Simple Winter Flounder

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

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Most days in a professional kitchen are hectic. I manage a small staff that produces up to 56 different menu items each week. There is beautiful produce that marches in from the garden, whole chickens from a local farmer, grass-fed beef, island oysters, and some of the South’s best cheese among the list of items we work with each week. Yet often times, when I only have a moment to grab a quick bite, I am stuck. Sometimes, I just want something easy or something I have not been prepping for several hours. I settle for convenience, a roasted veggie bowl or a big salad. But there has been a product that has been stopping me in my tracks over the last few weeks. Flounder. Tender, flakey, snow white winter flounder that has been coming in from Mayport Florida and has been temping me to sauté up a quick filet in the afternoon. Every time this fish makes its way onto the cutting board, there is usually a piece that ends up on my lunch plate.

This is a super easy to make and wildly satisfying lunch. The flounder cooks incredibly quickly and the luscious garlic butter is equal parts elegant and indulgent, little pile of fresh lettuce round out this perfect winter lunch.

Flounder & Garlic Butter

Serves 2

2 flounder filets, around 4.5 oz each
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, room temp
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
garlic butter, for dipping

Turn your broiler on high. Use 2 teaspoons of butter to spread on a small sheet tray. In a small bowl mix salt and paprika. Sprinkle this on the fish, using all of the seasoning evenly distributed. Broil the fish until cooked through. The cook time will vary depending on your fish, mine took around 4 minutes. Flounder cooks quickly and is very delicate, so keep an eye on it. When done, garnish with parsley and serves alongside garlic butter and some fresh salad greens.

Garlic Butter
Yield ½ cup

4 oz butter (1 stick)
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons shallot, minced
½ teaspoon Aleppo
½ teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt

In a small sauce pot melt butter over medium heat. While butter melts, add in garlic and shallot. When butter has fully melted add in Aleppo, parsley, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to incorporate. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Lets Hear it for Marinated Mushrooms!

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

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This is one of the most requested recipes I get from folks visiting Greyfield. While some of the recipes we make in the kitchen are super technical and can take 3 to 4 days to plan and prep, this one is easy to make at home. Farro is one of the key ingredients and its easy to find online. We use Anson Mills, just click here to find out more:

Anson Mill Farro

So here it is, for all you Cumberland Island fans out there, enjoy!

Marinated Mushrooms & Farro Salad

Yields 4 cups

2 cups farro, cooked and cooled
2 cups marinated mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

In a large bowl mix the cooked farro, marinated mushroom, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and parsley. Enjoy.

Marinated Mushrooms
Yields 2 cups

12 oz maitake mushrooms*
5 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon salt
1 small shallot, minced (around 2.5 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ red pepper, small dice (around ½ cup)
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon aleppo chili
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1.5 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl mix maitake mushrooms, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread mushrooms on a sheet tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. The mushrooms should be lightly roasted. Set aside.

In a sauté pan heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add in shallots, garlic, red peppers, paprika, black pepper, and Aleppo. Cook for around 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in roasted mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix and cook for 2 minutes. Add in sherry vinegar and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.

*Can’t find maitake mushrooms, no problem, try this salad with shiitake mushrooms instead.

Farro
Yields 2½ cups

4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup farro

In a pot add water, salt, olive oil, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add in farro. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the farro is tender. Drain the farro from the water and cool.

 

 

A Winter Salad, with a Side of Ikea

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

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Yes, Ikea. The wonderful world of not so easy to assemble Scandinavian furniture is now influencing my recipes. I confess, I am one of those folks who goes to Ikea to destress, walk around aimlessly looking at rooms and reimagining my home space. I was delighted to find on my most recent trip to Ikea that there was a Swedish grocery section!!! For all of the rugs, bookshelves, and glassware I have willfully declined, they had me here. Lingonberries, smoked fish, boxed Swedish pancake mix, let the shopping spree begin! What I bought, and loved, were these great rye crackers called knäckebröd råg & kli. They come in a large 12 inch round, which drew me in immediately. A giant cracker… I mean come on, how great is that. I have been using them for everything: soups, cheese, an easy snack, and now a salad.

To me salads are an endlessly creative way to make a meal. They are a blank canvass and there is no way to go wrong. If you look at my recipe and say hey, I don’t like feta, ok then replace it with a sharp cheddar. Out of citrus, no big deal, throw some turkey on it. One thing that I always want is crunch. In these days of giant Ikea crackers, I am happily crushing them up and sprinkling them over the tops of my salads.

Salad of Winter Lettuces, Feta, Cara Cara, Pumpkin Seeds, and Olive Vinaigrette

Yields: 1 large salad

1 small head of radicchio, cut into quarters
2 big handfuls of loose-leaf lettuces
1 cara cara orange
¼ cup feta, crumbles
2 tablespoons spiced pumpkin seeds (recipe below)
¼ cup of rye crackers, broken into small pieces (knäckebröd råg & kli)
2 tablespoons olive vinaigrette (recipe below)
pinch kosher salt

To assemble the salad toss 1 quarter of radicchio leaves and 2 big handfuls of loose leaf lettuce together in a bowl. Remove the pith and peel of the orange. Cut in half and then cut into half moon slices. Place lettuces on a plate and top with 6 or 7 slices of cara cara, feta crumbles, pumpkin seeds, olive vinaigrette, rye crackers, and pinch of salt. Add more or less of any ingredient as you prefer and make your own masterpiece!

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Yields: 1 cup

1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl toss pumpkin seeds, olive oil, salt, coriander, and cumin. Spread on a sheet tray. Bake for 6 min or until a light golden color. Cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Olive Vinaigrette

Yields: 1¼ cup

¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup champagne vinaigrette
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar
2½ tablespoons beldi* olives, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped

In a bowl mix lemon juice, champagne vinegar, and salt. Slowly whisk on olive oil. Add in za’atar, chopped olives, and parsley and whisk together. Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.

* Beldi olives are oil-cured olives from Morocco that have a deep, fruity flavor and meaty texture. If unavailable near you, just substitute with your favorite olive.

Savoring the Last Weeks of Spring with English Peas

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

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As Spring begins to quickly fade into Summer, I wanted to post one last nod to the tender and delicate flavors of Spring produce. The first round of English peas is a laborious time in the kitchen, everyone joins in to shell the peas. But there is a balance to spending a lot of time shelling peas, as they require hardly any preparation to shine. There is a big difference between cooking with freshly shelled English peas and frozen peas or canned peas. When I meet people who do not like English peas a movie begins to play in my mind. One of canned peas, army green in color, mushy in texture. A fitful child at a table, forced to “finish your vegetables” by a tired parent. Usually the peas are accompanied by a rubbery piece of chicken or a greyish piece of meat. It’s a sad scene. You may think this drastic, but it’s the only way I can think to explain anyone’s adherence to one of springs most tender, sweet, and fresh flavors. I stand to say that English peas, fresh from the pod, are one of the most symbolic spring vegetables. They are best just barely cooked, enough so that they are bright in color and retain a pleasant pop when you bite into them.

This salad is one we have making at the Inn this season, a guest favorite and possibly one of my personal favorites from this year. There is no doubt that peas and ham are made for each other, and adding burrata… well that’s just showing off. Enjoy while you still can.

Sweet Pea Salad with Burrata & Country Ham

Serves 4-6 people

1 cup fresh English peas, shelled
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dried harissa
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups of sugar snap peas, shaved thinly on a bias
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon parsley, minced
¼ teaspoon mint, minced
½ cup pea shoots
4 oz. burrata
5 (paper thin) slices of country ham

For the Peas:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add in English peas. Cook for 20-30 seconds. Strain from water and quickly shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. Strain from ice water and set aside.

In a small saucepot add in olive oil. Add in shallots, garlic, and dried harissa. Gently warm, about 2 minutes. You want the olive oil to be hot, but you do not want the garlic or shallot to begin to brown. Remove from heat. Set aside and cool in he refrigerator.

In a bowl mix English peas and cooled harissa marinade. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

To assemble the salad in a bowl mix marinated English peas, shaved sugar snap peas, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and mint. Pour into a wide bowl or serving dish. Tear the burrata into large pieces and layer over the peas. Tear the country ham into rustic pieces and spread over the peas and burrata. Garnish with the pea shoots and any edible flowers you have on hand. Bachelor buttons are especially nice. Savor the last few weeks of spring.

 

 

Tomato Pie & Pappy Van Winkle, Tales from the Kitchen

Monday, May 15th, 2017

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I couldn’t tell you when I started making tomato pie. It’s not something someone taught me how to make. I am pretty sure its evolution took place during my years in the South but its origins, I claim them to be instinctual. It’s a marriage of my deep love of quiche (and everything French) married to the revelry of tomatoes in southern summers. I am not saying this is some invention of my own, but this is dish I could make blindfolded at 2am in a cave. I just make it.

Tomato Pie also takes me to a very fond cooking memory. Early in my career I was asked to make 12 tomato pies for a Chef I was working for. He needed them for an event the following day. I was asked on a Saturday night, a very busy Saturday night when I was working a very busy station. Needless to say, the tomato pies had to be made after service. My nearest and dearest line cooking partner in crime, Ben, was also tasked with making Chicken Bog for said event. Our prep started around 11:30 pm. The restaurant closed down, the kitchen was empty except for the two of us. We cooked, talked, took a few nips of Pappy Van Winkle from the bar. It was perfect. I couldn’t tell you when I started making this pie, but I can tell you that it’s magical. I hope this recipe brings you as much happiness as I have had making it.

Tomato Pie

Yields 1 Pie, 8 slices
Pie Dough*

1½ cups All-Purpose Flour
¾ teaspoon Sugar
¾ teaspoon Kosher Salt
1½ sticks Butter, diced and very cold
4½ tablespoons Water, very cold


In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix together to incorporate. Add in the butter and use your fingers to mix into flour mixture until it feels coarse and pebbly. Add in water and mix until all ingredients just  beginning to become incorporated. Roll the dough into a ball shape and lightly flatten. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. On a floured work surface roll out dough into a circle until it is uniformly around 1/8 inch thick. Line the pie pan with the dough and trim away the excess edge. Place into freezer for 15 minutes to chill well before blind baking. Line chilled dough with a circle of parchment paper that is 12 inches in diameter. Fill with whatever weights you have, such as beans or rice. Bake the piecrust for about 20 minutes. You want the edges of the pie to be a light golden brown when you remove it from oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes at room temperature, and then remove the parchment paper and weights. The pie shell is ready to filled and baked at this point. It can be made a day ahead, just wrap well and store in the refrigerator.

Pie Filling

2 Heirloom Tomatoes, medium sized
¼ cup Olive Oil
1½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
1½ cups Sharp White Cheddar (Cabot is a good starting point), shredded
4 Egg Yolks
6 Eggs
½ cup Heavy Cream
¼ teaspoon Dried Harrisa
¼ cup Parmesan, grated
1 teaspoon Parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Slice the heirloom tomatoes to around ¼ inch thick. Lightly oil a sheet pan with olive oil. Lay tomato slices on oiled pan in a single layer. Use a ½ teaspoon of salt to season the tomatoes. Roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, eggs, heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk well, until slightly frothy.

To assemble pie, layer 1 cup of shredded white cheddar into the pie shell. Add in a single layer of roasted heirloom tomatoes, around half of the tomatoes. Next, add remaining ½ cup of shredded white cheddar. Top with remaining roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle dried harissa over the top tomato layer. Pour egg and cream mixture over the tomato and cheese filling. Top with parmesan and parsley. Bake for 45-55 minutes. The pie filling should be set and the top, golden brown. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

* The pie dough recipe was taken from the cookbook Summerland by Anne Quatrano. Her book is a look at seasonal cooking in the Southern United States and a glimpse of her creative genius. Her cooking is incredibly inspiring and I highly recommend adding it to your library.

Star Provisions

 

Love & Field Peas, A Summer Romance

Friday, August 5th, 2016

photo by Emily Hall
photo by Emily Hall

I didn’t know, regretfully so, about field peas until I was in my 20’s. My husband grew up in the South. His childhood memories of food largely revolved around his Grandmother’s kitchen. Cracklin’ cornbread, turnip greens, fat back, and sweet tea were just a few constants in his life. Every year his family would plant a summer garden with tomatoes, corn, and field peas. His summer memories recount days of shelling peas and watching Wheel of Fortune. Ah, to be young again!

My first field peas came straight from his Grandmas freezer. One day we were visiting, and she offered him some of her supply. Ben accepted and my culinary education on peas began. He took those peas home (I think they were pink eye purple hulls), cooked them up and served them with some cornbread. I was in love…. with the peas and the man! Henceforth, when we visit the Wheatley farm, I usually try to convince him to raid his Grandma’s pea supply.

Pink eyes peas, crowders peas, zipper peas, lady peas, and butter beans are a few of my favorites. Peas are in fact a labor of love, it takes time to shuck fresh peas from the garden, and that can be half the fun. I may not have been raised in the South, but I now have memories of summertime, shelling peas, and being with the ones I love.

Marinated White Acre Peas with Georgia Peaches & Burrata

Serves 6

To Assemble the Salad
8 cups cooked white acre peas, room temperature
½ cup pot liquor vinaigrette
1 cup of diced sweet peppers, small dice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon basil, torn
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon chive, chopped
4 oz. of burrata cheese
1 fresh ripe peach, sliced into wedges

In a bowl toss the cooked peas, potlikker vinaigrette, sweet peppers, parley, basil, tarragon, and chives. Check seasoning. Add in the sliced peaches and torn burrata. Enjoy!

Cooking the Peas
Yields 8 cups cooked peas

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 ½ pounds of shelled peas, we used white acre but feel free to substitute
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a medium sized pot heat olive oil. Add in the shallot and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add in the peas, bay leaf and enough water to cover the peas by two inches. Bring to a simmer and cook 35-40 minuets or until peas are tender, but not mushy. Cooking times will vary based on what kind of pea you are using. Add in the salt and let peas cool in liquid until room temperature. Drain the peas and reserve 2 cups of the liquid for the vinaigrette.

Potlikker Vinaigrette
Yields ½ a cup

2 cups reserved potlikker from cooking peas
1 teaspoon Tabasco
2 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Over medium heat, reduce the pea liquid until only ½ cup remains. Cool to room temperature. In a bowl mix all ingredients and whisk together. Check seasoning.

 

 

Heritage Radio Network- Sharp & Hot

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

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Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Heritage Radio Network program, Sharp & Hot. The show is hosted by Chef Emily Peterson and features profiles on Chefs, including yours truly, and “life advice through the lens of food”. I shared a bit of my own “origin” story and an awesome recipe for squash escabeche.

To learn more about heritage radio and their programming check out their site: Heritage Radio Network

To listen to my interview click here: Sharp & Hot with Whitney Otawka

When they asked me for a recipe for the piece they wanted to focus on something approachable and influenced by Spring. Spring on the barrier islands of Georgia & North Florida is one of the most prolific times of the year. Radish, kale, cabbage, leeks, and snap peas of early spring begin to push into baby squash and the first round of tomatoes. Menus overflow with endless combinations and possibility. When I get to cook at home and the weather is good, I prefer to cook outside over an open fire. This recipe would make a great light lunch or a perfect side for dinner. The acidic marinade on the squash would be it a perfect pairing for a marbled steak or some lovely buratta.

Squash Escabeche

Yields 4-6 servings

1½ pounds squash, preferable baby
¼ cup evoo
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup escabeche marinade
1 cup arugula
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons marcona almonds

Wash and cut the squash into various shapes. Set aside and build a fire in a grill. While the coals are burning down make escabeche marinade (see recipe below). When the grill is ready, toss the squash in the olive oil and kosher salt. Place the squash in a single layer on the grill. The grill should be at a medium- high heat with a low flame. You are looking to mark the squash, about 4 minuets on each side. Remove from heat. When ready to serve toss the squash in ½ cup of escabeche marinade, lightly torn arugula, cilantro leaves, and marcona almonds. Garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt. This dish is excellent served hot, room temperature, or cold. Enjoy!

Escabeche Marinade

Yields ½ cup

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of ground black pepper
pinch of smoked Spanish paprika
1 Tablespoon minced white spring onion
2 teaspoon minced and deseeded jalapeno
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoon minced parsley

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Allow mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes before using.

 

The Power of Acid

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

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In the early days of my cooking career, butter was king. I was cooking on the line, many years ago, and the Sous Chef asked me “Did you add butter to this?” I can not tell you today what the “this” was but my answer was no. His response was “Why do you think everything tastes so good here? Always add butter!”

So my career pushes forward and I believe in the power of butter. Butter makes everything great! Butter is the secret ingredient Chefs have been using that elevates cooking! More butter! I learn the cuisine of the Chef’s I work for. I believed in the French techniques that are the building blocks of every culinary students education.

But as things so often do, something changed. The change started with lemons. We all know a little squeeze of lemon on seafood is divine. But watch what happens when you add a little lemon juice to cooked greens. It changes the way they taste. It can take the edge off of bitter notes. It can brighten the flavors of any dish. What about other citrus; limes, grapefruit, oranges? What can they do to a dish? Then one day, I read in Thomas Keller’s landmark The French Laundry Cookbook that he adds a small amount of vinegar to his cream based soups to round them out. Vinegar!

So it goes, as the years move ahead I am exposed to more and more cooking techniques that maximize acids in cooking. In the world famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I am exposed to a pantry that stocks beautiful French tarragon vinegar and I see why acid is king. It was such a powerful element in Dan Barber’ s cooking. My understanding of flavors had changed, and my food has been better for it. Throw in my travels to Mexico and my studies in Latin cooking, and the transformation was complete. I still love butter, but to say the least, it is not how I approach crafting a delicious dish.

There is no dish that highlights the power of acid better than ceviche. The high acid dish transforms raw fish into a bright, complex, easy to make meal. Origins of ceviche are debated (almost as much as it’s spelling’s) but Peru is the capital of ceviche today and variations can be found though Central and South America. When making ceviche look for high quality fish.

Spring Halibut Ceviche with
Pico de Gallo Agua & Avocado

Serves 2-4 People

6 ounces of Halibut Filet (most mild white fish will work)
1 cup Pico de Gallo Agua, recipe follows
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon cucumber, small dice
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, small diced
½ Tablespoon cilantro, minced
Half of an avocado, diced

Cut the halibut into small bite size pieces and place in a non-reactive bowl . Pour ½ cup of the Pico de Gallo Agua over the halibut and mix together. You want to make sure the fish is just submerged by the marinade, so use extra of the Pico Agua if needed. Place mixture in the refrigerator and let the fish marinate for about 15 minutes. Stirring a few times throughout to insure that all of the fish gets marinated.

To assemble the ceviche I like to drain the marinade from the fish and replace with fresh ½ cup of Pico de Gallo Aqua. Mix in the salt and avocado. Place ceviche into your serving container. Top with fresh cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas.

Pico de Gallo Agua

Yields about two cups

2 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 Tablespoon of white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tablespoon of jalapeno, seeds left in and chopped
6 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 sprig of cilantro
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until only small chunks remain. You just want the juice from the ingredients so don’t let it become a smooth puree. Pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl and gently press on the solids to release all the liquid. Discard the solids that remain. Pico de Gallo Agua will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator, and when mixed with beer makes a delicious michelada!

 

Southern Shrimp Roll

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

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Spring on the Georgia coast is a beautiful thing. The daytime weather seems to linger around a perfect 74 degrees with cool nighttime temps around 62 degrees. It’s the kind of weather that makes a girl think she is back on the California coast and not the semi tropical next door neighbor to Florida. When the weather is this good I start cooking food that is made to be eaten outside. On a bench, under a tree, or on a blanket, all meals must be portable and picnic worthy.

I have been making a variation of this recipe for over 5 years now. A cousin to the New England lobster roll, I make a shrimp salad and pile it high on a soft roll garnished with crunchy butterhead lettuce. Cumberland was my original muse in creating this dish. Cumberland Island sits north of Amelia Island Florida, which some say was the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. It is home of the annual shrimp festival which takes place on the first weekend of May. Wild caught white shrimp are some of the best in the world and I am usually trying to find a way to work them into every dish come shrimp season.

This is a meal that can be used for lunch or dinner, for an outdoor picnic or indoor movie night. Look for wild caught Georgia or Florida shrimp if your in the South or substitute with a high quality domestic shrimp.

Southern Shrimp Roll

Yields 3 cups Shrimp Salad/ Around 6 shrimp rolls

1 pound medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons celery, small diced
2 tablespoons, fennel small diced
1 tablespoons shallot, small diced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
3/4 teaspoon tabasco
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon minced chive
1/2 teaspoon minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 soft rolls or hotdog buns
1 head butterhead lettuce or romaine

In a medium sized pot add 2 quarts of water, bay leaf, and 1 lemon cut in half and squeezed into the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Add in the shrimp and poach over medium heat until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp and place in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further. Drain shrimp and dice into small, bite size pieces. In a bowl add diced shrimp and the remaining ingredients. Mix until combined.

To assemble, stuff each roll with a few leaves of bibb lettuce and about 1/2 cup of the shrimp salad. Garnish with chives and serve with your favorite potato chip.

How to Cook for a Legend

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

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One week ago I had the opportunity to cook for a legend. I had one weeks notice. When I heard that Jacques Pépin was coming to Cumberland Island for a visit I was thrilled and focused. The big question was what would the menu be?

When cooking for a legend, how do you write a menu? In a world of 20 course tasting menus, avant-garde plating, and foraging for rare ingredients it can be overwhelming for me as a Chef to focus on how to create a memorable meal. How do we define good food in our culture? Do the best restaurants have to be the most expensive, the most exclusive mausoleums that suspend the reality of what food is? I think not. The older I get, the more confident I become with my cooking, and I realize that so much of my industry relies on smoke and mirrors. The best food, most often times, is the simplest food. Good ingredients, good technique, and a sense of place are the key components for the best restaurants. Food is welcoming and nourishing.

In writing the menu I knew right of the bat what the focal point would be, chicken thighs. I wanted to cook for Jacques Pépin what I would cook for friends and family. The type of food I wish I could find in more restaurants. I knew the best way for me to prepare for this meal was to not over think the menu. So I went with what was in season and what was fresh out of the garden. To cook such a straight- forward meal for a legend comes down to the details.

 

Lunch for Jacques Pépin

Roasted Chicken Thighs with braised hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, green garlic, and chervil

Roasted Baby Beet and Mokum Carrots with petit lettuces, sorrel, ice lettuce, and green goddess

Crispy Potatoes tossed in salsa verde and preserved lemon

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes with chamomile cream

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The menu was not finalized until the morning that I stepped into the kitchen on the day we would execute this lunch. To be honest, it was one of the most focused services I had ever lead. The meal was served on large platters, family style. Dessert was plated individually. We cooked for Jacques Pepin, his lovely wife Gloria, and his close friend and photographer Tom Hopkins and his wife Christine Hopkins.

At the end of the meal, I was invited to sit down at the table and have a glass of wine. The words exchanged at that table will forever impact me. Jacques Pépin was truly complementary of the meal and went so far as to relate my cooking to that of his mothers and aunts. For me, there is no greater compliment.

The world of the Chef is crazy. We work insane hours under high stress and intense heat. Often times there is little to no balance for personal time and family. But for those of us that chose this path, and stick with it through the success and the failures, there are great rewards and no reward is greater than to be able to do what we love, and have it be appreciated and understood.

There is no doubt, that cooking for Jacques Pépin was and will always be a landmark moment in my career.

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Thank you to Ben Wheatley, Alejandro Tamez, Alberto Gonzalez, and Christopher Becerra for helping to execute this memorable meal. And thank you to Tom Hopkins for documenting the afternoon and sharing these beautiful photos with us.

After the lunch we hosted I had a chance to watch a great interview of Jacques Pépin by Anthony Bourdain, click on the link below to watch.

Anthony Bourdain interviews Jacques Pepin

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