They say a picture's worth a thousand words. But in the food world, a recipe is the essential reduction, the window on the sole. Anyone interested in flavor learns more from the way a chef actually puts things together than from the edible erotica promoted on the daily specials list.
With so many restaurants opening in northwest Vermont, we asked for a taste to go with the talk. We also extracted ingredients from a number of old eateries that are making changes to their menu. Of course you can try these recipes at home. But it's easier -- and especially in the summer, a lot more fun --to think of them as a bread-crumb trail... to the source.
The Lakeview Inn
Talk about a star-studded cast. The folks behind the food at the newly renovated Lakeview Inn in Greensboro have credits reaching from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom to sunny California. Manager Sarah McNamara graduated from Cornell's hotel management school before she took over front-house operations at a series of high-end San Fran restaurants. Her husband, Kevin, is a Hollywood director whose resume includes assisting on films like The Matrix: Reloaded, The Green Mile and The Perfect Storm. Their new chef, plucked from California's Left Bank Brasserie, has worked under two James Beard award-winners. Steven Obranovich has already cooked up a variety of recipes that incorporate Vermont products --like the herb-crusted rack of lamb with asparagus-fontina bread pudding. Both the meat and the bread are from local sources. And there's another Green Mountain angle: the February purchase of the historic property by a group of local investors was financed in part by a loan from the Vermont Economic Development Authority. Nice combo. The guv will be among the guests at this weekend's grand opening.
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb & Asparagus Fontina Bread Pudding with Spring Thyme Red Wine Sauce
Rack of lamb ingredients:
12-14 oz. rack of lamb, frenched. Ask your butcher to do this.
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs. You can break up any day-old bread, such as a baguette and toast --in 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes until dry. When cool, place in Cuisinart and pulse.
Blend with the following ingredients:
2 Tbs. butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. chopped thyme
3 Tbs. Italian parsley, rough chopped
1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper
Season rack with salt and pepper. Sear it on both sides for two minutes in a saute pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Allow to cool and smear with the Dijon mustard. Carefully press the crumb mixture on the front side of the rack, place in a 400-degree oven and cook for 7 minutes, for rare meat. Remove from the oven. Let it rest a couple of minutes. Cut in half.
Bread pudding ingredients:
1 small to medium bunch of asparagus, blanched in boiling salted water for one minute, then cooled down in cold water with ice, drained. Cut half of the spears into thirds.
1 large loaf of crusty bread, torn into two-inch pieces
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. each of salt and pepper
2 Tbs. garlic, chopped
2 Tbs. shallots or onion, chopped
1/4 cup each of grated fontina and parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. each of parsley and thyme
butter for pan
The pudding can be made in a buttered loaf pan or baking dish. Combine milk, eggs, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs. Place torn bread in a bowl, add some milk mixture and toss well. Continue adding the milk until all of it is absorbed. Layer half the bread mixture into the prepared pan, sprinkle with cheese and cut asparagus. Repeat, ending with the whole asparagus and cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out moist but clean. Remove foil for the last 5-10 minutes to brown a bit.
Spring thyme red wine sauce ingredients:
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 cups mushroom stock
Sprig of thyme
2 Tbs. sugar
1-2 Tbs. butter
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and reduce over high heat until you have about a 1/2 cup. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste and finish by stirring in butter over low heat. If it's too thick, add a little water. If it's too thin, reduce it further.
Place a portion of pudding in the middle of the plate, prop up the 1/2 rack of lamb and sauce the plate.
Finkerman's Riverside Bar-b-q -- Montpelier
Finkerman's Barbecue is quickly dispelling Montpelier's vegetarian image -- to the tune of a ton of meat a week, much of it raised in Vermont. Since its opening two months ago in a former storage shed tucked out of the way along the Winooski River, the family-style restaurant has been feeding between 200 and 450 people a day. A second smoker has been added to meet the demand for Southern-style spare ribs and pork shoulder. Customers choose from a dizzying array of 15 side dishes, ranging from "greens of the day" to stone-ground grits with jalapeño peppers and cheese. It's a change of pace for owners Richard Fink and Lee Duberman, who also own the intimate, out-of-the-way Ariel restaurant in Brookfield. Both barbecue fans, "We wanted to do something we knew would work in Montpelier. . . that would be accessible, both physically and monetarily," says Duberman. It's that, and more, once you find the place.
Jalapeño Cheese Grits
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbs. butter
salt and pepper to taste
Bring milk, water and teaspoon salt to boil. Slowly add grits in a steady stream, stirring well. Turn heat down very low and let simmer slowly for about one half hour. Remove from heat, add cheese and jalapeños. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Eat Good Food --
Vergennes is a small city with a big appetite. That motivates Eat Good Food to do a little bit of everything --tasty dishes to order, specialty groceries, take-out meals and catering. Coming up? Sit-down dinners. Starting Memorial Day weekend, the cafe-emporium will serve until 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. There will likely be three entree and two side-dish choices, says owner Tara Vaughan-Hughes, who expects the ambience to approximate a "nice rustic Italian barbecue." Never mind that "scallop brochette with a lime-jalapeño marinade" sounds more Mexican than Italian. The point is that it's a late-night alfresco eating option. Get it while you can.
Grilled Vegetable Napoleons
4 medium eggplants
6 small zucchini
2 medium Spanish onions
1 32-oz. can Italian whole plum tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 lb. mozzarella, sliced or grated
fine sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Prepare eggplant: Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds. Salt liberally on both sides and place in a colander in the sink to drain for about an hour.
Prepare marinara: Dice 1 Spanish onion and saute in olive oil until almost transluscent. Add wine and tomatoes. Simmer and stir occasionally, pressing on tomatoes with a wooden spoon. When they
break apart fairly easily, remove from heat.
Finish preparing vegetables: Slice zucchini diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces. Put in a large bowl and toss with olive oil until all pieces are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Slice the remaining Spanish onion into 1/2-inch rounds and brush broth sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep the rounds intact.
Rinse the eggplant with water and drain well. Put in a large bowl and toss with olive oil until all pieces are coated.
Grill vegetables lightly over medium flame until tender, but still firm. Use a spatula to turn the onions over so that they remain intact during the grilling. When vegetables are done, put on a baking sheet or platter to cool.
Assemble napoleons: Place 3 eggplant slices overlapping on a baking sheet to resemble a clover. Layer 3 or 4 pieces of zucchini on the eggplant. Spoon marinara sauce over the zucchini. Sprinkle oregano over marinara. Add a layer of mozzarella. Add 1 eggplant slice. Break apart 1 round of onion and arrange it over the eggplant. Add oregano. Spoon over more marinara. Put on last piece of eggplant. Add more marinara and top with mozzarella.
Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make 5 more napoleons. Cook in a 375-degree preheated oven until mozzarella is melted --about 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and red wine.
Mary's at Baldwin Creek -- Bristol
Doug Mack was one of the first Vermont chefs to make the connection between good eating and local agriculture. He was a founder of the Vermont Fresh Network and eight years ago started a weekly dinner showcasing the products of individual neighborhood farms. Occasionally, a farm tour or cooking class is part of the deal. This year's "farmhouse dinner series" runs Wednesday nights from July 7 through August 25, featuring beef, venison, cheese and vegetable producers. And it looks like the farmer-foodie relations have really rubbed off on Mack. He's dramatically expanded the size of the garden at Mary's, where mesclun, bok choy, spinach and heirloom tomatoes now grow in abundance. It's handy to cultivate your own ingredients --maybe handier than phoning up the farm down the road. Mack suggests, "You can walk out and say, 'This is what I'm going to make today.'"
Beet Carpaccio with Vermont Goat Cheese and mint Vinaigrette
12 2-inch beets, trimmed, any color or type (Mack prefers golden)
1 cup crumbled Vermont goat cheese (Mack uses Blue Ledge Farm in Leicester)
2 Tbs. minced shallot
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh mint
1/4 olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Prepare the beets: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place beets on baking sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed to avoid sticking. If using two different colored beets, use two separate pans. Sprinkle beets lightly with water. Cover with foil, and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork --about 40 minutes. Cool on sheet. Peel. Beets can be prepped one day in advance, placed in a plastic bag and chilled.
Assemble dish: Using a cheese slicer or a mandolin, slice beets very thin. On a chilled serving plate, slightly overlap the slices on six plates, dividing equally. Sprinkle with goat cheese, then the shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Whisk vinegar, mint, oil and sugar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over beets. Garnish with chives.
Jackson House Inn - Woodstock
It takes a lot of money to lure a young chef away from a renowned restaurant like Charlie Trotter's in Chicago. Or, in the case of Graham Elliot Bowles, a lot of wild ramps, cattails and fiddleheads. The 27-year-old who runs the restaurant at Woodstock's Jackson House Inn relishes the opportunity to forage for food that makes his culinary creations uber-unique. After only a year there, Bowles was selected by Food & Wine magazine as one of America's 10 best new chefs of 2004 --his is the only Vermont name on the list. "Our approach to food is that it's really an art," says Bowles, who cooks for a 60-seat dining room with his pastry-chef wife. His 10-course tasting menu is a three-and-a-half-hour affair that might include seared La Belle Farm foie gras served with stewed apricots, pistachio ice cream and fleur de sel --as an appetizer. Bowles predicts both Vermont and Maine are poised to become food destinations in the next few years. He says, "A lot of younger chefs are really looking at where the good stuff comes from."
Grilled Cardamom-Scented Lobster with Purple Potatoes, Baby Bok Choy and Ginger-Scallion Vinaigrette
1/2 tsp. cardamom seed, toasted and crushed
4 baby bok choy
12 oz. purple potatoes, peeled
1/2 tsp. ginger, finely chopped
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
1 tsp. black sesame seeds, toasted
1 oz. sesame oil
1/2 oz. tamari sauce
1/2 oz. lime Juice
1 tsp. jalapeno, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 oz. butter
1 oz. cilantro sprouts for garnish
Make the cardamom butter: Mix toasted cardamom seeds into soft butter. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Make the potatoes: Bring salted water to a slow simmer. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from water and keep warm.
Make the vinaigrette: Using a whisk, emulsify sesame oil, lime juice, and tamari. Add scallions, jalapeño and ginger.
Make the baby bok choy: Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise. Place in a pot of salted water and boil for 15-20 seconds. Remove bok choy and place in ice water. Using a hot grill, cook bok choy for 15-20 seconds on both sides or until tender.
Lobster preparation: Remove tails and claws from body. Boil tails for 30 seconds in a gallon of salted water. Remove and place in a bath of ice water. In the same pot of salted water, boil claws for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove claws and place in ice water. After tails and claws are chilled, remove meat from shells. They should appear in a raw-like state. Toss tail and claw meat in cardamom butter and season with salt and pepper. Using a hot grill, cook claws and tail until tender --1 minute on each side for the claws, 1 minute 30 seconds on each side for the tails.
Assembly: Place potatoes in the center of a plate. Toss bok choy with ginger sesame vinaigrette, and place on top of potatoes. Place lobster tail and claw atop potatoes and bok choy. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette on top of lobster and around the plate. Garnish with cilantro sprouts.
Southern Soul -- Burlington
Who knew Burlington was hungry for Southern-style fried catfish with collard greens and candied yams? The folks who dreamed up Southern Soul Chicken and Ribs, for one.
Just as Finkerman's Riverside Barbecue is booming in Montpelier, the lines are getting longer for take-out at Burlington's new and only source of soul food. Aaron Jackson and Dannis Hackney are partners in the business, and Aaron's mom, Serena, is cooking it up. "If you came to my family reunion, this is the type of food that would be sitting on the table," says Aaron. "It's Southern comfort food, made with loving care. That's one of the reasons it tastes so good." The other reason? Good ole pork fat.
4 or 5 bundles of collard greens
4 cups water
hambone or ham hock
De-stem collard greens, cut cross-wise into strips, and soak in cold, salted water overnight. Boil in a pot with four cups of water sprinkled with seasoned salt. After 45 minutes, add a hambone or ham hock. Cook for at least two hours, until meat falls off the bone and the water is absorbed.
American Flatbread -- Burlington
You could never say that converting the old Carbur's space into the next American Flatbread was easy as pie. Co-owner Rob Downey puts it diplomatically: "The project was not inexpensive. There were things we knew and things we should have known." They knew the 55,000-pound clay oven would have to be built on the premises, and shored up underneath with some engineering wizardry. They didn't realize the extent to which decades of heavy restaurant use had eroded the plumbing and electrical infrastructure. Planning the flow of people in a location that doesn't allow for outside bonfires was also a challenge. The simple part? Selling those sizzling suckers when they open the doors at the beginning of next week.
Vermont Grill Sauce
Good on mixed vegetables and chicken. For best results, use a hardwood fire.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbs. fresh
3 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. dried rosemary or 1 Tbs. fresh
1 tsp. good salt, to taste (kosher, sea, sel gris)
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp. hot pepper flakes (optional)
Prepare the sauce:
Put all the above ingredients in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl and whisk until emulsified.
Prepare the foods to be grilled:
Wash, peel and prepare vegetables. Thickly slice sweet onion, eggplant, zucchini and red or yellow bell peppers. Leave mushrooms whole. Broccoli and green beans also work well.
In a large, non-reactive bowl, toss all vegetables or chicken in the sauce. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Grill vegetables over a medium-hot fire until golden brown and slightly tender. Grill chicken just until the pink has been cooked out. The meat should still be moist.
•If your fire flares up or is too hot, spritz with water. Repeat as necessary.
•Tongs are the best tool for turning food on the grill. Turn or flip chicken frequently.
•If vegetables fall through the grill grates, try using a perforated grilling pan. They are sold at kitchen-supply stores.
•Stay by the grill when there is food on it. Grills cook hot and can go from just right to burned in seconds.
Kahiki Moon --
It's not that the food at Burlington's first tiki lounge is going to be secondary to the fancy drinks. But co-owner and eBay enthusiast James Kathary is clearly more interested in the aesthetics of the place than the edibles. "Polynesian is just like Chinese and Japanese with pineapple thrown in," he suggests -- "a lot of fish... I have a strong feeling the bar is going to carry the place." No doubt. When Kahiki Moon opens at the beginning of June, there'll be lots of mai tais and martinis --classic and original. The seating sounds creative, too. "You'll be going into your own tiki hut," says Thackary, who has an elaborate prototype for the bar in his basement. "We truly mean for it to be an escape. That will be very important in Burlington in the winter." So too will heating the old Hector's space up to something warmer than it was, he acknowledges. Nothing like goosebumps to destroy the swanky fantasy of Blue Hawaii in Vermont.
Trader Vic's Original Mai Tai Serves 1
2 oz. 17-year-old Jamaican rum
1/2 oz. orgeat, a.k.a. almond syrup
1/2 oz. orange curaçao
1/4 oz. rock-candy syrup or simple syrup
juice of 1 fresh lime
lime slice for garnish
sprig of mint for garnish
Shake ingredients and pour into an ice-packed glass. Garnish with lime and a sprig of mint. Little umbrella optional.
1 oz. blue curaçao
3 oz. crushed ice
1 oz. orange juice
5 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. dark rum
1/2 light rum
Pour crushed ice into blender. Add curaçao, rum, pineapple juice and orange juice. Blend until smooth. Pour into beer goblet. Garnish with an orange slice, pineapple chunk and cherry on a toothpick.
158 Main --
It's no wonder everyone refers to Jeffersonville's new eatery as 158 Main. Its full name -- 158 Main Restaurant and Bakery at Windridge Farms -- is a mouthful. So are the plates-full of traditional and fancy food being served there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "Our menu is geared to four markets," says Chris Parker, who owns the eatery with J-ville brothers Jack and Greg Foley. Shrewdly, they want everyone -- native Vermonters, transplanted locals, tourists and Chittenden County types --to feel at home. That means you can get a super-sized serving of chipped beef and gravy on toast with two eggs and home-fries for $5.58. The classier sesame-seared yellow fin tuna is $14.58. Yup, the "58" thing is part of the theme. Parker is also pushing the baked goods, which are being turned out by a 20-year-old NECI grad. He's using an old Middleby Marshall oven to make the bread. Thanks to him, 158 also has a strong "pastry presence," as Parker puts it. It's good to know the world still has a few Atkins-free zones.
Makes 4 gallons
Lobster stock ingredients:
6 claw-less "pistol" lobsters
2 carrots, chunked
2 stalks of celery, chunked
1 onion, chunked
1 cup tomato paste
2 gallons water
Remove the tails of the lobsters and reserve. Put the bodies, along with chopped vegetables, in a roasting pan. Brush with tomato paste and roast at 375 degrees for one hour. In a stock pot, combine the roasted bodies and vegetables with two gallons of water. Bring to a boil, simmer and reduce by half. Strain stock and reserve.
1 lb. each onions, carrots and celery
5 lb. can chopped clams with juice
3 lbs. medium-diced Russet potatoes, skins on
3 quarts half & half
1 lb. 71- to 90-count peeled shrimp
fresh thyme, salt and pepper, to taste
Medium-dice the onions, carrots and celery and sweat in a stock pot. Add the chopped clams with juice, potatoes, 1/2 gallon of the lobster stock and half & half. Poach the reserved lobster tails in chowder. Remove the meat, dice and return to the soup. Season to taste with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Add shrimp just before serving.
Shoreham Inn -- Shoreham
Molly and Dominic Francis took over the 200-year-old Shoreham Inn in December and promptly transformed it into a proper --read: casual -- British-style pub. Dominic, who is English, has been busy in the kitchen since St. Patty's Day. "You can come for a drink and a nibble or you can have a whole meal," says Molly. "There aren't hostesses with seating charts." The relaxed atmosphere -- and pork chops --apparently appeal to the neighbors. "We've had people from Middlebury and Cornwall, but it's amazing how many people are purely local," says Molly. Better have a look-see before the inn crowd discovers it, too.
Stuffed Chicken Legs
4 chicken legs, bones removed
1 egg, whisked
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3.5 oz. grated parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
75 ml. milk
4 slices mortadella, cut into strips
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 slices prosciutto
2 tsp. chopped parsley
3 slices Italian bread
Dice the bread and mix with the garlic, parsley, nutmeg, egg and milk. Mix well using your hands.
Lay out the chicken legs on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper. Place a handful of the stuffing mixture along the length of each leg and top with a slice of the mortadella. Divide the grated cheese amongst the four legs.
Roll each leg by folding one side over the filling to the other side, ensuring that it is tightly rolled. Leave it with the joint side down and place a slice of prosciutto along the top. Then tie with string to hold it in the roll.
Place on an oiled baking tray and bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.
Cafe Provence --
You've gotta hand it to New England Culinary Institute. Its graduates are stirring up the restaurant scene in Vermont. When a new place opens, there's almost always a NECI connection. In the case of Cafe Provence, it's a vital one. After 16 years as the institute's campus executive chef, Chef Robert Barral is striking out on his own with a new restaurant in Brandon. The developers of the building approached him with the idea, and the French chef -- and his wife --slowly warmed to it. Featuring provençal cuisine, the eatery will seat 75 inside and 40 more en plein air. "My life is going to change drastically from being more of an executive, not so much hands-on, to being there day in and day out," Barral predicts. Thankfully, he's recruited a couple of young NECI chefs to make the break with him. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Spinach Ravioli with Ratatouille of Vegetable & Vermont Goat Cheese with Tomato Herb Saffron Vegetable Broth
Pasta dough ingredients:
1 lb. flour
2 oz. olive oil
3 handsful of spinach
1/3 cup water
Place the flour, eggs and olive oil in the food processor. In the meantime, blanch the spinach in boiling water and, once it is cooked, chock in an ice bath. Drain and add to the mix. Puree everything together until the dough takes shape and detaches from the bowl. Remove from the food processor and keep kneading until it dries out and becomes tighter but soft. Place in the cooler and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 pinch rosemary
1 pinch thyme
Dice all listed vegetables and saute them one after the other in a pan with olive oil. Then drain the oil and combine all the veggies in a pot. Add a teaspoon of tomato paste, fine herbs from Provence or chopped thyme and rosemary, chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and cook slowly for the next 30 minutes with a cover on. (The mixture can also be baked in the oven until soft).
Goat cheese mix ingredients:
1 cup Vermont goat cheese
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped thyme
Place the goat cheese in a bowl and incorporate the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Make and assemble the raviolis: Once the ratatouille is cooked and chilled, fold the goat cheese into it and refrigerate. Remove the spinach pasta dough from the cooler and laminate through a pasta machine until the dough is very thin. Place the dough on the table and with a ring, mark the space where the raviolis will be. First egg wash the entire sheet of pasta dough, then place a teaspoon of ratatouille with goat cheese mix in the center of each ring. Cover with one more layer of pasta dough and press gently in between each ravioli. Then with the knife, cut and separate each ravioli and place on a tray dusted with flour or corn meal. Refrigerate until service time.
Vegetable broth ingredients:
1 qt. vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped tarragon
1 pinch saffron
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetable broth:
Place the vegetable broth in a small pan, add the saffron, the fresh herbs, the small piece of butter, the chopped garlic and the crushed tomatoes. Bring quickly to the boil, taste for seasoning.
Finish and serve:
While the broth is coming to a boil, place the raviolis in a pot of boiling water for no more than 4 to 5 minutes.
As soon as they are cooked, remove the raviolis from the boiling water and arrange them nicely --4 per person -- in a pasta bowl. Spoon the vegetable broth on top, sprinkle with more fresh herbs and serve immediately.