Mr. Jiu’s in Chinatown: Contemporary Asian Recipes

He cooked in Italy, honed the seasonal California-Mediterranean style in the kitchen of the Zuni Café, and learned Californian contemporary cuisine with Italian influences at Quince. But when it came right down to it, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco who just last night won this year’s James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: California, missed his grandmother’s cooking.

“What I remember from eating my grandma’s food is after eating, you feel good,” says Jew whose original family name was spelled Jiu but was changed when the family moved here when going through customs. “That sensation is what I want people to experience. Understanding that chefs back in old China—they were considered doctors too, where they were healing people and giving remedies to fix your ailments. A lot of it was basically what they were feeding you. I try not to take it too seriously, but there are things I feel like as a chef, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make people feel good afterwards too.”

But those years cooking Cal weren’t wasted.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

“Cantonese cuisine and California cuisine really align in how ingredient-driven the food is and how minimal—the goal is to do as little to a perfect ingredient,” says Jew. “Finding that perfect ingredient and thinking of the cooking method to showcase its natural flavors the most, to me, is very Cantonese and Californian. I’m using that mentality to bridge the two together.”

A bio major, Jew says it starts with the ingredients.

“There are just some classic things we want to reinterpret,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of specific recipes for a lot of things. Chop suey just doesn’t have really any recipe to it. We’re taking the creative freedom to do our version of that, or even something like egg foo young.”

All the recipes and images used in this story are with permission from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHINESE AMERICAN FOOD.

LION’S HEAD MEATBALLS

Anything that needs slow braising will do well in a clay pot. The porous clay distributes an encompassing gentle heat all while sealing in the juices. The slightly alkaline clay also keeps proteins loose and tender. I appreciate a clay pot for its kindness to cooks. It holds heat so well that you can set it aside off-heat for an hour or two and come back to find everything inside still nice and toasty. And if you don’t have one, a small Dutch oven with a tight lid will do. Lion’s head (獅子頭, shī zi tóu in Mandarin) are a classic Chinese meatball (the bumpy texture looks like the curly manes of mythical lions). We use savory ingredients ingredients—mushrooms, seaweed, and a blend of pork—that compounds the sīn flavor exponentially. Use whatever delicious fungi you’ve got. Sometimes I drop a handful of fresh cordyceps (蟲草花, chóng căo huá) sautéed with garlic, or shave matsutake as in this recipe. For the bacon, choose an intensely smoky kind. You can use a meat grinder or hand-chop everything old-school.

Active Time — 1 hour, 15 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 3 hours total, plus time to make Chicken Stock; pre-soak the clay pot for 2 hours

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Special Equipment — Meat grinder (optional), soaked 9-inch clay pot or a small Dutch oven

Lion’s Head Meatballs

  • 3 oz / 85g nettles or stemmed lacinato kale
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz / 115g skin-on pork belly
  • 12 Savoy cabbage leaves, thick stems trimmed
  • 12 oz / 340g pork shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 oz / 85g pork back fat
  • 3½ oz / 100g medium-firm doufu
  • 4 tsp peeled and minced ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cups / 360ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 oz / 85g fresh wild mushrooms (such as matsutake, black trumpets, or chanterelles), chopped if large
  • ½ rosemary sprig, about 2 inches long
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 fresh matsutake mushroom, very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandoline

To make the meatballs: While wearing thick gloves, strip the leaves from the nettles and discard the stems.

In a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the nettles and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1½ minutes. If using kale, this will take about 3 minutes. Finely chop and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

Remove the skin from the pork belly. Add the skin to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds to firm up. Using tongs, remove and set aside. Add the cabbage leaves (work in batches, if needed) to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.

Place the pork skin, pork shoulder, belly, and back fat in a single layer on a plate and put in the freezer until the surface is just frozen but the center is still soft enough to be ground, about 15 minutes.

If using a meat grinder, grind the fat and skin through a fine grinding plate (⅛-inch / 3mm holes) into a large bowl. Switch to a coarse grinding plate (¼-inch / 6mm holes). Regrind about half of the fat-skin mixture back into the large bowl, then grind the shoulder and belly through the same grinding plate. Mix gently to combine. Regrind about half of the pork mixture again. Grind the doufu through the coarse grinding plate into the large bowl.

If chopping by hand, separately mince the pork belly skin, pork belly, pork shoulder, pork fat, and doufu using a chef’s knife or cleaver (two if you got ’em). Transfer to a large bowl as each one has formed a sticky paste and then mix well.

Add the nettles, ginger, soy sauce, powdered milk, 1½ tsp salt, pepper, and fish sauce to the bowl and use your hands to mix until well combined and a sticky paste forms but the meat is not overworked.

Divide the mixture into six portions. Roll each portion into a ball that is firmly packed and smooth. Wrap a cabbage leaf around each meatball, leaving the top exposed (save the remaining cabbage leaves for the clay pot). Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the wrapped meatballs in a single layer in a soaked 9-inch-wide clay pot or small Dutch oven. Tuck the remaining cabbage leaves between the meatballs, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and let it heat up for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, season with salt, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the rosemary.

Spoon the stir-fried mushrooms and any oil left in the pan over the meatballs and top with the pine nuts and shaved mushroom. Serve immediately.

MATSUTAKE BROTH

Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

SIZZLING FISH

On a weekly basis, my mom would cook corned beef with cabbage, or chicken à la king, or sausage lasagna. It was too expensive to travel internationally, but we got to eat all over the world from our kitchen table. When she cooked food from her childhood, though, she would make us this steamed fish, topped with ginger, green onions, and fermented black beans. The flavor of steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine is all about sīn tìhm (鮮甜), the essential flavor of a fresh ingredient in combination with a pure, smooth sweetness. The final lashing of hot oil in this dish infuses the green onions and ginger into the flesh of the fish and enriches the soy. Take care not to overcook the fish; I like to turn off the heat in the last minutes of cooking and let the steam finish the job. The flesh should pull off the bone in tender morsels, not flake. I always score round, fleshy fish to help it cook evenly. Then I steam the fish only until the thickest flesh right behind the gill area is not quite opaque or, as Cantonese cooks say, “translucent like white jade.”

Active Time — 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Steamer, 9-inch pie plate

  • 1 Tbsp fermented black beans (optional)
  • One 1½-lb / 680g whole fish (such as black bass or Tai snapper), gutted and scaled
  • large handful aromatics (such as thinly sliced ginger, green onion tops, and/or strips of fresh citrus zest)
  • ¼ cup / 60ml high-smoke-point oil (such as peanut oil)
  • 2 Tbsp premium soy sauce (頭抽, tàuh chāu) or light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thread cut
  • 3 green onions, thread cut (white parts only)
  • Young cilantro sprigs for garnishing

In a small bowl, cover the black beans (if using) with water, let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.

Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot following the instructions on page 167 and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, using kitchen shears, cut off the gills and the fins (careful, sharp!) on the top, bottom, and sides of the fish. Run your fingers over the skin, especially near the gills and belly, toward the head to check for any last scales; remove the scales with the edge of a spoon or the back of a knife.

On both sides of the fish, make eight 2-inch-long parallel slits into the flesh, not quite deep enough to hit bone, starting about 1 inch from the gills. Place the fish in a pie plate. (The fish can hang over the edges so long as everything fits in the steamer. If not, cut the fish in half to fit and hope none of your guests are superstitious.) Tuck some of your chosen aromatics into each slit, then stuff the remaining aromatics in the cavity. Top the fish with the black beans.

Place the pie plate in the steamer, cover, and steam until the eyeball is opaque and the flesh of the fish is white and flaky at the thickest part near the head and first slit, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the fish is steaming, in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, slowly warm the oil.

When the fish is ready, remove it with the pie plate from the steamer. (Reassemble as a whole fish if you cut it in two.) Drizzle with the soy sauce, then top with the ginger and green onions. Turn the heat under the oil to high and warm until it just starts to smoke. Immediately pour the oil over the fish, getting as much of the ginger and green onions to sizzle as you can. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with a spoon big enough for drizzling the juices.

TAIWANESE-STYLE EGGPLANT

For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are ten to twelve inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.

Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, of course, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp, or caramelize. You’re adding water when you use stocks, vinegars, or alcohol. You’re creating barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan is about controlling how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.

Active Time — 25 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need 1 hour for brining

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Deep-fry thermometer, spider

  • 2 medium Chinese eggplants
  • 5 qt plus ¼ cup / 1L water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 qt / 1.9L neutral oil
  • 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2¼ tsp granulated sugar
  • 5  garlic cloves; 2 thinly sliced, 3 finely chopped
  • 5 red Fresno chile, cut into thin rings
  • ¼ cup / 5g packed Thai or opal basil leaves, torn in half if large

Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges, like steak frites—first cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 1 qt / 950ml of the water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375°F.

Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry very well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup / 60ml water, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375°F. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.

Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.

Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.

Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes

I remember the first time I heard the word victuals. It was uttered by Jed Clampett—only he pronounced it as “vittles”–on that great TV series from The Beverly Hillbillies+ which ran from 1962-1971 and told the story of a family who had moved from Appalachia to, well, Beverly Hills, California.  The Beverly Hillbillies, now in syndication, is televised daily around the world and the word victual, which means “food or provisions, typically as prepared for consumption” has become a go-to-term in the food world with the rise of interest in the foods of the Mountain South region of our country. The joke at the time was that the Clampett were so out-of-step with all the wonders of Beverly Hills and that included their use of the word victuals. But the joke, it seems, may have been on us as we deal with the overabundance of processed foods and yearn for authenticity in our diets. You know, like victuals,

In her book, Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes (Clarkson Potter 2016; $16.59 Amazon price) winner of James Beard Foundation Book of The Year and Best Book, American Cooking, author Ronni Lundy showcases both the heritage and present ways of southern cookery in this part of the United States and also shares the stories of the mountain. Lundy, a former restaurant reviewer and editor of Louisville Magazine, highlights such roadways as Warrior’s Path, the name given by English settlers to the route used by the Shawnee and Cherokee traveling for trade, hunting and, at times, to prepare for battle. Describing the towns, villages and hamlets along these routes, Lundy shows how an amalgam of immigrants some willing (Scots, Germans) and some not (African) brought with them foodways and how they merged with other ethnic groups and the foods available in the region.

The author of ten books on Southern food and culture, Lundy’s book, Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken, described as the first first regional American cookbook to offer a true taste of the Mountain South, was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking. Lundy also received the Southern Foodways Alliance Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award.

To gather the stories, recipes, traditions, and foodways, Lundy traveled over 4000 miles through seven states. Along the way, she did a lot of stopping and eating. Each chapter in her book delves into an identifying food of a region or its heritage–think salt, corn, corn liquor, and beans. And, in many ways, reconnecting to her own roots. Born in Corbin, Kentucky, she remembers shucking beans on her aunt’s front porch.

“They taught me how to break the end and pull the string down and break the other end and pull the string back on the bean,” Lundy says. “I would watch them thread it up on a needle and thread, and they would hang that in a dry place in the house…We developed these things, like drying beans for shuck beans, or drying our apples so that we could through the winter make apple stack cakes and fried apple pies. We’d have dried beans on hand, cure every part of the hog.”

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Bacon & Orange Sorghum Vinegar

“Delicious root vegetables love the cool of both spring and fall in the mountains. Gardeners love the twin harvest,” Lundy writes in the introduction to this recipe. “The root cellar is where such vegeta­bles were stored in plenty of mountain homesteads, although some folks kept them in baskets and bins in a cool, dark place in the house. In fact, folks with larger houses might close off “the front room,” as the living room was more commonly called, to conserve on heat when the weather got cold. That room might then become an ad hoc fruit and vegetable cooler.

“My mother kept the Christmas fruit in the front room until company came, but not vegetables. We ate them too fast then—boiled, buttered, and salted or eaten raw with salt. Today I make this lovely salad first in the spring, then again as autumn splashes the hills with the colors of the carrots and beets.”

Serves 4

  • 3 medium yellow beets, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 3 medium red beets, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • 4 red radishes, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked
  • Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see below), to taste
  • Drizzle of bacon grease, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wrap up the yellow beets in a large piece of aluminum foil. Do the same with the red beets, and place both packets on a baking sheet. Roast until the beets are tender at the center when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, on a separate baking sheet, toss the carrot pieces with the oil. Season with a sprinkle of salt. Roast the carrots for about 25 minutes, until tender and caramelized.

When the beets come out of the oven, carefully open the packets to release the steam, and let the beets cool. Once the beets have cooled, gently rub the skins off and cut the beets into wedges.

To assemble the salad, lay the red beet wedges on the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl. Lay the roasted carrots on top, and then the yellow beet wedges. Throw in the sliced radishes and red onion. Break up the bacon slices and scatter the pieces on top. Season with salt and drizzle with the orange sorghum vinegar. Toss ever so gently. Give it a taste and determine if a drizzle of bacon grease is needed. Serve.

Orange Sorghum Vinegar

Makes ¾ cup

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Pour the vinegar into a small glass jar with a lid. Add the sorghum and shake or stir until dissolved. Add the orange juice and shake or stir to combine. Use as directed in recipes, and store any that’s left over, covered, in the refrigerator.

Sumac Oil Flatbread with Country Ham & Pickled Ramps

makes two large flatbreads (serves 4 to 6)

“In early mountain communities, one farmer might own a valuable tool or piece of equipment that was made available to family and neighbors as needed,” writes Lundy in the introduction of this recipe. “There was often a trade involved, although more fre­quently implicit rather than directly bartered. If you were the man with the sorghum squeezer and mule, you could expect to get a couple of quarts from your neighbors’ run. If you loaned a plow, you could count on borrowing the chains for hanging a freshly slaugh­tered hog. Or when your huge cast-iron pot was returned, it might come with several quarts of apple butter.

“With a little of that same sense of sharing, Lora Smith and Joe Schroeder invested in a traveling wood-fired oven for their farm at Big Switch. In their first spring back in Kentucky, it rolled over to a cou­ple of weddings, as well as providing the main course for the Appalachian Spring feast. Joe says plans are to take it to a couple of music festivals down the line to both share and perhaps sell enough pizzas to pay the gate.

“Music makes a good metaphor for what happens in this recipe. Lora adapted a fine flatbread recipe from acclaimed chef and baker Nick Malgieri for the crust, then added some local color. In the way that European mandolins and violins were transformed by new rhythms and melodies into something purely mountain, the use of sumac-scented olive oil, tangy country ham, and pungent pickled ramps makes this a dish that tastes distinctly of its Kentucky place.

“If you have access to a wood-fired oven, bake away there according to how yours works. The direc­tions here are for a home oven.

“The flatbread slices are even better when topped with a handful of arugula, mâche, or another bright, bitter green that has been drizzled with Orange Sorghum Vinegar (see recipe above).”

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal, plus extra for rolling the dough
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 2½ teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110°F)
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
  • 6 ounces country ham, sliced about ¼ inch thick and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ¾ cup Will Dissen’s Pickled Ramps (page 000), at room temperature
  • ¼ cup Sumac Oil (recipe follows)

Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to mix.

Combine the yeast with ¾ cup of the warm water in a medium bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Add this mixture to the food processor and pulse to combine; then let the processor run continuously for about 10 seconds, or until the dough forms a ball. You may need to add up to another ¼ cup of the warm water at this point if your dough is not coming together.

Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Move the rested dough to a floured work surface and flatten into a thick disk, then fold the dough over on itself. Do this several times. Return the folded dough to the oiled mixing bowl (you might have to oil it again first). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Sprinkle a floured work surface with a little cornmeal. Transfer the risen dough to the surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, gently press it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough out as thin as possible, aiming for a roughly 10 × 15-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with second half of the dough.

Pierce the dough all over at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Divide the country ham evenly between the two portions of dough.

Bake the flatbreads until golden and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets’ positions about halfway through cooking.

Remove to racks and let cool slightly. Divide the ramps and sumac oil evenly between the flatbreads, and serve.

sumac oil makes about ¹⁄³ cup

Native people gathered the crimson berries of the sumac plant (not the noxious, poisonous white-berried variety, of course) to dry and grind them into a powder that gave a delicious lemony flavor to fish cooked over an open fire. They and the settlers who followed also used the sumac to make a drink akin to lemonade. You don’t have to gather berries and make your own; you can buy good-quality ground sumac at almost any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern market and some natural foods stores.

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Use immediately.

Slow Cooker–Roasted Pork Shoulder

“Thrifty homesteaders knew how to cook all cuts of the hogs that were slaughtered in the winter,” writes Lundy. “The shoulder, slow-roasted with fat and bone, produced a richly textured, deeply flavored meat worth smack­ing your lips for. Modern mountain cooks use the slow cooker to create the same effect that roasting in a woodstove, kept going all day for heat as well as cooking, once provided.

“I buy pork from one of several producers in my neck of the Blue Ridge who pasture their pigs and process them humanely. They also tend to raise her­itage pigs that naturally come with more fat, and the cuts I favor reflect that. The last roast I cooked like this weighed about 3½ pounds at the market with a top fat layer about an inch deep. I trimmed that fat to ½ inch and the roast was then about 3 pounds.”

Serves 4

  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 3-pound pork shoulder or butt, bone-in
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sorghum syrup
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Rub the salt and pepper into all sides of the roast, including the top fat. Place a heavy skillet over high heat and as it is warming up, place the roast in the skillet, fat side down. The heat will render enough fat for browning the rest of the roast without sticking. When there is enough fat to coat the bottom of the pan well and the fat on the roast is turning golden brown, flip the roast over and brown the next side.

Brown all sides of the roast. This may entail using tongs to hold the roast to brown the short edges, but it only takes a minute or so and is worth it since it will intensify the flavor. You may also need to spoon some of the rendered fat out of the skillet as you are browning—the point is to sear the meat, not deep-fry it.

When the roast is browned all over, place it in a slow cooker. Carefully pour off the grease from the skillet. Add ½ cup of water to the skillet and deglaze it. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the vinegar and sorghum, stirring to dissolve the syrup. Pour this mixture into the slow cooker.

Peel the onion, quarter it, and break apart the sections. Scatter the pieces around the edge of the roast in the pot. Cover, and cook on the high setting for 30 minutes. Then turn to low and cook for 4 hours.

The pork roast will be well done but meltingly tender when the inner temperature is 165°F. Remove it from the pot and allow it to rest under a tent of foil while you make the sauce.

Strain the pan juices to remove the onion pieces. Degrease the juices and pour them into a small pot set over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ½ cup of water to form a slurry. When the juices in the pot begin to bubble, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to whisk as the mixture bubbles for about a minute and thickens. Remove from the heat.

To carve the roast, begin on the side away from the bone to yield larger, uniform pieces. Pass the sauce on the side.

Buttermilk–Brown Sugar Pie

“Pies were the Mother of Invention because neces­sity required that they be made from whatever was on hand. In the summer there was no dearth of fruit that could be gathered—often by small children who would eagerly do the work for just reward later.,” writes Lundy. “In the winter dried apples, peaches, and squash could be simmered into a filling for the hand or fried pies beloved in the region. Vinegar pie was as tasty as, and easier to come by, than one made with lemon, and apple cider could be boiled to make a tart and tangy filling. Buttermilk was enough to turn a simple cus­tard filling into a more complex delight. And using cornmeal as the thickener in these simple pies added character as well as flavor.

“My cousin Michael Fuson introduced me to brown sugar pie. It was his favorite, he told my mother when his family moved from Corbin to Louisville and he began spending time in her kitchen. “Well, honey, then I’ll make you one,” she said. That my mother could make brown sugar pie was news to me. Mike was as generous as a homesick teenaged boy could be and allowed me an ample slice before consuming the rest on his own. It was, I thought, one of the loveliest things I’d ever eaten. But then I made a version of my own with buttermilk instead of cream, and the sum of these two pie parts was greater than the whole of all pies put together.”

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • Single unbaked pie crust (use your favorite recipe or 1/4 batch of Emily Hilliard’s Pie Crust below)
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup very finely ground cornmeal*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the crust in a 9-inch pie pan and refrigerate it while making the filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the melted butter. Add the dry mixture and stir vigorously until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. When all is well combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is set (no longer liquid, but still tender to the touch).

Allow the pie to cool until just barely warm before slicing. I like to drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon of buttermilk over my slice.

Emily Hilliard’s Pie Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into slices
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork and knife, cut in the butter. Make sure pea-sized butter chunks remain to help keep the crust flaky.

Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the ice-cold water and the vinegar.

Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Be careful not to overmix. Use floured hands to divide the dough in half and then form into 2 balls. Wrap each ball tightly in plastic wrap. Let them chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

Note: if you cut this recipe in half, it will work for a two-crust pie.

The above recipes are reprinted from Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. Copyright © 2016 by Ronni Lundy. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Spilling the Beans: Abra Berens Dishes on Legumes, Beans, and More in Her Latest Cookbook

         A much maligned vegetable belonging, along with peas and lentils, to the vegetable class called legumes, beans are about as low on the food chain as you can go in terms of respect. Kids snicker at rhymes about beans and the gas they produce and sayings like “not worth a hill of beans” signifies their, well, insignificance.

         Once Abra Berens, the former co-owner of Bare Knuckles Farm in Northport, Michigan and now the executive chef at Granor Farm in Southwest Michigan, was like most of us. She didn’t give a bean about beans. That is until she became intrigued by the bean and grain program at Granor, a certified organic farm in Three Oaks, a charming historic village with its own burgeoning food culture.

         Now she’s all about legumes and grains and for anyone who knows Abra that means a total passionate immersion in the subject which resulted in her latest cookbook, a 464-page door stopper with 140 recipes and over 160 recipe variations titled Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Just published by Chronicle Books on October 26th, the demand for Grist is so high it was hard to get a copy at first.

         Now, that’s worth more than a hill of beans.

         Berens, a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes, also authored  Ruffage. That book, which came out in 2019, was named a Best Cookbook for Spring 2019 by the New York Times and Bon Appétit, was a 2019 Michigan Notable Book winner, and was also nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. She puts the same energy into her Grist.

         “We are told over and over again to eat a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based protein,” writes Berens in the book’s introduction. “The science is there—high in soluble fiber, low glycemic index, healthy fatted protein—but the perception of whole grains seems to still be of leaden health food, endless cooking times, and cud-like chewing at the end of it all.”

         Indeed. Consider this. A cup of cooked black beans has 245 calories and contains approximately the following percentage of the daily values needed in an average diet—74% folate, 39% manganese, 20% iron, 21% both potassium and magnesium, and 20% vitamin B6.

         “But we all know that they’re good for you,” says Berens, who describes herself as a bean-evangelist.  “I want people to understand these ingredients and you can’t understand these ingredients until you know them.”

         And so, she introduces us to 29 different grains, legumes, and seeds. Some like lentils, lima beans, split peas, quinoa, rice, and oats we know something about. Others are more obscure such as cowpeas, millet, teff, fonio, and freekeh are mysteries. That is until you read her book and learn not only how to cook them but also about their history. There’s a cheat sheet of the health benefits of each. Berens also conducted interviews with farmers  including her cousins Matt and John Berens, third-generation farmers in Bentheim, Michigan who have transitioned into growing non-GMO corn and edible beans and Jerry Hebron, the manager of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. Hebron has been raising crowder beans for almost a decade.  

         We also get to meet Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan. Berens said she wanted to include “invisible” farming jobs and this certainly is one. She didn’t know what a seed cleaner was until a few years ago and figured that most of us don’t know either. Wagner, with his wife Mary, run C3 Seeds, a company that provides seed cleaning for grains and seed stock.  When Berens asked him what he’d like people to know about his job, his response was that they would know that seed cleaning “is part of buying a bag of flour or a bottle of whiskey.”

         “The biggest thing is that if people are interested in cooking with beans, it’s an easy entry point it’s not like buying $100 tenderloin,” says Berens.

         Of course, you can buy beans in the grocery store. Berens recommends dried beans not canned. But Granor Farm also sells black, red, and pinto beans at their farm store which is open Friday and Saturday. For information on the times, visit granorfarm.com

         Berens is already working on her next book, tentatively titled Fruit, due out in 2023. When I ask her how she does it all, she laughs and replies, “I don’t have any hobbies.”

         And she takes things very seriously.

         “Every author has to think about why they’re putting something in the world,” she says, “and what is the value of it and makes these books worthwhile.”

         With Grist, we’re learning the value of tasty and healthy foods that taste good.

The following recipes are reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Seared Chicken Thighs W/Buckwheat, Smashed Cucumbers + Tajín Oil

The angular mouthfeel of the buckwheat plays well with the crunch of the cucumber and against the crisp of the chicken thigh. Serve the buckwheat warm or chilled, depending on your preference. If you aren’t eating meat, the salad is a great lunch on its own or pairs well with an egg or fried tofu.

  • 1 cup buckwheat groats, toasted or not
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium cucumbers (about 1 lb. total), washed
  • 1/4 cup Tajín Oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, Greek or traditional
  • 1 lemon (about 1½ oz) zest and juice
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • Any additional herbs you want, roughly chopped (mint, tarragon, thyme, cilantro)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Toss in the buckwheat groats and give the pot a stir. Return to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook the grains until tender, 8 to 15 minutes.

Drain the groats, toss with a glug of Tajín oil, and set aside.

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and place on a cutting board. Using the widest knife (or frying pan) you have, press down on the cucumbers until their skin cracks and they break into irregular pieces. Dress the cucumbers with the Tajín oil and a pinch of salt.

Combine the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice, chopped herbs, chili flakes (if using), a pinch of salt, and two big glugs of olive oil. Set aside.

Blot the chicken skin dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat until the pan is starting to smoke. Add a glug or two of oil, lower the heat to medium, and fry the thighs, skin-side down, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the

chicken and sauté until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.

To serve, dish the buckwheat onto serving plates. Top with the chicken thighs and then the dressed cucumbers. Garnish with a thick spoonful of the herbed yogurt.

Tajín Oil

  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 Tbsp Tajín

In a medium sauce or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Tajín, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Whole Roasted Leeks w/Chickpeas, Lemon Vinaigrette, Ricotta + Chard

  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cleaned of dirt
  • 4 sprigs thyme (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange (about 3 ounces), peel stripped, juiced, or ¼ cup white wine or hard cider
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 bunch chard (8 ounces), cut into ribbons (or spinach, kale, or arugula)
  • 2 lemons (about 3 ounces), zest and juice
  • 4 ounces ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the whole, cleaned leeks, side by side, in a roasting pan.

Scatter the thyme (if using), chili flakes (if using), and 2 large pinches of salt evenly over the leeks.

Scatter the orange peel strips over the leeks and drizzle them with the orange juice and ¼ cup of the olive oil to coat.

Cover with foil and bake until the leeks are tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

Combine the chickpeas, chard ribbons, lemon zest and juice, and remaining ½ cup of olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

When the leeks are tender, transfer from the roasting pan to plates or a serving platter. Top with the chickpea and chard salad. Dot ricotta over the top and serve.

Spoon Pudding with Pork Chops and Cabbage Salad

For the spoon pudding:

  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

For the salad:

  • About 1 pound red cabbage, shaved into thin strips
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt

4 pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled

To make the spoon pudding:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an ovenproof baking dish or frying pan that can hold 2 quarts total volume.

Combine the cornmeal, salt, 1 cup of boiling water, and the melted butter and whisk out any lumps. Combine the eggs, milk, and baking powder and add to the cornmeal batter. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until the edges of the spoon bread are just set and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

To make the salad: Combine the cabbage with the olive oil, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, chili flakes, paprika, and a couple pinches of salt. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serve the spoon bread alongside the grilled pork chops and cabbage salad.

Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere

For the truly sinful, not to be missed are such classic cookbooks as Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $26.99 Amazon price), a huge, brilliantly illustrated cookbook of the most delicious looking desserts. Greenspan, selected by Julia Child to write the New York Times bestseller Baking with Julia, also authored the James Beard award winning Baking: From My Home to Yours and Around My French Table named the Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She spends part of each year at her home in Paris (it would be so easy to hate her for this wonderful sounding lifestyle if she wasn’t so friendly and nice) and also in New York City and Westbrook, Connecticut.

Though France is known for its fabulous pastry shops, in “Chez Moi” Greenspan shares recipes created by home chefs.

“In France you can get all the butter puff pastry you want in the grocery store and buy the most extravagant cakes at patisseries,” says Greenspan. “But it was really a revelation to me that the patisserie desserts are not the same desserts you get in French homes. These are charming, uncomplicated, satisfying, and delicious but they’re not fussy at all.”

Intrigued by what her friends baked at home, Greenspan, who has spent nearly two decades living in France, traveled across the country collecting their recipes—from Alsace she includes both a Christmas Cake and because of the area’s beautiful plump cherries, a cherry crumble tart, Tart Tropezienne comes from Saint-Tropez, Olive Oil and Wine cookies from Languedoc-Roussillon and the Soft Salted-Butter Caramels (be still my beating heart) is often found in Brittany.

It took Greenspan some five years to test all the recipes for this, her 11th cookbook, because it was important to her to bring these desserts to America. That involved testing and re-testing with both American and French flours and even traveling from her home in the U.S. carrying five pound bags of flour—one can only imagine the panic at the airport if the flour containers had busted open. Each recipe begins with a story of how she discovered it and where it comes from.

“The stories make the food more personal,” she says.

Surprising, there are several recipes calling for cream cheese including one titled The Rugelach That Won Over France. Before, says Greenspan, the French thought of cream cheese only to be used to make cheesecakes and spread on bagels.

That was before about a decade ago when cream cheese came to France “big time,” says Greenspan noting the French call it Philadelphia rather than cream cheese. And, of course, there’s Nutella which Greenspan describes as being the peanut butter of France.

She also includes a recipe for Crackle Cream Puffs (along with other cream puff recipes including one filled with mascarpone) noting that just as we have our cupcake shops, right now in Paris there are shops selling nothing but cream puffs and that they can be filled to order while you wait.

For those new to French dessert making, Greenspan recommends starting off with her Custardy Apple Squares and then Laurent’s Slow-Roasted Pineapple. As for me, I’m moving straight on to the Soft Salted-Butter Caramels and the macarons.

Brown Butter-Peach Torte

Makes 8 servings

For the filling

  • 2 pounds, ripe but firm peaches
  • 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Tiny pinch of fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or a drop of pure almond extract)
  • Juice of ¼ lemon (or to taste)

For the crust

  • 1 partially baked 9- to 9½-inch tart crust made with Sweet Tart Dough, cooled
  • 1 recipe Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below), rolled into a 12-inch circle and refrigerated
  • Sugar, for dusting (sanding sugar, if you’d prefer)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

To make the filling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice cubes and cold water nearby.

Cut a small X in the base of each peach. Drop a few peaches at a time into the boiling water, leave them there for 30 seconds and then lift them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. If you’ve got some hard-to-peel peaches, you can boil them for a few seconds more or just remove the remaining skin with a paring knife.

Dry the peaches, cut them in half, remove the pits and cut each peach into about a dozen chunks. If the peaches are small, cut fewer chunks; the torte is best when the pieces are about an inch on a side. Put the peaches in a bowl.

Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt and then bubble. Stay close to the butter as it boils, and when it reaches a light caramel color, pull the pan from the heat. You may see some small dark brown spots on the bottom of the pan, and that’s fine; for sure you’ll catch the whiff of warm nuts. Wait a minute or two, then pour the butter over the peaches. Add the sugar, flour, salt and vanilla and gently stir everything together. Finish with the lemon juice, tasting as you go. I prefer the juice to be a background flavor, but you might want it to be more prominent, and, of course, the amount will depend on the sweetness of your fruit.

To assemble the torte: Put the tart pan on the lined baking sheet. Give the filling another stir and scrape it into the tart shell, smoothing the top. You should have just enough filling to come level with the edges of the crust.

Remove the circle of dough from the refrigerator and let it rest for a couple of minutes, just until it’s soft enough to maneuver without cracking. Brush the edges of the tart shell with water, then position the circle of dough over the crust. Press the rim of the torte with your fingers to glue the two pieces together and then, pressing on the rim as you go, cut the top circle even with the edges of the pan.

Use a knife, the wide end of a piping tip or a small cookie cutter to remove a circle of dough from the center of the torte—this is your steam vent. Brush the surface of the torte lightly with cold water and sprinkle it generously with sugar.

Bake the torte for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden brown and, most important, the butter is bubbling. If you think the crust is browning too quickly—the thick rim has a tendency to get dark—cover the torte lightly with a foil tent. Transfer the torte, still on its baking sheet, to a rack and allow it to cool until it’s only just warm or at room temperature before serving. As it cools, the buttery syrup will be reabsorbed by the peaches, which is just what you want—so don’t be impatient.

Serving: Whatever you serve with the torte—vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (I like the tang of yogurt with the sweet peaches), softly whipped cream or even more softly whipped crème fraîche—don’t let it cover the top of the torte – it’s too pretty to hide.

Storing: You can partially bake the bottom crust up to 8 hours ahead and you can have the top crust rolled out and ready to go ahead of time, but the filling shouldn’t be prepared ahead. The baked torte is really best served that day. If you’ve got leftovers, refrigerate them. The crust will lose its delicateness, but the torte will still be satisfying.

Sweet Tart Dough (Pâte Sablée)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.

Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.

Put the tart pan on a baking sheet to bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a coking rack (keep it in is pan).

To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Keep a close eye on the crust’s progress–it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash). Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to that the rawness off the patch.

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months I (Dorie), prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer–it has the fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Excerpted from BAKING CHEZ MOI, (c) 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tim Vidrio is New Executive Chef at Chicago’s Michelin-starred North Pond restaurant

After 20 Years, Bruce Sherman Turning Over Kitchen to Chef de Cuisine Tim Vidrio.

Since taking over what was a casual park café in 1999, Sherman has been the only executive chef North Pond.

“It’s with mixed emotions for sure…back then, I couldn’t have dreamt of all we’d achieve here, and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. The time feels right, there is a strong team in place and I look forward to seeing what the next twenty years bring – for the restaurant, and for me,” says Sherman.

Under his leadership, North Pond has received numerous awards and honors such as a Michelin star rating for seven consecutive years as well as multiple James Beard nominations and winning Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2012.

While he’ll no longer be running the kitchen, he will, along with longtime business partner Richard Mott, remain a partner. “I want to thank Bruce for all he’s done here. He’s been a great chef, partner and friend and I understand his desire to start a new chapter. We will all miss him, and equally, we’re excited to see Tim grow into this role,” states Mott.

Vidrio joined the North Pond team in early 2011 and for the past three years has been chef de cuisine.  Prior to joining North Pond, Vidrio worked his way through Chicagoland kitchens, including Le Francais, Moto, and NoMi at the Park Hyatt Hotel. He shares Sherman’s philosophy of respectfully and sustainably working with the best of the  season while maintaining close relationships with farmers, producers and growers. John Arents, who worked at North Pond some fifteen years ago, returns in December as Managing Partner/General Manager, and longtime GM Natalie Boschert will return from maternity leave in spring in an operations role.

North Pond serves dinner Wednesday — Sunday beginning at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch service begins at 10:30 a.m. Smoking is not permitted in North Pond. Valet parking is available on weekends at the corner of Lakeview and Deming Streets and reservations are recommended. For reservations or further information, please call 773.477.5845 or visit North Pond.

Chef Sherman’s Winter Spinach-Apple Soup

  • 1 shallot, peeled, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 small onion, peeled, sliced thinly
  • 1 firm, sweet apple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove roasted garlic
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 10 oz winter spinach
  • 1/3 heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 c chicken stock or water
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and white pepper
  • 3 oz butter, chilled and cubed
Method

Heat a medium size Teflon (non-stick) pan over the fire and place the olive oil in it.
Add the sliced shallots, onion, apple and roasted garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes until softened but not colored.
Next, add in the washed baby spinach- stemmed, if necessary. Add in some salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and then stir for 1-2 minutes until softened.
Add in cream and reduce by half until thickened.
Add the chicken or vegetable stock and heat until the liquid boils.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, add in the butter and puree until very smooth.
Transfer to a pot to heat through, adjust consistency and seasoning before serving.