Saturday, May 15. 2010
Wednesday, January 13. 2010
PAD THAI BOILED PEANUTS,
STAINED GLASS CILANTRO
COCONUT-INFUSED ANSON MILLS RICE GRITS,
WILD SHRIMP, LEMONGRASS & KAFIR LIME BROTH
SIMPLE SALAD OF LOCAL GREENS,
PICKLED ONION & QUAIL EGG
THAI-BRAISED CAWCAW CREEK BACON,
SPICED MISO CONSOMMÉ, POACHED FROG LEGS,
FOIE GRAS STUFFED SHIITAKI MUSHROOM
TOURNEDOS OF BEEF TENDERLOIN
TOPPED WITH (HA-MOK)
RED CURRY POACHED BLACK COD & LOBSTER
FINISHED WITH A PONZU-ENHANCED DEMIGLACE
GINGER & COCONUT PANNA COTTA,
THAI COFFEE CRÈME ANGLAISE, PEANUT LACE
Wednesday, November 25. 2009
Tuesday, October 27. 2009
On Monday night we had the annual Motor pumpkin carving fiesta. While it is always a good time, I dread seeing so many sharp objects in so many inexperienced hands. But thankfully, no injuries occurred, save for a few nasty hangovers. I think they look pretty cool lit up on the patio. We'll try to keep them up through Sunday night.
Those flighty servers left a bunch of pumpkin innards! At least now I have a bunch of roasted salted pumpkin seeds to use as garnish for salads and for bar snacks (those won't last long, I imagine). With the smaller sugar pumpkins I get in I'll be making pumpkin gnocchi, spiced pumpkin vodka, and, of course, pumpkin pie.
I love pumpkin pie and I will say that I have a damn good recipe. And yes, I will be generous and share it with you. It's warming and good with its hint of ginger and winter spice. It's just sweet enough.
Pumpkin Pie filling
4 cups cooked pumpkin
3 cups cream
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground clove
4 eggs, beaten
Mix all together well and pour into raw 3-2-1 shells. Bake at 375 until set.
3-2-1 dough is my favorite dough for all occasions. It is easy to remember the 3 represents 3 pounds of all-purpose flour. The 2 represents the pounds of butter and the 1 represents pounds of ice cold water. This recipe makes about 8 pies crusts, but given the round numbers it is easy to shrink or expand to your needs. FYI a pound of water is equivalent to 2 cups
Using a standing household mixer such as a Kitchen Aid, I usually split the the recipe in half so as not to make a giant cloud of flour. Place the flour in the mixer followed by a pinch of salt. Finely cube the cold butter and add to the mixer and turn on low, using the paddle attachment. Wait until the mixture resembles cornmeal and then add the ice-cold water just until a dough forms. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand until it forms a cohesive ball. It is important to work fast to prevent the butter from warming up. This could result in a tough greasy dough.
Oh yeah if you take the filling recipe and remove the eggs and cream you have a great starting point for the pumpkin spiced vodka.
Monday, September 14. 2009
After my last blog I decided to try mushroom foraging myself. I used to go out years ago in Charleston, usually to no avail. So why not another adventure? Growing up in once-rural New Jersey I have had more than my share of poison ivy, poison oak, bee stings, ticks, and mosquito bites. None of these compare to what ya'll have down here.
I hopped on my motorcycle for a ride last Wednesday. After heading down Bluff Road I decided I would head to +++++++ Park in search of edible mushrooms. To my surprise the foraging was fruitful and I came across chanterelles, wood ears and a few coral varieties of mushrooms. The sun was high in the trees as I walked on twigs and pine needles looking for small clearings of oak where my prize would most likely be found. Life was good and I headed back to Columbia at dusk.
The next morning I woke to slightly itchy legs, feeling as if they had been feasted on by a few mosquitos overnight. As the day wore on I came to the realization that they might not be mosquitos. Chiggers! Though I have never had chigger bites before, I based this on the stories that I have heard over the years.
The next few days were not fun. I wanted to jump out of my skin and the thought of cutting off my legs crossed my mind. Basically, it entailed listening to wives' tales about chiggers and remedies for the itching. I also feared overdosing from the plethora of ointments, creams, nail polish, vitamins, and pills that were on my legs and flowing through my veins. Also, every time my wife looked at my legs she started gagging. Through sickness and health and straight to the couch for me.
After a day or so my forager walked in and I asked him the question, "what do I have to do?". His sage advice was "not to get bit by chiggers in the first place." I asked how long they would take to go away and he said, "one to two weeks." Well, shit.
If you do decide to go foraging, bring a mushroom book so you don't kill yourself eating something dangerous. And watch out for chiggers!
Continue reading "Foraging Dangers"
Tuesday, August 11. 2009
On Friday I was greeted by a new face in the restaurant. This stranger held one small brown paper bag brimming to the top with tiny golden mushrooms. As a smile of recognition and the word chanterelles crossed my lips, the man nodded. Like most things extraordinary in this world you just have to ask how much, pay the price and not even think about haggling. To haggle with this forager might dissuade a return visit and I WANTED MORE. After the transaction had taken place I made a very simple statement "I will buy everything that you bring me." I don't think he believed me, but on Sunday he and a foraging buddy returned to Motor and took me up on the offer.
As Sunday brunch was winding down I was told that I had a visitor. I peeked my head around the corner and I saw the familiar brown paper bags sitting on the bar brimming with goodies. After some quick pleasantries we got down to business. "How much?" I asked and in reply he said, "$ XXX and a Fat Tire." Deal! I quickly grabbed the beer and some cash and completed our transaction. With a hand shake and a nod he was gone. He brought two small bags of chanterelles and one bag of oyster mushrooms.
Greg (sous chef), Josh (kitchen manager at Public House, helps out with brunch), and I stood around sniffing the mushrooms and talking about what was going to happen with them. The menu for Sunday night was already in the works and Motor Supply is closed all day on Monday. We collectively came to the conclusion that the mushrooms would not be in prime shape on Tuesday and that it would be a sin to waste them. Josh, Greg, and I paid Motor back for the mushrooms and the Fat Tire and made plans to cook mushroom-centric dinners for our wives and girlfriends, three of the luckiest women in the city.
Cooking something of such beauty is easy, you just have to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. I started with butter. A lot of it. To the 1/2 pound of melting butter I added 12 fresh sage leaves and 1/4 pound of the chanterelle mushrooms along with a couple of oyster mushrooms that were thrown into the batch. I filled a large pot with water for my pasta. The mushrooms slowly browned over medium heat while the water got to work boiling.
When the water came to a boil I dropped in the pasta and set to seasoning the shrooms with some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. I also used some nice champagne vinegar to help cut the richness of the butter. When the pasta was done I strained it and quickly poured it over the mushrooms so that some of the pasta water would help emulsify the sauce a bit. With a motion of my arm the pasta was tossed in the air a few time and ready for the plate.
And that was only half the mushrooms that came back to our house.
On Monday the KISS principle went back into effect again. Today I would change course slightly and switch pasta for eggs. I medium diced a small potato, half a head of cauliflower, a small yellow onion and placed them in a saute pan with the remaining 1/4 pound of chanterelles and 10 sage leaves with two sticks of unsalted butter (Yes, I LOVE butter). I then placed the pan on the glowing element of my crappy electric stove so that the sizzling would commence. (Oh, for the not-to-far-off day when my wife and I buy a house and trick out the kitchen the way we want to!)
While everything was cooking in the pan I beat six eggs in a mixing bowl with several large spoonfuls of full-fat Greek yogurt. (To cook with yogurt it must be full-fat or it will start to curdle and nobody wants that.) When everything in the pan had browned I poured the egg mixture over the top and placed the pan in a 350 degree preheated oven to finish baking. When the eggs start to slightly rise and just brown you are done. The concoction can now be called a frittata.
As a side note: we enjoyed a delicious bottle of Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc with the pasta and a nice Cru beaujolais with the frittata. I chose these wines because they both have nice acid backbones to help cut the richness of these two dishes. Both dishes were accompanied by salads prepared by my wife, comprised of a baby mache blend, sliced local tomotoes and peaches, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. The frittata didn't really need a sauce, since it was so rich already and had the creaminess from the Greek yogurt. We set out two bottles of Palmetto Pepper Potions (www.pepperpotions.com) for optional heat and went to mushroom town.
Keep your eye out for fresh local mushrooms at Motor. Prime foraging season is right around the corner!
Continue reading "Local Foragers"
Tuesday, July 21. 2009
My egg-man Keith walked into Motor with a great surprise for the kitchen staff--one of his beautiful lambs. Other than eggs and chickens I have a standing order. When he has a lamb ready here is how it works: no phone calls or emails, just a lamb.
I consider the kitchen at Motor to be an incubator for culinary talent. Having a whole carcass is a great teaching tool for my staff and helps me keep my meat-cutting skills in shape. Having whole animals brought to the restaurant is rare in this country, but in the rest of the world it is commonplace. Most four-legged animals are built the same way, so showing where the tenderloin is or where a NY strip would come from on a cow is invaluable. It also hammers in respect for the ingredient.
Some fun dishes I do require a whole lamb. One dish I learned long ago is a fillet-stuffed lamb saddle, which I get to do only a few times a year. We will also serve leg of lamb. The neck and forelegs we will be smoked for a ragout. The bones will be roasted and turned into stock and then from stock to a glace. The organs will go to my sous chef's dog. Every part will be used because to not would be a shame.
I have made a photo journal in the extended body for those who would like to see the transformation of a raw product into dinner. Now be mindful that this is a whole carcass with the head on.
Continue reading "Local Lamb"
Thursday, July 16. 2009
A vodka tasting a few months ago had profound repercussions at Motor. To be fair, I will call the vodka in question "Brand X" and the liquor rep "Liquor Rep."
Liquor Rep walked into Motor lauding praise upon Brand X's line of infused vodkas. I reluctantly decided to taste/spit the vodka. Sampling wine and beer is one thing, but tasting liquor is a more complicated affair. Without care, a liquor tasting can destroy an otherwise productive afternoon. Liquor Rep produced six shiny bottles of Brand X and poured them neat into cocktail glasses. (Sounds kind of rough, but if you want to taste imperfections, drink liquor or wine lukewarm to get maximum flavor. If you're trying to cover up flaws, you serve them ice cold.)
After the tasting was over I thanked Liquor Rep for taking time to let me taste his line. (Seriously, who wants to schlep six sticky bottles of liquor around in 90 degree weather?) What I was really thinking about was how to scrape the taste of artificial flavoring and corn syrup off my tongue.
The next day I ordered a case of vodka and a steep learning curve ensued. A few months later, we have concocted twelve (and counting) flavors, from local strawberry to bacon. Fresh ingredients pay big dividends in the final product, whether you're dealing with food or vodka. (House infused bacon vodka + house-made Bloody Mary mix + 1 spear pickled okra = very good time)
The next time you are thinking about buying a bottle of flavored vodka, consider making it yourself. The process could not be simpler and you will save money. I promise you will feel very cool. Here's how you do it:
1 Large glass jar (I've seen some at World Market for less than $10)
Bottle Smirnoff (you can use others but this is one of the best for the money) $14
1 pint chopped fresh fruit (Pineapple, raspberry, ect.)
1 cup sugar (optional)
Strain through cheesecloth and drink.
PS: Let me know if you try any weird flavors and they turn out tasty.
Continue reading "Our Infusions"
Wednesday, July 8. 2009
This past weekend Melissa and I drove to Asheville, NC for a mini break. We had decided to hit the mountains instead of the beach to avoid the heat and the crowds. Asheville was about 15 degrees cooler than this inferno most commonly referred to as Columbia.
Melissa will let it be known if the accomodations are not up to speck, therefore the choice of shelter was priority numero uno. We love quaint BUT we abhor the overly precious frippery so often found at bed-and-breakfasts. Teddy bears? I don't think so. Lace hanging off the bed? No thanks. After an hour or so on the computer I found the Princess Anne Hotel (www.princessannehotel.com), which seemed like a perfect choice. I crossed my fingers and reserved a room.
Next--where to have brunch when we arrived? Back to the computer and a little bit of research, using the websites www.opentable.com and www.tripadvisor.com. When we do go out to eat, my wife and I tend to go for broke: cocktails, wine, multiple courses. Research is vital for avoiding expensive mistakes. It has happened before and it's not pretty. We settled on Rezaz in Biltmoore Village with a 12:30 reservation. We had heard good things about the restaurant from other restaurant folks, which is a damn good sign. For the rest of our dining we decided to rely on local recommendations.
Sunday morning we got up early to pack. The cats were pissed when they saw the suitcase emerge from the closet. However, I think they would be far more pissed if we tried to take them with us. (Plus, that would make us Crazy Cat People, which we obviously are not, by virtue of having only two.) We were on the road by 10:00 and at a comfortable cruising speed toward our destination and our 12:30 reservation with Mary. Bloody, that is.
The host at Rezaz informed us that our table would be ready in a few minutes so I started to take in the scenery. I noticed that I could not see any Bloody Mary's on the tables! Panic set in. It's kind of silly to be eating eggs and bacon in the afternoon without cocktails. Disaster was averted when I saw a Bellini (prosecco and white peach nectar) cross my path and I settled back at ease.
The dining room is nicely-decorated and a bit on the trendy side with comfortable chairs and inviting booths. The menu at Rezaz is a mix of North African and Mediterranean, with a splash of French to round it out. After securing cocktails we started with a Mediterranean dip sampler that consisted of baba ganoush, a puree of roasted red pepper and walnuts, and a red bean puree served with grilled pita. This hit the spot after a few hours in the car with the only thing keeping me going was my coffee.
We settled on our entrees--the skirt steak with sauce choron and the crab cake benedict. I was a little shocked to see sauce choron on the menu and had to dig back in my brain to remeber what it was. Sauce choron is a tomato-infused hollandaise. It's a delicious sauce, well worth trying at home if you know how to make a hollandaise. The entrees were good. My wife loved her dish, though she fussed over being served cold fruit on a hot plate. I swear, women sometimes.
A fine meal. Good service. Recommended. Check it out: www.rezaz.com
Continue reading below.
Continue reading "Asheville"
Wednesday, July 1. 2009
A few back weeks, Keith from Wil-Moore Farms (www.wil-moorefarms.com) brought me something thing other than his awesome eggs: beautiful baby potatoes. I knew their origin at sight--the Green Grocer on Wadmalaw Island, owned by Celeste and George Albers. These two farmers grow some of the most prized vegetables in the Lowcountry, coveted by chefs from Charleston and beyond. We will be showcasing the baby heirloom potatoes for the next several weeks.
I worked for Celeste years ago while taking some time off from cooking. The pay barely covered the cost of my gas to drive out to Wadmalaw Island, but that didn't matter. I was planting and harvesting and taking care of the 800 chickens, along with getting to drive tractors. (Tractors--fun. Chicken poo--not fun.) You look at food differently after working on a farm.
Since my first load of potatoes arrived last week, I have received about three hundred pounds of various heirloom babies. One of the amazing things about heirloom vegetables is that there are hundreds of variations to be had. This genetic diversity is a good thing for our food supply and for our bellies. (Remember what happened with the Irish potato blight in 1845?)
The varieties you see in the picture above are, from left to right, "Nicole," "Austrian Crescent" and "All Blue." Who doesn't like a fried potato? So, why not (drumroll please) . . . fry them twice? I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I didn't invent the recipe. Here's how it happens. In the picture below TJ''s parcooking the potatoes in 300 degree vegetable oil.
Here's what they look like after that:
When the potatoes are tender you remove them from the oil and let them cool on a clean linen. Then, turn your oil up until it reaches 375 degrees. Once your oil has reached the desired temperature, fry the suckers again until the skins are crispy. Remove and toss in salt and pepper.
Don't get sue-happy on me if you try this at home, people. The potatoes are hot, okay? Act accordingly.
Here's a picture of the finished product:
Tonight we are serving the double-fried potatoes with a chive creme fraiche and a truffled mayo for dipping. Lurking outside the frame are four servers, a bartender, a chef, three line cooks, and a restaurant owner waiting to dig in. Everyone loves potatoes.
Continue reading "Everyone loves potatoes"
Saturday, June 20. 2009
I have been cooking in SC for many years, right at a decade now. I have lived in Charleston and done business with the local fish mongers. But I have never come across a barrelfish until today. My trusted fish guy Dave (from Lowcountry Shellfish) called yesterday with some excitement in his voice and hastily told me about the nine barrelfish he had coming in off the boat. Of course I said "yes, bring two" and they arrived today, out of the water not even 36 hours.
You may ask what a barrelfish is. I certainly did. I was told "cross a seabass with a grouper and throw in a gigantic eye for effect."
I stole this photo from the Internet. I wanted you to see exactly how ugly this fish is. However the flesh is awesome-- firm and meaty with just the right amount of sweetness. Anyway, what is going to look pretty hanging out beyond the Charleston Bump its whole life?
This filet came from a thirty pound fish that was a breeze to break down. For some reference on the size the knife blade in the picture is 16 inches long.
Tonight we will be pan roasting a 7-8 ounce filet sauced with a sweet crab and chive beurre blanc. This simple dish should show off the subtle flavors of this fish perfectly.
Continue reading "Barrelfish"
Friday, June 19. 2009
Here is a quick recipe using the local green plums that are in season. TART!
Green Plum Preserves
1 pound pitted and chopped green plums
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons water
Bring the sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil in a large pot. (Do not stir the sugar!!!!!!!!!!) Cook the sugar until it reaches 250 degrees or hard ball stage on your candy thermometer. Add the fruit and cook 15 minutes. If you know how to can, go for it; I processed these for 20 minutes. If you don't want to can them, place the preserves in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.
My wife always love when I show off my wedding band.
The great thing about this recipe is that it converts to larger sizes easily. We made a twenty pound batch.
Wednesday, June 17. 2009
Today I received a 70-pound wahoo from my trusted seafood purveyor, Lowcountry Shellfish. Here's one of my cooks, Chris, holding it right after its arrival:
Pretty cool, huh? Line-caught Tuesday afternoon 35 miles off the coast of SC and driven up I-26 on ice. Next step:
Here's the sucker all splayed open. Butchering a 70-pounder takes me about 1.5 hours and keeps us in fillets and fish stock for several days.
And here's what you probably really only are interested in: the final product. Line-caught SC Wahoo fillet, with a cool heirloom tomato coulis.
Saturday, June 13. 2009
I must apologize for the crappy picture above, taken with my cell phone. I found myself at the SC State Farmer's Market today with my car loaded to the hilt but sans camera.
We are in the middle of a long growing season here in SC. Melons are popping, the okra is beautiful, and the peaches are to die for. Also packed into my Subaru is a case each of green tomatoes (for FGT), green plums (for sauces and chutneys), and black plums (not sure right now). The okra is looking particularly good now--most of that will be pickled to be used as a garnish for our Bloody Mary's.
The SC State Farmer's Market: love it. Bring cash. Don't be afraid to walk around and compare produce, if you can stand the heat.
Here's a recipe for Watermelon-Peach Salsa. It is excellent on fish, poultry, or with plain old tortilla chips for snacking.
5 SC peaches, chopped medium (no need to skin)
2 cups SC watermelon, seeded, chopped medium
1 tablespoon honey
1 serrano chile, seeded, finely chopped
4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
5 springs cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white sugar
salt and pepper to taste, more than you think you need
*Combine all ingredients. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.*
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