Saturday, February 16, 2013

February Tasting

It's been a very long time since I posted anything here, since before the holidays. The holidays are a struggle in themselves and then comes January. Slow month for sure, but filled with paperwork trying to close the prior year, get W-2s to the employees, and get our taxes done. And then starts all the planning for Valentine's Day, which just having passed is giving me the luxury of a little free time to post some photos. So, we've done lots of tastings in the interim, but had no time to blog about them.

And then, it's just smack in the middle of winter with no exciting produce or products to stimulate our creativity. I really don't have anything more to say about parsnips right now, you know?

We didn't do a good job with portion sizes here. This was way too much food for a seven-course dinner, but then in our defense, it was freezing out and we were serving comfort food, stuff that we always seem to serve too much of.

Clam Imperial
Clam Imperial. One good thing about winter is that we seem to get really sweet and tasty clams, when the clammers can get out. And when the ground is not too frozen, we can dig some leeks to go with those clams. Clams in a rich béchamel with smoky Surry sausage and leeks is a wonderful thing, as comforting as the best chowder, only richer and more sinful.

Char with Caramelized Fennel
Char with Caramelized Fennel. We lucked into some really nice fennel and the char was merely the vehicle for serving the sinfully unctuous braised and caramelized fennel. Served with a round of fennel and orange butter.

Mushrooms and Grits
Mushrooms and Grits. Nothing more comforting in my book than crispy mushrooms on a pile of warm, creamy grits. This dish has hedgehogs, bluets, and both white and brown clamshells (aka beech mushrooms).

Ballotine of Rabbit and Boar
Ballotine of Rabbit and Boar. Our rabbit guy walked in the door with five rabbits the afternoon of this tasting, so I boned out an entire loin with flaps and stuffed it with a sausage that I made from wild boar, blanched strips of carrots, and blanched rapini stems. In another season I would have used haricots verts or asparagus, but being February, the only thing long, skinny, and green that I could find was the tender stems of some baby rapini from a local greenhouse. I might have wrapped this ballotine in crépine/caul fat, but I didn't have any, so I used prosciutto. Served with a little cavolo nero.

Piccadillo Dulce of Lamb Shank
Picadillo Dulce of Lamb Shank. This was actually a dish built around the pimentón aïoli that you see on the plate. In the south of France, they would call this mayonnaise a rouille (rust). I like the smoky flavor that comes from the smoked peppers in the pimentón. I had a lamb shank in the cooler that was just aching to become a sweet and sour dish, flavored with olives, almonds, golden raisins, garlic, sweet red and yellow peppers, onions, poblano peppers, pimentón, cumin, oregano, brown sugar, and Sherry vinegar. You also see a smoky chickpea salad with roasted red pepper and raw red onion, dressed with olive oil, Sherry vinegar, and more pimentón.

Smoked Duck, Sweet Potatoes, and Beluga Lentils
Smoked Duck with Sweet Potatoes and Beluga Lentils. This is a dish that I conceived as a one-biter on top of a water biscuit for a local winery to pair with their newly released Syrah. And so I upsized it and served it with Syrah for our tasting. The particular Syrahs that I paired with this have an earthiness that I echoed in the sweet potatoes but more so in the lentils. The lentils have bacon in them and they, along with the smoked Moulard breast, help enhance the smoky quality of the wine. To pull out the inherent pepperiness of the Syrah grape, I used a syrup of Tasmanian pepper.

Cranberry-Apricot Fregotto with Maple-Glazed Pork Belly
Cranberry-Apricot Fregotto with Maple-Glazed Pork Belly. This dish aims for an almost savory finish, though we may have got carried away with the maple syrup on the candied pork belly. The fregotto, a neologism of my own concoction from fregola and risotto, indicating fregola sarda cooked in the style of a risotto, is quite tart and bright, having been cooked with unsweetened cranberry purée. We sweetened it a touch at service by adding dried apricots, dried cranberries, and a touch of maple syrup.


  1. Great to hear from you, Chef! What beautiful, tempting dishes. Wish we were closer to taste that gorgeous ballotine! And I love what you did with the lamb shank- mouthwatering. At least February is almost over. Spring can't come soon enough!