In 2009, when restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas and chef Phil Howard opened Kitchen W8 in Kensington, head chef Mark Kempson was determined to feature a signature dish that bolstered his views of what the restaurant should be: a proper neighbourhood place, without all the trappings of ‘fine dining’. He came up with a hot dog.
Admittedly, it was a distinctly superior kind of hot dog, made with pork shoulder, mixed game and lardo, served in a home-made brioche bun with crispy onions and shallots, with a glass of game consommé topped with bacon foam alongside, but it was still a hot dog. “And that kind of set the tone,” recalls Kempson, who rather let the side down by gaining a Michelin star a couple of years later. But over 10 years on Kempson is still in the kitchen, he still has the star, and the hot dog is still on the menu.
At the heart of the dish, bringing together its disparate elements and contributing an intense depth of flavour, is the game consommé. Kempson makes this classic, sparklingly clear broth from venison stock and the carcases of game birds, as well as a mirepoix - chopped vegetables – and aromatics, especially juniper, which has a great affinity with game. The stock is gently simmered, then strained and chilled to allow the fat to rise to the top and harden, so it can be easily removed and discarded.
After that, Kempson removes the last traces of fat and impurities by adding a mixture of blitzed grouse breast and lightly whipped egg whites: this mixture coagulates in the hot broth, forming a ‘raft’ and floating to the surface, leaving only the clearest of liquids behind. Any remaining traces of fat on the surface can be removed with a piece of kitchen roll or parchment paper.
It is a process with which he is very familiar. At The Square in Mayfair, where he worked before he set up his Kensington kitchen, he “made loads of stocks,” he says. “We’d take the bones from previous services and roast them on the hob: lots of mirepoix, lots of deglazing with semi-sweet madeira… there would be four or five different stocks, and each dish had its own sauce derived from one of them.”
Kempson serves his consommé next to the hot dog, in a glass topped with bacon foam, so it looks like a glass of Guinness. He takes smoked streaky bacon, dry-fries it until the fat renders out, then adds thinly sliced shallots and button mushrooms, cooks them until tender, then adds whipping cream and lets the flavours infuse for half an hour or so. The mixture is then strained and held at 50˚C in a cream charger for service.
The sausage uses cuts of game and its offal. Kempson avoids any problem of dryness by including pork shoulder and a generous amount of lardo (cured pork fatback) as well. He then pipes the mix into sheep casings, producing delicate, chipolata-style sausages.
He presents his hot dogs in his own brioche buns, with V-shapes cut out of them. The sausage and some caramelised onions go in first, followed by a shallot crumb – made by deep-frying flour-tossed banana shallots until golden, then chopping them coarsely – and a dollop of home-made brown sauce. Kempson’s is based on apples, sugar, Guinness and vinegar, spiced with cloves and mustard.
He has a novel way of giving his sauce an even more apple-laden flavour: it may well be the only recipe by a Michelin-starred chef that includes a can of Strongbow in its list of ingredients.
Game hot dog and consommé, by Mark Kempson
For the game consommé
100ml rapeseed oil
3kg game bones (from birds), chopped
1 large beetroot, finely chopped
1 large turnip, finely chopped
5 large carrots, finely chopped
400g button mushrooms, finely chopped
5 large banana shallots, finely chopped
5l venison stock
150g smoked pancetta, in lardons
sprig of thyme
10 dried juniper berries
2 grouse breasts
4 egg whites
For the game sausage
480g pork shoulder, cubed
480g mixed game (grouse, mallard, hearts, venison livers), roughly chopped
140g lardo, diced
65g fresh breadcrumbs
For the brown sauce
500g demerara sugar
1 x 440ml can of Strongbow
3 onions, peeled and chopped
6 apples, cored and chopped
1l red wine vinegar
250g dark brown sugar
1 x 330ml bottle of Guinness
1 tsp mustard powder
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1. In a large stockpot, caramelise the bones in half the oil until golden, then remove from the pan and reserve. Caramelise the vegetables in the rest of the oil, then add the madeira and deglaze, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the bones back to the pot.
2. Over a high heat, reduce the madeira to a syrup, then add the venison stock to the pan. Add the pancetta, thyme, juniper and cloves, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for an hour. Pass the stock through a sieve and chill, preferably overnight.
3. Remove the fat from the set stock. Warm the stock to blood temperature. Blitz the grouse meat in a blender, then half whip the egg whites and add them to the grouse. Whisk this mixture into the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the raft has set and the stock is clarified. Discard the raft, simmer gently for 15 minutes, then strain through muslin and chill.
4. Mince the pork, game and lardo together twice on a coarse setting, then mix in the water, salt and breadcrumbs. Fry a little of the mixture, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then pipe into sheep casings and chill until needed.
5. In a big saucepan, heat the sugar until it melts and darkens to a deep brown caramel, then add the cider and boil to reduce to a syrup. Add all the other ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for an hour or so, until the sauce thickens to a chutney consistency. Blitz and pass through a fine sieve. Refrigerate until needed.