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A Chef With the Heart of a Servant at Swig & Swine

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AnthonyLast week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a remarkable man, Chef Anthony DiBernardo of the relatively new smoked meat (A.K.A. BBQ)  restaurant … Swig and Swine. His restaurant is new to the Low Country, but he is not. He has been cooking all over the Charleston area for many years. I was so impressed when I heard his story that I just had to meet him and do a profile to share it with y’all. If you are a frequent follower of this blog, you know I do not do restaurant reviews any more, that was relegated to my Chicago days. But I have been writing about food, where it comes from and who is cooking it for the last 14 years, sometimes in publications, sometimes on my blogs and Facebook. Here is the story of a Chef who has the heart of a servant. 

Click on any of these pics for a close up…

In the Beginning:

Anthony comes from rural southern New Jersey, technically in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Born to a Scotch Irish mother and Italian father he was the youngest of four children, the other three sisters, who were 16, 14 and 7 when he came into this world. His maternal grandmother died when she was young, so Anthony’s Italian grandmother taught his mother to cook. All she knew was Italian food. There were many big family gatherings full of wonderful food.

At the age of 14, Tony started a dish washing job at a local country club owned by Ron Jaworski. He took to the back of the house like a fish to water, quickly climbing to the hot line. By the time he was a Junior in high school he was working on the line at the Tellford Inn. That is the time he decided to enter the US Navy because his parents were about to retire and he did not want them to have to put him through college. He signed on with a delayed enlistment the summer of his Junior year. As soon as he graduated from High School in 1990 he was off to San Diego for 60 days of cooking school. He went to Submarine School in Connecticut and his first deployment was to Charleston where he stood stunned to find he was to submarine Batfish “687,” the same number as his parents’ address and his grandfather’s winning lottery number. It was no accident. He teared up telling me the story.

Cooking Underwater:
Imagine being one of three chefs cooking day in and out for 130 people on a nuclear submarine, never knowing exactly where you will be going or how long you will be there. They would put fresh provisions inside the torpedo tubes and switch the refrigerators to freezers for long hauls. They did all baking in the galley because that much bread would take up valuable storage space. He kept busy taking video courses, including one on Poetry by Maya Angelou.

A Charleston Chef is Born:
In May of 1994, Anthony climbed out of the submarine and started cooking all over Charleston. Starting at Blossom, then venturing on to the old resort at Kiawah where he was executive chef for four years. He assisted in opening the new hotel and all of their kitchens. It was a tough time, working long hotel hours, weekends, holidays and special events. In 2001, his son was born and he knew that he had to make a lifestyle change. He took some time off and at a church retreat he met Sal Parco, the owner of the Dine with Sal Restaurant Group. Anthony took the helm of the culinary team and opened The Long Point Grill, Uno Mas and Mustard Seed. After seven years, he moved on to Kickn’ Chicken Restaurant Group’s Rita’s on Folly Island. It was sold to Hall’s Hospitality Group in July of 2013 and that is when Anthony started to think about what he was going to do.

Dreaming:
He took 30 days to develop a game plan and drove around West Ashley scoping out locations. He fell in love with the old OK Tire Store and its retro look. It was next door to The Glass Onion, a popular spot for dining. He got the keys and walked the old store using graph paper to design his kitchen, dining room, smoker areas and bar. Suddenly there was a call from Steve Kish, chef and co-owner of 82 Queen, along with Johnathan and Patrick Kish, they wanted to talk to Anthony about opening a restaurant on the peninsula. He sold them another idea. A deal was struck and they became 50/50 partners in the new concept, Swig and Swine. It took every penny Anthony had and some of his family members’ funds to come up with his half of the opening investment.

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The Dream Comes to Life:
Permits were applied for in October 2013. The process was a long one and they did not all come through until March 2014. So what does a hard working chef do for five months while waiting for those permits? He builds the tables, the bars, the benches and the work spaces of the restaurant. He designed the smokers with the guys at Gorilla Fabrication. After the fancier one in front of the store, they tweaked the second one, adding more insulation to the smoke box. Each one is running several nights a week, fired by oak and hickory and finished off with pecan. At midnight at least three nights a week, Anthony starts the fires in both smokers. He has an assistant tending the smokers when he is not there. He spends all night minding the smokers, adjusting the flues and taking short cat naps on the wooden benches in the dining room. He works around the restaurant and leaves about 4 pm when he can spend some time with his wife, 12 year old son and 8 year old daughter, sometimes returning back to the smokers again at midnight.

Brisket

The Food:
DiBernadino emphasizes that his place is a smoked meat restaurant, not just another BBQ joint. He broke from tradition by approaching the restaurant from a Chef’s perspective. Nothing is pre-processed. Everything depends on the food in those smokers every night. One bad move and they lose business for an entire day. 40 pound batches of meat are smoked and cooked 3 to 4 times in a 24 hour shift. When he is not spending the night next to the wood boxes, he keeps an eye on the smokers using remote cameras.

Brisket, chicken, turkey, pork belly, wings, ribs, house-made sausage and pork butt all have their place on the smokers. Freshly prepared smoked meats are placed in the case in the dining room just before lunch service and more continue smoking through the day so that the dinner service has fresh smoked meat. The wings and ribs have a dry rub with spices, everything else just gets old fashioned salt and pepper. Leftovers are usually made into a special sandwich. I had one with leftover ribs from the day before… incredible. It was on jalapeno corn bread loaf with BBQ onions and house made pimento cheese.

The sauces are all made in house, as are the sides which vary from day to day. The day I was there there was a fantastic dish with brussels sprouts, smoked mushrooms and béchamel sauce. The usual suspects are mac & cheese, collard greens (very well done), hash and rice, beans with brisket, baked potato salad, coleslaw, Brunswick stew and pickled vegetables. There are also house-made cucumber pickles on every plate with a slice of white bread and slices of onion.

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Drink Up! The bar :
There are 52 Bourbons including 2 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle that reside under lock and key at night. He has recently started smoking bourbon, to make some of the best Manhattans on the planet. A terrific list of craft beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. Wines are also available. And of course there is plenty of sweet tea.

 

Anthony and Pappy

A Servant’s Heart:
Anthony confessed to me that it is all about giving his heart, talent and compassion to those who sit at his tables. He would not have it any other way. He also gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. He cooks and donates food to a variety of causes, and at this moment is collecting money to support the Ronald McDonald House’s Red Shoes Campaign. Thanksgiving he is not taking the day off. He is generously serving up a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those who do not have family here in Charleston. We are two of the lucky people that will be a part of that dinner. I will report on that soon.

Red Shoes

The Ultimate Beef Stroganoff From Scratch

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Plated Stroganoff with roasted veggies

As Fall starts bringing us cooler weather, I start thinking of these hearty dishes from my youth (a very long time ago). My mother made Beef Stroganoff with Cream of Mushroom soup, dried reconstituted onions and anything else processed she could get her hands on. It was the age of processed foods, I really don’t blame her. My great grandmother (who was my true inspiration for cooking and gardening) on the other hand was a “scratch cook,” nothing processed and everything full fat and delicious. She was raised on an Indiana farm and spent her first 60 years there. Then they sold the farm and moved to Glendora, California where I spent almost every weekend with her till I was 14. I never saw her use a recipe and Beef Stroganoff was probably her most exotic meal. I added a few of my personal touches to this, she never used smoked paprika and  I don’t think she ever used buffalo or sherry. She made her noodles from scratch and we would roll them out with the same old rolling pin I use today. This is an easy recipe and you can take out some of the fat by using milk where I used cream and if you really want to you can use low fat sour cream or yogurt…. but I suggest that you try it this way first. It is a “splurge meal.”

Ingredients:

  • About 1 pound of beef, you can use sliced sirloin, ground beef or ground buffalo like I did.
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 # of crimini mushrooms (baby bella) sliced. Wild mushrooms would be great in this!
  • 3 shallots or 1 sweet onion diced
  • 1/4 cup glace (reduced beef stock (you can make this or buy it. Make it by reducing down 4 cups of beef stock to 1/4 cup)
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 cups cream or milk (I used cream)
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 of a nutmeg grated (about a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Egg noodles cooked and buttered with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 TBS fresh minced parsley

Method:

  • In a large saute pan or wok add beef and olive oil and start to brown
  • When the meat starts to brown add the onions & mushrooms till slightly golden
  • Clear a hot spot in the pan and add garlic, stir in
  • Add the glace and paprika then put on a very low simmer.

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Make the cream sauce:

  • In a 4 qt sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a whisk
  • Add the cream/milk and heat as it thickens
  • Add the Sherry & Nutmeg and stir again.

cream sauce

 

We are ready for STROGANOFF! Pour the cream sauce into the pan with the beef and mushrooms. Heat till almost bubbling, then add the sour cream and stir till the sauce is all one color. Remove from heat. Serve over the noodles with chopped fresh herbs. Parsley, chervil or thyme all go well with this. I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts and Vidalia onions. This serves 4 we had leftovers for two nights.

Strog stirring in

Bucatini two ways!

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Bucatini

Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. It is a long noodle (#6) and it is hollow. This makes a chewy and delicious pasta dish. The first method is with bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and herbs, topped with cheese and bread crumbs. The second has a sauce of butter roasted tomatoes with anchovies and garlic. Both are super fast and easy. Both have two layers of garlic flavor, utilizing fresh garlic and Vik’s Garlic Fix, one of my favorite products.

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Bucatini with breadcrumbs

Bucatini with Bread Crumbs and Garlic, serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh bread (Italian or sourdough is best for this) crumbs toasted in a pan with 2 TBS butter
10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
1 TBS fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh parsley or 1/4 cup dried parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup parmigiana, grated
1/2 package bucatini pasta, cooked al dente

Method:

garlic and oil

The sauce is made as the pasta cooks. While your pasta is boiling place the olive oil, Vik’s and the red pepper in a frying pan and sear till the garlic is soft and lightly browned.

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When the pasta is done strain and toss with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the cheese and top with bread crumbs and parsley! It is delicious!

Bucatini with breadcrumbs
Next method: Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce, serves 4

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Ingredients:

8 cloves of garlic
1 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (and juice)
6 small anchovies in olive oil
1/4 cup Sweet Onion Sugar
2 Tbs Italian Herb Blend
6 Tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
Salt and Black pepper
1/2 package Bucatini Pasta, cooked al dente

Fresh Italian Parsley or Basil for garnish.
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In an oven proof pan with deep sides, place all ingredients. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After removing from the oven, smash the garlic, tomatoes and anchovies with a fork to achieve a thick chunky sauce. Toss half of the sauce with the bucatini and a ladle of pasta water. Then dish up and put remaining sauce on the pasta. Garnish with the fresh herbs.

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Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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This is so easy and so delicious… completely refreshing.

2 cups fresh (must be fresh) cubed pineapple

2 cups chunked peeled English cucumbers (no seeds)

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 sprigs fresh mint, torn

1 finely chopped jalapeno

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Place all in a blender and pulse till well blended but still a little chunky

Serve  with additional nuts on top or a sprig of mint.

This will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

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Southern Macaroni Pie

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Macaroni Pie

Macaroni…. an ubiquitous word. For hundreds of years in the south it was the word for any pasta, which was basically only spaghetti until mid 20th century.

Pie… yet another all present culinary term in the south. Many “pie” recipes here are savory, not sweet and sometimes served in a variety of casserole dishes. Generally they did start out in a pie dish, but were expanded to larger dishes to feed more people.

The inspiration recipe, from my friend Nathalie Dupree, comes from Social Circle, Georgia. Her mother in law made it and Nathalie figured it out over time. I made a smaller amount, as I was only feeding 2 (plus leftovers) and so I did make mine in a pie plate. If you get Nathalie’s book, Mastering the art of Southern Cooking  you will find the original recipe on page 268, along with the original Charleston version from 200 years of Charleston Cooking. Another friend of mine who lived in Charleston many years makes hers with sour cream. I wanted to make mine with the traditional spaghetti but I was lazy, I only had penne, so that is what I used. I also added freshly grated nutmeg, it was calling out to me. I also choose to bake this in a bain marie, as that is how I usually cook custards.

A little about Pasta in America:

Pasta first came to the U.S. via Thomas Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789, and was introduced to pasta during a trip to Naples. He returned to the U.S. with crates of “maccheroni” and a pasta-making machine (which he proceeded to redesign). In Most sources, including the National Pasta Association, credit a Frenchman with establishing America’s first pasta factory, in Brooklyn in 1848. A flour miller from Lyon, Antoine Zerega, had a horse in his basement to turn the millstone; and like the Neapolitans, he hung his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry. Today, the fifth generation of Zeregas run the leading supplier of pasta to the foodservice industry in North America.

Spaghetti and meatballs had yet to appear. Macaroni had been brought to England earlier by the Genovese sailors, and the British baked it with cheese and cream—in essence, making macaroni and cheese, a preparation also popular in the north of Italy. They also baked pasta in sweet dessert custards, similar to German-Jewish noodle puddings. These recipes crossed the pond and were enjoyed by 19th-century Americans. According to Corby Kummer, upper-class Americans also purchased pasta imported from Sicily, which then, as today, had more cachet than the domestic product. The information in the remainder of this article comes largely from Mr. Kummer’s extensive piece, Pasta: Where It Came From And How It Got There. 

As other pasta factories sprouted up, the cost of pasta became more affordable. By the time of the Civil War (1861 to 1865), even the working classes could afford a pasta dinner. Cookbooks of the period indicate that the common way to prepare pasta was still baked with cheese and cream.

  • In the mid-1880s, according to food historian Karen Hess, cookbooks published as far west as Kansas included recipes for macaroni, some involving a tomato and meat sauce.
  • But pasta did not become the beloved dish it is today: It lost its cachet once the masses could afford it. The fashionable restaurants of New York, which served Continental cuisine, did not serve pasta or any other traditional Italian dish, even though many of these restaurants were run by Italians.

The huge wave of Italian immigration that began toward the end of the 19th century was ultimately responsible for pasta becoming an American staple.

And on on to our Macaroni Pie…

This recipe is for enough to fill a large pie dish. Feeds 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked and drained spaghetti
  • 3 Tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Boil the pasta to al dente

While the pasta boils:

  • Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk
  • Add the mustard, salt, nutmeg, peppers and half the cheese
  • Cut the pasta into 3 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter
  • place half of the pasta into a deep pie dish
  • sprinkle with cheese to cover, then ladle on 1/2 of the custard mixture
  • Add the remaining pasta
  • Ladle on the remaining custard
  • Top with cheese and remaining butter

Bake in a water bath (bain marie) for 30 minutes. check to see if it is browning, if so, loosely top with foil. Reduce heat to 325. Bake 20-30 minutes longer. Insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it is ready. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Ribs Malaysian Style

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Ribs fatty cue

This is one of my favorite ways to make ribs. It is based on the ribs at the Brooklyn Restaurant, Fatty Cue. Fabulous flavors from Asia and succulent meat with a hefty bite and amazing sauce on the side.

Here is what I have learned about really great ribs:

#1 You do NOT want fall off the bone ribs, those are ribs smothered and cooked in a way that loses much of the flavor and all of the bite of a good rib.
#2 When smoking (my favorite way to do ribs) you need to take time, do it slowly and in the end, you must have a smoke ring when you bite into it.
#3 My favorite ribs are those cooked with Malaysian/Asian elements.
#4 Sauce is good, but it is not the key element and I usually do not sauce my ribs, but serve sauce on the side, though these ribs end up being lacquered with a glaze at the end of the cooking process.
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I have a Digitally controlled Bradley Smoker, so I used it, but this can also be done using the indirect method on a grill and with a smoke box in the grill. I did finish my ribs off on the grill, just to get a nice char on the exterior.

Here is the recipe. There is some wiggle room if you want to personalize it, but one thing you cannot remove or change is the element of the Fish Sauce. Three Crabs being the preferred brand. This takes an entire day to do. I added the star anise, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, chiles and increased a few things like the amount of garlic. This makes a lot of brine, I halved the recipe because I was using just one rack of ribs, this formula would work for two racks, maybe even three if you cut them up into sections as I did.

Recipe: Fatty ‘Cue Spare Ribs (slightly altered)

2 cups fish sauce (preferably Three Crabs brand; see note)
10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 whole star anise
4 kaffir lime leaves
1-2 fresh hot chiles cut in half (seeds intact)
2 stalks of lemon grass, bruised and tied in a knot
1/2 cup sugar
2 racks pork spare ribs (I used meaty back ribs)
2 tablespoons toasted and ground Indonesian long pepper, or to taste (see note)
6 ounces palm sugar (see note)
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups fish sauce with the garlic, shallot, lemon grass, kaffir lime, star anise, chile, black pepper and sugar in a large pot. Add at least a gallon of water, then cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, place in a nonreactive container and chill. Place the ribs in the brine for at least 6 hours and no longer than 12.
2. Remove the ribs from the brine and dust lightly with ground Indonesian long pepper.
* Steps 3 & 4 were replaced by me using my digital smoker. I just set it on 220 degrees, put the Jim Beam Whiskey Barrel Wood disks in and let it go. If you do not have a smoker that you can control the heat with , use steps 3 & 4. I did char the ribs on the grill.
3. In a grill with a cover, build a small fire to one side, making sure all the wood or charcoal becomes engulfed in flame. When the flames begin to die down, leaving flickering coals, place the ribs on the grill on the side without fire. Do not let the flames touch the meat at any time.
4. Cover the grill, vent slightly and cook, checking the fire every 30 minutes or so and adding a bit more fuel as necessary, for about 5 hours at around 220 degrees, until the meat recedes from the bone and its internal temperature is at least 170 degrees but no more than 180.
5. Meanwhile, make a glaze. Combine the palm sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small pot over a medium flame, and heat until the sugar melts. Combine that simple syrup with the remaining 1/2 cup fish sauce.
6. When the ribs are ready, glaze lightly and sear on the grill for about 5 mintues, then heavily glaze them again and serve. I served them with grilled corn on the cob, grilled smashed potatoes and parsley carrots. Salad on the side. Asian Slaw would be great with them too.
Serves 4 to 6
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Note: Three Crabs fish sauce, long pepper and palm sugar can be found at most Asian Markets or at Amazon.com or Kalustyans.com.