Jason Quinn, executive chef-owner of the downtown Santa Ana restaurant Playground, is one of the most talked about chefs in Orange County. His chef-driven menu reflects impressive culinary talent combined with the courage to create outside the norm.
The founding chef of the illustrious Lime Truck, Quinn knows how to build vibrant layers of flavor without making dishes seem overly complicated.
High quality ingredients are a top priority, evident in even the simplest dishes, such as Playground’s Sautéed Chard with Fresno Chilies and Garlic. Slices of bright-red fresh chilies and garlic give the leafy organic greens a just-right spark.
The locally-sourced Rainbow chard is blanched (stems and all), then drained, cut into strips and sautéed. It’s the kind of dish that creates dyed-in-the-wool chard fans. And yes, it’s easy to prepare.
Playground’s Sautéed Chard with Fresno Chilies and Garlic
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1/2 to 1 red Fresno chili (use jalapeno if red Fresno is not available)
3 large bunches chard, Rainbow variety preferred
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
1. Bring a large deep saucepan or Dutch oven three-fourths full of water to a boil on high heat. Add enough salt to make the water salty. Chef Quinn says it should be “salted like the ocean.” Set a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet next to the stove, or spread out a couple of clean kitchen towels.
2. Meanwhile, starting at small end of the chili, cut it into thin crosswise slices. If using a whole chili rather than just half, after slicing the half of the chili near the tip into rounds, remove seeds from remaining larger half with tip of a pointing paring knife and slice it. Set aside. Use caution when working with fresh chilies; wash work surface thoroughly upon completion and do not touch eyes or face.
3. When salted water comes to a boil, add chard in batches, cooking it 1 to 2 minutes or until it wilts and stems start to soften slightly. Remove with tongs and drain well on towel or rack. Repeat until all chard is wilted and stems are slightly softened. Pat dry and cut chard crosswise into 3/8-inch wide strips.
4. Heat oil in large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili slices; cook just long enough for garlic to start to lightly brown. Add chard and cook, tossing until thoroughly heated. Season with salt to taste.
Source: Jason Quinn, executive chef-owner Playground restaurant, Santa Ana