So simply on top of fusion

You can call him Jean-Georges, or Vong, or Jo-Jo, but whatever you call Jean-Georges Vongerichten, you will become more familiar…

You can call him Jean-Georges, or Vong, or Jo-Jo, but whatever you call Jean-Georges Vongerichten, you will become more familiar with him in the future, as his influence spreads among contemporary chefs.

Readers of these pages may already be familiar with Vongerichten, whose recipes have featured here over the years, culled from a book he wrote in 1990 called Simple Cuisine.

That was published when Vongerichten was chef at New York's Lafayette Restaurant. He left the same year and opened Jo-Jo. A year later he opened Vong in New York, and there are now two further Vong restaurants, in London and Hong Kong. His newest venture is the New York restaurant, Jean-George's. He is also one of a small band of chefs who are extremely influential within the restaurant world. The 1990s, in other words, have been Vongerichten's decade.

Like Michel Guerard, another Frenchman who had a tumultuous influence on a generation of chefs almost 30 years ago, Vongerichten leads, and everyone else follows. And, for the next few years, the book everyone is going to be following is Simple Good Food, which Vongerichten has written with the food writer Mark Bittman.


Look, for example, at the simple little tomato tower which features on the cover of the book. It's fairly easy to get right so long as you have a sharp knife. You simply peel and slice a tomato, interleave it with basil leaves and a basil oil, and you have a stylish starter.

This is typical of the food Vongerichten is cooking now - simple ideas and simple execution, with flavoured oils and fusion elements elegantly interwoven. Indeed, it is the latter which are going to be the major influences of Simple Good Food - chicken with lemongrass; chicken with tamarind glaze; braised duck and vegetables with Asian spices; star anise pots de creme.

You won't need to go to one of Vongerichten's restaurants to eat these signature dishes, because in various forms I have no doubt that they will be coming soon to a restaurant near you. Fusion cooking, which has for the most part been too heavy-handed and ill-understood by most chefs, has found the apostle it needed.

Here is the sort of thing Vongerichten was doing a decade ago and which is now a staple of both home and restaurant. Vong garnishes this dish with horseradish oil and balsamic vinegar, but the herbed breadcrumb mixture and the hot horseradish is as much as the fish needs.

Cod in Horseradish Crust

6 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons sweet butter

2 tablespoons freshly grated or commercially prepared white horseradish

half tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped chervil

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1 cup dry white wine

4 six-ounce cod fillets

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 232C/ 450F. Combine the breadcrumbs, butter, horseradish, rosemary, tarragon, chervil and thyme in the workbowl of a food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of the wine and process to a paste.

Spread the top of each piece of cod with equal amounts of the breadcrumbs mixture. Place fillets in a shallow, grill-proof pan. Pour the remaining wine around them and bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and place it about 3 inches under the preheated grill. Season fillets with salt and pepper and grill until the crust is browned.

Caramelised Beetroots and Turnips

This is typical of the inspired imagination which Vongerichten exhibits, and of his fondness for simplicity.

250-300g (8-10oz) beetroots, preferably less than 5cm (2 inches) in diameter

250-300g (8-10oz) turnips, preferably less than 5cm (2 inches) in diameter

salt 25g (1oz); and butter

Peel and trim the beetroots and turnips; quarter them if they are large. Place each in its own saucepan with a pinch of salt and water to come about halfway up their height. Divide the butter between the two pans, cover each, and turn the heat to mediumhigh. Simmer until the vegetables are nearly tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover; much of the water will have evaporated. Continue to cook until the vegetables are shiny and glazed with their juices. Add more salt, if necessary, and serve hot.

Orange Dust

Mark Bittman calls this smart powder - "potent and beguiling". You can use the same technique to make lemon or lime dust, and use any of these as seasoning for sauted, grilled, or roasted meat, fish, or poultry. Orange dust goes particularly well with sauted prawns, served with a rocket salad.

2 oranges

4 tablespoons sugar

half teaspoon vegetable, grapeseed or other neutral-flavoured oil

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the oranges; your should get 8 or 10 broad strips from each one. Scrape all the white pith from inside the peel using a paring knife. Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F/gas 4.

Place the peels in a small saucepan with 250ml (9 fl oz) of water and the sugar. Turn the heat to high, then reduce to medium when the liquid begins to boil. When it becomes syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes later, remove the peels and drain them.

Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and spread the oil on the foil. Scatter the cooked peels on the sheet; they should not touch one another.

Bake until dry, but not at all brown, for about 15 minutes (if they begin to brown before they are dry, reduce the oven heat). Leave to cool at room temperature, preferably in a dry place.

Crumble, then grind in a spice mill or coffee grinder until powdery. Store in a tightly sealed jar. Orange dust retains peak flavour for a couple of weeks, but it will keep a long time, gradually losing intensity.

Simple Good Food, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten with Mark Bittman (Kyle Cathie, £19.99 in the UK)