Special Event: Cooking Demonstration with Jean Georges Vongerichten at Mercato

Last weekend I was lucky enough to snatch a spot at my favorite Italian restaurant in town Mercato, where a small group of Shanghai food lovers experienced a cooking demonstration and luncheon from master chef Jean Georges Vongerichten.  This was amazing for several reasons.  First, OMG it’s Jean Georges Vongerichten!!  Second, he does not conduct this sort of demonstration anywhere else in the world.  I mean, the man doesn’t have the time!  Third, he shared some of his secret recipes and techniques for some of our favorite dishes at Mercato!  The list goes on!

The demo began around brunch time at Mercato at Three on the Bund.  When we first arrived, we were welcomed with a choice of cocktails, wine and prosecco with strawberry puree while we mingled in the front bar area waiting for the class to begin.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo1

Mercato is run by Chef de Cuisine Sandy Yoon, who was previously a sous chef at Jean Georges’ Spice Market in New York City.  Only 27 years old, she does an impressive job running a high profile restaurant on her own.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo2

The main demonstration was led by both Jean Georges and Sandy Yoon, with assistance from Lam Ming Kin who is the Executive Chef of Jean Georges and Nougatine (also located at Three on the Bund.)

Jean Georges Cooking Demo3

We started off with a few appetizers.  Here we have Endive and Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Parmesan Dressing and Herbs; House-made Ricotta with Strawberry Compote; and Kingfish Carpaccio, Crushed Olives, and Red Chili.  Jean Georges said red chili makes everything better and I agree!

Jean Georges Cooking Demo4

The starters were followed by a Warm Seafood Salad with Avocado, Lemon and Parsley.  Avocados bring me so much joy.  They make everything better!

Jean Georges Cooking Demo5

For the pasta course we had Lobster Raviolis with Lemon, Olive Oil and Herbs (recipe provided below).  This is their most popular pasta dish at Mercato.  They serve several thousand Lobster Raviolis a month and it’s all made fresh in house.  When they make them it’s basically a rotating assembly line of people each assigned with one task: filling, folding, cutting etc.  The raviolis at Mercato get their special yellowish color from imported eggs from Japan which have a more of an orange-hued yolk than your typical eggs. To give the raviolis a different spin, they fold them in rectangles versus the traditional square shape.

Jean Geoges Cooking Demo6

The filling is packed with lobster and shrimp.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo7

The next pasta dish that we were most excited to see was the Rigatoni with Meatballs and Smoked Chili Tomato Ragu, one of our personal favorites at Mercato.  Their pizzas are definitely delicious but to me I feel like every single one of their pastas really stand out and are absolutely amazing.  Just look at this pile of goodness!

Jean Georges Cooking Demo8

And a closer look.  Get in there!  They wouldn’t share with us their secret sauce but these meatballs are made with a combination of pork shoulder and beef shoulder.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo9

As we moved into the pizza demonstration, one of the most important components in Italian cuisine was discussed.  Cheese!  Mercato, along with many other restaurants in Shanghai, get their supply of delicious cheeses such as fresh mozzarella and buratta locally from this lovely entrepreneur, Kyeong Joo Lee, a.k.a. KJ.  She’s actually an expat that studied architecture in Milan.  When she and her husband decided to pick up and move to Shanghai, she decided she wanted to try something new and took up cheese-making as a hobby.  Now she’s delivering amazing cheeses to some of the best restaurants in Shanghai.  You can take a look at her shop online here: Solo Latte.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo10

Mercato’s pizzas are made in a wood fire oven that was imported from Italy.  The oven reaches to 300 degrees C (or 572 degrees F), so it doesn’t take long for them to bake.  They served us two types of pizzas.  Here we have their simple but excellent Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo11

And then the Spicy Pork Sausage, Kale and Pecorino.  So, so good!  The cheese tasted so fresh and was so gooey and delicious.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo12

The pastry chef at Mercato demonstrated how she makes panna cotta.  This is something I’m definitely looking forward to creating this summer.  We tasted three desserts.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Seasonal Berries.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo13

Assorted Selection of Gelati.

Jean Georges Cooking Demo14

And an Italian meal isn’t complete without Tiramisu!

Jean Georges Cooking Demo15

After the delicious meal, we were able to do a meet and greet with the chefs.  It was really cool to speak with Jean Georges and Sandy Yoon.  They all seem really down to earth and really friendly.

Jean Georges cooking demo16

Jean Georges Cooking Demo16

This is definitely an experience that I will never forget.  Jean Georges has been doing these cooking classes every time he visits Shanghai, probably to create some buzz for his personal brand and restaurants as they are both relatively new here.  I’m sure he won’t have these events forever but hopefully you can have a chance to check it out next year if you are ever in the Shanghai area.

Mercato’s Lobster Raviolis with Lemon, Olive Oil and Herbs:
(Serves 4)

For the Pasta:

3 1/3 cups fine semolina flour (00 flour)
8 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all in the pasta machine.  Process on “knead” setting until dough resembles the size of coffee beans.  Using the proper mold, extrude sheets.  Use a pasta rolling machine to roll the sheets as thin as possible (-0.5 setting).  Keep covered with a damp towel to prevent drying.

For the Filling:

1st set:
1 1/3 cup shrimp, peeled and deveined
2nd set:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature soft
1 teaspoon salt
3rd set:
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh mozzarella, cut in 2′ pieces
1 cup blanched lobster knuckles and claws, tips removed
1 piece red thai chili minced
zest of 1 lemon

Process shrimp in robo coup until fine puree. Add 2nd set and puree until smooth.  Add 3rd set and process to mix well; Keep medium chunky.  ! ravioli gets 20g filling.

For the Raviolis:

pasta sheets
egg whites/ pastry brush
filling in piping bag

Cut pasta sheets into 12 cm long by 8 cm wide strips.  Brush half of the sheet with egg whites.  Pipe 25g filling down center of sheet, fold over and seal well, avoiding air bubbles.  Trim ravioli edges to get a clean, sealed edge.  Store on a sheet tray dusted with plenty of semolina flour.

To Serve:

12 each:
extra virgin olive oil
dill pluche
micro basil
mint, medium chiffonade
chervil pluche
chives, minced
fleur de sel/ black pepper mill
2 lemon wedges
lemon/ microplane

Poach raviolis in simmering water until completely tender.  Toss in a saute pan with extra virgin olive oil to coat well.  Arrange on a hot plate, then scatter with herbs, drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil, season with fleurde sel, black pepper and microplaned lemon zest.  Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over the top. Serve with 1 lemon wedges on the the side.

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