Friday, April 09, 2010

Ahh Spring...


Time to make some Grilled Asparagus Salsa Verde.

Grilled Asparagus Salsa Verde

Makes 3 Cups

Asparagus, Final 1/3 Peeled 1#
Pappadew Peppers, Diced ½ Cup
Pappadew Pepper Brine 1/3 Cup
Capers, Soaked in Cold Water 4oz.
Anchovy, Soaked/Minced 2 Fillets
Shallots, Sliced Thin 2 Small
Garlic, Hand Minced 3 Cloves
Chives, Minced 2 Tablespoons
Italian Parsley, Minced 2 Tablespoons
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ½ Cup
Salt & Fresh Pepper To Taste

Preparation Procedure-

Heat Grill to High. Toss trimmed/peeled asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on hottest part of the grill until just marked and just barely cooked through. Remove from grill, allow to cool and dice into ½” pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly. Keeps 2 days.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fabulous Culinary Event Center


Had a great experience delivering a interactive cooking experience in Dallas with the wonderful professionals at Milestone Culinary Arts Center/Viking Cooking School. Their great facilities and wonderful staff were invaluable to the success of our event. If you live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area it's definitely a place to take a cooking class (open to the general public), here is their link:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Favorite New Ingredient


I'm ecstatic to announce the birth of my daughter, Ellie Florence Warner. Our first child, she weighed in at 7# 2oz. and was born on December 7 at 4:21pm.

"What's Missing" in Dallas, Texas


Had an opportunity to deliver one of my interactive culinary events for a client in Dallas, Texas recently. We used the culinary center at one of the great Central Markets in Dallas. What a great store, incredible variety with a great selection or artisanal foods from around Texas and the Southwest. They also were a pleasure to work with as we utilized their kitchen facility for the culinary program and borrowed a few of their chefs to facilitate the event. That event, my "What's Missing" Culinary Challenge, has long been among my most popular executive training options that involve cooking. In a nutshell:

Even a novice cook can make something delicious from a successful recipe. However, what if the recipe is incomplete or missing an ingredient? The “What’s Missing” Culinary Challenge explores your team’s abilities to overcome obstacles by creating a menu from recipes where key ingredients have been omitted. The challenge is in determining the missing ingredient or working together to come up with an ingredient that fits even better. The objectives of the “What’s Missing” Culinary Challenge: nurturing a creative mindset within a group dynamic, improving problem solving skills in a fluid environment, community building and having fun.

What makes this event so popular is that the participants aren't merely following the cues of a complete recipe or an iron chef, they actually need to make creative choices to complete their dishes. And as is often the case, I had one team member who substituted an ingredient that worked even better than the "missing" ingredient from the original recipe.

Here's that recipe, a winter vegetable tiello (kind of like ratatouille, but heartier). The subbed ingredient is in bold (in the original recipe it is red wine vinegar):

Autumn Vegetable Tiello

Quantity Produced: Serves 6-8 as Side

Olive Oil, EV 6 Tablespoons
Butternut Squash, Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium Squash
Red Pepper, Cut in 1 ½ “ Chunks 1 Medium
Carrot, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 3 Carrots
Onion, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium
Celery, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½’ Chunks 2 Stalks
Honey 3 Tablespoons
Lemon Juice, Fresh 3 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt To Taste
Fresh Black Pepper To Taste

Italian Plum Tomatoes 1/ 12oz. Can
Roasted Chestnut Puree 3 Tablespoons
Honey or Sugar 2 Tablespoons
Oregano, Dried 2 Teaspoons

Preparation Procedure-

Preheat oven to 450d.. Using 2 tablespoons of the oil, grease a roasting pan just large enough to hold vegetables comfortably. Toss vegetables with remaining oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Drizzle with honey. Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While the vegetables are cooking, in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan combine tomatoes, chestnut puree, honey/sugar and oregano. Cook over medium high heat until thick and tomatoes have broken up 15 minutes. Season to taste and pour over the roasted vegetables. Roast in oven for additional 15 to 20 minutes or until glazed and soft.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dispatches from Bordeaux, France


Whoever says what I do isn't tough, should try flying for 18-hours straight and then start wine tasting! Let me tell you, it isn't for the faint of heart : ). Some of the estates visited during my several days in Bordeaux include: Chateaux Pichon Longueville, Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, Chateau Beychevelle, among others. But rather than bore you with a bunch of blurry wine tasting notes, I will share with you a fine recipe from my lone evening cooking in Bordeaux (However, if you're into wine futures go with the 2009 wines from Pauillac). Made from some crusty old bread and farmer's market greens, this gooey, delicious French panade, or bread pudding, is perfect for any country's cool autumn.

Swiss Chard and Tomato Panade
serves 6-8

Extra Virgin Olive Oil ½ Cup
Onion, Peeled/Julienned 6 Cups
Garlic, Minced 6 Cloves
Swiss Chard, Thick Ribs Removed 1#
Ripe or Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Diced 1 Cup
1” Cubes Bread, Crusty 10 Cups
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Chicken Stock, Warm 4 Cups
Fontina Cheese, Shredded 6-8oz.
Reggiano Parmesan, Grated (optional) ¼ Cup

Preparation Procedure: Preheat oven to 325˚.

In large, heavy-bottomed skillet heat oil and add onion. Lightly brown over medium-high heat. Add garlic and continue to cook, lowering the heat to medium. When onion is soft and slightly caramelized, add swiss chard and cook until wilted, 3-5 min.. In a large casserole dish add small amount of onion mixture and top with some tomatoes, fontina cheese and cubed bread. Continue layering until all ingredients are used. Top with hot stock and grated parmesan cheese. Cover with parchment and aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and parchment and bake additional 45 minutes. Serve hot.

Dreary Old London is Now SUNNY

I especially love the city of London, UK. The whole English culinary culture is thoroughly exciting (and I'm not being sarcastic in writing this), especially if you consider it's excellent and varied artisanal foods, multicultural influences and exceptional chef-driven restaurants. Considering this variety and quality, I can think of few cities where I would rather eat than London (and I've eaten in quite a few). So when I was in the capital of the UK recently to deliver a team building program I was fully prepared to deal with what, besides the value of the US dollar to the British pound, is usually the negative part of visiting the isle: its weather. I had my rain slicker and was fully anticipating being 'damp' for the three days of my stay. Well, let me tell you something, with a few hour rainy exception the weather was simply.. lovely. So I left my rain overcoat at home, and made my way to a few new outstanding restaurants. Here are the highlights:

The River Cafe- A longtime London institution, The River Cafe has been pumping out creative, yet authentic, regional Italian food for decades (Jamie Oliver trained there, and doesn't he OWN the UK now?). In much the way Chez Panisse of Zuni Cafe is an institution of N. Californian cuisine, I think of The River Cafe as the perfect example of how the modern Brit likes to eat. Fresh, varied and creative, my meal there was both simple and unforgettable. A hard combination! It's not inexpensive, even before the conversion to PS, and can still be hard to get a reservation for, but if you want to see what so many of the new British restaurants are aspiring for you must visit at least once.

Hix Oyster and Chop House- For a modern, proper British steakhouse meal, I think it would be hard to beat Hix's. The menu is very similar to new age brasserie/gastro pub/retro steakhouse, in that it has creative, well-sourced British standards (Gamey Brown Windsor Soup anyone?) a vibrant, retro atmosphere. The venue reminded me of my days at King Louie's in that everyone was eating dinner at the bar and they all knew one another (more than one my bar mates apologized for there not being enough stools for my party, even though we were merely waiting for our table. Clearly, if you pull up to that bar you're there for the long haul). The oysters were as good as I've had, we tried delicious rabbit speck, and split a South Devon porterhouse steak (and while British meat is not widely regarded, this was a spectacular cut). Plan on finishing with some treacle tart and cobnut cheesecake.

Dispatch from Kansas City

It seems odd, but despite living only three or so hours away I had never visited Kansas City. I'd driven through on many occasions, and flown over the city even more, yet there are cities in Europe I was more familiar with than the "town of Kansas" on the West side of the state where I live. So when I ended up there for a few days in the early fall, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew about the BBQ, which is not my favorite type (too thick & smokey), and about the Jazz, not exactly a connoisseur there either, and had heard quite a bit about the culinary scene developing in the city and it's strong cultural center. Anyway, here are the food highlights of the excursion:

Justus Drugstore a Restaurant (Smithville, MO)- This evolving mecca of farm to table cuisine in nearby Smithville (about 20 minutes North of KC) is quite a treat. Just about the only vibrant place in a one stop light town, it kind of reminded me of where I grew up in Paw Paw, Michigan (although I'm told they're up to three or four stop lights now!). The space is tiny with an open kitchen and elaborate bar set up. It's certainly a locale to visit if you're of the evolving cocktail culture, as their bar team infuses gins and reinvents all sorts of heirloom libations. However the star here is the food, with a limited menu consisting entirely of locally sourced meats, produce and other foodstuffs. I've been partial to goat as a meat for awhile, ever since I had Mark Vetri's braised version in Philadelphia, but I had yet to see it on a menu in Missouri. As a nightly special at Justus' it was one of several delicious and imaginative offerings, also including: Berkshire Pork Mixed Grill; Rabbit & Campo Lindo Chicken. This place is well worth the trip. Also I'm told there is a separate, more casual, menu for the locals. I can't wait to go back and see what that's all about.


Oklahoma Joe's BBQ- I've already established that I'm traditionally not a huge fan of KC style BBQ. I find the sauces too thick and smokey, that they overpower a properly 'cued' piece of meat. So while Oklahoma Joe's BBQ hasn't made me a complete convert, I would certainly go back (often). Located on the rear of a gas station, plan on waiting in line for 20-30 minutes to place your order, at this foodies mecca. They don't try anything fancy, but certainly do the basics with aplomb. The brisket and pulled pork are outstanding, and the burnt ends looked incredible (these are the crispy ends of the BBQ meat). They also have a lot of napkins at your disposal!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Going Brooklyn

I came to a funny realization walking around Brooklyn, New York last month. Almost every young guy, and in Williamsburg, Brooklyn everybody's young, was wearing a beard, large sunglasses and an ironic themed t-shirt. I've since dubbed it "Going Brooklyn". Another aspect of "Going Brooklyn" these days is being involved in some sort of artisanal culinary business. The New York Times did a long expose last spring about the similarities between the outer boroughs of NYC and the food scene in San Francisco in the 1970's. You remember that scene: Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, Jeremiah Tower, Mark Miller, etc. A pretty significant comparison I thought. But today's brooklyn might just be able to pull it off, I mean there are a lot of interesting, creative, from-scratch food shops and restaurants all over Brooklyn right now. Among the many that I visited was Marlow & Sons, a restaurant and very tiny market that reminded me all the world of an East coast version of Zuni Cafe (they even have the signature chicken dish). An extremely fun spot, that is said to always be hopping, I found myself wishing it was located down the street from me. Like so many other spots in Brooklyn, it's a lot of substance with a dash of hipster style thrown in. I highly recommend stopping by for a visit (no reservations) or perhaps check out the NYT article link and find another Brooklyn gem so that you can say you were a part of the "Brooklyn Culinary Revolution".

The Details-
New York Times Article:


Marlow & Sons:

Summertime Market


Back in Western Michigan and happy to say I've found a great new source for local produce, much of it organic. An adorable little roadside market with more than a modicum of taste and attention to detail (each type of produce has a chalk slate identifying how far it traveled from its farm). So if you're traveling through Saugatuck/Douglas be sure to stop by the Summertime Market on Blue Star Highway to stock up on the bounty of Michigan. Here are the specifics:

http://summertimemarket.blogspot.com/

And here is something I made with some of their products:

Fresh Watermelon-Tomato Salsa

Quantity Produced: Makes 1 ½ Quarts

Ripe Tomato, Blanched/Peeled/Seeded/Diced 1 Large Tomato (1 ½ Cups)
Ripe Tomato, Diced 1 Large Tomato (1 ½ Cups)
Watermelon, Seeded/Diced 3 Cups, Approximately
Shallot or Red Onion, Julienned 2/3 Cup (1/2 Medium Onion/2 Shallots)
Cucumber, Peeled/Seeded/Diced (Optional) 1 Cup (1/2 Medium Cucumber)
Thai or Serrano Chile, Seeded/Minced 1 /2” Chile
Garlic, Minced 1 Large Clove
Cilantro, Stemmed/Minced ½ Cup
Basil (Purple or Green), Stemmed/Minced ¼ Cup
Lime Juice, Fresh 2 Tablespoons (1 Juicy Lime)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 3 Tablespoons
Salt & Fresh Pepper To Taste

Preparation Procedure-

Combine, mix thoroughly. Keeps 5 days.

Grilling at Altitude


I took a brief sojourn from Saugatuck, Michigan to work an event near the top of the earth in Crested Butte, Colorado. Cooking at over 10,000 feet can be trouble if you're a baker, but for the savory cook, especially one cooking over flame, it's divine. Less oxygen means that your open fire won't flare-up as much and should cook slow and easy, just what you want when preparing large cuts of meat for a big group of people. Here's a recipe from my mountain top event that works just as well at or near sea level. This Grilled Asparagus Salsa Verde goes great with any type of meat, fowl or fish; and is also delicious on its own.

Grilled Asparagus Salsa Verde

Quantity Produced: Makes 3 Cups

Asparagus, Final 1/3 Peeled 1#
Pappadew Peppers, Diced ½ Cup
Pappadew Pepper Brine 1/3 Cup
Capers, Soaked in Cold Water 4oz.
Anchovy, Soaked/Minced 2 Fillets
Shallots, Sliced Thin 2 Small
Garlic, Hand Minced 3 Cloves
Chives, Minced 2 Tablespoons
Italian Parsley, Minced 2 Tablespoons
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ½ Cup
Salt & Fresh Pepper To Taste

Preparation Procedure-

Heat Grill to High. Toss trimmed/peeled asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on hottest part of the grill until just marked and just barely cooked through. Remove from grill, allow to cool and dice into ½” pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly. Keeps 2 days.

Saugatuck Summer


All of a sudden it's July, which means that I'm spending a lot of time on the West side of Michigan in Saugatuck. And the summer doesn't officially start here until I've made my St. Louis Style BBQ Spare Ribs. Here's the recipe, so that while I get to enjoy the lake, cool breeze and stunning sunsets at least you get to have some tasty 'cue. (St. Louis style are spare ribs that have the tips cut off of the rib rack to make for a more rectangular shape and easier cooking).

Kirk's Ginger BBQ Glazed St. Louis Style Spare Ribs

Serves 8

Pork Spare Ribs, Preferably St. Louis-Style 3 Slabs
Favorite Spice Rub ½ Cup
Water or Stock 6 cups

BBQ Sauce: 4+ Cups

Open Pit BBQ Sauce 1 / 14 oz. containter
Soy Sauce ½ Cup
Brown Sugar 1 Cup
Ginger, Peeled/Pureed ½ Cup
Garlic, Minced 3 Tablespoons
Horseradish 3 Tablespoons

Preparation Procedure- Preheat oven to 300˚.
In a large roasting pan place spare ribs, coat with spice rub and surround with water or stock. Cover with parchment and foil. Bake for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove from pan, reserve drippings for another use, and allow to cool. Raise temperature on oven to 400˚. Preheat grill to high, when ribs are cool and firm enough to handle place on grill. Cook for 10 per side until the meat caramelizes. Glaze with sauce and cook additional 5 minutes, keeping an eye on the meat so it doesn’t burn. Finish in oven for additional 5 to 10 minutes until sauce glazes meat.

For BBQ sauce, mix ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate. Keeps for up to two weeks.

Whole Hog


I taught an all day "Whole Hog" class a few weeks ago and just liked this picture. But instead of just leaving it at that, I'm also including my recipe for braised fresh bacon (aka. pork belly). Enjoy!

Braised Fresh “Bacon” (aka. Pork Belly)

Quantity Produced: Serves 4 as an Appetizer

Ingredients:

Pork Belly, Skin-On 2#
Vegetable Oil As Needed
Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper As Needed

Onion, Peeled/Chopped 1
Carrots, Peeled/Chopped 2
Celery Stalks, Peeled/Chopped 2
Leek, Trimmed/Chopped 1
Garlic Cloves, Peeled/Smashed 2

Chicken Stock 3 Cups

Preparation Procedure: Preheat Oven to 350˚.
Heat oil in large oven proof pan over medium heat. Season pork and add it, fat side down, to pan. Cook until skin is browned, about 15 minutes, then transfer pork to a plate. Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of the fat, then add vegetables and cook until tender and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Return the pork belly to the pan, fat side up, and add about 2 cups of stock. Bring stock to a simmer and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook uncovered for 1 hour, then add other cup of stock. Continue cooking until pork is tender enough to cut with a fork, about 1 hour longer. Allow pork to cool in braising liquid. Remove and discard the skin, then score and cut the pork in equal sized pieces. Increase the oven to 400˚, strain braising liquid, discarding solids and return to the skillet over high heat. Bring liquid to a simmer and skim off fat. Return pork to the skillet, fat side up, to the skillet. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook, without basting until the pork is heated through and nicely browned, about 20 minutes. Serve pork with braising liquid.

Love that Neighborhood.


I've always said that, for me, the thing that truly distinguishes New York City as a restaurant city from other cities around the country (or world for that matter) is the breadth of small, outstanding neighborhood restaurants there. This was especially true when I was in NYC recently and had an opportunity to dine at Frankies Spuntino at 17 Clinton Street on the lower East side. A satellite of another popular restaurant in Brooklyn (Frankies 457), this tiny spot, with probably no more than 20 seats, just happened to have some availability on a Sunday afternoon when the other restaurant we'd been planning to visit was unexpectedly closed. With its succinct Italian influenced menu, rustic decor and the cutest, closet-esque kitchen this chef has ever seen, Frankies was the perfect spot for some Sunday afternoon antipasti, Vino Bianco and pasta. Check out their website for more details and be sure to pick up a can of their fragrant house olive oil (also available at many NYC markets).

The Details-
Frankies Spuntino: http://www.frankiesspuntino.com

(You must also visit the just opened Highline Park on the Lower West Side, pictured above: http://www.thehighline.org )

Philly Cheesesteak with Gravlox?


I posted recently about visiting the premiere Swedish restaurant in NYC, Aquavit, and experiencing their smorgasbord. As a true connoisseur of everything pickled (including herring), I jumped at the opportunity to visit my good friend Chris Van Bergen in Philadelphia recently as he was introducing his world famous smorgasbord in a new springtime setting. Usually associated with winter, or perhaps Sweden where it seems to be winter 10 months of the year, I was happy to find out that the delicacies of smorgasbord (varieties of pickled herring, cured salmon, meatballs, etc.) translate very well to a warmer time of year. Now Chris, an excellent cook, decided to play it safe and stick with the smorgasbord standards ( a slight pun on his profession as a classically trained musician), and thankfully didn't try to introduce any Swedish fusion. Although I did wonder how a combining Philly's most famous food (cheesesteak sandwich) with the staple of smorgasbord (gravlox) would look: Gravlox "Cheesesteak" with Citrus Cured Salmon, Molten Boursin Cheese, Caramelized Scallions on Soft Pumpernickel Hoagie. However, don't look for it on a Traveling Kitchen menu anytime soon.

Here's a great recipe for curing your own Salmon (Gravlox).

Citrus Cured Salmon

Quantity Produced: For 5# Fish Fillet (Extra Can Be Frozen)

Salmon or A. Char Fillet, Skin-on 5 #
Brown Sugar 5 Cups
Kosher Salt 10 Cups
Fennel, Sliced Thin (Bulb + Fronds) 3
Parsley, Minced ½ Cup
Tarragon, Minced (optional) ¼ Cup
Coriander Seed 2/3 Cup
Fennel Seed 2/3 Cup
White Pepper 2 ½ Teaspoons
Lemon Zest 4 Lemons
Orange Zest 3 Oranges
Lime Zest 5 Limes

Preparation Procedure-

Combine fish cure in a large bowl. Cover fish on both sides with cure, make sure to use it all, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. After 24 hours, drain off liquid that has collected in pan and cure for additional 12 to 24 hours (12 hours for arctic char fillet, 24 for thick salmon fillet). Rinse off cure, pat fish dry with paper towel and refrigerate until ready to slice.

Westchester Wedding


We at Kirk's Traveling Kitchen had a great experience doing an intimate spring wedding in Mount Kisco, New York (right down the road from Martha Stewart's place) in late May. The menu was comprised of many of the best delicacies spring has to offer: leg of local lamb, Wild Salmon, and a melange of Union Square greenmarket veggies. One benefit of doing this event an hour or so outside of NYC was the opportunity to visit one of the most interesting and ground breaking restaurants currently operating on the East coast. Blue Hill at Stone Barns is both an exceptional restaurant and working organic farm (Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture), located on a portion of the former Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills. Taking a page from previous groundbreaking farm to table restaurants like Chez Panisse, all of the food prepared at BHSB is from local farmers/ranchers. The big difference though is that BHSB actually GROWS its own produce and RAISES its own livestock. One of the advantages (or disadvantages depending on your dining perspective) is that there are no menus at BHSB. You get what is best on that day, which makes for a fun and relaxing way to dine in my book. For disciples of local eating, actually having the opportunity to see the produce you'll be consuming or perhaps pet the animal that will grace your plate at dinner is pretty cool. Whether or not you find this type of experience exhilarating or freaky, you'll have to admit it certainly beats the average grocery store experience of cryovaced vegetables and pale meat wrapped in plastic on foam trays.

Here are the links to everything Stone Barns-
Blue Hill at Stone Barns: http://www.bluehillfarm.com
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture: http://www.stonebarnscenter.org/

Here's a great Lamb Recipe for spring or summer.

Grilled Leg of Lamb Provencal

Quantity Produced: Serves 4-6

Leg of Lamb, Boneless 1 / 6-7# Leg
Garlic Cloves, Peeled 12-16 Peeled
Sea Salt 2 Teaspoons
Fresh Black Pepper 3-4 Teaspoons
Fresh Rosemary 2 Sprigs, Trimmed
Olive Oil ¾ Cup
Herbs de Provence 1-2 Teaspoons
Fresh Mint 4-6 Leaves

Preparation Procedure-
Place leg of lamb with the fat side up. Cut 6-8 deep slits in top. Insert garlic cloves into each slit. Dust with 2 teaspoons sea salt. Dust liberally with 2 or 3 teaspoons pepper. Insert 2 pieces of fresh rosemary into the same slits that you cut into the lamb earlier. Coat entire surface of the lamb with olive oil. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons Herbs De Provence. Also add a few pieces of fresh mint into each slit.

Cook over indirect heat on your covered grill - approx. 10 minute per pound, until done.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Pleasure of Fried...


During a short stay working an event in Annapolis recently, I was reminded of the pleasures of fried shellfish. I have fond memories of the various clam shacks of Maine, the ones that seem to dot the harbor in every community (like the ticket booth in a parking lot "you've had your fried littlenecks and lobster roll, you can go now"), or, growing up on Lake Michigan, the springtime ritual of fried smelts. (Small fish that are literally scooped out of the water and tossed into a caldron of hot oil on the beach, destined to be washed down with merely some hot sauce and canned beer.) My stay in Maryland didn't allow me much free time, but the time I had involved a healthy amount, or unhealthy if you want to be picky, of fried oysters and crab at the various seafood dives walking distance from my hotel. It got me thinking about how people rightfully associate things like morels or asparagus as the culinary rite of spring, but forget about the fried oysters and clams. After a long winter of oysters on the half shell or chowder, I can't help but celebrate the spring thaw with those same raw materials breaded and fried. In the spirit of that here's my recipe for a simple cornmeal breading that's perfect for all types of shellfish.

Cornmeal Breading for Fried Shellfish

Quantity Produced: 2 Qts.

Flour 5 Cups
Cornmeal, Fine 2 Cups
Cornstarch ½ Box (about 1 Cup)
Seasoning Salt ¼ Cup
Garlic or Onion Powder 3 Tablespoons

Preparation Procedure-

Mix thoroughly. Keep in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Kind of Pub

This past weekend found me in tropical Chicago (it seems I spend a lot of time in the windy city in the winter, when the weather couldn't be nastier), and tops on my list of food places to visit was the new restaurant by Paul Kahan's team: The Publican. For those not familiar with the Windy City's food scene, Paul Kahan is the chef/owner of cutting edge restaurants Avec and Blackbird. The Publican, once again in the West Loop neighborhood, has both similarities and differences with Kahan's other restaurants. It focuses on artisanal beers and even more artisanal foods (especially all things swine), but is in a massive space larger than Avec and Blackbird combined. The Publican has a postmodern beer hall vibe, a spartan barn with hipster servers, minimalist food and the most erudite beer list known to man. And this could pose a problem if everything wasn't handled so well. The beer list could have proven indecipherable, and this from someone who drinks too much artisanal beer, if not for the beer steward who literally camped out at our table to provide recommendations and suggestions. He introduced us to an exceptional Schwarzbier from Monchshof in Germany as well as a Charles Wells Bombardier, a darker ale from the UK. The food at The Publican is prepared with the same "farm to table" focus as Avec, the wonderful Mediterranean influenced small plates restaurant on Randolph St.. The food at The Publican is designed to be shared and is offered with the same "grazing" philosophy as many small plates restaurants (ie. food comes out as it's ready in the kitchen, rather than in courses). As someone who loves this manner of eating (I think it makes for a more relaxed and casual experience) it's perfect, but it's not for everyone so you may not want to take your rigid, old-school Aunt Tess. I would go back simply to have the steamed mussels, which happen to be some of the best I've ever had, and farm-raised chicken over frites, wonderfully simply and hearty. If you find yourself in Chicago soon, wrap that scarf tight and trudge over to 837 W. Fulton Market, the good people at The Publican will certainly offer you respite and more than a few remedies for what "ales" you.

www.thepublicanrestaurant.com