Welcome to Hey Chef, a series where we ask pros around the country for tips on how to use ingredients we love. Today, seven hot ways to use ginger.
What else should we be doing with ginger? We asked the pros for some more techniques.
Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly grew up in French-speaking Quebec, where he would later work at renowned Montreal restaurants including Toqué and Au Pied de Cochon. Brunet-Benkritly now serves as the executive chef/partner at Fedora and the recently opened Bar Sardine in New York City.
We do a lot of pickled ginger—it's really tasty and you can put it on anything. Slice raw ginger thin, rinse it for a little bit, and salt it, and then make a warm pickling liquid with rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Then cover it in the warm vinegar and let it sit. It's pretty quick—it's done after 12 hours in the fridge if it's sliced really thin, but if your slices are thick or you have more time, wait 24 hours.
Swap in Ceviche
Chef Kyle Itani is a yonsei—fourth-generation Japanese American—who has honed his culinary skills on both the West and East coasts at Yoshi's in San Francisco and Oakland, New York City's Meatball Shop, and a stage tour in Japan. In 2012, Itani struck out on his own and debuted Hopscotch in Oakland's revitalized Uptown District to popular acclaim.
Make a ceviche, but with ginger juice instead of citrus.
Take fresh ginger, peel it (I peel it with a spoon, which is so much better than an actual peeler since ginger is so fibrous that it clogs up your peeler), and use a grater, blender, or food processor to pulverize or juice it. Then marinate fish with it; I've been using amberjack, but try tuna, hamachi, salmon, or any quality fish you can get.
Ginger juice isn't that acidic, so when you add it the fish won't turn opaque or white right away like it does with lime juice—it takes ten minutes or so to really get in there. Then finish the ceviche with a basic salad mix of endive, frisée, and olive oil. Ginger replaces the acid in a vinaigrette and the olive oil mellows out the ginger while also working with the fish.
Pastry chef Joe Murphy heads up the pastry kitchen at the iconic Jean-Georges in New York City. Formerly JG's corporate executive chef and the chef/owner of Tribeca's Fresh restaurant, his four-part dessert menus are some of our favorite high-end desserts in the city.
Make a better candied ginger than what you can buy in a store: peel the ginger, slice it into little strips, blanch it twice, and then candy it with sugar syrup; two parts sugar to one part water. I bring water to a boil, add the ginger, and then add sugar gradually, which stretches out the cooking time but helps to keep me from over-sweetening the syrup. Then let the ginger sit in the syrup for a day or two. You could use it the same day, but I prefer to wait.
From there I'll stuff roasted plums or pluots with a streusel and top them with the candied ginger. It gives an interesting look and flavor to the dish.
Potent Ginger Ice Cream
Pastry chef Miroslav Uskokovic worked under Jean-Georges chef Joe Murphy before creating his own menus at George Mendes' Aldea and, currently, at Union Square Hospitality Group's Gramercy Tavern.
We make nougat and add candied ginger to it, which is nice for the spice that offsets the nougat's sweetness.
Also, I make a ginger ice cream that pairs particularly well on a rhubarb tart, since rhubarb and ginger work well together. We peel the ginger, grind it into a paste, and then cold-infuse it into milk and cream. The ginger's quiet acidity could potentially curdle the base if we heat it up, so we do a cold infusion for 24 hours with the milk and cream, and then strain it for the base. I use potato starch instead of eggs to thicken the ice cream so the ginger flavor shines through. And we use young ginger, which has a nice, citrusy flavor without too much bitterness; older ginger, which is more common, gets a bitter tone when it's infused into milk. I then fold some candied ginger into the base for a little extra kick.
Alex Figura worked at Vetri Ristorante, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, El Cellar de Can Roca, and Frasca Food & Wine before becoming chef/partner of Lower48, a Denver restaurant with "Best New Restaurant" accolades from 5280 magazine and Denver Westword.
In our bar we make ginger beer in house. We make a ginger bug by grating some ginger and adding lemon and some sugar. Then over three to four days we feed it a little sugar and water, and it starts to grow like a live vinegar, basically.
James "Mac" Moran is the executive chef and partner of the Rusty Mackerel in New York's Washington Heights, where he's turning out bright, seasonal food and working on fostering community and food sustainability in his urban neighborhood.
We make syrups for a Mezcal Moscow Mule. Take whole ginger, put it in a blender with water, purée the whole thing until it's a loose liquid, then make a simple syrup with an equal part sugar. Heat it to combine, and then use it as a really potent syrup in your favorite mezcal mule (think this recipe with mezcal instead of vodka.
Add to Bread Mix
Sarah McIntosh is the chef and owner of Epicerie in Austin, where her all-day menu tweaks classics like fried green tomatoes with a helping of smoked shrimp.
Mix chopped candied ginger into any type of slow-rise bread, like a sourdough, baguette, or ciabatta; one that takes a long time to rise through slow fermentation with yeast and air. Once the dough has fermented, we fold in the candied ginger before shaping and letting it rise for a final time. The sugar helps the fermentation and souring, so it makes the final bread really airy and light. And it also lends a really gentle flavor. And because the ginger's dehydrated, it doesn't make the dough watery or anything. For one loaf of brioche we use half a cup of diced, candied ginger.