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Olympic fine dining

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As the world's top athletes perform in Salt Lake City, so will about 50 of the world's top chefs.

As part of the Olympic Arts Festival program ? The Art of the Table ? they will serve dinners in Abravanel Hall to complement the cultural events, such as the American Folk Ballet and the Dale Chihuly art exhibit.

The chefs are volunteering through the James Beard Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that promotes culinary pursuits. This is the first time that James Beard chefs have been part of the Olympics, says Chris Young, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's culinary program manager.

Diners can enjoy such entrees as beef tenderloin stuffed with Maytag blue cheese on a wild mushroom ragout, made by Kathy Cary of Lilly's in Louisville, Ky. Cary's cooking was featured in the February 2002 issue of Bon Appetit. Or an hors d'oeuvre of Asian tuna tartare served in little savory cones, made by Ed Brown of The Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, who is also serving sauteed bass with truffle-smashed potatoes and black truffles.

"The James Beard chefs will be creating some truly extraordinary dishes to complement the artistic experience," said Raymond T. Grant, Olympic Arts Festival artistic director. "The Art of the Table is a rare opportunity for participants to experience food as art without having to travel to The James Beard House in New York."

This fine-dining experience will cost a cool $5,000 for a table for eight, which includes the cultural program, private reception and dinner. (For ticket information, phone 212-2402). Many nights are already sold out, said Young.

We spoke with several of the chefs by telephone (and borrowed a few of their favorite recipes), so you can sample their "personal best" in your own kitchen.

James Beard, a cookbook author who pioneered some of the first television cooking shows, is widely recognized as the father of American gastronomy. After he died in 1985, Julia Child and other friends bought his New York house to maintain it as a "foodie" gathering spot.

Distinguished chefs from around the country are invited to present a dinner at the James Beard House ? equivalent to a singer being asked to perform with The Metropolitan Opera. (Utah chefs who have garnered such an honor include Sundance chef Jason Knibb, Jean-Louis Montecot of Goldener Hirsch Inn, Barbara Hill of Snake Creek Grill, Clark Norris of Deer Valley, David Jones of Log Haven, Jonathan Perno of The Metropolitan, Scott Blackerby of Bambara, and Brian Moscatello of Bistro Toujours.)

When SLOC's food-services director, Don Pritchard, first approached the James Beard Foundation about recruiting chefs for the Olympics, the idea was to have them cook for the athletes in the Olympic Village and for corporate sponsor tents. "But because of security reasons at the athletes' area and everything that goes along with it, we decided to concentrate the efforts at Abravanel Hall," Young said.

The chefs will work in teams of three, with each taking an entree, dessert or appetizer. All three will do hors d'oeuvres. "I left it up to the foundation to pair the chefs up," said Young. "Some have never worked with each other. But a chef is a chef, and no matter where you put them, they always rise to the occasion and put on a great show. It will be fun to see how it all plays out."

? Ed Brown of The Sea Grill said he's heard good things about Utah's restaurants, and he's looking forward to trying some of them while he's here. "I've landed at the airport in Salt Lake City a lot of times on my way to L.A. but never had an opportunity to visit the city," Brown said.

So far, he's impressed with the level of organization that the Beard Foundation and SLOC have demonstrated. "They've sent floor plans and diagrams of the kitchen," he said. "I've done plenty of things on the road, so I know you do things that don't require too much specialty equipment, and if there are luxury ingredients, they should be easy to find."

Brown is the author of "The Modern Seafood Cook" and rewrote the section on fish and shellfish for the updated "Joy of Cooking." While he's in Utah, he is also slated to do a Valentine's Day cooking segment on the "Today" show.

? Tory McPhail will pay tribute to a good friend, Jamie Shannon, who was executive chef of the Commander's Palace in New Orleans. Shannon was invited to attend but died in November from cancer. McPhail, who was sous chef at the Las Vegas Commander's Palace, was named executive chef just three weeks ago. In Shannon's place, he will be cooking the dishes that Shannon planned.

"He was only 40 and at the top of his career," McPhail said of Shannon. "There's a tremendous amount of talent here at this restaurant that he's built up for many years."

McPhail knows he has big shoes to fill ? besides Shannon, former Commander's Palace chefs include Emeril Lagasse, now a TV Food Network star, and Paul Prudhomme, who helped put blackened redfish and other Cajun dishes on tables across America in the 1980s.

McPhail will offer diners a taste of New Orleans ? a crab-and-corn johnnycake hors d'oeuvre with Choupique caviar, which comes from the Louisiana bayous, and a fig and white-chocolate Linzertorte.

? Kathy Cary of Lilly's in Louisville, Ky., will serve a savory eclair stuffed with Indiana goat cheese, chipotle cream and house-smoked salmon, in addition to her beef tenderloin entree. "I did it for a high-end event down here, and it was wonderful," she said. It's Cary's first time in Utah, and she hopes to take in some Olympic events during the three days she's here.

? Brian Aspell of The Equinox in Manchester Village, Vt., is giving diners some New England flair with smoked chicken and Vermont apple rillettes (a spread) on very light cracker bread. Then he's doing a winter salad of beets, parsnips, turnips, carrots and a little Vermont pheasant, topped by a croustard (almost like a cheese souffle) made of Vermont goat cheese. "With the security and everything going on, our food will have to come from a Salt Lake-area purveyor," Aspell said. "So we submitted a product list and recipes, and the food will be waiting for me when I get there." He added, "To be able to travel to Salt Lake City and participate in the Olympic Games is truly an honor."

? Debbie Gold and her husband, Michael Smith, won James Beard honors while they were chefs at The American in Kansas City, Mo. Now they're opening their own eatery, called Forty Sardines. "My husband is a very skinny guy and eats a lot of food," explained Gold. "When we were in the south of France and he ordered a plate of fresh sardines and started gobbling them up, I bet him on how many he could eat, and he was able to eat 40. And that just became the working name of the restaurant." Gold will serve a crispy skewered chicken appetizer and bourbon pecan cake. Her husband is doing an entree of braised veal and little garlic toasts with a variety of toppings.

? Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit in New York City came to Utah last year to help cook for a SLOC "one-year-out" party at Park City Mountain Resort. Besides winning the James Beard Foundation's "Best Rising Star Chef" award in 1999, he was profiled by People magazine in 2000 as one of America's top five eligible bachelors. At the one-year-out party, he said he hoped he could come back to Utah in 2002. "How often does an Ethiopian kid from Sweden get to cook for the Olympics?" said Samuelsson, who was orphaned as a child in Ethiopia, then adopted by a Swedish couple. "This is a real privilege, and when an organization like James Beard Foundation asks you, you don't turn it down."

? Nancy Silverton is pastry chef and co-owner of Campanile restaurant and owner of La Brea Bakery and author of several cookbooks. She was born and raised in Los Angeles. During the '80s, she was head pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant, where she was responsible for developing its highly acclaimed desserts.

ALL CRABMEAT CRAB CAKES

Crab cakes are a signature item at The Sea Grill.

1 1/2 cups cornflake crumbs

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

1 1/2 teaspoons homemade mayonnaise or best-quality store-bought

1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon red bell pepper cored, seeded and finely diced (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

1/4 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Distribute the cornflake crumbs on a platter. Combine all the remaining ingredients except the butter and accompaniment in a non-reactive bowl and toss gently until well blended.

Make 8 crab cakes no more than 3 inches thick, pressing the ingredients together.

Place the cakes on the crumbs and coat lightly on all sides. Put the cakes on a baking sheet and dot each with a bit of butter.

Bake the cakes until just hot about 6 minutes and serve with tartar sauce or spicy honey mustard. Serves 8. ? Ed Brown, The Sea Grill

LILLY'S CHICKEN POT PIE ("POULET A MA FA?ON")

1 whole chicken (approximately 3 1/2 pounds or more)

Cold water to cover

2 large onions, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 leek, sliced

1 bay leaf

A small handful of fresh parsley

A small handful of fresh thyme

6 peppercorns

The filling:

1 large onion, chopped

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1 yellow pepper, cut into strips

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/4 pound baby green beans, blanched

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

The sauce:

8 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

3 cups reserved and strained stock

1 1/2 tablespoons beef base

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

The crust:

1/2 pound margarine, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

(Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten)

Cover the chicken with cold water. Add the vegetables, herbs and seasonings. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid, and reduce by 1/2 (or to approximately 3 cups). Pull chicken from the bone and place in a bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet and add onions and peppers. Cook until soft. Remove and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet and saute the shiitakes until soft. Put the onions, peppers, shiitakes and rosemary in the bowl with the chicken.

Boil water and blanch the baby green beans for 4 minutes. Remove, drain and rinse under cold water. Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the water. Simmer 3 minutes. Drain and chop.

Add the beans and tomatoes to the chicken.

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Add the reduced chicken stock slowly, then whisk in the milk, beef base, salt and pepper. Toss this carefully with the chicken mixture, taking care not to break up the chicken into tiny pieces. Spoon this filling into a greased 7.5-by-11.75-inch casserole. Set aside.

In a food processor, place the margarine (which works more easily than butter in this instance) and cream cheese, and quickly pulse together; add the flour and salt. Do not over-process. Set aside and chill. Roll out on floured surface and place over the casserole.

Pinch the edges and make a pattern with a fork around the rim. (You will have some extra dough. Refrigerate and save for use in sweet or savory dishes.) Brush the top with egg wash and cut 3 diagonal air vents; bake in the middle of the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves six, or makes 6 individual 8-ounce ramekins. ? Kathy Cary, Lilly's

LA BREA CARROT-RAISIN BABY CAKES

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for brushing the pan

1 1/2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Just under 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed

3 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots

1/4 cup crushed pineapple, well-drained

1/2 cup California golden raisins

Frosting:

7 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

For cakes: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Prepare 12 mini-loaf pans by brushing them with melted butter.

Turn the oven up to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ground ginger, allspice and cloves together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high for 10 minutes, until lightened in color. Add the vanilla extract and grated ginger and mix on medium to combine. Add the dry ingredients and the oil alternately, in three batches, mixing on low until just combined.

Fold in the carrots, pineapple, walnuts, and California golden raisins. Fill a pastry bag with the batter. Pipe the batter into the prepared mini-loaf pans.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned and springy to the touch. Remove from oven. Allow cooling for about 10 minutes, and then turn the cakes out of the mini-loaf pans to finish cooling.

For frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar on high speed for about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix another 2 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy. (The frosting can be made up to two days in advance.)

Using a piping bag fitted with a No. 2 star tip, pipe the frosting in a horizontal serpentine design. Makes 12 cakes. ? Nancy Silverton, Campanile

E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com