Every chef has his or her own special strengths and reputation. Joseph Muldoon, executive chef of The Reserve, Bally's Atlantic City's signature restaurant, is known for his fearless creativity.
Muldoon says he lives for those nights when his regular diners come in and tell their server to let him send out his recommendations for dinner instead of ordering on their own.
"I think the customers have put all the faith in the world in me. When people come in to really get a taste of what the Reserve has to offer, I like to take them on a journey to develop new fan favorites," Muldoon says, adding that people on his well-trained serving staff are "not just order takers, they know how to help you select the dishes you will come to love.
"As long as I know what allergies they might have I can recommend four or five smaller courses to try. It's like a tasting menu, except it's not on the menu," he says.
Muldoon, who interned in Hawaii, also has a talent for exotic preparations of seafood from that region, such as butterfish with misoyake glaze, as well as fusion Asian cuisine including chijimi, a savory Korean pancake with red pepper-dusted scallops, vanilla creme, brown sugar and soy syrup.
So when Jerry Eisenband, public relations manager for Caesar's Entertainment Group, was looking for something special to feature during Pancake Week in February, he knew just who to turn to. The fact The Reserve is kind of a steak house, not a breakfast diner, was no issue.
"Chef Joe is constantly reinventing what The Reserve is, it's always amazing and just a little different," Eisenband says. "It's always been a good steak house, but he's really brought the flavor and elevated the fish aspect, as well as other things like lamb and bison. I've seen him convert people with an open palate to what he can do with fish."
Several casual eateries on the property offered everything from chocolate-banana to red velvet pancakes Feb. 4 to 10. But none have quiche, that custard-like preparation of eggs in a delicate crust.
Some people may have thought Eisenband was crazy, or confusing the two breakfast staples, which would be understandable given he is no chef. But Muldoon took the opportunity to create something totally new and unique. And that's how The Reserve came to be the only place in the resort where you could get quiche pancakes with a lobster tail on top during Pancake Week.
"I'm so proud of this creation, I would serve it as an entree" he says of his fresh English pea and tomato quiche custard topped pancake with buttermilk-soaked Maine lobster tail, spring onions, pernod butter and Lemoncello glacage. "The possibilities are almost endless.
"Quiche is basically a custard in a sort of pie shell and … I wanted to eliminate the pie shell, so I thought of using the pancake as the shell. The basic quiche recipe is 2 eggs to one cup of milk or cream, so I added one more egg because it's a thin surface. When you think of custard, you automatically think of dessert, but the recipe is so versatile, you could really add anything to it."
Muldoon says the key to success when trying something new in the kitchen is to start with something you know has worked in the past, then add a twist to make it your signature dish. He had whipped up quiche before, when he was catering chef at Di Bruno Brothers in Center City Philadelphia. So all he needed was a signature twist.
Muldoon tweaked the basic recipe a bit, and used a pre-cooked pancake that covered the bottom of an oven-safe pan to hold the quiche in place while it cooks. Next he added various ingredients such as gruyere cheese and bacon, spring peas and lobster, or Italian cold cuts and Mozzarella, and a new food was born.
Muldoon says he's so pleased with the way his new creation came out, and the reception it got from adventurous guests who ordered the special in February, he has invented several recipes - including one for "Easter Pie" quiche pancakes, with ricotta cheese, diced prosciutto, cappicola and salami topped with tomato sauce and crispy basil. Now he is looking for ways to incorporate quiche pancakes on his regular menu, which he changes about every three months.
Contact Felicia Compian:
1900 Pacific Ave., Bally's Atlantic City
Hours: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays