Sweet and sour. It’s perhaps the most common example of creating a dish with contrasting flavors. Great dishes are all about balance. A dish can be sweet and taste great. However, that dish can become great when you add a component of sourness or spiciness which not only offers contrast in flavor, but ends up reinforcing the dish’s intended flavor profile.
For example, let’s talk about this agrodolce (literally, Italian for “sour-sweet”). I first encountered said sauce at one of my favorite restaurants – City House. The Chef had a dish – homemade sausage with green tomato agrodolce and abbey ale mustard. It was a phenomenal dish – the really fatty, juicy sausage was rich and hearty. But what made it great was the sauces, which cut through the richness of the dish and made the plate harmonious – great contrast in flavor and incredible balance. Ever since that day, I knew I needed to re-create this sauce.
Low and behold, I was at the market on Saturday for my CSA pickup, when I saw we were able to pick up 2 lbs of green tomatoes. The minute I saw them, I knew this recipe had to be made. And if that wasn’t a sign, when I looked up “green tomato agrodolce” to try to get a recipe, I realized the City House recipe was actually featured in Bon Appetit! The recipe itself is really easy – it takes almost no time to make. So, I made a big batch and put it in the fridge.
The next day just happened to be Sunday – and that means football in my house. I had a few friends coming over and decided to make some burgers. And then it hit me – a juicy, fatty, beef burger with this green tomato agrodolce would be amazing. The match was made, the burgers were eaten, and all rejoiced! I might never go back to dill pickles – this agrodolce sauce is were it’s at. And you better believe I’m going to use it on whatever I can!
Beef Burger | Green Tomato Agrodolce | Caramelized Onions
(burger/onion recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti, sauce recipe courtesy of City House in Nashville, TN)
For the green tomato agrodolce:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups chopped green tomatoes
1/4 distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are soft, but have not browned, about 4 minutes. Then add the sugar and cook until the liquid in the pan becomes a little syrupy, about 5 minutes. Put in the tomatoes, vinegar, and mustard. Season the entire dish with salt. Bring the heat up to high and when it starts boiling, reduce the heat back to medium and cook until the tomatoes are tender, but not falling apart.
The mixture should not be too liquidy. If it is, strain the tomatoes and reduce until you have about 1/2 cup of liquid. Put the agrodolce in a bowl and bring to room temperature. Then, cover and chill in the fridge for one day.
For the caramelized onions:
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
Let the butter melt in a pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes until the onions are soft and deeply caramelized. Remove from the heat.
For the burgers:
2 lbs ground beef (I get mine fresh ground at the butcher – this was a mix of 50% chuck, 25% skirt steak, 25% brisket), molded into 8 1/4 lb. patties
8 slices jalapeno jack cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the burgers liberally with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers for about 2-3 minutes on each side for medium. About a minute before the burger is done, put a slice of cheese and cover the grill so the cheese is completely melted.
To assemble the burgers, get your hamburger buns (feel free to toast them), and shmear on some mayonnaise. Then top it with the caramelized onions, the burger, and finish with the green tomato agrodolce sauce.
This is one burger you are gonna love!
Right after the summer is over, I know fall is coming when I see gourds pop up all over the farmer’s market. Even though we were still getting some zucchini in our CSA, we got spaghetti squash one week. Then an acorn squash. Then a pumpkin. And a butternut squash – my favorite! These winter squashes are foods I look forward to when the leaves change color and the weather cools down.
When I got my first one, I just cut a little piece off and ate it raw. The local butternut was so crunchy and sweet, I couldn’t help but take a few more bites. I roasted the rest of it in the oven and once it came out all golden brown and caramelized, I just dug right in with a fork – on the roasting pan, not even bothering with getting a plate. It was the taste of fall. And even though I might get sick of squash by January, right now, I’m eating it in any way I can!
I made this dish on Sunday, while watching football with my best friend. We got a little crazy over homecoming weekend at Vandy and were just chilling out that afternoon. It was beautiful and sunny outside – perhaps the perfect weather for a Sunday. There are a few weeks of fall where I can’t imagine the world looking any better.
Sometimes, I just look outside and am mesmerized by the transformation. I know the cold winter is coming, but before then, I take some time to appreciate what’s in front of me. Right here and now.
I’ve been making orzotto for a while now – I even made that one with creamy brie and roasted cauliflower. I should, at some point, buy some arborio rice, but to be honest, I love this version with orzo – it even cooks a lot faster, which means I get to eat sooner. That always seems to help after a tiring weekend.
This recipe has onions cooked down with rosemary, to which you add cubed butternut squash. Orzo is added to the pan and you slowly add chicken stock or vegetable stock to release the starch, resulting in that luxurious, creamy texture that is so characteristic of risotto. A little orange zest on top makes all the flavors pop. The crunchy mizuna lettuce, which I picked up from the market, has a slight bitterness to it which really adds a great dimension to this dish. And the cheese – oh the cheese – which is put in with a heavy hand. It’s great as a main course on a lazy day, or as a side to a beautiful roast or braised meat.
Just take some time to make a great meal – and to enjoy what’s outside. It’s sure to be an amazing moment.
Butternut Squash Orzotto (serves 4)
Recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock, simmering
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 orange, zested
a few springs of mizuna greens (or arugula)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Get a big (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the butternut squash and season everything with salt and pepper. Once the squash starts to soften just slightly, about 2 minutes, add the orzo pasta and toss it around to get it coated with all the vegetables. Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until all the liquid is evaporated. Then, add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, until all the stock is absorbed by the pasta. Constantly stir. You may or may not use all of the stock. Keep tasting the pasta, but it should be cooked, perfectly al dente around the 10-12 minute mark. By that time, your butternut squash should also be perfectly cooked and tender.
To finish the orzotto, add a half ladle of stock, all the cheese, and the butter. Stir the risotto vigorously until the butter melts and the texture of the risotto is just barely runny. It should spread when you put it on a plate, in between being runny and stiff. Garnish the plate with some orange zest, a few sprigs of mizuna, and a nice healthy glug of your best olive oil.
It was so good, I was eating this thing while taking the pictures.
Wow. I felt myself saying this again and again as I went through a 7 course tasting menu at Nashville’s newest restaurant – The Catbird Seat. Nestled above one of my favorite cocktail bars, The Patterson House, was easily one of the most anticipated dining establishments ever in our city that never ceases to surprise me with a breadth of excellent culinary experiences. Amongst the top of those experiences sits Max and Benjamin Goldberg’s The Catbird Seat, captained by chefs Josh Habiger, Erik Anderson, and master of beverages, Jane Lopes. An incredible night, filled with plenty of painstaking preparation, flawless food, and expert liquid pairings just left me saying “wow!”
One of the best culinary experiences of my life.
It’s a pretty high accolade – but deservedly so. The food was great – even mind blowing at times. But The Catbird Seat was more than just the food. Impeccable service that made us feel like this meal was an intimate dinner party. A beautiful story of experiences shown through food – where the chefs came from, reflections of their stints at the notable NOMA (arguably the best restaurant in the world) and Alinea (arguably the best restaurant in the US), and an interpretation of said experiences that reveal a distinct and delicious culinary identity. From start to finish, I’ve never done anything like this – it was a true epicurean adventure.
After being taken upstairs by owner Max Goldberg through a semi-hidden door, up an elevator, and into a short hallway, we saw the U-shaped dining room – an awesome kitchen, surrounded by 20 some odd seats. This is an amazing interactive experience, as you get to see the chefs cook your meal, plate it, and serve it to you. You get to ask questions about what is on your plate, how they prepared it, and what inspired them to make the dish.
We were warmly greeted by Ben. The owners were both there and in person and it was evident how excited they were for this novel idea to take hold and to see the concept blossom into reality. Their gracious hospitality and unequivocal generosity made the night something really special.
Once we got settled, it was all about the food. (Brace yourself, for there are a ton of pictures coming).
Snacks (from R-L): Baby Radish w/Uni (Sea Urchin) Butter, Flaked Salt | Hot Chicken Skin, Cayenne, Wonderbread Puree, Dill Salt | Porcini Mushroom Oreo, Parmesan Cream
This course in itself was so incredibly cool and a great way to start off the meal. It showcased how the chefs could take these very traditional foods (oreos are traditional, right?) and play with them to give you an experience you have had before in a completely different way. I particularly loved the hot chicken skin because (a) crispy chicken skin is awesome, but (b) I loved that all the components of hot chicken were there – the bread (as a puree), the pickles (as dill salt), and the cayenne – it was fantastic!
A great starter course that really had some special elements. Perfectly roasted carrots, rutabaga, beets, salsify, and potatoes; there were some special additions – crispy pheasant, a pheasant gelee (made strictly with gelatin from the bones), and a luscious pork fat vinaigrette.
Zarna’s Vegetarian Version – just as beautiful and delicious!
We were also very impressed with how accommodating the chefs were towards food preferences – Zarna’s meal was just as impressive as mine and she enjoyed everything. Every aspect of the vegetarian courses was so carefully thought out and considerate, that even a carnivorous soul like myself would have been extremely pleased. (Good thing she’s a small eater though, because I got to clean up her plate on a few occasions!)
Course 3: Miso cured haddock with a shitake-dashi broth, ginger-yuzu gel, spinach gomae, and a furikake rice cracker.
Miso cured fish pairing: Sesshu Otokoyama Junmai Sake from Hyogo, Japan
This was a great, light fish course and is just a simple indication of how much time and thought goes into each dish. The dish itself allows the fish to shine as all the ingredients are in perfect harmony. The fish was incredibly flaky, the broth flavorful and savory, the gel brought acidity, and the crispy rice cracker added incredible texture to the dish. Balance of flavor and balance of texture is the key to great food – Josh and Erik nailed it here.
Wine Pairing (no picture): 2009 Paul Blanck Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France
I eat chicken all the time – this was an inspired version. Josh told me how he layered the white and dark meat of the chicken and compressed it so it is in the shape of a log, and then topped with chicken skin. After it is cooked, he crisped up the chicken skin in the pan, yielding a delicious nugget of crispy goodness atop that tender, juicy, and moist chicken.
Zarna said her turnip was the best she had ever had. She also tried to (unsuccessfully) snag a bowl of butternut squash puree. A great fall inspired dish.
I was looking forward to this course all night – it was the one everyone who had been in the few days before me was raving about. My twitter pal, Brooke, called it “Steak and Eggs”. Everything about this dish blew me away. Besides the incredibly impactful plating, the pairing was with a sparkling wine (from New Mexico!), the addictive perfect poached egg, was a story that really made this dish special. Chef Erik told us about how when at Noma, they would forage for everything – mushrooms, potatoes, wild game. They cooked what they found. This dish told the tale of a journey in the woods, finding those simple ingredients, and doing everything humanly possible not to screw it up. It was great, it was tasty, and it was rich – a beautiful plate of food with extreme finesse.
So we were the first customers on The Catbird Seat’s first Saturday night service. That’s pretty cool. In a few years when this place becomes one of the most sought after reservations in the country, I can flaunt that (and hopefully, it’ll help me secure a seat!) I really enjoyed all the different varieties of meat coming out that I very rarely eat – pheasant and squab. Having meats that are a little more exotic made the meal that much more memorable. It also makes me want to experiment a little with these other poultry items a bit more.
Wine Pairing (not pictured): Chateau Musar 2009 “Jeune” – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
To be honest, this blew me away. This dish pushes the boundaries and allows you to experience some tastes you really haven’t before. That’s what I loved about it. The eggplant puree was cooked almost to the point of being burnt – but right before it became too burnt, it was pulled. The puree was smooth and creamy, with a lovely bitterness that offset the sweetness of the lamb meat. It was the first time in the meal that we really experienced the bitter taste – and after five courses, this dish really stuck out. I loved how they put “cucumber pulp” or the seeds of a cucumber that we so often discard, but that really offer such great flavor. It was the first time I ever tasted a cooked cucumber! Charred puree, cucumber pulp, and crispy, fatty lamb belly. Things I had never eaten, in ways I had never seen prepared, with flavors that exploded after so many great courses – this dish was an experience onto itself.
Pairing (not pictured): Triple Karmeliet, Belgium
After eating all these courses, I was really only thinking one thing – Damn, a cold beer would be great right now. Lucky for me, Jane, happily brought me a fantastic Belgian beer to have with some equally delicious cheese! After having seen so many cheftestants on Top Chef make foams , I was extremely happy to actually taste a foam. They actually taste good! With a simple flavor like pine, which is redolent of foraging, it added a great herbal note to this dish and brought out the grassiness in the cheese. It was creamy and delicious.
A perfect ending to a perfect meal with a flawless pairing. This was truly a special desert. The cake was moist and lovely, the wafers were crispy. But a few things made this really extraordinary. The burnt oak ice cream, which is similar to a smoky bacon ice cream, added depth of flavor and a temperature contrast. And the bourbon spheres literally exploded with liquor when you bit through them. The pairing was something from the heavens – the great Tokaji wines from Hungary are always a good call with deserts. But Jane, in her expert ways, put a little bourbon in the glass. The extra depth of flavor that resulted was simply superlative.
An experience that is perhaps one of the most memorable for me since I became seriously interested in the culinary arts. An experience that I will always remember for having influenced my knowledge of what food is and what food can be. An experience that, no matter what, told the incredible story and journey of two people, a time, a place, and people. An experience that I strongly believe will forever change the culinary landscape and perception of Nashville.
The Catbird Seat is more than just a restaurant – it’s a place where chefs are pushing the limits and challenging diners, while practicing humility and a profound respect for nature and the incredibly hard working people who supply them with the freshest of ingredients. It is a place where everyone can recognize the basic composition of a dish, and be blown away by the new way in which they experience an old memory.
In fact, I bet you in a few years, The Catbird Seat will be one of the most sought after culinary destinations in the United States – right in our very back yard. So save up some money, and head over there. Because when it’s over, you too will be left saying one word – “Wow!”
Stretching food you have bought that will normally feed 4 to a dish that will feed 6 or more? That’s a cool idea. It takes a little bit of work and some time, but it’s possible! This month, Charcutepalooza-er’s have been making chicken galantines (my post on that is up next week!), where one takes a chicken (one chicken) and feeds six people. How is it possible? It’s not that everyone gets a miniscule piece of meat. By applying some basic charcuterie technique, one can use the skin as a casing, the bones in a stock, grind up the dark meat into a pate, sear the breast and encase it within said pate, then roll up in the skin, and then poach in the stock. You basically have a roulade that can now feed more people than if you just served say, a roasted chicken.
I decided to make both a confit and a rillette. A confit is simply any meat cooked in fat – the fat could be butter, oil, lard, suet, etc. A rillette is a “spread”, where the cooked meat is shredded and blended with fat before being put in a container and covered with fat to preserve it. The cool thing about fat is that it brings major flavor to the party. In addition, it keeps oxygen out, so the meat can stay for a long time without spoilage.
I was over at the market last week and talking to my friend, Weldon. I asked him if he had any hog jowl, and he said he had some huge ones (like 4 lbs worth!) I took ’em and went immediately to the kitchen. At first, I was just going to make a dish with pork cheeks before I realized how awesome this would be as a rillette. You see, when I went up to Philadelphia last year, I saw a dish on a menu – “Milk Braised Pork Cheeks | Polenta | Fried Egg”. I was sold on recreating this dish – but it will have to wait for another day. We got charcuterie to make, people!
Since pork cheeks have a lot of fat, I slow roasted it in the oven at like 275 degrees for almost 11 hours. It just sat in the oven for most the day – once enough fat rendered, I added some garlic and rosemary to the pan to flavor the pork even more. The skin became incredibly crisp – like cracklins. I shredded the meat off.
I took a bit.
It was heavenly. Moist, juicy, flavorful, tender. My dad and I kind of had a picking party for a few minutes.
I strained the fat until it was clear – and even used it to make this pork fat roasted chicken! I also made some of my morning eggs in pork fat. Delicious.
Making the rillette then, was pretty simple. Into the stand mixer it went. I added a little bit of fat until the meat pulled apart into shreds. I then put it in a couple of mason jars and sealed it with fat before sticking it in the fridge. Voila. It was that easy. Just sitting around watching football all day, while it cooked, was pretty nice.
All rillettes, confit, and most charcuterie projects scream for some acidity and freshness to balance the richness and fattiness of the meat. I actually served this at a Nashville Food Blogger’s potluck, which was at my house! And, we pull out all the stops for our fellow foodies. In fact, Lannae had a great recap, here.
I made a little mustard (with dijon and spicy brown mustard), a parsley salad with lemon zest and red onion, and gherkins! Pickled anything with charcuterie is a win. And bread. Great, amazing, crusty bread.
It was a dish I really enjoyed eating. I even used it in a pasta (which is probably not completely traditional – but i warmed up the rillette, added some peas and ricotta cheese, tossed in some shells, and showered it in lemon zest and chiles. It was pretty awesome.
At the end of the day, we took a jowl that could feed almost 4-6 people, and ended up serving almost 20+ at the potluck. But to be honest about this stretching thing, I finished an entire mason jar by myself over the course of a few days….
Enjoy your weekend, everyone!
So, it’s Friday morning. You might be a little groggy because you were up late watching Jersey Shore. You MIGHT have just thrown back that a quadruple shot, sugar free, extra whipped cream (seriously, I’ve seen someone order that) coffee. You want this day to end quickly, right?
So you can get to the weekend? The glorious weekend – great weather, a little football, and sleeping in? Sounds good, huh?
If you’re looking to have a real good time this weekend, I’d suggest you join me at the 2nd Annual Music City Chili Cookoff on Saturday!
If the words “CHILI COOKOFF” didn’t get you excited…Here’s some plainly laid out reasons:
1. You get to taste a ton of chili made by some of Middle Tennessee’s finest! Not to mention, food blogger extraordinaire and all around awesome person, Erin, will be competing as well! You get to enjoy my chili, Erin’s chili, and we’ll probably take a picture of you eating said chili (because…that’s how food bloggers roll). Isn’t that worth the $5 admission price already?
3. While you’re enjoying some chili, there’s also going to be wings, hot dogs, and Maggie Moo’s Mobile Slab (ice cream, yay!) And if you have kids, there’s a fun house!
4. A portion of proceeds go to charity – The Tennessee Literary Coalition and Community Shares. Check them out here.
5. There’s going to be live music!
You’re ready to come? Ok, great!
Here’s the event information:
WHERE: Event Pavillion at Centennial Park
WHEN: Saturday, October 15 @ 11 am – 4 pm
TICKETS: $5 general admission, $15 beer garden (6 8 oz beers, 2 shots moonshine), Kids under 6 are free!
See you there!
Going out to dinner is one of my favorite things to do. Experiencing new foods, discovering foodie trends, and meeting new chefs never fails to get me excited. But sometimes, it takes me a while to get around to all the new places – I mean, we have 8 or 9 restaurants slated to open in Nashville by the end of the year!
Lucky for us, The Phoenix Club of Nashville is putting together the 10th Annual Taste of Nashville – an event where one can taste food and drink from some of our most beloved restaurants and bars! Try everything you love and all the new places you want to all in one night! Some amazing restaurants are providing food – like some of my favorites: Whiskey Kitchen, Fido, Merchant’s, Paradise Park, Melrose Neighborhood Pub, The Patterson House (score!) and Arnold’s Country Kitchen! And I’m really excited to try out places I haven’t been too such as 1808 Grille, Miel, and Whitfield’s!
And while it will be an amazing night of food, drinks, and live music, what I love most about this event is that it’s for a good cause. 100% of proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee. Last year they raised over $16,000 – they are making a difference, and I’m all for that.
WHAT: The Phoenix Club of Nashville’s Taste of Nashville
WHEN: Friday, November 18 at 7:00 pm – Saturday, November 19 at 1:00 am
WHERE: Cannery Ballroom, 1 Cannery Row
TICKETS: $50 in advance, $60 at the door, $75 VIP and can be purchased here.
CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
The kind folks at The Phoenix Club of Nashville have offered two free tickets to one of my readers! This is an excellent opportunity for whoever lives in Nashville (or wants to travel to Nashville!) and wishes to attend one of the best foodie events of the year! Here is what you have to do to enter:
1. Leave a comment on my blog telling me what’s your favorite restaurant/dish in Nashville!
2. Follow @viveksurti on twitter and tweet the following: “I just entered to win 2 free tickets to @TasteofNash benefitting @BGCMTnashville from @VivekSurti. Enter here: http://wp.me/pXbmX-m9”
3. Like Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures on Facebook.
4. RSVP to The Taste of Nashville Facebook event, here, and invite your friends!
5. Follow @tasteofnash on Twitter for up to date information on the event.
I’ll randomly pick a winner on Monday, October 17 at 9 am and will inform the winner through email! Best of luck to all and I hope to see you there!
Earlier this summer, I got a TON of fresh eggs. We always get really great farm fresh eggs throughout the year, but during two weeks of summer, we somehow ended up with 8 dozen eggs. Yes, 8 dozen eggs. We got some from Weldon and Ariana, but also from two of my mom’s co workers, who happen to raise chickens on their farm.
Besides having omelets everyday, we made such dishes as fried eggs with celery pesto, huevos rancheros, and spaghetti carbonara. We made deserts, too. But I think I must have made at least 2 dozen deviled eggs. They were great to take to backyard BBQ’s, cocktail parties, or put on a salad for lunch.
I gave out a bunch to my farmer’s market friends one day and they loved them. I made some with smoked salmon, as documented here, and even made a B.L.T. deviled egg, which had smoked bacon and diced tomatoes mixed up with the filling and a small lettuce heart sitting on top!
Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs (makes 12)
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti, originally published in The Double Standard)
6 large eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
4 oz smoked salmon, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Paprika, for sprinkling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by about an inch. Bring water to a boil and then cover the pot, shut off the heat, and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the eggs and run cold water over them until they are cool to the touch. Crack the shells and peel so you have 6 whole hard boiled eggs. Cut the eggs in half and scoop out the yolks carefully
Put the yolks in a bowl and mash them with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, smoked salmon, green onions, capers, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Combine everything and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Either pipe or spoon the egg yolk mixture back into the egg white halves. Garnish with some paprika and some extra sliced green onions or fresh herbs.