King Oscar II ruled Sweden and Norway in the late 19th century, presiding over the dissolution of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. He was also a capable poet and mathematician. But he’s perhaps better remembered today as the guy on the sardine cans.
The monarch’s face has appeared as a trademark for King Oscar Sardines since 1902, when he reportedly gave the company his “royal permission” because he liked the product so much. In Sweden, a company called Göteborgs Kex uses his portrait for a brand of gingerbread cookies. A classic Norwegian smorrebord (open-faced sandwich), also called “King Oscar,” is made with cucumbers, shrimp and mayonnaise on white bread. The king’s many culinary contributions may also include the elegant, classical dish veal Oscar, of which he is rumored to be the namesake due to his fondness for its ingredients.
(Another legend points to Oscar Tschirky, famed turn-of-the-century maître d’hôtel of the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, as the dish’s creator. We could find no solid evidence for either version, so we prefer the admittedly more fun story of King Oscar’s dietary preferences.)
“The ‘Oscar’ components consist of asparagus and lobster or crab meat topped with Béarnaise sauce,” says Lance Cook, CEC, CCA, executive chef at Hammock Dunes Club in Palm Coast, Florida. “It originated with veal and through the years has been combined with numerous other proteins.”
Cook chose salmon as his protein for the classical preparation, and kept the other ingredients uncomplicated.
“[I love] the simplicity,” Cook says. “The flavors complement the protein with the sweetness of the crab, the earthiness of the asparagus, the smooth butter profile of the sauce.”
Hammock Dunes Club is a sprawling private golf club community with spectacular views of the ocean. Its main clubhouse recently underwent a $7.2 million renovation — among other things, improving its outdoor dining options and adding an open concept kitchen at Cook’s direction.
“To make [salmon Oscar] unique to Hammock Dunes Club I wanted to keep the authenticity of the components but change up the presentation aspect of it, visually and for mouth feel,” he says. “How can I take these simple ingredients and present them in such a way that the diner leaves with it being not only delicious, but memorable, and they talk about for weeks and months later?”
With those ideas in mind, Cook took “modern” seriously, adding high-end presentation techniques for a wow factor.
“Anyone can cook asparagus and roll it in butter and seasoning. But why not layer flavors into a mousse-like consistency with garlic, shallots, cream, and have it look like the original item [by using a mold],” he says. “[I changed the sauce] from béarnaise to hollandaise to simplify the profile, but then charged it with NO2 to give it an even more airiness quality changing the texture. I added a squid ink tuile for crunch, color, appeal [and] conversation.”
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