Healdsburg Shed chef shares secret weapons for a great Mother’s Day menu

How do Wine Country chefs coax so much flavor out of simple ingredients, bringing out the deep, complex notes of smoke and fermentation while fine-tuning the upper register of citrus and fresh herbs?

With all the skill of a classical maestro, Healdsburg Shed Culinary Director Perry Hoffman has mastered that balancing act - after all, he was the youngest chef in America to earn a Michelin star - and taken it a step further. Last year, he launched a new line of Shed Pantry products as a way to share the flavor-enhancing tricks he uses at the Shed Cafe with home cooks.

“There’s s a big, beautiful wall that chefs use as an arsenal,” Hoffman said of the powders and spices, finishing salts and pickled veggies he relies upon on a regular basis. “We stare at our wall of 300 oils and spices and ground anchovies, and it helps us create.”

At the behest of Shed owner Cindy Daniel, Hoffman developed and launched the upscale line of dehydrated, smoked and preserved products last September. Since then, the product list has grown considerably, expanding upwards to 70-some secret weapons that evolve along with the seasons, from Lemon Salt to Pickled Red Onions.

“Canning, drying, pickling and fermenting are wonderful ways to preserve the bounty from our local farms and to capture seasonal flavors,” Daniel said. “We hope they’ll inspire new worlds of flavor in the home kitchen.”

This Sunday, you could surprise mom with an array of Shed Pantry products, or you could take it a step further by making a light but flavorful lunch that showcases a few of these flavor boosters in action.

For the annual spring holiday, Hoffman put together a three-course Mother’s Day menu: Chilled Asparagus Soup with Caper Tarragon Powder Crème Fraiche; Roasted Halibut with Vadouvan Conserva; and Vanilla Ice Cream with Macerated Apricots, Honey and Shed Lemon Salt.

“Mother’s Day is spring, simple and fresh ... and it’s always brunch or lunch,” said Hoffman, whose mother is a florist and grandmother founded The French Laundry in Yountville. “You should be able to get up afterward and enjoy the day ... take a hike and spend time with mom.”

The chilled soup, made with an asparagus stock, brings out the intrinsic freshness of the spring vegetable. You can simply serve it with the caper tarragon crème fraiche, or go ahead and top it with all kinds of crunchy garnishes, from fresh morels to asparagus tips.

“I like the cool, crisp and green aspect that chilled asparagus has,” he said. “When you cook it, it just becomes velvety and creamy without adding much dairy ... and I like a little something to chew on and bite.”

For the halibut dish. Perry created a conserva - an intense and savory mixture of lemon and olive oil and garlic - that he spiked with the Shed Pantry Vadouvan, a French spice inspired by the masala spice mixture of India.

“I love the sweetness that it has,” he said of the conserva. “It has caramelized onions and garlic and fenugreek, so it has these sweet notes ... and we cook it all down until it’s soft.”

The fish is garnished with sautéed radishes and fiddlehead ferns, which Shed is sourcing from the Mad River area of Mendocino.

“I have always adored it,” he said of the wild fern. “It’s mild and somewhat similar to asparagus ... it’s green and crunchy and almost more about the texture.”

For dessert, what could more delicious than a scoop of vanilla ice cream, finished with some spring fruit and honey spiked with the Shed Pantry Lemon Salt.

“The Lemon Salt is wonderful .. it gives it a little citrus zing,” he said. “The apricots are tart, and they just love a little squeeze of lemon on them ... and the honey gives it caramel and toasted notes.”

Hoffman’s dehydrated powders, which come in unusual flavors like green garlic and charred eggplant, Nicoise olive and shiitake mushroom, have caught the attention of the national press. Last month, Bon Appetit magazine praised the powders as an “instant” way for home cooks to update their spice cabinet.

“People just love the smoked onion powder because it’s so intoxicatingly sweet and rich and smoky ... it’s the new French onion soup packet,” Hoffman said. “The Caper Tarragon Powder is really fun, too. It’s very French, anisey and sweet from the tarragon, and briny and sweet from the capers.”

If you’re enchanted with world cuisines, especially those of the Middle East or Mediterranean, these pantry products can provide a shortcut to authentic dishes that would otherwise be unreachable for cooks who are often long on ambition and short on time.

“I’ve been using powders for 16 years,” Hoffman said. “When you dehydrate produce, you concentrate the flavor of that element ... that’s a way to give people a jump-start. In addition, it’s new flavors and new ways to use those flavors, so it’s an easy way to experiment and play around.”

For an aperitif to the luncheon, Hoffman suggests a lightly alcoholic shim made with one of the Shed Shrubs, a line of seasonally-based drinking vinegars that date back to the Colonial era, when they were used to preserve fruit long after the harvest. The shrubs are made from fresh fruit, vinegar, organic sugar and aromatics.

By creating this new line of Shed Pantry products, Hoffman hopes that he will inspire home cooks to raise the bar for those looking for restaurant-quality food, without employing a sous chef.

“Home cooks want to have the same options that chefs do,” he said. “This is a way of being able to capture those flavors in a jar and be close to the same outcome.”

The following recipes are from Perry Hoffman, culinary director of the Shed Cafe. You can find the Shed Pantry line at the Healdsburg shop or online at To simplify, just serve a garnish of the crème fraiche and olive oil.

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Tarragon Caper Crème Fraîche

Serves 6-8

For soup:

3 bunches asparagus (reserve butts for stock and tips for garnish)

½ cup spinach

1¼ quarts asparagus stock

½ cup heavy cream

- Kosher salt, to taste

- White pepper, to taste

For garnish

1 bunch asparagus tips

1 cup morels (or other mushroom)

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon shallots, minced

- Kosher salt, to taste

- White pepper, to taste

1 cup crème fraîche

1 tablespoons Shed Tarragon Caper Powder

- Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

- Fresh garden herbs, as needed for garnish

For soup: Take the asparagus butts and cook in 1¼ quarts water for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Blanch the 3 bunches of asparagus (not the tips) in salted water until very tender, then shock in salted ice bath.

Blanch spinach in salted water and then shock in a salted ice bath as well.

In a blender, add blanched asparagus, 1 cup of cold stock and a pinch of spinach. Blend and continue until all of the asparagus, spinach and stock are used.

Pass asparagus mixture through a chinois. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Place in cooler for at least 1 hour.

For garnish: Blanch asparagus tips in salted water, then shock in a salted ice bath.

Clean and quarter morels (discard ends). Using a medium-sized sauté pan, cook morels in a little olive oil. Add in shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes over medium heat.

Whip crème fraîche until soft peaks form, then mix in the Shed Tarragon Caper Powder. Garnish with fresh herbs such as chives, tarragon and parsley.

Divide soup into bowls of choice. Top with morel mushrooms, asparagus tips and tarragon caper crème fraîche.

Garnish with fresh herbs of your choosing. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the top.

Healdsburg Shed carries fiddlehead ferms from Mendocino, but you could also substitute asparagus for the garnish as it has a similar flavor and crunchy texture. To simplify, leave out the side of radishes and fiddlehead ferns.

Roasted Halibut with Vadouvan Conserva, Roasted Radish, ?Fiddlehead Ferns

Serves 6

For vadouvan conserva:

1 large yellow onion, diced small

8 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon Shed Vadouvan

2 lemons, zest and juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon salt

For halibut:

6 5-ounce pieces California halibut

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

1 lemon

For radish and fiddlehead ferns:

25 fiddlehead ferns

20 small, French Breakfast radishes

1 teaspoon Shed Vadouvan

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

For conserva: In a sauté pan, add half of the oil, garlic, onions, bay leaf, salt, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add in the Vadouvan and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Cook for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.

For halibut: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray lined with parchment, place the halibut and rub with olive oil, salt and zest and juice of 1 lemon. Cook halibut for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

For radish and fiddlehead ferns: Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add in oil, radishes, ferns, and salt. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add in Vadouvan, butter, lemon and parsley. Toss and remove from heat.

Place halibut on the desired plates or platter, scatter the radishes and ferns around the halibut, and drizzle the conserva over fish and vegetables.

If you can’t find apricots, Hoffman said you could substitute strawberries in this simple dessert. You could also add edible flowers like borage as a garnish.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Macerated Apricots, Honey, Lemon Salt

Serves 6

1 quart good vanilla ice cream (suggested: Three Twins)

8 apricots, pitted and cut into 6 wedges

½ cup sugar

4 tablespoon good honey

1 teaspoon Shed Lemon Salt

1 lemon, juiced

4 scented geranium leaves, minced

Toss apricots with sugar, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 scented geranium leaf. Let macerate for 30 minutes. Place apricot mixture in a pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

Scoop ice cream into small bowls, top with apricot mixture, and drizzle the remaining honey over the top.

Garnish with a sprinkle of lemon salt and remaining geranium leaves.

Jardesca is an aperitif handcrafted in Sonoma.

Apricot Shim

Makes 1

½ ounce Shed Apricot Rosemary Shrub

1½ ounces Jardesca

3 ounces Roederer Sparkling Wine

- Sea Buckthorn berries (or optional garnish of choice)

Mix the first three ingredients together, add ice and optional garnish.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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