The Anatomy of Toro’s D.T.F. (Duck, Tomato, and Frisée)
Jamie Bissonnette is embracing heirloom tomato season with his fowl-heavy spin on the classic B.L.T.
It’s that time of the year when grocery stores and farmer’s markets abound with every imaginable type of tomato, especially those of the vaunted heirloom variety. Nevermind those Romas when you can get your hands on ribbed Costoluto Genoveses, golf ball-sized Green Zebras, and clusters of Gold Rush Currants. But according to Toro chef Jamie Bissonnette, you shouldn’t limit this oh-so-brief bounty to Caprese salads or an glug of olive oil.
“I read a lot because I’m always on a train,” Bissonnette says. “For six to eight hours a week I devote my time to reading a lot of old articles and interviews in my commute between Boston and New York. And one of the most interesting things I came across was this James Beard quote where he said, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are, a perfect tomato sandwich is something that needs to be on a menu.’ And he’s so right! That’s even true at places like Thomas Keller’s restaurants. Is Le Bernardin going to put a tomato salad on their menu? Probably not. But are they going to combine fresh tomatoes with something creamy or mayonnaise-y, along with a bread-y, crunchy component? Absolutely.”
Bissonnette didn’t end there, though, and he consulted with chef de cuisine Mike Stark to build the perfect complement to the tomato. The two resisted the pull of rare roast beef, salty bacon, and Toro’s awesome arsenal of charcuterie, choosing instead to employ Izzy Yanay’s prized Moulard Ducks from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Here, in their own words, are the ingredients behind Toro’s new super slider; not the B.L.T, the D.T.F.—a duck, tomato, and frisée sandwich, to the uninitiated.
1. Duck Breast
“We got in a lot of duck product from one of Ken Oringer’s friends at Hudson Valley Foie Gras,” Stark says. “Basically, my thought process behind it was that we’ve made a lot of duck in the past—prosciutto, sausages, and cold-smoked duck—why not do something a little different with the duck breasts? We’ve got a ton of nice things on the menu, so I wanted to take it down a notch and make something really simple like a slider. A roast beef sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world, so I thought I’d make something similar, but use the Hudson Valley ducks. So, I pan sear the duck breasts and baste it in its own fat, once it’s been rendered out. Afterward I chill it, slice it super thin, and give it a quick sear on the plancha.”
2. Duck Tongue
“Duck tongues are amazing, but they are really difficult to deal with on a regular basis,” Stark says. “The tongues are tiny, as you might imagine, so you have to cook them low and slow. We braise them in a corn stock for about three hours or until they’re nice and tender. The tongues have a bone that connects to the throat, so you have to grip that little bone nub and slide it off the tongue along with the cartilage, almost like you’re peeling a banana. If you do it wrong, you’ll end up with an inside out tongue. Once they’re braised and cleaned, we dredge them in a mixture of flour, cornstarch, salt, dried garlic and onion, and fry them at 350 degrees. Once crispy, we drain them on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.”
“We’re getting our heirlooms from a bunch of different places,” Bissonnette says. “We get some from Wood’s Farms, some from the farmer’s market, some from Siena Farms, and some from Sparrow Arc Farm, who used to be in Unity, Maine, but is now is Copake, New York, near the Hudson Valley. We’ve also gotten some from Appletree Farms, which is Frank McClelland’s (L’Espalier) farm. When tomatoes are in season like this, we just get what we need for two or three days, because we know where to get them again. That’s the best part about the end of summer: you don’t have to worry. Great tomatoes are around.”
“I will eat the crap out of any green you can put on the grill,” Stark says. “I love grilled greens! It’s one of the main components I really wanted on the sliders. I char the frisée on the grill, which holds the salt and oil and actually helps draw out some of the bitterness. The overall effect is just dynamite.”
5. Pistachio Aioli
“Pistachio is a really classic pairing with duck,” Stark says. “Because they work so well together, I wanted to figure out some way to get that combination in there. So, I made our regular house aioli and folded in pistachio oil, as well as a ton of roasted and ground pistachios.”
6. Potato Bun
“Let’s be honest,” Bissonnette says. “There’s only one type of potato bread: Martin’s potato rolls. We put a little bit of butter on them and griddle them on the plancha. They hold up really well despite all the toppings and all that juicy duck meat.”
1704 Washington St., Boston; 617-536-4300 or toro-restaurant.com/Boston.