The Dish: Chef Daniel Bruce

Chef Daniel Bruce’s culinary career got off to an inauspicious start. He spent two days scrubbing a mountain of burned pots at a restaurant in his hometown in Maine. He swore he would never burn a pot and never has, while ascending to the summit of American cooking by way of Italy, France and the best kitchens in New York.

Then, he returned to New England and just marked 27 years as executive chef of the celebrated Boston Harbor Hotel, which includes oversight of the award-winning Meritage Restaurant and Wine Bar, as well as the Rowes Wharf Sea Grille.   

Here are some of Bruce’s signature recipes, all from his cookbook, “Chef Daniel Bruce Simply New England: Seasonal Recipes That Celebrate Land and Sea.”

Wild mushroom polenta

Serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as a side dish

Ingredients for sauce

1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the chicken stock to one cup.
  2. Whisk in the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Ingredients for polenta

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (preferably thyme, rosemary and/or parsley)
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk and butter to a gentle boil.
  2. Slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid bumps. Continue to whisk until the polenta starts to thicken. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm, covered.

Ingredients for the mushrooms 

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms. brushed clean and sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper 

Directions

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan over high heat.
  2. When very hot, add the butter and quickly follow with the mushrooms, garlic and shallots. Sauté, tossing occasionally to avoid burning, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about six to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve over the polenta with a generous ladle of sauce.

Daniel’s tip: Most mushrooms are between 80 to 90 percent water, so you don’t want to wash them. Instead, gently brush off any dirt that may be clinging to them. Then, slice the mushrooms ands auté over very high heat to remove the water content as quickly as possible to allow for caramelization and color—which add flavor. Also, don’t crowd the pan -- that allows all that mushroom water to pool up on the bottom of the pan preventing caramelization and color.

Pan-seared diver scallops and cider butter sauce

Serves 4 

Ingredients for sauce

1 cup white wine
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup fish stock or water
1 small onion, peeled and diced
4-6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt 

Directions

  1. In saucepot over medium high heat, bring the white wine, apple cider, fish stock or water, diced onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme sprigs and salt to a boil. Cook until the liquid has been reduced to slightly more than half a cup.
  2. Strain the sauce back into the pot and let cool for five minutes. When the liquid is lukewarm to the touch, place the pot over low heat and whisk in the butter. When the butter has melted and the sauce has slightly thickened, stir in the salt, remove from the heat and keep warm.

 Ingredients for scallops

12 large (10/20 count) sea scallops
Sea salt
White pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil or clarified butter 

Directions

  1. Remove the scallops’ abductor muscles -- the little tabs on the side -- and set aside.
  2. Heat a 10-inch nonstick pan smoking hot on highest heat.
  3. Season the tops and bottoms of each scallop with salt and white pepper.
  4. Add half the oil to the pan. When the oil starts to smoke, place half the scallops in the pan. Sear both sides of the scallops golden brown, about two to three minutes per side. Remove the scallops from the pan and keep warm. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat until smoking. Cook the remaining scallops.
  5. Divide the scallops on four plates and garnish with a generous drizzle of apple cider butter sauce.

Daniel’s tip: Ask your fishmonger for day boat or diver scallops. They contain little or no extra water, which makes them easier to sear. Look for scallops that are translucent, not white.  White scallops most likely have been frozen.

Native sweet corn pudding

Serves 8 

Ingredients

4 ears fresh, sweet corn
2 cups heavy cream
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Shuck the corn and remove the kernels.
  3. Butter eight 4-ounce ramekins. Divide the corn kernels among the ramekins. 
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the corn.
  5. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan just large enough to hold them. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out clean.

Roasted harvest vegetables 

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

1 cup peeled carrots
1 cup peeled butternut squash
1 cup peeled rutabaga
1 cup peeled red onions
1 cup washed kale, chopped
4 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the carrots, squash, rutabaga and onions into 1/2 inch pieces. You want them all to be approximately the same size. Toss the vegetables in a large bowl with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Spread the vegetables on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until tender.
  4. Return the vegetables to the bowl. Stir in the chopped kale. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for five minutes. Serve. 

Raisins on a log 

Serves 8

Ingredients for raisin cake

3/4 cup of golden raisins, chopped fine in food processor
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup of soft butter
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder 
2 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring raisins and water to a boil, then add baking soda -- this will foam up. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. 
  3. Next, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Combine sifted flour and baking powder.
  5. Add one egg, half of the raisin mixture and half of the flour mixture, then blend for one minute.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and beat for 10 seconds.
  7. Spoon into greased mini loaf pan filled half way.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees in a water bath until toothpick inserted comes out clean -- approximately 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool and cut into eight slices, the shape of a log. 

Ingredients for cream cheese cremeux

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 sheet gelatin
2/3 cup cream cheese

Directions

  1. Place gelatin in 1 cup of ice water until soft, squeeze out excess water.
  2. Heat heavy cream and sugar until sugar is dissolved and warm to the touch. Add gelatin.
  3. Pour over cream cheese and beat with flat paddle until smooth.
  4. Cool for two hours in refrigerator.
  5. Remove from refrigerator, beat for one minute and place into pastry bag.
  6. Pipe onto top of cake slices, just like they would do with the cream cheese on the celery.


Indian Summer

Ingredients

3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nutmeg
12 oz apple cider
4 oz dark rum
6 oz rose water
1 apple, cubed
1 lemon wedge
4 rose hips
4 star anise

Directions

  1. Mix together sugar and nutmeg in small bowl.
  2. Roll lemon wedge around the rims of 4 rocks glasses and then place into sugar and nutmeg mixture to form a ring.
  3. Combine apple cider, rose water and rum.
  4. Pour into the glasses, with 4 cubes of ice in each.
  5. Place two apple cubes and one rose hip onto a decorative skewer.
  6. Lay across the rocks glass.
  7. Drop in one star anise.
  8. Serve and enjoy!