Welcome back to Chef in the Kitchen, a recurring Eater photo feature where we boldly go where few diners have gone before — into Portland restaurant kitchens — to get a sneak peek of the chef du jour hard at work.
While Matt Lightner prepares to depart for New York City in just a few days, longtime Castagna second-in-command — and soon-to-be head chef — Justin Woodward is getting ready to steer the ship all on his own. But what many may not know is that Woodward's the one responsible for Castagna's multi-course, inventive amuse bouche round — and what he deems "snacks" come in the form of buttermilk "puffs" filled with emulsions and crispy smoked pork jowl.
To make the deceptively simple crispy "duck cracker," Woodward places an eight-oz. ladle of warm duck stock in a hot pan, reducing the stock until it begins to brown. Before it completely hardens, Woodward removes the cracker, forming it into an organic shape and breaking it into bite-sized pieces. The cracker is then carefully plated (see: giant tweezers) with a red wine vinegar and shallot glaze and garnished with savory herbs like sorrel, thyme, salad burnet, oxalis, and nasturtium.
· Castagna [Official site]
· All Previous Castagna Coverage [Eater PDX]
· All Previous Chef in the Kitchen Coverage [Eater PDX]