A Netflix Original – Chef’s Table

We were simply awestruck by the very first episode of the new Netflix docu-series “Chef’s Table”. Ever since we teased the show in our Top 10 food films on Netflix, it has become the darling of my food media world. It’s not an exaggeration to say that at least 10% of my Facebook friends are sharing their love and talking about this brilliant new show. It captures exactly what I’ve always wanted in an exposé on the leaders in the world of food, focusing on six chefs and their unique stories of struggle, ascension, and cumulative breakthrough success.

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The structure is honest, thought-provoking, in-depth, and filled with heaps and heaps of seductive, slow motion sizzle reel filmed in crystal clear HD. The first episode takes us to a place we should all be so lucky to visit, the wide swath of northern Italy which makes up a Devastator type food Transformer known as Emilia-Romagna. Based on my heritage, tendencies, appreciation for Parmigiano Reggiano, aged balsamico, hand made pasta, and meat products from cloven animals; this is where I, and many others probably wish they could live out their remaining years.

From the beginning of his story it’s clear that Chef Massimo Bottura loves Modena for all that it stands for. The introduction grabs you with a touching story that helped jump-start the growth of his community following a natural disaster. I don’t want to give anything away. That’s why I’m ending the show talk here.

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We don’t really have a desire to critique or review this series. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some great stuff to talk about. As a team, we rank this show right alongside the other great documentary style productions such as El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, all of Bourdain’s TV work, and of course Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Until recently, I hadn’t been thinking about recipe writing for Eat a Duck. I spent more than two years happily coming up with complete menus for the taste section of the Lakelander magazine. Some of which covered more than a dozen individual recipes per article. To think each one through, most often with zero room for error,  was a logistical nightmare consuming incredible amounts of time and effort. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. I’ve since stepped away from being full-time editor to give more attention to other important things in my life, which hopefully means putting more of my energy into creating on this front.

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The goal here is to pay homage to the six fantastic stories from this first series of Chef’s Table. While walking through town, I thought to myself “how can we tie this show into what we do.” What we came up with, was to formulate a recipe inspired by the theme of each show, a reflection of what lingered in our minds from each episode. It could be inspired by a personal story the chef tells, the region in which they’re from, or just our attempt at blatantly ripping off their most famous dish. We hope you enjoy our six dishes, which will include recipes for whatever it is we come up with. Going in order, the first will indeed chronicle Chef Massimo and his restaurant Osteria Francescana.

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

Recently at the market, I spotted a large basket of eggplants in various shapes and colors. Their fate was not clear to me at the time, but something in the back of my mind was encouraging a Northern Chinese approach.

I’ve seen this dish many times in magazines and on cooking shows, yet never thought to do it myself. Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that it’s because of the remarkable ease of preparation, not to mention its natural photogenic quality. With so many angles, shadows and sauce filled crevices, I ended up with a gorgeous plate of food. It was mainly complimented by the wonderful quality of light on my mom’s porch as dusk hits.

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

While this may seem like a lowly side dish, it’s far from a throwaway recipe, if for no other reason than its versatility. Use this sauce on beef, poultry or a firm white fish. Pretty much any vegetable with sturdy flesh could be substituted as well. Think about all the times you’ve thought to yourself, ” we have no food”, but you did. Don’t say that, because you did. You failed to notice the brown paper bag filled with zucchini and squash in the back of the crisper.

Beef & Broccoli

I made this along with a hunk of organic, grass-fed top sirloin cut into narrow strips and seared in a cast iron pan with a lot of brown butter. With that I scorched a half head of broccoli cut into florets and then sliced in half to create a flat surface needed for proper coloration. Make sure not to waste the stalks. If you cut them thin they will be tender and will look like miniature green versions of that 70’s style clock cut from a Cypress tree stump, your weird uncle has mounted in his house boats sleeping quarters. Be careful never to overcook broccoli. Use a very hot pan and flash sauté those guys with a big nob of butter at the beginning and end! The marriage of these two items resulted in a southerners rendition of Beef & Broccoli.

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

  • About 1 1/2 lbs eggplant (Japanese preferably)
  • 1/2 cup prepared Hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp. sesame oil
  • A couple shakes of Five Spice Powder
  • Canola Oil
  • Salt

Pre-Heat Oven to 400.

With a paring knife, slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/3-1/2″ thick planks and score them on the flesh side to make a diamond pattern. Coat with a thin layer of canola oil, then lightly sprinkle with salt. Lay slices skin side down on a baking sheet. Combine Hoisin, Tamari, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and five spice in a small bowl, then brush it evenly over the eggplant.

Roast for 15- 20 minutes, or until they have caramelized, building a dark Mahogany color around the edges.

Chef (2014)

I was a 15 years old year old kid who loved music and was a pretty fair dancer. I grew up listening to big band, jazz, jump blues and swing standards from my grandfathers collection. I watched the movie Swing Kids in theaters and then bought it on VHS as soon as it became available. I learned all the moves and tried my best to emulate my friend peter and swing heil. Then came Swingers. That movie, though I’ll admit it was too adult for me at the time, introduced me to a whole new way of looking at the culture. It taught me that you don’t have to like something because it was trendy, hip, hep or rooted in nostalgia. Music is timeless. The work of Count Basie, the Stray Cats or even Hepcat is timeless for me. Why? Because it’s good music. Swingers highlighted a culture synonymous with Southern California in the mid-90’s, as a teenager, I never knew existed. Although the subject matter strays from the music more often than I’d prefer, it’s still one of my all time favorites. Never would I have imagined that Jon Favreau would ever create a film that spoke to me in such a similar way, to a point where I felt he had a clear window to my psyche.

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That was until I watched Chef. Obviously, I love food. Jimmy and I write or talk about it daily. Everything we eat may not make the cut, but food is a constant topic of conversation in my circle of friends. My love of food has given me opportunities I never would have gotten without it. It sustains us and brings us together. The entire process of cooking delicious food makes us happy and is oddly therapeutic. As the title character (played by Favreau himself) helps us all to appreciate. As his life is turned upside down, his mantra continues to be “I don’t care what everyone says, I don’t care about the bad things that happen, or the money, I just want to cook great food.” When you are a cook, you will never lose that love, no matter how life unfolds. Another important lesson I took to heart is that you always take the ones you love along for the ride. No matter how you perceive your mundane chores or you days spent taking care of ordinary tasks. If someone wants to be your accompaniment, you let them. That reevaluation had nothing to do with food.

Chef 2014 scenes

The other poignant topic to hone in on is that of negative critiquing. Although, I feel the arrogant food critic, the type that is going to bash so that followers laugh at their contrived venom, is slowly becoming obsolete, this movie helps you understand the power of such words. On that note, it also points to the dynamic influence social marketing has on the consumer both on negative and positive fronts. The power of one voice could crush someones business just as easy as it could trebuchet it into stardom

I don’t want to go into minutiae of the all the food loving tidbits liberally sprinkled throughout the storyline. I’ll leave them for you to discover, but prepare yourself for massive amounts of food porn. Aside from a couple of logistical issues involving mobile food licensing (It’s a sore subject for me ok!) that felt simplified for storytelling purposes, it was a masterpiece. No wait. It was a KC Master-piece!

Have you ever heard a film nerd speak excitedly about all the nods that occur in every super hero movie? It’s pretty impressive, especially since I love comics and I still miss half of the stuff until I watch them 6 months later on the Screen Junkies YouTube channel after a night of heavy libation consumption. If you’re sharp and pay attention throughout the film, you’ll find lots of food related easter eggs, not to mention all the references and cameos along the way. I left smiling from ear to ear. Even the soundtrack is well thought out. I hope you all search it out and  enjoy the movie half as much as me and Jimmy did. We both agree, for us, it’s a film that will be on constant rotation for years to come.

Chef 2014 at Franklin BBQ

I realize the initial buzz for the film has probably been reduced to a low simmer. That doesn’t matter here. We just want to share our thoughts with you guys. I for one am so glad I waited to see it at the exact moment I did, in a half full theater just outside of Norman, OK. There were audible gasps of delight and wonderment when food that was clearly not the norm in this area was served on screen. It was a great reaction and I felt proud. As the movie’s theatrical run is all but over over, look for it on demand as well as a DVD release on September 30. Or…use other nefarious ways to procur a viewing. I

Before I go, I have to say one thing, because I know it will be a sore subject to some. If you’re reading this and you saw the movie, you’ll understand. Yo Favreau! Where’s the salami bro?

This is how we roll: Nouveau Stuffed Cabbage

Ever heard a serious intellectual utter the saying “This is how I roll?”

The term can not be found dating back nearly a millennium, originally written as a grand piece of poetry categorizing the “great men of yore” and their subsequent indulgences. The Kaiserchronik is a 12th-century chronicle of emperors. Though much of the material is legendary and fantastical, suggesting that large sections were compiled from earlier works, most of it is made up of short biographies, full of striking truths and even more striking similarities. For example the succession of the Romans from Julius Caesar (possibly the inventor of the 44 B.C Salad) all the way through Conrad III, the first king of Germany of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty all had an affinity for meat and grain, encased in leafy green biennials. On his deathbed, King Conrad might have used his last breath of sweet, sweet air to make a declaration of complete cabbage dependence as the last crop had finally been bitten by frost. He would have said something slong the lines of ” Countryman…if it is so that my meals have ceased from being presented in a totally tubular manner, then let me die. This world has nothing left for me. This is how I roll”.

I would have to say about 50% of my meals are not planned. They are wonderful accidents made up from scraps and remnants of other groceries, searching for purpose.

For example, on one late afternoon, we started getting hungry and did the old rapidly open and close the fridge trick. Hoping that every time we took a peek, something worth eating would magically appear, such as a pair two-inch thick ribeye’s and a 1905 Salad. Then maybe we might mosey up next to the oven to find a batch of buttery Potatoes Anna, blissfully bubbling while browning under a white-hot broiler. It wasn’t going to be that easy. What we did find was a perfectly suitable dinner for any man-child or world ruler. I give you a gift, in the form of an updated version of every child’s nightmare, the cabbage roll. No longer will you be subjected to grainy ground beef, mixed with maggot-like, gloopy rice, let alone the actual cabbage part of a cabbage roll. Usually when I have eaten this dish, the cabbage turns out to feel more like fresh skin peeled off a leprosy victim. Hungry yet?

Cabbage Rolls

To make this more appealing, we made a sort of mousse with chicken thighs, brown rice, and a ton of spices. And we didn’t pre-cook the cabbage leaves like some Bulgarians I know. If you roll your filling with raw cabbage, you might actually end up with a palatable texture. Lastly, we made a light tomato sauce to cover the rolls, using organic tomato bisque, lemon, and some heavy cream and butter from grass-fed cows. It makes a difference! This is really easy as you only have two stages of throwing stuff together and then some rolling. That’s it.

Try it tonight. While you’re at it, why don’t you challenge me to update one of your least favorite dishes from the olde country.

Preheat Oven to 375º F

Chicken Mousse (to be made ahead of time):

1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

3 green onions, quartered

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground sage

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend on high for about one minute or until everything has been pulverized! Cover with plastic and set aside.

Cabbage Roll Process

Peel off 10-12 whole cabbage leaves from a good-sized head. Cut out the thick part of the rib and discard. Set aside leaves.

Tomato Sauce:

1 17.5 oz container of tomato bisque or a can of high quality tomato soup

1 stick of salted grass-fed butter

The juice of one lemon, plus zest

2 small tomatoes, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan on medium heat, put everything in and cook until well incorporated. Set aside.

To roll the Cabbage, take a nice scoop full of the Chicken mousse (about 1/2 cup worth) and put on one side of the cabbage leaf. Roll once, then tuck the sides in and finish rolling up. Place seam side down on a 9×13 baking dish, no need for toothpicks youngster. Repeat process. Pour the tomato sauce over rolls and cover with foil. Bake covered for 30 Minutes, then uncover for a last 15.

They will be as hot as magma so give it a couple of minutes to pull itself together before noshing. If you have leftovers, it’s pretty amazing to eat one heated up on a buttery toasted sub roll with a little homemade garlic aioli. Just sayin’.

Oh and for an added bonus if meat wrapped in moist cabbage isn’t your thing, Cabbageman himself Mr. Crumpton whipped together some chicken and rice patties which were then pan-fried until golden! You can thank him later.

Chicken & Rice Patties

Lock, Pops and Two Frozen Barrels

Summertime in Florida is nearly a year-long event. It’s May, but the temperatures are creeping up higher and faster than Macklemore’s rap “career”. We’ve been flirting with nearly 100° afternoons lately, so there’s only one solution to combat the threat of flesh-melting heat. Popsicles!

Lock, Pops & Two Frozen Barrels

I had an assignment recently for the Lakelander magazine that, among other things, involved creating a couple of options for flavored patriot missiles. There was a Mexican theme, so I came up with a horchata based pop with some golden raisins, as well as a play on a Paloma, which is a grapefruit-centric cocktail though I nixed the alcohol since there were children partaking. To combat the often harsh, sour notes of grapefruit, I macerated some strawberries in sugar to make a sweet red mash of red bliss. They were a hit. The only thing left was a pool of pink on a serving platter, that lay dormant waiting for a certain adult-sized kid to pick it up and give it a shameful licking. That didn’t happen, but I saw a guy contemplating the consequences of such an action.

There’s no real recipe here, just an easy set of guidelines. Such as, the thinner the liquid, the quicker those suckers are going to melt. So, try not to use straight juice unless you mix it with some solid fruits or a purée of your liking. A general rule, use 2 cups of liquid for 1 cup of purée or thickener (i.e. condensed milk in the horchata pop). Below is my latest concoction, a peach-lemonade pop with fresh minced apricots.

Makes 8-10 Popsicles

2 cups lemonade
1 cup peach purée
3 peeled, then minced apricots

That’s it.

Popsicles in the raw

Popsicle Potential Popsicles in the makingLemonade, Peach & Apricot Pop

Mix the liquids. Spoon equal parts of the fruit into the bottom of the Popsicle molds, then pour the liquid over the fruit. Everything will swirl around and mix in a NATO way. Yeah in a North Atlantic Trade Organization kind of way. Thanks Siri! Enjoy if you dare to defy the United Nations!

The Kitchen Table Bistro – Richmond, VT

Vermont is a wonderful place. Few places showcase the seasons as dramatically as the Green Mountain State. Likewise, few restaurants capture the flavor of those seasons better than The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, VT. This chef-owned eatery takes the trendy ideals of sustainable, local dining and humbly applies them as an overarching philosophy. 

The dining rooms are set within an old farmhouse, which aside from the bar, hasn’t been touched apart from a fresh coat of paint and some new fixtures. Naturally this farmhouse sits within a stones throw of many local farms with whom they partner with to source their seasonal ingredients. I’ve had the opportunity to visit The Kitchen Table (KTB) many times, and I’ve never had the same thing twice. Mind you, this isn’t one of those “change the menu every day” type of places. No, the folks at KTB are patient, with an understanding that you should enjoy the seasons and the many fruits, veggies and meats that come with them, until the time comes to move on.

My most recent visit took place just last month, so the fresh summer items were present in full force. The four of us took our place in one of the side rooms, eager to check out the new menu. It was chock full of fresh root veggies like radishes, beets and celery root, along with squash, garlic, sweet peas and corn. The proteins were even more enticing, fresh chicken liver pate, mussels, cod and rib-eye. These types of places always give me a headache when I have to decide between 15 different items when I want to try them all! Stubbornly, we all channeled some of the KTB patience and chose our meal. The appetizers were as follows:

Switchback Fried Half Pint Squash Blossoms, Purslane with Espelette Aioli

Green Garlic Soup, Goat Cheese and Toasted Almonds

Half Pint Heirloom Tomatoes, Tasty Jade Cukes and Charred Corn with Maplebrook Burratta

Boyden Farm Steak Tartare, Crispy Potatoes, Assorted Pickles and Tiny Half Pint Greens

The squash blossoms were, of course, delicious. Fried flowers have never tasted so good, apart from the ones my parents grow in their garden that is. Squash blossoms were born to be fried and dunked in aioli, crisp and sweet, with a slight grassy tinge, they go so well with the creamy homemade sauce.

This summer I discovered a couple new facets of my favorite bulb, garlic that is. First of all, scapes are amazing. I’m a little annoyed that a garlic lover such as myself hasn’t learned about them until now. I’ll have a post on them soon. Secondly, green garlic, which is really just immature garlic, is incredibly delicious. Stronger than a scallion, but milder than full-grown garlic, it makes for a perfect soup. Just enough kick to pair with the creamy goat cheese and crisp almond slices. I’m not a soup guy usually, but this hit the spot, especially on a warm summer evening.

Burrata. What more needs to be said. Local burrata. Oh yeah, it doesn’t get much better unless you’re making it yourself and eating it immediately. Combine it with some fresh veg picked out of the garden that day and you’re in business. I could almost understand how a vegetarian thinks, until I slid a chunk of that cheese into my mouth. C’mon guys meet me half way here, the things we love go together so well! The KTB should negotiate a eats treaty so we can all enjoy the best that food has to offer…anyway.

The entreés. There are usually one or two mainstays that anchor the menu. The most well-known is the Misty Knoll Chicken Breast. While it is amazing, someone gets it every single time, so we all agreed to widen our horizons. And the choices were…

Braised LaPlatte Farm Short Ribs, Creamy Herb Spaetzle, Grilled  Escarole and Mushrooms

Seared Scallops, Sweet Pea-Celery Root Pureé, Peas and Corn

Roasted New England Cod, Mashed Potatoes, Beet Greens, Fresh Pearl Onions and Braised Bacon

You can’t go wrong with short ribs and the boys in the back didn’t disappoint. The reduced sauce was nicely caramelized on the seared meat which practically fell apart to the touch. The spaetzle added a creamy touch that was a nice change from the familiar polenta or potato components that usually accompany dishes like this.

Both seafood dishes were spot on. The scallops, plump and sweet, were complimented by the farm fresh veg that had a sweetness of their own. What I really enjoyed was how lightly the veg was cooked so that they kept their bright and crisp consistency. The cod however, was tender and flaky just as it should be. It was a strikingly beautiful dish as well, the bright white, pillowy cod was presented atop the smooth potatoes like a gift. This really let the bacon and beet greens standout.

Of course, no respectable meal can end without a small smackeral of something sweet. Apparently I’ve earned the reputation of chocolate fiend, so since everyone else had no objections, we went with the dark chocolate fudge cake with warm chocolate and butterscotch sauces and caramel-butterscotch swirl ice cream. I don’t think a fancy explanation is necessary here, I’ll just let you enjoy the pic.

It was another delicious and memorable family meal courtesy of The Kitchen Table. For me, food is more than just sustenance, it’s about making memories. Whether you’re trying something new, hitting up an old familiar spot, or cooking up something fresh and tasty at home, it’s all about the people you’re with.

So if you live on the east coast and you’re hankering for a true fine dining/locavore feast, forget making the pilgrimage to the French Laundry, we’ve got a real competitor on this side of the Mississippi. Many restaurants claim to be farm-to-table, but few can back it up. At The Kitchen Table,  it’s just the way things are.

Kitchen Table Bistro on Urbanspoon

Summer Apps: Fries, Sauce and Pickled Okra

It has been far too long since I’ve had a couple of days off to concentrate on simply relaxing and cooking. My hobby is more often than not, the pursuit of better eating. We all enjoy activities that we’re good at don’t we? Cooking, or the preparation of food is no exception, at least for me.

I’ve played with the idea of starting up my own food cart at the local Farmers market starting in September. An idea that feels more and more real as the days go by. Although it’s not a sure thing until I actually take possession of the necessary equipment.

It has been decided after many months of being mentored by my good friends at The Poor Porker, that an ideal option would be to specialize in the most amazing french fries you can find, something most of us absolutely adore. I’m betting on this reasoning at least.

After months of researching and testing different fry techniques, I’m confident that I’ve got the process to where I can put out a high quality product that will be easy enough to execute at a high level of output. Well, higher than what we home cooks would be used to. Unless of course you normally cook 50 lbs of Potatoes at a time.

With the “perfect” fry, which is what I strive for, comes the other important goal. Giving my local friends and acquaintances of the Farmers Market a change of pace in the flavor department. I want to help show off some of the incredible tastes the cuisines of the world have to offer. I know it will start off by being simple, maybe just using different spice blends and sauces. But I think everyone deserves to take a trip to Paris or maybe the coast of Morocco, even if you can’t afford the airfare. Honestly, I’ve never had a chance to go to Europe. That doesn’t mean I have to limit myself to my region of the worlds typical flavors. Why would I want to punish my tongue for my own financial inadequacy?

This leads me to this past weekend where once again, I found myself practicing fries, my sauces and hospitality in general. I’m not going to keep my technique a secret because the process is widely known. I use a double fry method, where you cook the potatoes at a low temp to cook them through. Then you follow with a higher heat, and a shorter cook time after freezing them overnight. This makes them creamy on the inside, crispy and golden brown on the outside. I know you can make these at home. Although, you don’t need to now that you have me!

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Saturday I tested out my cookery accompanied by my homemade Ketchup that I will actually not give many details about, except that it has my wife’s approval which is the most important thing in the world to me. Everything else I think will be fair game.

Such as the Meyer Lemon Aioli I plan on serving every once in a while.

You can do it by hand, which I think everyone should do at least once in their lives, to really appreciate the old world elbow grease that goes into it. Or you can be a weak little baby and use a food pro. All you need to do is this:

Throw 2 garlic cloves (or if you’re Jimmy, 5 or 6), the juice and zest of a Meyer Lemon, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 room temp egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon of cold water in a small food pro. You should have set aside about 3/4 of a cup of Olive oil into some sort of easily pourable container. First pulse the food pro with little drips of the oil at a time. Literally, drip by drip. As the mixture begins to emulsify, slowly add a little more oil. Just a little at a time. Listen. This isn’t swing dancing. It’s not slow, slow, quick, quick. It’s slow, slow, slow, slow. From experience I know that doing it too fast isn’t a wise course of action. On the same note, going super slow has never produced a failed attempt. Hey pal, I’m talking about aioli!

If you do choose to make fries and this aioli, maybe you can make a little spread of vegetable based apps to counteract the luxurious richness of the frites and sauce.

My recommendation would be this play on an old southern classic, okra  pin wheels. This only has 3 components and they all come pre-made so all you have to do is be like the Avengers and ASSEMBLE!

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Here’s what you need:

1/4 of cured meat such as Speck, Serrano, or Prosciutto. Or just smoked ham if you can’t find anything else. I would highly recommend finding you closest purveyor of La Quercia  meats, and stocking up on their quality goods.

1 Jar of Pickled Okra. Don’t freak out about this. It’s not slimy when you pickle it. Trust me it’s awesome.

1 tub of either European style sour cream or just regular cream cheese.

Take your meat and lay it on a cutting board. Take a schmear of the cream and spread it to make a thin layer on the meat. Take a stalk of okra and cut off the top and place at one end of the meat cream marriage. Roll up like a cigar. activities into 1 inch pieces and place on serving dish. Willingly accept the hugs and kisses of your loved ones as they shower you with praise for concocting such a triumph in simple elegance.

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

Pie or Cake? What’s your take? Saying you like them equally is not an option. If you say that to my face, I don’t think I can trust you around my child anymore you sick freak. Seriously though, show some fortitude and make a decision for once in your pathetic life.

My position swayed dramatically this morning because of a snippet from an interview with comedian/podcaster Adam Corolla. When asked about his stance on pie and cake, he answered with this brilliant rant, “I submit this simple challenge to all you idiots, you’re not allowed to say you’re going to the bakery and spend $86 on a super high-end cake. That’s not the challenge. There are great cakes out there don’t get me wrong. The challenge is, I will give you $8. You go find me a cake, then I’ll go down to Marie Calender’s and for $7.99 buy any pie they have in the display case, and it will whip your $8 cake. There’s no such thing as a bad pumpkin pie. (I have to disagree here. All pumpkin pies suck) There’s great pumpkin pie and O.K. pumpkin pie, but there isn’t  BAD pumpkin pie. It doesn’t matter what pie place you go to or what town you live in. Even the store-bought is going to be edible. But cake…you can get some really…really, really bad cake.”

After much meditation on the matter, I agree about 90%  with Mr. Corolla. If you were to pit the best piece of cake against the best piece of pie, cake wins best against best. However, the law of averages states that I will consume many more bad pieces of cake than bad pieces of pie, because there is no such thing as a bad piece of pie. So pie wins.

This new found awakening comes in the heat of pie season. Pies rule the roost in summer, and I want to show you how easy they are to make, from start to finish to make a crust directly in the pie pan, a versatile fruit (I’m using blueberries this time) filling and a buttery scrumptious crumbly topping. Let’s do this!

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

First set your oven to 375°

For the crust:

1 10′ Pie pan

1 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup organic oil (I’ve used Vegetable, Canola and Sunflower. They all turn out great)
3 to 4 tablespoons water

To make clean up really easy you can mix all the dry ingredients and then whisk straight in the pie pan. Next, Whisk the Oil and water together in a separate container. Make a well in your dry ingredients for the liquid to go into then pour said wet ingredients in pan. You can use a fork to mix everything together or just use your fingers, cause you’ll need those shortly anyway. Once the dough starts to make a crumbly biscuit-like texture, form it into a ball and place in the center of the pan. Start squashing the dough down with your fingers all the way til it goes up the sides of the pan and the entire surface is evenly covered. Don’t make little frumpy creases or flutes into the pie dough side walls. Who are you trying to fool? You’re not Ina Garten. You are a human being. Set crust aside. You do not need to pre-bake.

Fruit filling: (Every fruit works… I think.)

4 cups of fresh Blueberries. (If you can’t find fresh, move on to another fruit that is actually available. Such as 7 apples or 8 peaches.) 

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, strained

3⁄4 cup sugar

3 Tbs. cornstarch

1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon (If you use apple, double up on the cinnamon)

Place Fruit in a medium-sized bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Stir sugar, corn starch, zest, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl until evenly mixed. Sprinkle sugar mixture over fruit and toss with hands until all the fruit is coated. Set aside.

Crumbly Streusel Topper:

1 Stick Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)

1/2  C All Purpose Flour

1/4 C Cane Sugar

½ Tsp Salt

Place Flour, sugar, and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir until blended well. Take the butter in your hand and separate with your fingers in small clumps into the Flour mix. Then with your fingers toss the butter and flour lightly to form little crumbly buttery balls of streusel. Don’t be rough or else you will end up with cookie dough. Now it’s time to assemble Team P.I.E.

Take Fruit mixture and dump into pie pan. Take Crumbly streusel mixture and sprinkle it over the fruit evenly and graciously. Put in oven. Watch 2 episodes of Storage Wars or about 1 hour until the Dutch part of the pie begins to show signs of browning. Take hot pie out and place on cooling rack. Do not set out on an open window sill. That is lame. Let cool for 30 minutes until pie is still warm but not hot enough to cause oral fissures.

This pie is slowly becoming the death of me. It’s so amazing that I’ve been ordered to make it 4 times in the last 2 weeks. I have a standing order for a blackberry/raspberry hybrid in the next few weeks. Hopefully you too will be struck by the curse of my Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing.

Joey’s Junction – Highgate, VT

Location, location, location. The famous mantra of many a real estate agent, as it applies to restaurants, usually assumes that the “location” in question is the one with the greatest visibility and therefore the greatest potential for success. Not so with Joey’s Junction, a small bakery/cafe/art gallery in northern Vermont where they are consistently serving the most diabolically delicious breakfast that you’d be hard-pressed to find in even the most hipster-infested joint in NYC. Joey’s sits on a plot of land at the intersection of two country roads in the small town of Highgate, VT, just outside the middle of nowhere.

Joey's Junction spread

I believe a certain Kevin Costner movie once said, “if you build it, they will come”. Well the boys at Joey’s built it, and sure enough, they came. The chocolate iced and custard filled Godzilla doughnuts they’re pumping out probably don’t hurt. There are only a couple of tables inside with a couple more outside, but if you visit, there’s a good chance there’ll be at least a couple of parties enjoying a rib-sticking breakfast. Joey’s isn’t the type of place where you have to call ahead or wait hours in line for. Luckily it’s far enough from Williamsburg that the beardos haven’t flocked to it before it gets too cool.

My family and I have been going there for a few years now, and over time, they’ve managed to refine and reinvent the breakfast staples. On our most recent visit, we spied a rack full of freshly made doughnuts, “we’ll have two” my father proclaimed. Now just look at these things, I don’t know if you can judge the scale from these photos, but these things were freaking huge. Slathered with icing by hand and generously filled to capacity with the most delicious homemade custard. On top of that, the doughnuts were fried to perfection, golden brown with a bright white stripe around its equator. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and spilling over with custard, which promptly merged with the chocolate. This was definitely not an “eat a dozen glazed doughnuts on the way to the real breakfast” routine you might pull with a joint like Krispy Kreme. While I’m sure I’ll reap the full wrath of my colleague, but I felt that the quality, decadence and taste surpassed even Doughnut Plant, King, Queen, you name it. Yes the doughnuts are that good.

Joey's Junction custard doughnut

Not to be outdone is the savory fare at Joey’s. The traffic jam in our aortas wouldn’t have been complete without a breakfast sandwich and a side of home fries. Now I know what you think of when you think breakfast sandwich. Maybe an english muffin or biscuit with a piece of country sausage or bacon, maybe a fried egg and a slice of cheese? You’d be right, but somehow this isn’t enough for Joey’s. They really should put quotations around the word sandwich, because it only loosely describes what you’ll get if you order it. We were presented with two pieces of bread, I’d estimate 2 or 3 fried eggs, a mountain of onions and mushrooms, swiss cheese topped with sausage. The whole affair must have been tossed with a couple sticks of butter and thrown on the flat top because the flavor was just glorious. It was a good thing we had four people to tackle this monster, because the home fries were waiting in the wings. 

Joey's Junction breakfast sandwich

If the breakfast sandwich was Mt. Everest, the home fries were K-2. Talk about value, I think they fried up two whole potatoes and a couple of onions for one order! 

Joey's Junction homefries

Now I know most of our readers will probably never make it up to Highgate. While Joey’s is absolutely worth a trip in itself, if you happen to take my advice and head to Montreal for a little Maison Kam Fung, or L’Express, take the day, drive across the border and hit up Joey’s, you’ll be glad you did. 

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