Stepping Away and Saying Goodbye

by Anne Maxfield on July 28, 2014

Accidental Locavore L'Ami Louis InteriorWhat happens when a chef steps away from the stove? In the case of a couple of the Accidental Locaovore’s old favorite restaurants, it may be time to say adieu. Long ago, it was the death of chef Antoine Magnin  of L’Ami Louis in Paris that took it from being where I would, without doubt, choose my last meal from, to just being an extraordinarily expensive roast chicken (and where I have had my last meal from).

Recently, it happened with one of our favorite restaurants in Maine, Cafe Miranda. About a year ago, Kerry decided to stop cooking on a nightly basis to focus on other projects. While we’ve had meals there in the past with someone else manning the line, this was the first time we were unknown to the staff.

Accidental Locavore View From the BarThe bar at Miranda has always been the best place to sit, eat and watch the mad dash between the chefs and the wood-burning oven. Watching Kerry in action we all picked up lots of ideas, tips and skills, from hitting an ear of corn with a blow torch (corn brûlée – tastes like popcorn!) to using tongs as an extension of your hand. In the midst of this, he’d be shouting orders to sous and staff and everything hummed on in a skillful example of controlled chaos. If he didn’t feel you were paying enough attention he would resort to shenanigans, like shooting a stream of oil into the fire, until you were once again focused on the show in front of you. And the food was nervy, inventive, fun and delicious!

This night, there was chaos, but of the messy and sloppy sort. Once we were seated, there was a long wait, and then a request, which finally brought menus and water. Bread was withheld “until you order.”  There was no show, just a couple of extremely harried cooks, trying to put ingredients on plates. At one point we counted eleven dishes pulled from the flames, stacked, sitting and waiting to be finished.

My appetizer of pork belly and kimchi was lukewarm despite the fact that the pork belly was almost singed beyond recognition. This would prove to be the mantra of the evening, with almost everything from my husband’s pork chop to my Dan Dan noodles being overcooked and swimming in oil. Kerry always boasted about the “fat delivery system” in some of the dishes, but under his hand, you wanted all the fat and then some!

Accidental Locavore Cafe Miranda ExteriorThe unfortunate thing about restaurants is that no matter how stellar the past, one mediocre meal often means you don’t go back. Especially in this case, when it’s a once or twice a year event and you know the chef isn’t cooking anymore. Sorry Kerry, but we missed you and we’ll miss Miranda.

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Cooking for Show: The Easiest Fruit Tarts

by Anne Maxfield on July 24, 2014

Accidental Locavore Peach and Apricot TartsMen…! Close to the last minute, the Accidental Locavore’s husband said we were expected to bring dessert for thirty-six to a Saturday party. I can generally whip up respectable desserts for dinner guests, but in no way do desserts count as one of my strengths as a cook. So, what to make? Cookies – too ordinary. Peach cobbler? Good, but it had to travel and wouldn’t be warm when we got there, losing some, if not most, of its appeal.

Accidental Locavore Tart AssemblyBon Appetite had a recipe for a plum tart made with puff pastry that looked easy enough to do at the last minute (without crashing and burning), and there were three packages of puff pastry in the freezer from an earlier consulting gig – two regular and one chocolate. The chocolate one would get either raspberries or cherries and the others would get peaches and apricots. Here’s the basic recipe, which makes 8 tarts:

  • 1 14 oz. package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 pound fruit
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°. Peel the fruit and slice into 1/2″ slices. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the puff pastry into 4″ squares and prick all over with a fork. Place the fruit on the pastry and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Cherry TartsMy verdict: Definitely keeping puff pastry on hand. This was super easy and the hit of the party! I made three different combinations. Chocolate puff pastry with cherries, pitted and sliced in half with regular sugar. Regular puff pastry with peaches or apricots and light brown sugar. I peeled the apricots and peaches (cut a shallow x in the bottom of them and drop in a pot of simmering water for 30 seconds for easy peeling), but you probably don’t need to. My favorite (and Frank’s) was the apricot and we thought it was better looking than the cherry. I thought of making some caramel and chocolate sauce and drizzling it on top, but the summer fruit was great and didn’t need it (keep it simple, stupid). What combination would you come up with?

 

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Accidenta Locavore Milan MarketIn the Accidental Locavore’s mind, there is almost no such thing as a bad farmers’ market. Interestingly, size generally has nothing to do with the quality of the offerings. Such is the case with a small, but well-stocked market that started last summer in Milan (pronounced my-lan) NY. There usually aren’t more than ten tables, but there’s enough variety to put an entire meal together, including dessert. Something I found awfully appealing, was that at this market, all the farmers know each other, recommend each other’s products, and try not to have competing merchandise.

Accidental Locavore JacuterieI stopped by last week and found the first and only box of cherry tomatoes-so sweet that barely a dozen ended up at home. This farmer was carefully putting out some of the prettiest lettuce to go along with the usual summer squashes etc.

Next to him, was a new-to-me, charcuterie maker-Jacüterie. I was a little hungry after playing golf, so the offer to taste salamis etc was eagerly accepted. There were at least six different sausages, ranging from a couple of French saucisson, to an Italian soppressata and salami, a Swiss cervelat and a Spanish chorizo. Each was delicious and very different tasting. I only say this, because last year I got my husband a salami-of-the month-club from Olympic Provisions. According to foodies, Olympic is supposed to have great stuff, but we both found that they all tasted pretty much the same, and weren’t very exciting (if you don’t believe me, come over, there are still pieces of most of them in the fridge).

Accidental Locavore Olympic ProvisionsI restrained myself from buying more than I thought we could munch through in a weekend. My favorites were the chorizio and the Provençal saucisson, so that’s what came home with me. Unlike the aforementioned tomatoes, the sausages made it home untouched, but not for long!

Accidental Locavore ProvencalThe chorizo had a nice, but not overwhelming, kick to it. I particularly liked its texture, a little chunky and crumbly-not as tightly packed as a lot of aged sausages. The saucisson Provençal, was firmer and along with the good garlicky saucisson taste, had enough herbs de Provence, to flavor, but not overwhelm it.

This week who knows*?

 

*Actually it was another stick of the chorizo and a nice garlicky fuet.

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In-N-Out on the East Coast? DIY Animal Burgers

by Anne Maxfield on July 17, 2014

Accidental Locavore Animal Burgers Sorry, no East coast In-N-Outs coming soon, but the Accidental Locavore’s husband Frank found this recipe for the notorious Animal burger. All he had to do was mention it before we were all clamoring for him to start cooking. It’s pretty easy, (don’t let the list of ingredients scare you, you probably have most of them already) you just need time to make the caramelized onions, which can be done ahead. Feeds 4.

 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck (preferably 60 percent lean)
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  • 1/4 cup sliced dill pickles
  • 3/4 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 4 to 8 thin slices tomato
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 8 slices American cheese

Accidental Locavore Carmelized OnionsHeat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and salt, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft, about 30 minutes. (If the onions brown too quickly, reduce the heat to low.) Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring often, until caramelized, about 8 more minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer, stirring, until the water evaporates, about 2 more minutes; transfer to a bowl and set aside. (The onions can be made up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate, then reheat before using.)

Accidental Locavore Secret SauceMake the sauce: Mix the mayonnaise, ketchup, relish and vinegar in a bowl; set aside.

Shape the beef into 8 patties, about 4”wide and ½” thick and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with vegetable oil. Toast the buns on the griddle, split-side down. Spread each toasted bun bottom with about 1 tablespoon of the sauce, then top with a few pickles, the shredded lettuce, 1 or 2 slices of tomato and another dollop of the sauce; set aside. (Keep the griddle hot.)

Accidental Locavore BurgersWorking in batches if necessary, put the patties on the griddle and cook 3 minutes. Spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of mustard on the uncooked side of each patty, then flip and top each with 1 slice cheese; continue cooking about 2 more minutes for medium.

To serve: Top 4 of the patties with caramelized onions, then cover with the remaining patties, cheese-side up. Sandwich the double patties on the buns. Serve and enjoy!

My (our) verdict: While not quite authentic, this made a tasty burger! The sauce is basically Russian dressing with the addition of a tiny amount of vinegar and, like the onions, could be made ahead. We’ll probably make a big batch next time so we have them on hand. The onions were a little salty, so salt them as you’re cooking them, but taste them and add more if you need it. We used really good local grass-fed beef which was much leaner than called for, it tasted great, but regular store-bought burger would probably make a more authentic “animal”.

 

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