Tag Archives: Beets

Husk…. Sean Brock’s Southern Food

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Bon Appetit hailed it as the Best New Restaurant in the US…. accolades have been streaming ever since. It is not all hype, the food is amazing, creative and interesting. Husk is the love child of James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group. Since opening Husk in Charleston he opened another outpost of Southern ingredients in Nashville. He recently opened Minero, a taqueria in the high rent district of downtown Charleston. There is word that he is also taking that concept to Atlanta where the Neighborhood Dining Group is headquartered. He transforms the essence of Southern food over and over again. Solid… delicious… promising. Sean is dedicated to bringing back old Southern grains, beans, greens and other treasures that were all but lost. He is the champion of the old non-gmo crops that were grown 200 years ago in the south. His food reflects that without being obvious. It is just delicious food, and then you learn its history and all of the work that went into bringing it to the table.

Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.

Starting with a larder of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment. The entrance beckons with a rustic wall of firewood to fuel the wood-fired oven and a large chalkboard listing artisanal products currently provisioning the kitchen, but like the décor that inhabits the historic building, the food is modern in style and interpretation.

At Husk there are some rules about what can go on the plate. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Brock, who has even stricken olive oil from the kitchen. As he explains, the resulting cuisine “is not about rediscovering Southern cooking, but exploring the reality of Southern food.” This modern approach results in playful dishes such as Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe, and new classics like South Carolina Shrimp and Choppee Okra Stew with Carolina Gold Rice and Flowering Basil.

Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, and in-house pickling and charcuterie efforts by the culinary team are the basis of the cuisine at Husk. The restaurant is as casual as it is chic, evoking a way of life centered on seasonality and the grand traditions of Charleston life—one lived at a slower pace, preferably with a cocktail and a wide porch in the late afternoon. It is a neighborhood gathering place for friends, and a destination dining spot for travelers, with a little bite of the South for everyone’s palates.

These photos are from my lunch there with Nathalie Dupree and Holly Herrick, two Charleston based friends of mine than rank in the upper echelons of Food Writers.  And so we were treated to many things that we did not order. On of the most amazing things that day was totally unexpected, the fried chicken skin with honey and hot sauce. It is a dish I have reconstructed at home a few times. I also reconstructed Husk’s Sweet Tea Brined Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings and you can get the recipe here.

Grilled Baby Bok Choy

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So simple and so delicious! Grilled Baby Bok Choy… 

Bok Choy ready for the grill

Baby bok choy is one of many Asian greens available here year round. In our farmer’s market a bouquet sized bunch of it is just $1. If you live on the mainland, you may have to wait for Spring to get fresh local bok choy, but it does grow everywhere in temperate months. It is also very easy to grow in the garden.
  After you have soaked the bok choy in water and drained it, all you do is cut each baby bok choy in half and trim the thin upper leaves a little. Then drizzle with a simple lemon vinaigrette (1/4 cup of lemon juice, ½ cup of olive oil, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of agave syrup) and allow the bok choy to rest in the marinade. I also had some golden beets that I had roasted and I sliced them thickly and placed them in the marinade too.
 
Heat a grill on high and once it is good and hot, turn down to medium. Place the baby bok choy on the grill, being careful of flare ups because of the marinade. I keep a water bottle handy. It only takes about 2-3 minutes on each side, just till you see some grill marks, you want the greens with just a little crunch. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to taste.
 
You can also use a more Asian marinade instead, but I like the freshness lemon adds to the dish. You could also use other baby Asian greens such as baby Tat Soy.

Dinner is served

Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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Empanadas de Betabel 

I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart.  Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets  I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.

For the filling:

 1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)

1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons garlic finely minced

Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)

¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)

1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)

12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)

For the masa:

3 cups masa harina

2 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon of salt

A pinch of chili powder

METHOD FOR THE FILLING:

Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more.  Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.

Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.

METHOD FOR THE MASA:

Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat

Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.

To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.


Alternative;  have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.