Chef’s Dish: Greg Johnson Brings Freshness and Finesse to Public Kitchen
After putting together the opening menu in an office, Greg Johnson knew some of his dishes at Public Kitchen and Bar would evolve and change as the realities of the kitchen set in and the restaurant found its rhythm.
One of his favorites since day one, however, is the chicken ravioli; it’s a dish the executive chef says is representative of what Public Kitchen is all about.
“The flavors are all very light and bright,” he explains, noting the mousse of chicken breast, bleu cheese and chives, along with fresh beech mushrooms and kale. “That’s what we’re aiming for with the whole menu—nothing is overly heavy.”
Johnson also loves the “finesse” of the dish, which he says comes from making the pasta, filling and sauce in house.
But that doesn’t mean the ravioli is immune to tweaks. In the six months since opening Public Kitchen in Lowertown St. Paul with owner Carol March, Johnson has perfected the dish, right down to the richly flavored, yet oh so light, chicken consommé.
“It really shows the care and the time that we put into our food,” says Johnson, who led the kitchen at Kincaid’s before coming to Public Kitchen. “It’s an easy dish that we could short cut, toss in a bunch of frozen ravioli, but we wanted to make it ours.”
As the chef prepares for seasonal menu changes this month, he’s keeping this crowd-pleaser while also using the switch to reinvigorate his crew and challenge them to continue developing their skills. With his two sous chefs and group of experienced line cooks, Johnson says he’s always open to new ideas and inspirations.
Ultimately, he wants to solidify Public Kitchen’s reputation for approachable yet creative plates. “It’s all about composed dishes where the flavors and the ingredients are the stars.”
5-7 ea. filled ravioli (filling recipe below)
2 ounces braised kale, julienned 1/4-inch
2 ounces beech mushrooms
1 Tbsp. beurre monte
1/2 ounce grated Parmesan
4 ounces chicken consommé
1 Tbsp. toasted bread crumbs
1/8 tsp. micro basil
When ordered, drop the ravioli into boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes. Note the filling contains raw chicken and needs to be completely cooked through. Heat the consommé and place into a pouring vessel for tableside presentation. To plate, spread out the kale in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle the beech mushrooms around. Drain the ravioli very well to avoid watering out the dish. Toss ravioli with beurre monte and place on top of kale, avoiding the mushrooms. Grate the cheese directly onto the ravioli and serve, pouring the consommé tableside.
4 pounds white and dark chicken pieces, chopped
4 ounces onion, minced
2 ounces garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
8 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. chives, minced
1 Tbsp. parsley, minced
Place the chicken, onion, garlic and spices into a Robot Coupe and blend until smooth. Add cheese, cream and yolks and blend until mixture has a nice, smooth mousse-like consistency. Remove from the Robot Coupe and fold in the fresh herbs. Chill before using with from-scratch pasta dough.