John Villa: Passionate About Food

Actor Jeremy Piven, who portrays Ari Gold in HBO's "Entourage," and stars in the new film, "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" bites into his lunch during a public appearance at The Varsity, Wednesday, July 22, 2009, in Atlanta. AP Photo/Allied Advertising

John Villa, the executive Chef at Patroon restaurant in NYC, came to The Saturday Early Show to try his hand once again at our Chef on a Shoestring challenge.

Chef Villa comes from a family that is passionate about food, so it was no surprise when he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America for a serious food education. Immediately following graduation, he trained under Daniel Boulud, then spent three years at Tropica. His big break was when he worked at JUdson Grill where he was quickly promoted to executive chef and shortly thereafter earned a two-star review from The New York Times. He was just 24 years old at the time.

Villa spent four years at JUdson Grill, then went to the Boathouse at Central Park, then finally opened his own restaurant, Pico, a Portuguese-inspired restaurant. Pico has earned a three-star review from The New York Times.

He joined Patroon in early 2003. The restaurant has been known for its steaks, but Villa is adding his own twist on retro-American fare.

Villa lives in New York City with his wife and kids. He was recently featured in the buff for Playgirl magazine.

We invited him to make a meal for four for under $30. His menu: an appetizer of traditional Caesar Salad; an entrée of Steak Diane with Sautéed Spinach; and for dessert, Bananas Foster.

The following are his recipes:

Caesar Salad
Serves 4

Croutons Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices of crusty bread, cubed (white, day-old bread)
Salt and pepper
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  • In a heavy skillet on medium heat, combine olive oil, bread crumbs, and spices. Stir to combine until all oil is absorbed. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Caesar Salad Ingredients:
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed, inner heart washed and torn into bite size pieces
1 cup croutons (see recipe above)

  • In a wooden bowl, add garlic and anchovy paste, mashing them with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add salt.

  • Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil, add lemon juice, egg yolk and half of the cheese. Toss in romaine lettuce and coat with the dressing.

  • Season with fresh black pepper and the remaining cheese. Add the croutons and briefly toss once more.




Steak Diane
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 5.5 ounce portions top sirloin, pounded with meat tenderizer until 1/4" thick
3 tablespoons chopped shallots (approximately 2 large shallots)
1/2 cup brandy
1 teaspoon mustard
3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt & pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven 350 degree F.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter until it begins to foam and season steaks with salt and pepper. Cooking one at a time, add steak to pan and sear 1 to 2 minutes on first side, turn and sear about 1 minute on second side.

  • Remove steak and place on a warming platter, covered with a foil tent. Repeat process with the remaining steaks and butter.

  • After removing last steak from the pan, add the shallots and cook two minutes until translucent. Remove pan from stove, and slowly add brandy.

  • Place pan back on heat and allow the alcohol to evaporate. Stir in the mustard with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape flavorful bits from bottom of pan.

  • Cook one minute more before adding the beef stock , then cook for an additional minute. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the chives.

  • Place steaks in the oven for 1 to 2 minutes to re-warm. Top with sauce.

Sautéed Spinach
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and spinach and sauté until it begins to wilt. Add garlic and continue sautéing for about another minute. Stir in butter; season with salt and pepper to taste.




Bananas Foster
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
1/4 cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

  • Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat and cook,stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in banana liqueur, and then place the bananas in the pan.

  • When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully pour in the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum.

  • When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces next to each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.
  • Rome Neal

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