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Upstate New York native, Charlie Palmer, is sometimes referred to as the "Godfather" of restauanteurs with good reason. Consistently receiving Zagat's highest ratings, he not only owns and operates an impressive roster of successful dining establishments — ALVA, Metazur and Aureolea in the Big Apple, Aureole in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas — but also owns a catering business, a dairy, organic farms, a private wine label, a line of gourmet pre-prepared food for the consumer and soon a boutique hotel and restaurant in the Napa Valley.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in 1978, Palmer immediately headed for the Big Apple to meet his fate. Fiercely devoted to his craft, he took heed from Julia Child when she told him, "If you can cook French cuisine correctly, there is nothing that you cannot cook," and became a devotee of the classic French techniques.

Then at the young age of 29, Palmer opened his first restaurant, Aureole, where his own signature style of "Progressive American" cuisine began to emerge. "I realized that American cuisine was still in its infancy and I spent a lot of time thinking about what the idea of American cooking really meant to me as a chef," states Palmer. "My experience growing up on a farm and my time spent at Georges Blanc in France where one artisanal producer would bring all of his perfectly made goat cheese to the doorstep of our kitchen had a strong impact on me. So I began to research my own small American producers and support them in an effort to use the best raw products available at Aureole — it inspired my creative juices and helped to mold my style."

Palmer also believes that you, "Have to cook with passion. If you don't really love what you are cooking, it's not going to be spectacular." Virtually everything on the menus is something he would love to eat. So, dining with nothing less than gastronomic excellence is what you can expect with signature dishes like sashimi of Yellowfin tuna and soba noodle salad with Chinese parsley essence and spicy soy-lime dressing, tasting of Atlantic salmon three ways with dill marinated gravlax, tartare and smoked with corn blini or dry aged sirloin of beef and red wine braised short rib with honey glazed turnip and melted mustard greens.

Aside from the 60 house bottles and an impressive list of wines by the glass, a presentation of over 600 American and European wines with a concentration on white and red burgundy are offered. Dessert is not an understatement with house specialties like crème brûlée en parade of classic vanilla, jasmine and cappuccino, roasted banana gâteau with frozen rum custard or fresh raspberry and almond caramel tart.

Additionally, Palmer has authored two cookbooks, Great American Food and Charlie Palmer's Casual Cooking. On the Internet, you can order Palmer's gourmet dinner kits on the Internet at Is there anything this man can't do?

Preserved Duck Salad Roulade
with Warm Roquefort Vinaigrette
Serves 6

The unusual lettuce jacket for these salad rolls constructs an interesting presentation with rather ordinary origins. Duck confit is a great pantry item as it adds an exotic flavor to simple dishes.

12 romaine lettuce leaves
1 small head frisee
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 recipe duck confit
3/4 c. julienne fresh tomatoes
1 c. red wine shallot vinaigrette
3/4 c. crumbled Roquefort cheese

coarse salt & pepper to taste

Preparation: Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Add the romaine leaves and cook for 5 seconds or until just blanched. Drain and refresh in an ice water bath. Pat dry. Trim off any hard rib and rough edges. Lay out in a single layer on a sheet of wax paper. Cover with paper towel and pat down to absorb any remaining moisture.
Pull frisee apart. Wash and dry. Place in a bowl and set aside. Heat vegetable oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots. Lower heat and allow shallots to cook for about 4 minutes or just until they have sweat most of their moisture. Scrape into the frisee. Toss to combine. Add the confit, tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss to blend.

Uncover the romaine leaves. Two at a time, lay leaves together with one edge slightly overlapping to make a rather rectangular piece. If necessary, trim to make even. Place equal portions of duck salad across the center of the leaves, leaving about 1-1/2" to 2" leaf edge all around. Fold in the ends and then the sides to form into a solid cylindrical shape. Cut each cylinder in half, crosswise, on the diagonal. Place one cylinder on each of six chilled plates placing the uncut sides back to back with the diagonal cuts pointing in opposite directions.

Heat remaining vinaigrette over very low heat. Whisk in cheese and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon equal portions over the salad cylinders. Serve immediately.


A NOTE FROM CHARLIE: Be sure to use true Roquefort cheese for this vinaigrette. Its creamy texture and pungent, rather salty flavor makes a perfect foil to the rich confit.

Grilled GIANTS Venison Chops
with Balsamic Glaze
Serves 6

This is a tailgate tribute to my beloved football team. Win or lose on the field, they remain giants to this died-in-the-wool fan.

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
3 T. ketchup
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 T. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 T. salt plus more to taste
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 medium red onion
1/2 head Savoy cabbage
6 8-ounce, 1-1/2"-thick venison chops
2 T. corn oil
potato galettes (optional)
1/2 c. Citrus Vinaigrette
1 T. celery seeds
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. minced fresh chives
Pepper to taste

Preparation: Combine vinegar, olive oil, ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, coarse pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon salt in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk together until well blended. Set marinade aside.

Wash carrots and celery. Trim and peel. Cut into uniform 2" x 1/4" strips. Measure out 1 cup of each vegetable. Place in boiling salted water to cover and cook for 30 seconds or until crisp-tender. Drain and repeat under cold running water. Pat dry and set aside.

Peel and trim onion. Cut in half, lengthwise, and then into thin strips. Set aside. Wash cabbage. Core and cut, lengthwise, into thin pieces. Set aside. Then, prepare a charcoal fire or preheat gas grill.

Trim chops of excess fat. Brush with corn oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place on hot grill with bones away from direct flame. Cook for 30 seconds or just until grill marks have seared into the meat. Turn and liberally brush reserved marinade onto the seared side. Grill, turning and basting frequently, for 15 minutes or until chops are medium rare. Place on a warm platter and baste with remaining marinade. If necessary, cover lightly and keep warm.

If using Potato Galettes, preheat oven to 300 degrees F. While venison is grilling, place galettes on a non-stick baking sheet in preheated oven for 10 minutes to reheat.

While chops are grilling, heat vinaigrette in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the reserved vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes or until cabbage is tender and vegetables are heated through. Toss in celery seeds, parsley, and chives and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mound the hot vegetable slaw down the center of a warm platter. Criss-cross the chops, bones facing up, over the slaw. If using, place galettes, slightly overlapping, on each side of the platter. Serve immediately.

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