Bally's Chef on Healthy Dining Trends in Atlantic City

(Image credit: Josh Jacoby/Moondoggie Photography)

By Diane Henderiks:

Executive Chef Joseph Muldoon is only 28 years old, but with the flavor profiles he delivers you would think he's been cooking for the last 50 years. His global pinache for meats and playful Pacific rim style for fish set him apart from his competitors. Bally's The Reserve restaurant has created weekly dinner specials to honor the entertainment troupe, "Legends in Concert," that has made Bally's their home for many years. From a peanut butter sandwich inspired by Elvis to a Marilyn Monroe-inspired steak, Muldoon has a menu that is playful and delicious. Let's get Joseph's take on healthy cooking and eating

Diane: Do you see a trend with diners seeking better-for-you options on the menu?

Joseph: Absolutely, it seems as though everyone is more conscious about what they are eating nowadays. Although we are still in an area of vacationing and celebratory occasions, people are still willing to part with excess and "trim the fat." When I was growing up and learning about food, it seemed as though the general population was becoming exposed to everything at the same time I was. Food television networks and celebrity chefs were just catching on, but now it seems as though the new trend is counting calories and consuming healthier, natural alternatives to what we've become so accustomed to eating. So now that everyone in the world knows about sushi, they are now eating it more often because of how healthy it is. Children, young adults, and of course folks much older are all eating healthier for different reasons, and the fact that everyone has "apps" for counting calories and companies have made it easier on parents to make "healthy" food fun in the household has really surprised me.

Diane: What's your definition of "healthy eating"?

Joseph: Healthy eating, I think is best defined by what you produce or prepare fresh for yourself. The worst thing that anybody can do is eat processed or precooked foods. Healthy eating to me is also continuously trying new things to intake your nutritional needs, if food were boring then the world would all just consume one giant bar with everything anyone would ever need .

Diane: What is your secret to cooking healthier without sacrificing flavor?

Joseph: Cooking with seasonal ingredients and allowing nature to bring that ingredient to the peak of its flavor before attempting to cook and serve it. I wish all foods were allowed to ripen like a Jersey tomato in September.

Diane: What is your favorite healthier dish on your own menu and why?

Joseph: I've actually participated in my very first "Sweat AC" weekend here in Atlantic City two weeks ago and all of the restaurants for Caesars Entertainment tailored menus for the guests participating in all of the city's events. At the Reserve, we featured a Jade Pesto Steamed Mero Bass over Furikake steamed white rice, and a daikon radish and baby bok choy slaw. We finished the dish with a sizzling pepper and sesame vinaigrette. The natural richness of the fish allowed the pesto to infuse the entire aromatic flavors into the filet and when you tasted the fish it felt like you were "getting away with something." It went over very well with the customers and I would always be happy to prepare this dish if any one of you joined us for dinner.

Here's the recipe:

For the Fish:

(4) 6 oz portions of Chilean Sea Bass cut on a Bias 1 stalk of lemongrass 2 lemons (halved) 1# of ginger root

To prepare this dish you will need to create a steamer. Place a perforated insert pan into a pot of boiling water. Make sure the water doesn't rise above the perforated pan. Next you will add 1 stalk lemon grass, 2 lemons, and a hand of ginger. Slowly add the fish (with the pesto spread on top) and place the lid on the pot. Let steam for 9-12 minutes until soft.

For the Pesto:

½ bunch mint ½ bunch Thai basil ½ bunch cilantro ½ bunch scallions 2 tablespoons chopped garlic 2 tablespoons chopped ginger ¼ cup oyster sauce 3 tablespoons water ½ cup vegetable oil salt and pepper to taste

First roughly chop all the herbs, put the above ingredients except oil in a food processor. Blend herbs, garlic and ginger until all ingredients until smooth. Next slowly add oil until you get a consistency of whipped butter.

Furikake Rice:

1 cup of white rice - cooked in a rice cooker or use instant if necessary 2 tablespoons of pickled ginger - finely minced 1 tablespoons of Furikake- this can be found in specialty goods store or Asian food market

After rice is cooked, mixed all ingredients together

For the Vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons jalapeño pepper - minced ¼ cup red bell pepper - finely diced ¼ cup yellow bell pepper - finely diced ¼ cup peanut oil ¼ cup soy sauce 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 3 tablespoons shallot - finely minced 3 tablespoons Mirin

Incorporate all ingredients and whisk before warming in a very hot pan - add vinaigrette to pan before heating please, oil may catch fire if pan is too hot beforehand.

For the Slaw:

1 lb of Baby Bok Choy - blanched and julienne ½ lb of Diakon Radish sliced in strips on mandolin 2 tablespoons of sesame oil 1 tablespoons of sesame seeds - toasted

Incorporate all ingredients in a small mixing bowl - season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Diane Henderiks is a registered dietitian, the founder of and a "Good Morning America" health contributor.

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