Floating on the Delaware River in Philadelphia is
Moshulu (pronounced Mo-shoe’-loo), the world’s largest four-masted sailing ship. Built in 1904, the ship traveled the world then was converted into a restaurant. We talked with Executive Chef Ralph Fernandez about his contemporary American cooking and his delicious Smoked Paprika Crepes with Mushrooms, Corn and Brie
When did you realize you wanted to be a chef?
I first became interested in becoming a chef at age 27. I had just moved in with my brother and had to help out paying rent so got a job at a restaurant. I knew the first moment I stepped into that restaurant that I wanted to be a chef. Also, I used to cook for my family and with my mom, who is from Ecuador. My mom was an inspiration in becoming a chef because she was good at the basics, but also challenged herself with experimental dishes and creating a variety of cuisines
What is the first dish you remember eating and where you were really wowed by the mushrooms?
My first mushroom revelation was at a neighborhood Italian restaurant where I had chicken Marsala. After that, whenever I went out to eat, I’d try to order dishes with mushrooms
What’s the best mushroom dish you’ve ever had?
That would be a strudel of exotic mushrooms with shaved white truffle and 100-year-old balsamic drizzled on top. The mushrooms were perfectly roasted and it was just really simple and delicious
What role do mushrooms play in Moshulu’s cuisine?
Mushrooms are all over the place on Moshulu’s menu. I love mushrooms and I love their seasonality. Mushrooms are so versatile and are wonderful supplementing meat or acting as a meat substitute. Portabellas are a great steak replacement for vegetarians. My favorite mushroom at the moment is the king trumpet mushroom.
Can you tell us a little about your Smoked Paprika Crepe with Mushrooms?
At first, we served this crepe as an amuse-bouche, and then started to feature it as a side dish paired with duck a l’Orange. We add paprika to the crepe batter to give it a nice chili smoky flavor. Mushrooms love lemon, which brightens them up and pulls out their earthy mushroom flavor. The corn and basil add a nice sweetness, which is complemented by the tart citrus in the salad
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ralph Fernandez, Moshulu, Philadelphia
Yield: 24 servings
2 cups whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon smoked sweet or hot paprika
Salt and pepper, as needed
4 1/2 pounds mushroom mix (crimini, white button, portabella, oyster, maitake)
Salt and pepper, as needed
12 pieces corn on the cob, with husks
Fresh basil, julienned
Extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces double- or triple-crème brie
12 ounces baby arugula
4 blood oranges, cut into supremes
4 navel oranges, cut into supremes
8 ounces Marcona almonds
Candied orange zest (optional)
To make the crepes, combine all the ingredients in a blender, with salt and pepper to taste. Blend, scrape down the sides, and blend again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. To cook, heat a 6-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Wipe the surface with oil, then pour in just enough batter to cover the pan surface. Cook until set and lightly browned, then flip and cook until browned on bottom side. Stack the crepes and let cool. Wrap well until needed.
To make the filling, slice any large mushrooms. Toss each variety of mushroom with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast separately on parchment-lined pans in a 350-degree oven until tender. (Note that different varieties will cook at different rates.) Mix together the mushrooms and taste for seasoning.
Roast the corn in the husks until tender. Shuck the corn and slice off the kernels. Toss with basil, thyme, olive oil, and salt to taste.
For each serving, to order: On the bottom half of a crepe, layer 1/2 ounce brie, 2 tablespoons corn salad, and 1/4 cup mushrooms. Fold the crepe into quarters. Brown lightly in an oiled pan, flip, then finish in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Plate 2 more tablespoons corn salad, place the crepe on top, and garnish with 1/2 cup arugula tossed with citrus vinaigrette, 2 to 3 supremes of each kind of orange, 1 tablespoon almonds, and a sprinkle of zest (if using).