How Canon’s chef makes ‘gotta try’ tamarind consommé with coconut dumplings
This is “You Gotta Try This,” The Bee’s series featuring one particular must-have dish at a local restaurant. Each featured dish is nominated by a reader. Got a menu item you want to shine some light on? Comment below or email reporter Benjy Egel at email@example.com.
With rainstorms becoming more infrequent and temperatures reaching into the low 70s, Canon’s rotating menu is due for an overhaul. Before it undergoes one, there’s a fleeting dish worth stopping in for, according to one reader.
The 2-year-old East Sacramento restaurant currently sells a tamarind consommé, with elegant service more suited for a tearoom than a dining hall. The translucent soup is poured out of a kettle into clear mugs, where coconut dumplings, purple seaweed strands and shishito pepper slivers await their slightly sour umami bath.
The $12 consommé starts with sliced yellow onions and garlic sweating in a large pan under parchment paper for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re “pretty much mush,” Canon co-owner/executive chef Brad Cecchi said.
A spice blend including madras curry, cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric is then cooked in, followed by canned tomatoes from Modesto-based Stanislaus Food Products, a vegetable stock and the goopy brown tamarind paste. Cooks let the muddy mixture simmer before straining it and manually forcing the pulp into a discard pile.
The addition of egg whites sucks murky impurities to the surface in a coagulated “raft,” helping the consommé achieve its necessary clarity. Rather than remove the frothy, semi-solid raft, Canon cooks insert a hose and siphon the clarified soup (for home cooks, ladling also works fine) into another pot before straining it three or four more times to get rid of any leftover grittiness.
“I think that making a flavorful broth is the most difficult thing in cooking,” Cecchi said. “But then adding the clarification component is something to me that, on the palate as far as taste goes, just makes it much more clean ... It’s a flavor bomb, but it’s super clean and it finishes your palate off with no residual carryover.”
The tightly-packed dumplings are made by combining rice flour, coconut milk, chiles and water into something resembling tempura batter. When whisked into boiling water like polenta, the mixture forms a dough to be rolled into small lumps, poached, cooled and dropped into the mugs.
The teapot holds 16 ounces of consommé and fills about four mugs, Cecchi said. Canon runs through about 80 servings per week on Tuesday through Saturday dinner service. It’s designed to be shared, like most other items on Canon’s menu – an idea Cecchi honed in on while trying to conceptually develop his first restaurant.
“My wife and I share everything (when eating out), and we wanted to have a restaurant that felt very social,” Cecchi said. “(But) it’s hard to put something down on the table like a bowl of soup and have people sloppin’ it into their own bowls.”
The teapot presented on a metallic platter solves that problem, and clear mugs highlight the consommé’s inherent limpidity. The soup is meant to be drunk like a beverage, though spoons are also given to scoop of the dumplings, pepper strips and seaweed.
A Carmichael native, Cecchi spent two years at Mulvaney’s B&L and five years at Grange before earning his first executive chef job at a Westin hotel in Cleveland in 2013. He moved back to California the next year to become executive chef at Solbar in Calistoga, then left to open Canon at 1719 34th St. with restauranteur Clay Nutting in 2017.
The vegetarian, gluten-free consommé will stay on Canon’s menu for at least a few more weeks until summer heat creeps in, though Cecchi said he’s working on a similarly clear cold soup using spring vegetables. Previous Canon dishes, such as pickled vegetables and St. Louis-style ribs, have also used tamarind, a legume native to tropical Africa.
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday.