LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 48.Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
While we’re sad to say goodbye to those sweet summer tomatoes, fall is officially here, and there’s a whole new set of crops on the block. The key to this whole local food system is really having locally produced food available year-round, because people need to eat year-round. We’re starting to see that become more of a reality here in the Piedmont, where more farms are growing crops that are available during both the spring and fall.
It’s easy to eat strawberries all year, because conventional farming makes that possible. But when we eat foods that aren’t really in season where we live, we’re really doing ourselves (and our local farmers) a big disservice. There are some excellent crops that can’t tolerate high heat but can tolerate cool nights; radishes, turnips, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and cabbage are all delicious spring and fall crops.
When I think about one spring and fall crop in particular – cabbage – I don’t picture the perfectly smooth, spherical mounds we’re so accustomed to seeing in the grocery store. Instead, we picture Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. It’s a pointy-topped variety of cabbage that used to be really popular in this area; but sadly, it has become less available. Farmers used to love growing it because it’s so sweet and wonderful. The reason it’s less common nowadays is that if you get an inordinate amount of rain, the cabbages will split, making them less attractive and less profitable. Because most farmers can’t afford that loss of investment, many gravitate toward plainer varieties. We’re really excited about three farms we work with regularly that do a strong job of growing at least three seasons’ worth of produce. All three – Schicker’s Acre, Guilford College, and Farlow Farm – supply us with some amazing cabbage!
North Carolina coleslaw – whether it’s the creamy slaw from “down east,” or the barbecue slaw from around Lexington – is made from generic cabbage. But if you can get your hands on some pointy-topped cabbage (such as Early Jersey Wakefield or Caraflex) when you visit the farmer’s market this fall, we urge you not to cook it. Shave it and make some coleslaw. Maybe it’s an Asian slaw with some ginger-sesame vinaigrette, or perhaps your favorite barbecue coleslaw; whatever your preference, these less-common types of cabbage will make your coleslaw sublime. (And when you happen upon some heavy, dense, flat-headed cabbage, that stuff is ideal for braising. That’s how we prepare our mustard-braised cabbage.)
Our coleslaw recipe is made with our own buttermilk salad dressing, and it was developed to play a complementary role to the smoky pulled pork sandwich on our lunch menu.
Another great fall dish we love is red cabbage cooked with wine and cranberries, which is delicious. It is wonderful with grilled meats like chicken or pork.
We really want to celebrate fall crops and encourage more people to plant all kinds of edible crops throughout the year. Ultimately, that’s the only way we’ll have a sustainable food system: by extending the seasons, and embracing the produce available to us within each of those seasons.
Cabbage originated in Europe, and it was a staple in people’s cuisine during the Middle Ages.
In Britain during World War I, cabbage leaves were used to treat trench foot because their leaves have cooling properties.
Cabbage is full of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and folate, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Cabbage should be wrapped and stored in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator, and should keep for up to a week or so.
There are many different varieties of cabbage. Some of the most common are:
Green: This is one of the most common and versatile types of cabbage. It has large, tightly packed leaves and can fluctuate in size — from baseball to basketball size!
Red: This tightly packed cabbage actually has more of a purple hue, and it is often smaller than green cabbages.
Bok Choy: This dark green cabbage is more like Swiss Chard than other cabbages. It has crunchy stems and tender leaves, and it is best eaten in stir-frys.
Napa (also referred to as Chinese or celery cabbage): This mild cabbage looks more like a lighter colored romaine lettuce than its other cabbage relatives. It has an oblong shape, and its leaves grow off of thick stalks.
Savoy: Green and loosely packed, with a ruffled, lace-like texture, this is one of the most tender varieties of cabbage
Lucky 32 Slaw
8 cup cabbage, sliced ¼ inch
2 cup carrots, ¼ inch julienne
½ cup red onion, ¼ inch dice
1 tbsp salt
1 cup Buttermilk Herb Dressing
1 ½ tsp Old Bay spice
¾ tsp celery seed
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cut cabbage into quarters, and then slice into ¼ inch thick slices.
In a bowl, toss cabbage, julienned carrots, diced red onion, and salt to combine.
Let mixture sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, then rinse salt off and drain well. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Buttermilk Herb Dressing, Old Bay spice, celery seed, and vinegar. Add buttermilk herb mixture to cabbage mixture and combine well.
Makes 3 quarts
Buttermilk Herb Dressing
3 cup buttermilk
1½ cup sour cream
1½ cup mayonnaise
1½tbsp granulated garlic
1½ tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp Tabasco® sauce
1½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients well.
Makes 6 cups
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup fruity red wine
1 cup cranberries, dried
1 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup yellow onion, diced
1 lb red cabbage, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
Combine wine and vinegar and add cranberries. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until the cranberries soften.
Heat oil in skillet to medium-high, and sauté onions until golden.
Add rough chopped cabbage and sauté until shiny and softened, but not wilted.
Add stock and wine/cranberry mixture and simmer for five minutes.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 47. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Potatoes are so humble. Much like cucumbers, they tend to be overlooked and taken for granted, but we’d be lost without them. They’re such a staple in our diets and have been for decades. One of the reasons potatoes have a reputation for being commonplace is that they are such a commodity in America. There is a huge amount of effort for a meager return for most small farmers. That’s why folks you meet at the farmers market rarely grow potatoes (unless it’s for themselves): They can’t possibly sell heirloom potatoes at a price acceptable to someone used to buying commodity potatoes in the grocery store.
At Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, when it comes to making potato salad or roasted potatoes, we love showcasing the local bounty. Two farms that have really figured it out and we love doing business with are Farlow Farm (they grow a red-skin variety called Red Pontiac) and Plum Granny Farm (they grow some gorgeous fingerlings – Laratte, Red Thumb and German Butterball). By growing novel varieties that people don’t commonly see in stores, they’re able to set their own prices, making it worth their effort to grow potatoes.
Potatoes are best categorized by their texture: starchy or waxy. If potatoes are meant to be fluffy for French fries or mashed potatoes, you need a starchy potato. Our favorite way to eat starchy potatoes is mashed, with lots of Homeland Creamery buttermilk.Mashed potatoes are just so yummy — fluffy, starchy, tangy and rich. However, if you’re making potato salad, you should use a waxy potato so you get more texture.
One of the best books we’ve read got us excited about potatoes: It’s called Serious Pig, by John Thorne. He devotes an entire chapter to the potato, describing how he drove all around Maine in pursuit of heirloom varieties of potatoes and old potato recipes. Check it out for this and other essays about quintessentially American foods from across the country.
Potatoes make it onto Lucky’s seasonal menu (see recipes below) in several tasty ways, including:
Rustic Potato Salad, which is so popular it helps us purchase lots of Farlow potatoes. While this year we smoked the potatoes after boiling them, before mixing them with the remaining ingredients, that may prove to be a challenge at home. Simply boiling these potatoes until they’re tender and making this recipe as suggested will be delightful and delicious enough.
Smoked Salmon Hash is another dish we serve at Lucky’s. It reminds me of the time I spent living in Oregon. There, this dish was called “Red Flannel Hash,” after the lumberjacks who stereotypically enjoyed it as a hearty breakfast.
Duck-Fat Potatoes are a side dish here at the restaurant, and they are even more beloved by the staff than our guests. Maybe it has something to do with the name, which sounds so luxurious. It is such a wonderful addition to a meal with roasted meat, and it can be enjoyed any time of day. The trick here is finding a store discerning enough to stock duck fat — you can definitely find it at Fresh Market. Alternatively, you could substitute bacon fat from that coffee can on the back of your stove; just be sure to adjust the salt in the recipe.
The potato is a member of the perennial nightshade family, Solanum tuberosum,and is native to the Andes.
Potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, and Europe’s per capita production is the highest in the world.
China is currently first in the world’s potato production.
Potatoes are a good source of vitamins B6 and C, as well as copper, potassium and dietary fiber.
The Incas believed potatoes served many natural healing purposes, such as treating blemishes, frostbite, sunburn, toothaches and sore throats, and helping to heal broken bones.
While French fries are classified as “French,” Belgians claim that they originated in Belgium, and both countries still dispute the addictive treat’s origin.
French fries were first introduced to the U.S. sometime in the early 1800s, when Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House.
The potato was the first vegetable ever grown in space.
Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their high starch content will convert to sugar, making them unpalatable.
Potatoes should also not be stored near onions, as the gases that each vegetable expels cause them both to spoil.
Potatoes can be stored for a few months at cellar temperature in the dark, so with a spring and a fall crop, it is possible to get these potatoes for most of the year. Ask your favorite farmer about growing potatoes.
You like po-tay-toe, I like po-tah-toe
There are more than 4,000 different varieties of potatoes in the world. Here are some of the most common:
Russets (Idaho): Very starchy, with thick, abrasive brown skin, white flesh, and an elliptical shape. Their fluffy, dry texture makes them ideal for mashed potatoes, and they easily absorb cream and butter.
Yukon Gold: Both starchy and waxy, these round, golden (on the inside and out) potatoes are versatile. Their moist texture makes them perfect for really creamy mashed potatoes, potato salads and French fries. They have a thin, delicate skin, so they fall apart easily when cooked too long.
Red Bliss: Next to Russets, this variety of potatoes is one of the most common. These round, red-skinned potatoes are best for making potato salad because they have a waxy texture and hold their shape really well when cooked.
New(Creamer): These pale yellow, petite potatoes are harvested young, before their sugars fully convert to starch. They’re quite sweet and waxier then mature potatoes. They have a smooth, thin skin that you don’t need to peel, and they are great for roasting whole. They don’t keep as long as other potatoes.
Fingerlings: These purple, red, yellow and gold potatoes are oblong, firm and waxy. They are great in potato salads, and also used for roasting whole.
Boil whole potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Chill in ice water to cool quickly. Quarter the potatoes, place in a mixing bowl and season with salt. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Whisk until well combined. Fold mixture into potatoes. Salt to taste.
Makes 8 cups
Smoked Salmon Hash
¾ cup hash brown potatoes (see recipe below)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp red onions, julienned
¾ cup beaten eggs
2 oz smoked salmon, rinsed well and cut into pieces
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ tsp chopped chives
Heat oil in a sauté pan and add potatoes and onions. Heat through. Add salmon and eggs to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook while stirring with a rubber spatula. When eggs are cooked, turn out into a serving bowl and garnish with chives.
Makes 1 serving
Hash Brown Potatoes
1 lb Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat butter in a skillet. Add potatoes and spread over the pan. Season with salt & pepper. Allow potatoes to cook for about 5-7 minutes. Turn potatoes over and continue cooking until done.
Duck Fat Potatoes
¼ cup duck fat
½ lb julienned yellow onions
2 lbs new potatoes, cut in wedges
½ tbsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Melt duck fat in a large skillet. Add onions and cook until softened. Add potatoes and seasoning, stir, spread out into a single layer and cover. Cook about 10 minutes, scrape bottom, turn potatoes over and spread into a single layer again; cover and cook 10 minutes. Scrape bottom, turn potatoes over and spread into a single layer again; cover and cook five minutes. Turn off heat; let rest for 10 minutes covered.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 46. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
The three vegetables that we most associate with summer are tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers. We all have neighbors or grandparents who grow mounds of them each summer, bringing fresh produce to every cookout. Because they are so common, we think sometimes the potential of vegetables like these gets overlooked.
Lately, though, people have been celebrating heirloom tomatoes—and how wonderful they can be, eaten with just a touch of salt! If we paid that sort of attention to every overlooked vegetable that we took for granted, the possibilities would be amazing. One of the other veggies on that list — cucumbers — is one that folks often have “too many” of. But there are countless great things to do with them! Cucumbers come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Many people will tell you the best way to eat a cucumber is to pickle it. At Luckys, we buy white cucumbers from Mark Schicker, and turn them into pickles. We also have purchased Armenian, English and Japanese cucumbers from Guilford College Farm and Screech Owl Greenhouse.
Traditional fermented pickles are really cucumbers on a higher plane. By immersing cucumbers in a saltwater brine, osmosis extracts moisture from the cucumbers and the moisture that comes out undergoes a malolactic fermentation. The salt inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, while the lactic acid creates a sourness that makes our mouths pucker ever so delightfully.
Our pickles are flavored with dill, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and they are featured on our pickle plate alongside some roasted radishes, crackers and Green Goddess Dressing. We’re also excited to have three different kinds of pickles on our new featured menu — pickled watermelon rind, the above-mentioned dill pickles and zucchini pickles, with a Summer Breeze Gazpacho Jelly by our Summer recipe contest winner Felice Bogus! Be sure to stop by and try some of the many different ways we celebrate this humble vegetable.
Contest Winner! Summer Breeze Gazpacho Jelly (by Felice Bogus), with three kinds of pickles: zucchini, dill, and watermelon, with stoned wheat crackers
One favorite summertime Southern dish is cucumbers with white vinegar, salt and pepper — an answer to a quick pickle. It just has a simplicity and bracing tanginess that reminds us of summer. (And, if avocados are on sale, you can buy some and eat them the same way.) Our cucumber salad is my take on my this simple dish. It’s as easy as can be, and yet it hits every note. On the other end of the spectrum lies our cucumber avocado soup, which is the perfect antidote to a hot summer’s day. It’s deceptively light on the palate, but there’s an extensive array of flavors going on, so you’ll notice different nuances each time you taste it. It’s been our most requested recipe from our seasonal menus over the last five years.
Cucumbers come from the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, along with melons, squash and pumpkins, and they originated in India.
They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow at home, and they thrive in both tropical and temperate climates. Some people grow them on fence lines, so the cucumbers grow in the air and won’t rot from sitting on the moist ground.
Cucumbers, which are over 95% water, are low in calories and rich in B vitamins.
Cucumbers sometimes get a bad rap for being hard to digest, when actually it’s not the cucumber, but rather the seeds that are hard to digest.
There are three main types of cucumbers:
Slicing cucumbers are meant to be eaten fresh and are usually uniform in color –long, smooth, and thick-skinned.
While any cucumber can be pickled, pickling cucumbers, or Kirby cucumbers, work best. They have bumpy, spiny skins, are never waxed, and range in color from pale yellow to dark green.
Burpless cucumbers are the sweetest type of cucumber. They have thin skins, are easier to digest, and are practically seedless. They can grow up to two feet long.
Some of the most common varieties within each of the three types are:
English Cucumbers: Usually around 12 inches long, these cucumbers are of the seedless variety, and have a thin, smooth skin.
Garden Cucumbers: Dark green, with smooth skin, these are the most common cucumber in North America. They usually are waxed, so make sure you peel them first.
Armenian Cucumbers: Long, thin, and with a thin skin and soft seeds, Armenian cucumbers are ideal for eating raw, not pickling. This is my favorite cucumber, because the tiny seeds are barely there, the skins aren’t tough, and they just look really cool when you prepare them because of their ridged texture.
Kirby (or Pickling) Cucumbers: Short, oftentimes bumpy, these vary in color from yellow to dark green. They are good to eat raw, but they’re especially ideal for pickling.
Persian Cucumbers: Similar to English Cucumbers, these are mild in taste. Sometimes bumpy, and with thin skins, they are ideal for eating raw.
Cucumber Storage and Preparation Tips
Whenever you want to use cucumbers as an ingredient (like in our Weaver Tuna Salad), you should chop them up, salt them, let them sit for about 30 minutes, and then rinse the salt off. Because cucumbers are so watery, the salt helps draw the excess water out so your dish won’t get waterlogged when you combine the cucumbers with your other ingredients.
Store cucumbers in your refrigerator. If they are kept at room temperature for too long, they’ll start to wilt and lose their wonderful crunch.
For more on pickling, check out our previous post.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and puree with an immersion blender on low speed. When mixture begins to become liquid, increase speed on blender until liquefied.
Makes 1 gallon
Recipe: Weaver Tuna Salad
Another way to use those cucumbers is in our Weaver Tuna Salad. This dish is named for Mike Weaver, a founding partner of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels and an amazing man in his own right. This is one of only a handful of dishes that have been on Lucky 32’s menu since day one.
¼ cup diced cucumbers
1 tsp kosher salt
6 oz can chunk white Albacore tuna
1/3 cup Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (see recipe below)
pepper to taste
Mix together cucumbers and salt; allow to sit for ten minutes. Pour off liquid and combine cucumbers with remaining ingredients.
Makes 1 cup
Recipe: Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing
1½ tbsp water
2/3 cupGulden’s Mustard
1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
In a mixing bowl, combine water, mustard, vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk until well blended. Slowly pour oil into the mixing bowl while whisking till well emulsified.
Makes 2 cups
Herbed Cucumber Sauce
This sauce is sort of our take on Tzatziki. It was a very popular fish topping when the menu was arrayed a bit differently. Now we use it to balance the Voodoo Sauce on our Bayou Shrimp Cakes plate, where all of the elements are brought into harmony by the wonderful herbed cucumber sauce.
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp garlic, whole, peeled and chopped
3½ tsp lemon juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
6 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Peel and slice cucumbers lengthwise. Remove seeds and dice. Toss with salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Pour off accumulated liquid. Combine cucumbers with remaining ingredients; mix well.
Makes 3 cups
For more about our seasonal recipes, see our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index: http://lucky32southernkitchen.com/recipes/
We won’t “steer” you wrong: How to build a better burger
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 45.Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
There’s more to Bradds Family Farm than the delectable pork they produce. They also raise some of the finest beef in the state, and we’re proud to use their beef as often as possible, especially for our burgers. The most important part of buying local food is the connections you form—the relationships you build. Bobby Bradds is part of our family. We’ve been to his house and eaten his food, and his daughters came to our restaurant before their prom. Bobby is the embodiment of a principle that we believe in: Restaurants are nothing without the active participation of people who are passionate about growing, preparing and serving food.
Like any relationship worth having, ours is not always easy. We don’t just pick up a phone to place an order, then find an 18-wheeler dropping off all the beef we need. We have to plan it all out. Cows take 18 months to achieve market weight, and the abattoir takes almost a week to turn that into ground beef, so Bobby needs to know that we need beef two weeks before I even know. This extra effort and planning may be intimidating for a lot of chefs, but I think the guests who dine in our restaurants should be able to expect the best burger in town, and they deserve it.
Once Bobby provides the best possible quality meat for us to use in our burgers, we want to ensure our guests get the opportunity to enjoy the delicious flavors and varied textures in a well-crafted burger.
Where’s the beef?
Some people judge a burger by what’s on it, and some people judge the burger by the quality of the meat. In our opinion, you can put anything on a burger that your heart desires, but if the meat isn’t good, then what’s the point? We make our seven-ounce burgers with an 80/20 blend of lean/fat grass-fed beef, and we cook them on a griddle, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The recipe is straightforward and consistent, and it makes for a fresh, juicy burger every time.
How to build a better burger:
Separate your layers. If you want more than two condiments, don’t put them directly on top of one another. For example, you don’t want fat on fat, so never put mayo on top of your cheese. Why? You lose the impact of each flavor: The name of the game is building flavor, not having them cancel each other out. Try putting one condiment on the bottom half of the bun and the other near the top half, either on top of the lettuce or tomato. Also, the tomato should be the cushion between your lettuce and your burger. It’s kind of amazing how different the juices and textures in a completed burger are!
Don’t skimp on the bun. At Lucky’s, we use a challah bun that’s made in New Jersey (we take this component seriously, and we’ve not found a sufficiently good local version), and it’s rich and fluffy — the perfect cradle for everything in between. If you can’t get your hands on any challah or brioche buns, buttermilk buns are also excellent. If you’re old school, it’s hard to go wrong with good ole-fashioned Martin’s potato rolls. Make sure you butter your buns, and toast them lightly on the grill before assembling your burger.
Hot tomatoes are good; wilted lettuce is bad. Remember this rule of thumb so you keep a nice texture in your burger. We prefer iceberg lettuce because of its that crunch, but use whatever you fancy. Just don’t put it on your burger until the last minute.
Ditch your main squeeze. Instead of always reaching for the trusty ole Heinz (which we still dig, by the way), think outside the bun, and check out our recipe for beet ketchup.
For more on the anatomy of a sandwich, check out my Southern Foodways Alliance post about our Ham & Havarti Sandwich here, and for some more tips on grilling, check out our summer grilling guide.
Here’s how we do it at L32:
Weigh out 7oz of ground beef, form into a ball. Place the burger ring (same diameter as hamburger bun) on a waxed sheet of paper. Press ground beef ball into ring, compressing to a uniform thickness. Season the burger with Kosher salt & black pepper and place on griddle. Season the second side. Butter the top and bottom of the burger bun with clarified butter and place face down on the flat top to toast. Toast the top and bottom of each piece. Once toasted, place buns on a plate. When the burger is seared well, flip it to sear the other side. When both sides have a hard sear, the burger should be about medium. Continue cooking to desired doneness. When the burger is ready, place it on the bottom bun, topped with the lettuce and tomato (when in season). We like to serve it with the onion and pickled okra on the side.
Want caramelized onions with that?
1 pound yellow onions
1 tbsp canola oil
Remove the ends from the onions. Remove the peel and slice in half end to end. Cut onions into uniform ¼ inch thick slices. Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add onions and sauté until tender. Reduce heat and continue to cook until onions are caramelized to a golden brown. Pour off excess liquid. Makes about 2/3 cup
For more: See our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index: http://lucky32southernkitchen.com/recipes/
This little piggy went to market: Bradds Family Farm, Part 1
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 44. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
We were visiting the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market one Saturday morning and saw this guy in a bright orange hat, and the sign on his table said “whey-fed pork.”
It turned out the guy’s name was Bobby Bradds, and the whey was from Goat Lady Dairy’s chevre operation (his wife Carrie is a cheese maker there). He was selling all the choice cuts of pork that he could at the farmers market, but he often took the off cuts back to his freezer at the end of the day. We offered him a proposition: if we bought all the things he couldn’t sell, then he could raise more hogs and have more meat to sell. We started using his liver in our liver pudding, and used his fresh pork fat to replace the commodity fatback we were using in our collard greens. We think that is what really sets them apart. Those collards became a sensation. For seven years now, folks have been commenting on our collards, saying they were really transported back to eating their granny’s collards.
This new relationship with Bradds Family Farm was just the beginning of what would evolve into a beautiful friendship. We then began buying whole pigs and eventually cows from Bobby, and we haven’t looked back. Bobby and his wife Carrie raise around 80 hogs each year on her family’s farm— just down the road from Goat Lady Dairy, in Grays Chapel, NC. They understand the philosophy that you are what you eat, so why not feed your animals healthy, flavorful food? It makes all the difference in the meat, and their hogs’ diet of goat cheese whey and whole grains makes for some of the healthiest, most delicious pork in the Piedmont.
Not your mama’s meatloaf
We make lots of dishes with the pork that we get from Bobby, but one of the most popular is the meatloaf. Most of us grew up eating mom’s all-beef meatloaf with brown gravy and mashed potatoes. And often the traditional ketchup-covered meat loafs were served at friends’ houses. Lucky 32’s meatloaf is a French country-style pâté, served hot, with red wine mushroom gravy. We use 75% beef, 25% pork. It’s seasoned, loaded with vegetables, and baked in a Pullman loaf pan that we line with bacon. We cool it, remove it from the pan, slice it, and then bake it in the oven once more, before serving it with gravy.
Meatloaf with Red Wine Mushroom Gravy
½ stick butter
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped celery with stems and leaves
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
½ cup diced green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped green onion
½ cup half & half cream
½ pound ground pork
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 tsp Tabasco
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 ½ tsp salt or to taste
¾ tsp pepper or to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs
12 slices bacon
Melt butter in skillet and sauté onions until golden. Add celery, garlic and bell pepper and sauté until tender. Remove vegetables to a sheet tray to cool. In a large bowl add eggs and half & half and mix until combined. Add pork, beef, Tabasco, Worcestershire, spices and herbs and mix well. Work breadcrumbs by hand and then set aside. Line a loaf pan with 12 bacon strips, six on each side, so that the bacon will wrap the meat loaf. Place a strip at the joint where the bottom meets the side of the pan and bring the strip up the side of the pan and allow the excess to fold over the out side of the pan.
Continue in this manner alternating from side to side and leaving about an inch of space between each strip on the right and an inch a space between each strip on the left. When bacon is all laid out, place meat mixture in pan. Fold the bacon strips over the top of the loaf, completely wrapping loaf with bacon. Place in oven at 350 degrees and bake until thermometer inserted in the center reads 155. Makes: 1 Loaf Pan
Bring home the bacon
At Lucky 32, we make our own bacon for some recipes (we surely can’t make all of the bacon that we use). We take whole pork bellies and rub them down with our pork cure mixture (salt, pepper, and sugar). We age them for about 10 days and then smoke them with hickory. A lot of people think pork belly is the stomach of the pig, when it’s actually just bacon that hasn’t been cured and smoked. Pork belly is the same cut as bacon, it’s just prepared differently.
5 pounds pork belly
½ cup Pork Cure (see recipe)
Rub pork bellies with ¼ cup of Pork Cure. Lay bellies out in a perforated pan and set the perforated pan over a non-perforated drip pan. Allow to sit for four days. After four days, season bellies with the remaining ¼ cup of Pork Cure. Place back in perforated pan over non-perforated pan and allow to sit for three additional days. Place bellies in a smoker with wood chips at 200 degrees for four hours. Place bellies directly on rack of smoker and add additional wood chips after two hours. Cool and slice to desired thickness. Makes 4 pounds
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp black pepper
Combine well. Makes 1 cup
Be sure to come in and try our Whistle Bite Sliders (with pork belly from Bradds Family Farm), featured on our current Spring’s Eternal menu, through May 13th.
Lucky 32’s Whistle Bite Sliders with Pig & Whistle sauce and green tomato chowchow, on local rolls.
For more: See our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index: http://lucky32southernkitchen.com/recipes/
Which Came First? Massey Creek Eggs
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 43. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
Most of us take eggs for granted. Not the role they play in our lives – they’re a staple of breakfast and brunch menus, and integral to desserts – but until recently, where they came from was not consciously pondered by folks. Most people we know lacked any connection to their eggs, and where they were from. Nowadays it’s become more trendy to buy more sustainable eggs or to raise raise your own in the backyard; but many of us remember over the last five to ten years, shopping in the grocery store and buying organic or free-range eggs, and just not noticing the flavor difference. It has been well-documented that organic produce (and eggs) usually travels further to get to your plate (so it’s not as fresh or sustainable as you think). Ultimately, we thought we could make a better impact on our guests and this community by focusing on the food that is grown nearby and working with these producers to collaborate on better tasting, more sustainable food.
Massey Creek Farms
If you Ruby McCollum, of Massey Creek Farms, gives you an egg, you just have to crack it open. The first thing you’ll see is how firm the white is. One of the first things to deteriorate in an egg is the white, which gets soft, so a firm white is a good sign. Also exciting is that Ruby and her husband Garland have a chicken tractor, where the chickens live in a moveable house, or “hotel.” This pasture-raised method affords them a higher quality of life, with frequent exposure to better grass and bugs, thus producing healthier, tastier eggs, and happier chickens! Massey Creek Farms, which is located just north of Greensboro, in Rockingham County, is a family affair. Garland originally started out as a hog farmer on his family’s 200 year-old farm. But Garland became disillusioned with the harsh reality of a massive hog farming operation and in 2008 he completely re-evaluated his family’s practices. This led to raising lamb on pasture and learning the ins and outs of farming chicken eggs with those chicken tractors. He and Ruby are responsible for the farming, with the help of their children and his parents. The farm is Piedmont Grown certified, and has a strict no added hormones, antibiotics, and animal by-products policy. Their practices are humane and eco-friendly, nurturing both the animals and the environment in which they live.
While they also raise pigs, lamb, chickens, and turkeys for meat—some of which you may have seen us cooking at the annual Farm to Fork picnic in Hillsborough—eggs are at the forefront of what they do. If their ethos and practices weren’t reason enough to support them, their eggs sure are. We especially love them for making poached eggs, which we do on Saturdays and Sundays at Lucky 32. We feel fortunate to have this relationship with Garland and his family, and as a chef, it is gratifying to work with genuine people, who endeavor to create a healthier and better planet. Garland has evolved into an earnest pillar of our local food community, and several restaurants, bakeries, groceries and co-ops in the triad, use his eggs and meat. He’s very generous with his time and experiences, and people really enjoy stopping by his stall at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, which is turning into a regular scene on Saturday mornings. Stop by, pick up some eggs for yourself and tell ’em we sent you.
Deep Fried Grit Cakes with Poached Eggs & Country Ham Cream Sauce
There’s a poached egg dish that used to be a staple of our brunch menu and we still feature sometimes. I feel that poaching eggs are the best way to showcase how lively they can be, and this dish is one of the best (and most delicious) ways to eat Massey Creek Farm’s eggs. our grit cake recipe cooks the grits for a shorter duration than we normally would for creamy grits, then we dredge them in our a cornmeal creole-seasoned breader, deep fry them, and top them with poached eggs, country ham cream sauce and Texas Pete fried onions. It’s simple and soul satisfying. Come have brunch with us this weekend and try it for yourself!
Brunch is served on Saturdays from 11:15 AM-3 PM and on Sundays from 10 AM-3 pm. We’ll save a seat for you!
Lucky 32’s Deep Fried Grit Cake with Poached Eggs & Country Ham Cream Sauce
Deep Fried Grit Cake
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup yellow grits
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 medium eggs (or 1 large), beaten
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup corn flour
½ tbsp Creole Spice Blend (see recipe)
canola oil for deep frying
In a large sauce pot, bring vegetable stock, heavy cream, and butter to a boil. Stir in grits and reduce to medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until grits are cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, beaten eggs, salt, and pepper. Spread mixture onto a greased 8 x 8 pan and cool completely. Grits may be refrigerated overnight. When cooled, cut grits into desired shape and set aside. Meanwhile, blend cornmeal, flour, and Cajun spices in a shallow baking dish. Heat oil for deep frying to 350 degrees. Dredge grit cakes in cornmeal mixture and fry in hot oil, turning to brown on both sides. Drain fried grits on paper towels. Makes four 4 X 4 squares or 8 triangles.
Creole Spice Blend
2 ½ tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
3 tsp black pepper
3 tsp onion powder
3 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp oregano leaves
3 tsp thyme leaves
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and combine with a whisk until spices are evenly distributed. Store in an air tight container with lid. Makes – ¾ cup.
Country Ham Cream Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
½ pound country ham cut into small pieces
¼ cup diced onions
1 tbsp butter
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp cornstarch
Heat oil in stock pot. Add onions to the stock pot and sauté until tender. When onions are tender, add country ham to stock pot and sauté until hot throughout. Do not overcook. Add butter to melt, and then add cream and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook 8-10 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in a little water; add only enough to slightly thicken. Remove from heat. Makes – 3 cups.
1 tbsp kosher salt
3 tbsp white vinegar
3 quarts water
Bring 3 quarts of water to a simmer in a 4 quart sauce pot. Dissolve salt and vinegar in water. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl. Stir simmering water with a spoon. Slide each egg from the bowl into the simmering/swirling water. Cook until the whites are firm and the yolks are just set. Lift eggs out with a slotted spoon and serve. Serves – 4.
Texas Pete Fried Onions
1 pound yellow onions, ¼ inch julienne sliced
½ cup Texas Pete® Hot Sauce
1 cup Corn Flour Onion Dredge (see recipe)
canola oil for frying
Slice onions to ¼ inch slices. Break onions apart into rings and place in a bowl. Pour Texas Pete Hot Sauce over the onions, toss to coat well and then marinate for at least 20 minutes. Add ½ cup of dredge to bowl and toss to coat. Add the remaining ½ cup of dredge to bowl and toss to coat. Shake off excess dredge as you place onions into hot fry oil. Cook 2-3 minutes or until crispy.
Corn Flour Onion Dredge
½ cup yellow corn flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until seasonings are evenly distributed. Makes 1 cup.
All About Eggs:
Most hens begin laying eggs when they are around 20 weeks old, and will lay eggs for up to two years before decreasing their production.
Some hens lay eggs every day, while some are less consistent, only laying once or twice a week.
Laying eggs depletes calcium from the hen’s system, so that calcium must be re-obtained through feed or supplements (oyster shells are a good source of calcium, and are a good supplement).
Egg shell color varies among breeds, and the size depends on the breed, age, and weight of the hen.
Eggs are a complete protein, since they contain all of the essential amino acids. They also are a good source of calcium, choline, phosphorous, potassium, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B2, B6 ,B9 and B12. The yolk contains most of the vitamins and nutrients, as well as over half the calories of the entire egg (around 60 for a large egg yolk).
Eggs contain so much protein, the United States Department of Agriculture classifies them as meat in the food guide pyramid.
Typically, the richer the hue of the yolk, the richer the egg will taste; it’s all dependent on the hen’s diet.
One way to determine if an egg is too old is to submerge it in water. If the egg lays on its side at the bottom of the bowl, it’s the freshest. If it lays upright on the bottom, it’s still okay to eat, but should be eaten soon, preferably hardboiled. If the egg is too old for consumption, it will float to the surface.
When hard boiling eggs, it is important to know that fresh eggs don’t peel well; the shell sticks to the egg and it tears. Age your eggs about two weeks for better results.
If you’re trying to quickly bring an egg to room temperature (which is best for baking), place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for at least 10 minutes.
If you’re allergic to eggs (or just don’t eat them), apple sauce, arrowroot powder, and bananas can be good binder substitutes in baking.
If you’re poaching eggs, add a little vinegar to your boiling water, to help the eggs maintain their shape.
Ever wonder about the easiest way to separate an egg? Watch!
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 42. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about what we get and how we craft it into the delectable dishes that you’ve come to know and love at our restaurant. This post is a bit different; we’d love to take you behind the scenes of the genesis of one of our newest dishes – “Shepherd’s Croquettes.” It all started with a desire to find the perfect lamb dish…
The center of the lamb industry in the United States is in Colorado, because they can raise lamb at high altitudes (where they thrive and are not as susceptible to heat waves). Colorado lamb typically is finished on corn like beef, and correspondingly has a taste and texture reminiscent of beef, but it comes with a premium price tag. Most of the other lamb on the market is New Zealand or Australian grass-fed lamb, which is a breed that does well in warmer climates, so it has a significantly different flavor profile. They are leaner, and gamier in taste, and smaller animals in general. Most American diners prefer the taste of Colorado lamb and the price of Australian lamb. In the past, in our restaurants, we didn’t focus on lamb because we weren’t able to get the highest quality of lamb at a good value, and we didn’t have a story about lamb worth telling. Then we met Craig Rogers.
Border Springs Farm
Craig Rogers is the owner and shepherd of Border Springs Farm, in Patrick Springs,Virginia. The farm is a breathtaking sight, situated among 60 acres of the scenic rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The small family-run farm raises Kathadin and Texel sheep, herded by a vigilant pack of hard working border collies. The lambs they raise are healthy—free of hormones and antibiotics, and that care really shows in the amazing flavor of the lamb. Border Springs provide phenomenal lamb to some of the finest restaurants on the east coast, but , being only an hour and some change away from Greensboro, they feel like our neighbors, and we value their proximity.
The Evolution of Shepherd’s Pie
We’ve put chicken pot pie on our menu at Lucky’s in the recent years, and because it was so well received, we pondered doing variations on other pot pies. We hadn’t thought about doing Shepherd’s Pie until we started buying this incredible lamb from Border Springs Farm. Then we thought, what if we did real Shepherd’s Pie—not like the milquetoast 1950’s American version with ground beef and mashed potatoes. In America, we have a tradition of making things more convenient, and then they lose their symbolism. People who raise cows have never been called shepherds, so why make shepherd’s pie with beef? Instead, we wanted to use turnips, lamb stock and lamb, as an attempt to honor and recreate the Scottish heritage of the North Carolina Piedmont in a Shepherd’s Pie. So without actually having been to Scotland, that’s what we set out to do. We made a rich lamb stock and included ground lamb and turnips, since they’re abundant this time of year, and we topped it with mashed potatoes. It had a wonderful taste, but it was not a glamorous dish to look at, and an awkward one to serve, with the task of putting a solid over a liquid.
Last year we prepared a Shepherd’s Appreciation Dinner at Lucky’s. Naturally we served five courses of lamb. We wanted to make Shepherd’s Pie, but needed to do it family-style for 50 people, which presented a challenge. As a simpler alternative, we decided to mix the root vegetables and ground lamb in with the potato cakes, and breaded and fried them. We served them sitting in the gravy. We ended up crowning them “Shepherd Croquettes,” because croquettes are potato cakes and the word reminded me of the shepherd’s crook—a historic cane-like tool for catching sheep. Having shepherd’s pie in this kind of presentation delivers a textural element that traditional shepherd’s pie lacks. The croquettes provide that crispy, crunchy element so many folks crave and love. We like that we are presenting something familiar, but in a different form, and we think that’s become the hallmark of what we do at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. The croquettes were an overwhelming success at that dinner, so we vowed to recreate these for the spring menu at Lucky’s the following year, and now they’re on our spring menu, for the month of March. One of the purposes of dining out is to eat the things you don’t cook. Some people may attempt this recipe at home, but others might not want to take the time for it. For me, the magic of dining in a restaurant is that you’re essentially dining in someone else’s home. This is our home. We spend more time in this restaurant than we do in our own homes, so we invite you to come into our home and try these croquettes for yourself this month.
2 pounds mashed potatoes
2 cups Croquette Filling
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
Place mashed potatoes in a bowl and add Croquette Filling. Combine by hand until well mixed. Portion into 3 ounce cakes (should yield about 14 cakes). Place cakes on a pan and freeze. When ready to cook cakes, remove from freezer and allow to thaw in refrigerator. Set up a three pan breading station with flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs. Dip each cake into flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs (pressing the crumbs into the cake by hand). Place about 2 inches of oil in a skillet and heat. Fry cakes in hot oil until golden on both sides and then place on sheet tray in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Makes 14 cakes.
½ pound ground lamb
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery
½ cup pearl onions
½ cup chopped shittake mushrooms
½ cup diced turnip (peeled)
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried parsley
Heat butter in a sauté pan. Add lamb and brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients and sauté until vegetables are tender. Strain. Makes 3 ½ cups.
Flounder: A nice light fish for those long, dark days
One of the things that you don’t hear a lot of people talk about is that we in Greensboro and Cary are very close to the coast. We’ve got a tremendous seafood industry at our fingertips, which makes us very fortunate. Until the last couple of years, most of the fish landed at North Carolina docks between Memorial Day and Labor Day—which is prime fishing season in the Atlantic. However, they were shipped north to New York or south to Miami. There they are auctioned off to seafood distributors and then transported back to Raleigh or Atlanta, and then put on another truck to finally be delivered elsewhere. This process can put somewhat of a delay on us folks in the Piedmont getting our fresh fish, but the times, they are a changing. We are now becoming increasingly more able to obtain seafood directly from our coast, through small, independent distributors and other like-minded folks interested in strengthening our local food system. We’re happy to acquire our seafood from Southern Foods, in Greensboro. They work with several small Southeast coastal seafood markets and fishmongers, and we like supporting them because they support these family-run businesses.
One fish in particular that we have an advantage in procuring is North Carolina flounder. Because flounder’s season is opposite that of the deepwater fishing season, most flounder is caught during cold weather when most commercial fisherman are down south in Florida for the winter. It’s usually caught in shallow waters by locals, in smaller boats. It’s an easier process and the flounder stays in local markets rather than getting shipped to New York or Miami.
Coastal folks will tell you that when you eat flounder there are two sides: a light side and a dark side. The dark side is at the top of the fish and the white side is at the bottom. Essentially, when seen from atop they blend in with the sand and when seen from below they blend into the sky. Flounder begins its life as a round fish and then it starts to swim on its side, one of its eyes migrates to the top side, and it evolves into a flat fish. The dark side is typically thicker and more moist, while the white side is thinner and milder. When the weather gets cold, in addition to procuring fish elsewhere, we at Lucky’s like to feature flounder on our menu two to three times a week because it’s from our coast and the flavor is at its peak. We prepare our flounder simply: we get fileted flounder, leave the skin on and cut the bones out, pan fry it, sear it, and flip it and it’s delightful. Light, flaky fish such as flounder taste like what they eat—in this case little fish, crabs and shellfish, so flounder has a pleasant sweetness to it.
Tips for cooking flounder
When you have a relatively lean and flaky fish like flounder, you need to be careful about what you accompany it with. One of the reasons broiled flounder is most commonly served with lemon is that the fish’s flavor is so mild that you need the acidity of the lemon to excite your tastebuds, making you more able to appreciate the fish’s delicate flavor. You don’t want to overpower the delicate nature of flounder with bold, dominating flavors, so at the restaurant we tend to keep our preparations pretty simple. That simplicity allows us to really taste the flounder and appreciate its freshness. We want to do the fish justice and serve it with respect. At Lucky’s when we pair a sauce with flounder or create a dish with it, we prefer flavors that are rich or assertive without being heavy, like our lemon caper butter.
Season your skin-on flounder filets with salt and white pepper and sear flesh-side down in a hot skillet with one tablespoon of canola oil. Cook one filet at a time. Cook filet halfway through,then flip to skin side, and cook through. Add a slice of lemon caper butter and serve.
Lemon Caper Butter
½ pound butter
1 oz capers, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Remove butter from the refrigerator ahead of time and allow it to soften to room temperature. Ingredients may be blended in food processor or by hand. Whip the butter in a food processor until smooth. Add lemon juice and mix. Add capers and mix until capers are rough chopped. Place mixture on a piece of parchment paper and form into a log shape. Roll up in the parchment paper and freeze. Slice into coins as needed. Makes 1 cup
Flounder Roulades or Flounder Paupiettes
Another dish that we like to prepare with smaller,skinless flounder is this preparation of Flounder Roulades. Cut each fillet along the centerline, into two long, thin pieces. Make the following crabmeat stuffing, then spread a thin layer on each piece of fish and roll them up with the stuffing on the inside. Stand the roulades on their side and bake in a 300 degree oven until the centers are warm.
Check out this little slideshow to see how the roulades are made:
12 oz crabmeat
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp A-1 Sauce
1 tbsp Creole Spice Blend (see recipe)
Combine cheese, minced garlic, A-1 Sauce and Creole Spice Blend in a mixer with paddle attachment. Mix to a uniform smooth consistency. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in by hand the crabmeat until well combined. Makes 24 ounces
Creole Spice Blend
2 ½ tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
3 tsp black pepper
3 tsp onion powder
3 tsp cayenne powder
3 tsp oregano leaves
3 tsp thyme leaves
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well-blended. Transfer the breader to a shallow dish for dredging.
Recipe: Buttered Breadcrumbs
1 quart panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup melted butter
2 tsp ground paprika
2 tbsp parsley flakes
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl. Toss to coat breadcrumbs well. Store in an air tight container. Makes 1 quart
Flounder are also known as Fluke
Flounder can be found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.and in the Gulf of Mexico
There are five species of flounder: Japanese, Summer, Winter, Southern, and European.
Flounder’s changeable colorings and markings allow them to often camouflage into their habitat to ward off predators.
Flounder are most prevalent between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Fear, North Carolina
They spend most of their lives near the ocean floor and move to shallower waters in the evening, post sunset.
The largest flounder ever caught weighed 30 pounds and was four feet long.
Female flounders migrate offshore to spawn, from October to December. They tend to produce 100,000 eggs per spawn.
Where can you get fresh fish around here?
You don’t have to work for a restaurant to get things from Southern Foods, in Greensboro. They have a cash and carry window where you can pick up seafood. Call first for pricing and availability.
Locals Seafood, in Raleigh sells their fresh seafood at the Raleigh State Farmers Market (in the indoor shoppes). Hours are: Thu-Sat 10am-4pm, and Sun 11am-3pm.
Tom Robinson’s Seafood, in Carrboro carries an array of fresh seafood. Hours are: Thu-Fri 9:30am-6:30pm, and Sat 8:30am-6:30pm.
If you’ve got a taste for fresh seafood, come see us and ask your server about our Chef’s Specials for the day! In addition to the Cornmeal Crusted Catfish, one of our Lucky’s Classics, we often feature some other kind of fish or seafood, fresh from the water!
Delicacy of a Lost Time: What do you do with chestnuts besides roast them over an open fire?
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 41. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
When one hears the word chestnut, it’s difficult not to associate it with the nostalgic Mel Tormé Christmas tune (“The Christmas Song”), and its famous line, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” In 1904, the once prevalent crop was nearly wiped out completely by a blight, which infected several Asian chestnut trees that were planted in Long Island. Over the next 40 years, around 40 billion chestnut trees in America were decimated by the fast-spreading deadly fungus. Since then the nut has mostly flown under the radar in the U.S, usually just making a festive appearance among New York City street vendors during the holidays, and sometimes popping up in stuffing. In France, chestnuts are commonly used in desserts, and Marrons Glacés (candied chestnuts) and Creme de Marrons (chestnut paste, used in the chestnut mousse dessert, Mont Blanc). Both are popular treats, especially at Christmastime.
Over the years since the blight, organizations such as The American Chestnut Foundation have employed countless hours of research and experimentation, working to restore and preserve the American chestnut population. They have also helped prevent future destruction by discovering how to grow blight-resistant crops. The crucial work of these organizations has helped create a resurgence, making this crop sustainable again in the U.S.
Last year we were approached by a guy who told me he had a chestnut grove in Lexington, North Carolina. He offered to sell us some chestnuts and we were intimidated because we had never done anything with chestnuts before. Eager to delve into something new and experiment, we took him up on his offer and bought some chestnuts and chestnut flour. We first tried incorporating chestnut flour into the cornbread that we put in the mushroom stuffing we made for Thanksgiving. We found that the chestnut flour provided a nice earthiness to the dish that played well with the mushrooms. This year we’re excited to work with some folks who are so local we’re practically neighbors, getting some chestnuts and chestnut flour from High Rock Farm. Established in 1807 in Gibsonville, N.C, current owner Richard Teague planted the farm’s first ever chestnut tree in 1991. Now High Rock is the leading chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic, with over 500 thriving chestnut trees. Through the farm you can buy chestnut trees, fresh chestnuts, dried chestnut kernels, and stone-ground chestnut flour, which is naturally gluten-free.
Flounder with Sherry Chestnut Compound Butter
One of the first chestnut recipes we tried at the restaurant was a sherry chestnut compound butter out of roasted chestnuts, which is fantastic melted on top of flounder.
For the butter:
1 pound salted butter
5 fl oz sherry
1/3 cup chopped roasted chestnuts
Allow butter to come to room temperature, and then combine with remaining ingredients in a mixer. Using a rubber spatula, remove mixture to a sheet of wax paper and roll into a log. Place in freezer until set. Slice off a coin as needed. Makes 1 pound.
For the flounder:
1 boneless portion of skin-on flounder
1 fl oz canola oil
1 coin of Sherry Chestnut Butter
salt and pepper
Season flounder with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle oil into a sauté pan and place flounder flesh side down to cook until crisp. Flip and finish in a moderately warmed oven. Place on a serving platter and top with one coin of Sherry Chestnut Butter. Makes 1 serving.
What to do with those chestnuts?
Look for chestnuts with smooth, glossy brown shells; wrinkled or mottled shells, or ones with holes usually indicate a moldy or rotten nut.
Chestnuts should be stored in a cool place and soaking them in cold water for about 20 hours immediately post-harvest can help preserve them without refrigeration.
Shelled and cooked chestnuts should be covered and stored in the refrigerator, lasting up to about four days.
Chestnuts can be dried and sold as kernels, which can then be re-hydrated and incorporated in savory dishes or puréed into soups or used in desserts.
Roast ‘e’m: Chestnuts can be shelled and eaten raw, but they are at their best when roasted. First, score the nut using a sharp knife and making an X (about 1/8-inch deep), to prevent it from expanding and exploding. Roast the chestnuts on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven, for about 35 minutes, shaking the pan a few times throughout. While the chestnuts are still hot (be careful not to burn yourself), peel them and discard their shells.
Fry ‘e’m: You can also deep-fry chestnuts. Just make sure to peel them first.
Bake ‘e’m in a cake: Chestnut flour can be found at most specialty grocery stores and works great in cakes or pancakes.
Chestnut-Pumpkin Spice Cakes
3 tbsp softened butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup puréed pumpkin (run through processor)
¼ cup buttermilk
2/3 cup chestnut flour
¾ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar in mixer with paddle attachment. Add egg. Combine pumpkin and buttermilk. Combine all dry ingredients. Rotate adding pumpkin mix and dry mix to the sugar mix, ending with dry mix. Do not over mix. Ladle mixture on to hot griddle and cook until golden on both sides. Makes: 32 cakes
Fun facts about chestnuts:
Chestnut trees are of the genus Castanea, and come from the same family as Oak and Beech trees.
Chestnuts are covered by an outer spiny shell, and then a brown papery membrane known as a pellicle, which protects the fruit’s flesh. The pellicle’s properties are very astringent, so it is important that it is removed before the chestnut is consumed.
There are four main species of the nut: American, European, Chinese and Japanese.
Nowadays most chestnuts are imported from China, Japan, Italy and Spain. They are harvested from October to March, with December being the peak month.
In Europe, Asia and Africa, chestnuts are often used as a potato substitute, as they contain twice the amount of starch as potatoes. Their textures are also very similar.
Chestnuts are the only nut that contain Vitamin C, although that amount decreases by 40 percent after they’ve been subjected to heat.
LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT:The Series # 40.Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
There’s an old fisherman’s adage that you should not consume shellfish during months that don’t contain an “R.” This is primarily because during warmer months Diploid oysters spawn, meaning they reduce in size and become watery and unpalatable. However, Triploid oysters—which can be harvested quicker—actually remain sweet and are pleasant in taste and texture all year-long, and is your best choice in warmer months.
We’re tremendously delighted to have been introduced to cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton at Rappahannock River Oysters, in Topping, Virginia. They believe in the concept of merrior, which means “tasting the sea,” and it shows in their oysters. We’ve been lucky to partner with them for some of our beer dinners, and right now we are featuring their BarCat oysters on our menu, in our oyster pan stew and wintry salad.
Our Wintry Salad: Reminiscent of our fried oysters caesar salad, this too features Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the dressing andatop the salad, and croutons made from Ciabatta bread from Orlando Bakery, in Cleveland, OH.
Our Oyster Pan Stew: Barcat oysters cooked in a country ham cream sauce with housemade bacon and pickled leeks, served over whipped sweet potatoes, and topped with chives
Oyster Pan Stew
1 tbsp Canola oil
6 oz oysters
1 oz slab bacon, rendered
1 fl oz Pickled Leeks, see recipe
4 fl oz Country Ham Cream Sauce, see recipe
2 fl oz whole milk
1 tbsp chives, chopped
¾ cup Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes, see recipe
Heat oil in a sauté pan until hot and add oysters, bacon and leeks.Sauté until done. Add cream sauce and milk to pan and heat through. Place whipped sweet potatoes in a bowl and top with oyster stew. Garnish with chopped chives. Makes 1 portion
2 ½ pounds leeks, cut in ½ moons on bias
¼ cup sea salt
3 quarts water
Place cut leeks in a hard plastic container. Dissolve salt in water and bring to a boil. Pour boiling water over leeks and weigh down the leeks with plates to keep them under the salt water. Allow to sit at room temperature for five days; then refrigerate. Discard any leeks that float to the top. Makes 2 ½ pounds
Country Ham Cream Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
½ pound country ham cut into small pieces
¼ cup yellow onions, diced
1 tbsp butter
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp cornstarch
Heat oil in stock pot; then add onions to the stock pot and sauté until tender. When onions are tender, add country ham to stock pot and sauté until hot throughout. Do not overcook. Add butter to melt, and then add cream and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook 8-10 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in a little water; add only enough to slightly thicken. Remove from heat. Makes – 3 cups
Recipe: Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds sweet potatoes – washed, roasted and peeled
1 stick butter
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp sorghum molasses
salt to taste
Sweet potatoes should be weighed after being roasted and peeled. Lay out potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer and heat through in a 350 degree oven. When heated through, combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or mash with potato masher by hand until well combined and smooth. Makes 4 portions
Not only does Rappahannock farm their own oysters, but the 100-year-old family-owned, sustainable company is committed to protecting and celebrating the Chesapeake Bay and its native shellfish, as well as their own family history. They also control the salinity in their oysters by growing them further up the river for less salinity, and closer to the Chesapeake to achieve a greater brininess. This ensures a greater consistency and higher quality in the oysters, instead of having unpredictable conditions that make for an uneven dining experience. One of the things we most admire about these guys is that they’re concerned with positively affecting their environment and because of that they divert proceeds from their oyster sales to restore the watershed that feeds the Chesapeake Bay. In 2005, Food & Wine Magazine recognized their endeavors, with the “Tastemaker’s Award,” which is given each year to distinguishing young talents in the food and wine industry.
Rappahannock River Oysters will ship fresh oysters to your home, and you can order them online here.
Which Came First, the Stuffing or the Dressing?
The oyster dressing recipe below is actually the same as the lamb sausage spoonbread on our menu – just substituting the oysters for sausage. You can also make a vegetarian version at home too, substituting mushrooms for the meat.
Recipe: Oyster Dressing
3 tbsp Canola oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup celery—small dice
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 cups heavy cream
1 8×8 pan cornbread, crumbled
1 pint shucked oysters
1/8 cup minced parsley
½ tbsp dried sage
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook until transluscent. Add salt, cayenne and garlic. Combine well and remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk eggs well. Add cream and combine thoroughly. Crumble cornbread into egg/cream mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold until all bread is moistened. Add oysters, parsley and sage. Fold together with spatula until well combined. Grease 9×13 pan. Turn mixture into pan, smoothing the top to a level thickness. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool before cutting. Serves 12.
Fun Facts About Oysters:
• Colder water oysters grow slower and tend to be smaller.
• Oysters are rich in protein, zinc, calcium, iron, selenium, and Vitamins A and B12.
• The most commonly harvested oysters are the Eastern American oyster (Crassostrea virginica), which are found in the Atlantic, between Canada and Argentina, and the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), found between Japan and Washington state.
• Oysters change gender at least once during their lifespan.
• The female Pacific oyster can spawn up to 200 million eggs just in one season.
• Oysters have gills and a mantle which allow them to breathe. They also have hearts, stomachs, kidneys and intestines!
• Oysters are considered an aphrodisiac, especially during the spring (according to scientists).They contain rare amino acids that promote sexual hormones. Casanova was said to have consumed fifty oysters for breakfast every morning.
• Oysters are extremely sensitive to water quality and environmental factors such as pollution, silt, ice, rainfall and soil erosion.
• The most famous oyster dish is Oysters Rockefeller, coined around 1899 by Jules Alciatore—proprietor (and grandson of the founder) of Antoine’s Restaurant, in New Orleans. The dish was named after the wealthy Rockefeller family, for its incredibly rich, indulgent taste.
• Oyster shells provide essential nutrients for soil and promote plant growth, so crush those shells after you shuck ’em and put them in your garden or compost!
Tips for Storing and Cooking Oysters at Home:
• When you’re planning to cook oysters it is perfectly fine to buy shucked oysters, however, if you intend on eating raw oysters you should buy them in the shell and shuck your own.
• Never freeze un-shucked oysters. You can refrigerate freshly shucked oysters at 33-40 degrees for up to two days and live, un-shucked oysters for up to five days. Live oysters should be stored flat side up in a mesh bag or an open container loosely covered with a damp cloth, and never in a tight container, as they could suffocate and die.
• If an oyster’s shell is loose, it’s a sign that the oyster has died. Look for oysters that feel heavy, and have shells that are completely shut (or that shut all the way when tapped).
• West Coast oysters are significantly different in flavor than East Coast oysters. If you grew up in the American South, odds are you prefer East Coast oysters. They are saltier and more compact. West Coast oysters (other than the Japanese varieties) are larger and sweeter.
• You can also roast oysters—a popular tradition in the south, particularly indigenous to the Carolinas.
• Before shucking, rinse your oysters with cold water and use a scrub brush to remove any debris.
• When shucking oysters, be sure to save their juices (liquor), as it is very flavorful. If it’s cloudy or smells off, that’s an indication that the oyster is bad.