In the Kitchen with Raj
Armed with a load of groceries direct from the Pike Place Market, Seabourn executive chef Rajat Adhikary—Chef Raj—sets straight to work transforming the ingredients into a few of his favorite dishes. He goes about planning the menu and cooking as he would on the ship—which isn’t much of a stretch since his shipboard kitchens cook nearly everything to order, incorporate fresh, local ingredients, and use his vast experience in luxury kitchens around the world to create a unique fine-dining experience for guests.
He starts with one of the Seabourn signature dishes, a savory cheese soufflé. “Any time it’s on the menu, at least half the people order it,” he says of how popular it is. With a reputation for being finicky, soufflés tend to be something even expert home cooks avoid. But Chef Raj makes it look easy, whipping up a half-dozen at Seabourn’s Seattle test kitchen using local cheese selected at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to add some Northwest flavor. He brushes ramekins with butter, then sprinkles them with cheese—in place of the sugar used in typical dessert soufflés—to help them slide out more easily when finished. For the batter, he makes a meringue by whipping egg whites until he can hold the bowl upside down, then folds them into a mixture of butter, flour, egg yolk, and cheese. He fills up each of the ramekins and puts it into the oven. While they cook, he whips up a sauce, sautéing garlic spears—the milder and more colorful stalk of the garlic plant—with a clove of garlic for extra bite, then pureeing it with cream.
When soufflés exit the oven, puffed up with pride and cheese over the edge of the ramekin, Chef Raj adds the finishing touch of the bright green sauce and sticks them back in the oven for one last blast of heat. Light, fluffy, and delightfully cheesy, they embody the Seabourn spirit, offering a sense of place combined with universal decadence.
While everyone enjoys appetizers, though, Chef Raj has already moved on to making gnocchi, another dish where his expertise and technique—and that of his impeccably trained staff aboard each ship—shines. But he encourages home chefs to try this—with his tips. He starts by baking the potatoes, then immediately peels and mashes them, “If you don’t do this while they’re hot, it will become slimy.” Then, once the mash cools down, he adds salt, pepper, fresh-grated nutmeg, olive oil (“for smooth body), and flour. Again, he advises moving quickly, rolling the dough into a snake, cutting it into pieces, and dropping it into boiling water, to avoid sliminess. The gnocchi cook quickly—because the potatoes are already cooked—just a few seconds until they start to float, when he pulls them out. Meanwhile, he pulls together a sauce of leeks, white wine, stock, cream, and butter. “Pass it through a fine strainer,” he recommends, “so it has a smooth texture and feels good in the mouth.”
To finish the dish, he sautés the gnocchi with fresh local morel mushrooms, adds the leek sauce and a few drizzles of sherry brown butter sauce with sunflower seeds, and then—as if gilding the lily, shaves fat slices of aromatic black truffle over the top.
To finish the meal, Chef Raj prepares a halibut dish, featuring the fresh, local fish that’s at the peak of the season. First, he grates the golden beets and sautés them with caramelized shallot, adding a bit of honey before cooking it all down into a sticky, sweet compote. At the end, he drops in a bit of butter, giving it a glossy sheen, then sets it aside while he preps the crab sauce. He starts by cooking shallots ever so lightly, just until they lose a bit of the raw flavor, but don’t take on any color. Then he adds some chopped fennel, fish stock, and white wine, which he reduces completely. Over a low heat, so as not to scald it, he adds the cream, then the Dungeness crab meat—in small pieces since he is just infusing it and, after it has sat for a bit, he strains the pieces back out, leaving a rich, smooth sauce. With a nice hot pan to keep the fish from sticking, he cooks it until the skin is crisp and the fish cooked through, then adds the creamy crab sauce and the sweet compote to complete the dish.
The entire meal, like those Chef Raj and his crew serve onboard Seabourn ships, pairs familiar classics with pristine regional ingredients from the local market.