Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beware of Feral Chef

I have been working on this dish for quite some time now, which sometimes seems funny to me since my specials usually take shape at the last minute, but every now and then there are those vague ideas that surface while trying to work out a completely unrelated dish, like a culinary daydream, when every now and then a "wouldn't it be cool if I did this" thought lingers but never goes away completely. This one lived in the dark recesses of my mind, biding its time, waiting for the stars to align, until....

I always had envisioned a variation on the chicken fried steak concept, but every component was still blank. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago when I decided that I wanted to use handmade tater tots filled with extra sharp white cheddar cheese as one of those components did I finally see this dish come to life. Instead of the traditional ketchup usually served with tater tots I used my own version that adorn the Chicken Andouille Sausage Corndogs: Sweet Soy Ketchup, a blend of our house-made tomato jam with Indonesian sweet soy sauce that is as thick as molasses, and almost as sweet.

After writing last week's post where I decided to use this time of year to utilize the last of the winter vegetables while they are still available I realized that I almost forgot one of the season's great unsung heroes: cauliflower. I used to hate it, until I had it sauteed! There is little better that a nice pile of well caramelized cauliflower, especially when you finish it like I do with a touch of butter and a hefty pinch of fresh parsley and chives to brighten both the flavor as well as the color.

In order to stay true to the original concept I had to sauce any incarnation of chicken fried steak with the traditional pepper gravy, so I thickened milk with a roux made from flour and lard, that key Southern flavor, but seasoned it with not only freshly ground black pepper but also white, green and pink peppercorns to offer a familiar yet distinct flavor to the gravy.

Now that I had all of the components decided I needed a unique meat to finalize this concept dish. It wasn't until just yesterday that I finally got my hands on some "feral swine" (delightfully fitting for me ;) - better known as wild boar, from Texas. I sliced a boneless leg into half inch slices and divided each one into two per serving before pounding them relentlessly into thin, tender cutlets. Then I tossed them in a coating made with flour and an array of seasonings (Cheffrey's 13 herbs and spices??) before dunking them into eggs blended with buttermilk and back into the seasoned flour before pan-frying it into crispy goodness.

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When I was a kid, without a doubt my favorite thing in the whole world was cherry... anything cherry. Supposedly the cherry tree on the side of our house was planted when I was born, to which I had always attributed my infatuation with the fruit. Now that I'm older (and a chef) my tastes have matured and grown, but whenever I taste a great cherry it automatically takes me back to when I was young when life was much simpler.

So when I saw the latest Trader Joe's flyer promoting their 100% pure cherry juice I knew that I was destined to create a cocktail with it. After all, in my mind it's something from my childhood with something from my adulthood... that makes you act childish. It's perfect!!!

I was excited the second I opened it; it's literally just cherry juice and filtered water (you gotta love TJ's!!!) and tastes rightfully so. Since alcohol dilutes everything that it is mixed with I reduced the juice slowly down by half, adjusting with a little sugar to balance out the increasing tartness. After chilling and blending with some Skyy vodka, the final product was remarkably like a cherry version of Chambord, the raspberry liqueur, in both appearance and refinement.

After a flurry of ideas, some of which I will be using later, I finally decided to keep it simple and feature another variation on the classic Kir Royale by using my own liqueur instead.

The Cherry Royale might sound sophisticated, but you now know that it has a kid's ambition at heart.

With Love,


1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to try your twist on chicken fried steak! Just made Sat 3/13 reservations for my bf's birthday party (7pm), and now I can't wait! Thank you so much for sharing who you are with the world through food.