role in helping the San Diego food scene grow to what it could be. There is so much talent in this town and so much potential. I'm just excited to be a part of it and see where it goes.