Thursday, July 14, 2011

Olives: Todd English at Bellagio

'Olives by Todd English' is one of Bellagio's many fine restaurants. Located on the water side of Bellagio in Las Vegas, Olives has one of the few outdoor terraces that overlook the hotel's spectacular fountains which combine water, music and light in a dazzling performance of complex choreography. 

In 1991, Todd English caught the culinary world's eye when the James Beard Foundation named him their National Rising Star Chef. English followed through on that promise, as the James Beard Foundation subsequently named him Best Chef in the Northeast USA in 1994. Nation's Restaurant News named English one of their "Top 50 Tastemakers" in 1999. 

In 2001, English was awarded Bon Appetit's Restaurateur of the Year award. Also was English has recently been named to the James Beard Foundation's "Who's Who in Food and Beverage in America." In recent years, English has established Olives as one of the most prestigious names in the nation by opening other locations around the world: Olives New York in the W Hotel in Union Square, Olives Las Vegas inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Olives DC in the heart of Washington, D.C. and Olives Aspen at the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen, Colorado.

We arrived at Olives in Las Vegas for a late lunch last week, and were lucky to garner one of the few outdoor tables on the terrace overlooking Lake Bellagio. Drawing from his Italian heritage while in Italy, English developed his unique style and approach to cooking, and offers an Italian infused Mediterranean inspired menu at Olives, with luncheon features such as Grilled Squid and Octopus, Watermelon Gazpacho, Beef Carpaccio and a host of tasty flatbreads with topping such as Fig and Prosciutto and a rich Portobello with Fontina cheese and truffle oil.

Grilled Squid and Octopus with a vinaigrette of chickpeas, tomatoes, 
toasted garlic and parsley

Delicious entrĂ©es include Shrimp Crusted Pacific Swordfish, Braised Beef Short Rib and Pan Roasted Rib-Eye — a recipe which English conveniently features on his website. Like foie gras, this shamelessly rich dish is one of the great indulgences, best saved for special occasions. Rib eye of beef, also known as prime rib, is a boneless cut from the rib portion. You can substitute New York strip steak.

Pan Roasted Rib-Eye with Gorgonzola Vidalia Onions
Serves 4

Vidalia Onions:
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 pounds Spanish onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Rib-Eye with Gorgonzola and Onions:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped smoked ham
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsp scallions
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
4 10-ounce rib-eye steaks
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper

For the Vidalia onions, place a large skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the butter and oil. Add the onions and stir. Let the onions sweat before the sugar starts to caramelize. Cook until perfectly browned, not light but not too dark, about 40 minutes. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. 

Place a large skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the butter, onions and ham, stirring well after each addition. Cook until lightly caramelized, about 8 minutes.

Add the cream, rosemary and scallions, stirring well after each addition, and cook until the mixture begins to reduce, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Sprinkle the steaks with the salt and pepper. Add the steaks to the pan and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Add the Gorgonzola cheese to the onion mixture and cook until just heated through. Slice the steaks on the bias and serve on top of the Gorgonzola onions.