Pizza, Pizza, PIZZA!

Hot Dog Pizzas, Woodburning Ovens and Homemade Mozarella and Dough.
Chef’s Note: Bacon by definition in this country only needs to be cured. People then do smoke it after curing, as do we.

We were very honored to learn earlier this month that Eater blog (Matt Rogers) gave a shout out to Lockeland Table on behalf of our pizza. It was cool to be acknowledged in this area as we aren’t even truly a pizzeria. ​Of the locations that received honorable mention Lockeland Table and City House were the only two on the list that are full-menu establishments. Basically meaning, that we don’t specialize in Pizza alone.

pizza_ovenPeople may not know that I originally had envisioned opening a pizza parlor rather than a restaurant. It was part of the initial conversations I had with our third partner, Floyd. That background is probably why the woodburning oven and pizza bar have such a prominent place in LT. If you’ve ever been to Lockeland Table, you know that our own woodburning oven is in the heart of the restaurant due to Inman’s fine kitchen design. Which then led us to also put the pizzas in the center of the menu which all fell into place naturally.

pizza_doughWhat guests may not know, is that we not only make our own dough but also make our own house-pulled smoked mozzarella in house each day. We make ours fresh. The dough is a 3-day process, however. We make it, allow it to proof, portion it, and then allow it to proof again. We don’t actually use it until the third day. It’s a daily routine. The dough, the cheese—even the sausage and the bacon (which is a 10-day process in itself). We pride ourselves in being artisanal (made by hand), if you will. When you come in you’ll hear about the daily pizza special, too.

When it comes to favorites, the Margherita is one of the most popular. I believe, as do many chefs, that the king of all pizzas is the Margherita however, named after a queen. It defines pizza. Everything derives from it. Dough, tomato, cheese, olive oil, basil and salt. The simplicity of this pizza is what makes it beautiful. I am in love with the Margherita. It makes me the happiest. And if I could only eat one pizza in my life, it would be the Margherita. There’s a place for others, but the Margherita is the one that puts the biggest smile on my face. The level of happiness that it brings my belly, mouth and brain…it doesn’t get much better than this. I think I’ve made my point. It’s a classic not to be altered.

pig_pizzaAfter doing a lot of pizza research around town, I would one day like to see The Pig on a list of best individual pizzas around Nashville. It’s just a wonderful pizza and has been on our menu since before we opened (as has been the Margherita). The name alone is fun. I was the one who called it The Pig. Pork has always been the king of the southern table. As a Nashville place, we realized we needed to accent the way we used the pig. The four pork components are: ham and pepperoni (Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork) and our house made bacon and Italian sausage. We then add Smoked Mozzarella and pepperoncini peppers.

When this pizza cooks in the oven, the fats melt and that’s where you get the amazing flavors. That is one of the beautiful things about The Pig. I guess you can tell, I just love pizza production—period.

FOR THE LOVE OF PIZZA
I love making pizza. And for those who have had a chance to read our book, you’ll find the full story in there. My love for pizza is a love affair that started as a young child through consumption, but then as I got older through work as well.

I worked in a pizza parlor during my college days. I put myself through school mostly by working at Tony’s Pizza Den. I would go to class during the day and spend the evenings at the pizza shop.

My first experience with a woodburning oven was at the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort. I worked at their Golf Course, which included a restaurant. I enjoyed it so much. I knew I wanted one someday. I truly believe that the best pizza comes from high-temperature, wood burning ovens.

PIZZA and KIDS
Did you ever notice that kids tend to eat pizza slices (once the cheese has cooled) upside down? My son, Cole, definitely does. He also loves making pizzas with me. Usually in the morning he requests that I bring home a cheese pizza and some meatballs.

When I was 10 years old my mom gave me a cookbook by a chef called Mr. Food. It was written for young kids. I remember one of the first recipes I made was a hot dog pizza. They had you make the dough, the sauce and use sliced hot dogs as a substitute for pepperoni. Then you baked it. That experience obviously stuck with me. It was a big deal. I’ve come a long way from that first scratch pizza. And, at Lockeland, we’re committed to quality and to serving the best pizza that can be found.

Nose to Tail

Chef’s Tip
If you are throwing away your vegetables after you do a braise, you are making a mistake. They are not only flavorful but have something to offer you somewhere else in your kitchen. Even if you only whip them into butter and serve them with a warm baguette, this is a great twist on bread and butter service and is not only flavorful but sure to impress.

Nose to Tail is a beautiful thing
Nose to Tail butchering is something I have had the opportunity to work on during the past few months. This is mostly in part due to the fact that we have a such a solid kitchen staff. They maintain most of the daily menu items now, which allows me the opportunity to do cool things like work on some of the skills of which I personally need to improve. A few of which are butchering, pasta, and fermentation

bringing_in_the_lambMost of our butchering has been done with lamb that comes to us from Bear Creek Farms in Leiper’s Fork, TN. It all began with my desire to do a lamb sausage pizza for the colder months of the year. After talking with LeeAnn, one of the owners, we determined it would be best to buy the whole animal. That’s the way she and her husband prefer to sell. They don’t just have legs in the freezer that I could buy. So we purchased the entire animal. Our first thought was to use the front shoulders and the hind legs for the sausage making. I then cut the shanks off with an awesome sawzall (that Cara’s mom bought for me). We braised the shanks along with the neck and ran a special of four entrees with the shank.

As mentioned above, we then whipped the braised carrots into room temperature butter. The vegetables you have left after you braise should not be thrown out. We took the carrots out of the braise, pureed them and pounded them into the butter.

We took the ribs, salted them overnight, roasted them in the pizza oven, and then cooked them slow and low in the regular oven. We pulled the meat off the bones when they were ready and did a nice stroganoff with onions and mushrooms. We then made a stock with all of the roasted bones from the carcass and then reduced. The pasta came from Niccoletto’s. We used the bucatini (a tube-style of spaghetti that is hollow), and finished it off with some White Squirrel Farms arugula and cornbread crumbs. We also tried a roasted rib salad.

half_lambNext we took the rack and the mini lamb t-bones and created some dinner specials with those. We soaked the liver in buttermilk, breaded it in a seasoned flour and placed it in a hot cast iron skillet and cooked it to medium. We then served it with a root vegetable puree’. We charred some onion in our wood burning oven and took the stock from the bones, reduced it, made a roux, then a proper gravy. We added the onions and did a play on liver and onions. The best you have ever had in your life. The taste of the lamb from BCF is so nice and clean. You only need a little salt to maintain it’s integrity and give the dish what it needs to make it special.

After we cut all of the meat off of the bones to make the sausage, we chunked and cubed it. We then season the meat and allow it to rest overnight for maximum flavor. To enhance the final product we use different herbs and spices along with our secret ingredient, that Toffer suggested, harissa, which is a North African hot chili pepper paste whose main ingredients are roasted red peppers, Baklouti pepper, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed, or caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It’s a fun condiment to use and can be pounded into a mayonnaise for dipping fried calamari or pomme frittes for one.

The next day we ground the lamb into the sausage and added pork fat. We usually have some usable pork trim on hand and, as lamb is a bit of a leaner meat, it requires some added fat in order to make a proper sausage. I was taught that when you make sausage, you should have 33% fat to make it correctly. I was trained by a generation of hard-nosed chefs whose culinary standards in recipes matter. I try to remain true to them and my education,

lamb_filletAfter breaking down five lambs, I began to understand, and got better at, figuring out ways to utilize different parts of the animal. This not only helped in creating better dishes but also increased our bottom line as a business. Our lamb neck ravioli was one dish that I truly felt took us to the next level on the chef front, as well as the financial. Making that ravioli dish was the best way to stretch the products. But is also required skills and labor. For example, we cooked the ravioli in the stock that we had made from the roasted bone and we added the carrots from the braise into the butter.

As a chef and business owner an important part of your job is to make a daily profit. So, we are working with that mentality as well when it comes to butchering. As a chef your target is to maximize income by using talent along with creativity and ingenuity. At the end of the day, you can be proud about it. You have met your vision as a chef and as a business person. I have been very excited to be learning and I feel I am the best at nose to tail butchering currently than I have ever been in my life.

You Ferment What?

We recently held a class here at Lockeland and taught the art of fermentation. I was joined by Leslie Garbis, who is an avid fermentor of sorts. I have been making Kombucha at LT for at least 6 months now, and we even serve two drinks here at the bar from what we have fermented in our own kitchen. It’s fun to be doing this. Will it go over well with our clientele? Stay tuned.

One of the reasons I initially got into fermentation was that I have become serious about my health. I entered a self defense class taught by Leslie’s husband, Evangelos, that was based around cardio activity. Cycling didn’t work for me. Neither did running. But exercises based around a self-defense class did. Cardio activity is important in self defense because if you can’t breathe, you can’t fight, and if you can’t fight you’re f*****—which is one of our sayings in class.

As the class went on and Evangelos and I hung out more, he would bring me things to try that he and Leslie had fermented. We started originally with kefirs for the probiotics. That eventually turned into kombucha, then vegetables.

Fermenting is coming back around. People are wanting to make their own sauerkrauts and kimchees at home. There’s so much you can do. I think this year I may ferment more than I preserve in the form of canning.

So what exactly Is Fermentation?
Fermentation is the process used to produce wine, beer, liquor, yogurt, kombucha and other products. The sugars are converted to acids, gases or alcohol, and heat is even produced. Which is appropriate, as fermenting is very hot right now. (ha) It is the old method of preserving food and was an ideal process as it does not require any energy (meaning electricity). It happens at room temperature. People tend to get this and pickling mixed up, however, they are not the same.

As the items you are wishing to ferment sit at room temperature they begin to do things, such as bringing good bacteria into the environment for one. That’s the opposite of pickling where you kill most bacteria, good and bad, by boiling before you submerge the product—which prevents spoilage by creating a vacuum. In Fermenting you are actually welcoming the bacteria.

Kombucha, Baby.
So we have been making Kombucha here at LT. And we taught people in the class how to make their own as well. It’s so much better and cheaper than the mass produced kombucha you buy at the store. Who knows where the Kombucha is really made and bottled that you purchase at the store. You’re also paying way too much. When I make Kombucha here I am making it for at least a fourth of the price that you are paying when you buy it commercially.

How it’s done.
We start with one gallon of filtered water. All of our water at LT is filtered before coming out of the faucet. It’s important that the water has a low chlorine count. If the water has a high count it can sit at room temp for a day and that will dissipate from the water.

We then take eight bags of an organic black tea and one cup of organic sugar. I brew the tea, and allow it to naturally come to room temperature. Next, I remove the bags and place the tea into a glass vessel. And it needs to be glass. Then at that point I add my scoby (symbiotic communities of bacteria and yeast) which is the mother.

I then set it on the shelf in an area of the kitchen that gets little to no sunlight for about 6-12 days, (depending on the temp in the kitchen and the desires of sweet to sour that I am looking for). It will stay sweet for 4-6 days then it begins to take on a sour effect. You want this for the probiotic benefits. Some people enjoy the acidic more than others, so they might let theirs go an extra day or two.

After you do the first ferment of kombucha and get it where you want it, in terms of sweet vs. sour you remove the scoby (which doubles in size and produces another each time you ferment). You have to separate the scoby. That allows you share it or use it another one of your rotations.

The 2nd ferment is where you achieve carbonation and flavor. This is where I add organic fruit juice or sliced fruits to add my flavor of choice. Then I jar it and return to shelf at room temperature for about 3-5 days.

After achieving carbonation and flavor from the second ferment, you put the kombucha into the refrigerator and enjoy drinking.It won’t stop the fermentation, but it will slow it. At this point you have also achieved the health benefits, so slowing the process and enjoying it in the days to come is your reward.

In the early phases, as you make your own, you will learn a lot about what you like and don’t like. So it is very important to take notes, take measurements and learn how to adjust to find the method, length of time and the recipe that you like.

My first few batches of kombucha were not perfect. I learned a lot. An extra day here or a day less there. My latest batch is mango, mint and ginger and it is by far my best. It includes sugar from the fruit and the sugar I add, but the sugars are getting eaten. It’s not a high sugar beverage. If you buy it, you’ll pay $4.50 for about 10 ounces, I can make it for a quarter of the price.

More Than Just Tea
I want to continue to do more with fermentation, like mustards. I will do this by letting one of my kombuchas go too long. It will be more acidic which will help to create the mustard.

As I go on a journey to work on my own health and learning to eat better, which is a continual study, I plan to keep a small corner of the dry storage area here in the restaurant committed to fermentation. I have some kombucha, some cauliflower, carrot sticks, garlic cloves, and more.

It’s the idea that I am the one choosing the ingredients, I prepare them, and then I consume them. If I am in control of the whole process, I am aware of what I am consuming. It’s better all the way around. People need to better understand where their food comes from. Do you really know whose hands have touched it? People today aren’t necessarily aware of what they are consuming. We need to be aware and involved, or it will become an issue and a problem not just for individuals but at some point our world. It’s better all the way around. Also, the things you can ferment are endless.

Now the truth is, this takes time and attention. You have to keep the rotation going. But it’s fun. Not only are you providing for your family, you’re creating and sustaining health. It’s been a journey for me. And it’s not one that’s close to being over.

Where’s the Beef?

We didn’t necessarily eat a lot of steaks or beef when I was growing up. We ate meat, but I don’t ever remember my mom having steak night where we would grill mid-rare pieces of meat. What we did have was fajitas. Mom would marinate and do a London broil. She would then slice it thin across the grain. If we had the opportunity to eat out at a fancy restaurant, I remember feeling lucky when I was able to order something like a prime rib.

As I started working in restaurants during high school and college, I began to experience more kinds of food, getting a bite here or there. One of the great things about being a chef or a butcher is that you have access to those things that you usually don’t have available to you, and you can try them for free.

In our new book, (Page 6, Lockeland Table Community Kitchen & Bar) I talk briefly about how I helped in the meat room of my local grocery store which was called Potomac supermarket. When it came to learning about beef, however, I would have to attribute that to the time I spent at my apprenticeship at The Greenbrier Hotel & Resort and, that with my butchering mentor, Larry Griffin, during the time I spent at his slaughterhouse. It was there I learned to work with deer, cows and pigs learning their anatomy and how to treat the specific muscles depending on their use in the animal’s body during their lifetime.

Tender vs. Tough
People don’t often understand or think about that fact and how it affects the tenderness factor of a piece of meat. For example, the reason the tenderloin is so tender is that it is a muscle that is not used a lot. Take your legs for instance. From your knee down, which is what we refer to as the shank on an animal, those muscles get a lot of use. Therefore, they’re tougher as they are used more. So, they have to be treated differently when you prepare them. You are going to have to braise that particular piece for about five hours just to get it tender.

Many of the steaks that come from the chest area are going to have different tenderness depending on how they were used during that animal’s life. We learn how to approach those pieces of meat, due to their size, shape, and character whether it’s something you’re merely going to salt, pepper and grill, or, marinate and then grill.

When meat has a higher fat content, like that of a Ribeye, you can afford to cook it a little more, like closer to medium. The fat content and the heat combination makes it eat very nice. If it’s lean, like a filet, you want to order rare to mid-rare. Regardless of the cut, however, I personally order and prefer my steaks mid rare

Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Obviously as a restaurant owner I need to make a profit on what we sell. But we also like to pass savings on to the guest. For our New Year’s Eve menu, we chose to do a filet of beef which is the tenderloin. It’s a wonderful cut and one of the best, but it’s very expensive. So, when pricing it out, I first priced out the whole filet. I then priced the center cut filet and the Metro cut (which comes from the Chateau end of the filet, where the two muscles come together). Some may view that option as being a little less desirable than the center cut, but the price difference is also about $10 a pound—which makes us able to pass the savings on to the guest.

In those types of moments, it just requires me to do a little more butchery work on our part. What I mean by that is, we tie the filet with butcher twine before we grill it in order to help it maintain the shape. The research also took quite a bit of time in regards from deciding to go from the whole filet, to the center cut, to the metro as a final decision. Again, it requires a bit more knowledge and ability in butchering. We would usually never sell the filet on the menu or for a special as it’s just too expensive.

lt_steak_thumbPersonally, I find the filet to lack character. There are so many other cuts out there I’d rather use. For example, the strip steak which is on our menu with the Chimichurri and is our signature dish (pages 17-19 in our book). I personally believe Chimichurri is the greatest steak condiment that exists. The Ribeye, which is my favorite steak, is our special on the weekends with the Arugula and Pomme Frites

Getting past those, you arrive at cuts like the Flat Iron, or the Hanger Steak, which was originally known as the Butcher’s cut. Butchers would save that cut for themselves as they knew how special it was.

Then there’s the Tri-Tip, the Skirt Steak, the London Broil, and the Culotte.These are the cheaper pieces of meat.They still have a lot of quality and character to them. Perhaps the addition of a marinade or just the right cooking technique and sliced thinly across the grain will make them work for you. With these options and with good marinade meat lovers can certainly find something that works for them.

Next time, instead of just taking the easy way out and spending a lot of money on a filet, take some time getting to know a few of these other cheaper cuts of meat that have integrity and flavor. Save your money and spend a bit less on the center of your plate item, as we refer to it.
Maybe the cut you decide on needs to be braised and not grilled. Perhaps it just requires a little more knowledge and labor. Regardless of your decision, the rewards will most certainly be delicious as well as worth the learning and the effort.

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Home and the Holidays

with Chef Hal

The holidays are obviously a very busy time of year. However, both personally and professionally this year, it’s been even more so. We had, Thanksgiving, then the book release parties, and now Christmas and New Year’s Eve which in the end will all have happened within a 5 week period.

My in-laws were in town in November, and I was working a busy restaurant while trying to spend time with them. My mom then came to town ​just days after ​for the book release. We then headed out to Oklahoma for a wedding, and when we got home I immediately began to focus on Christmas.

As ​we​ have such a great staff, and they have most of our routine and the logistics for this season under control, ​we are​ very blessed that it allows ​us​ the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and be organized for ​our​ families​​ this Christmas.

There is so much to do besides the restaurant and getting ready to play Santa Claus. I am going to spoil my family with gifts this year. But the food part is also a gift from me. I have a piece of paper in my pocket right now that lists the foods I plan to cook for my family at Christmas. I enjoy cooking at this time more than any other time of year. Another reason for this is that we are going to be closed for 4 days in a row this week.

We are always closed Sunday, but the way that Christmas falls on a Friday this year, we decided to also close on Saturday. This is a special time as we are able to settle into our home in a way that doesn’t happen any other time of year. The fireplace is on​ (unless it’s 60 degrees outside)​, the stove is simmering with something wonderful on it…

As a young family, too, it’s important to me to begin creating and maintaining traditions at home. We have been doing a rib roast for the past two years. But, I just wasn’t feeling it this year. So I asked my wife if we could do something a little different. The conditions were, whatever we chose, had to be fun, festive and indulgent. I want to eat food at Christmas that I don’t eat any other time of year or that I don’t eat much of due to health goals or for some other reason. Selfishly, I will be cooking what I want to cook, but everyone needs to be happy with it.

I originally suggested fried chicken, but my wife didn’t want to go that direction. When I suggested pizza and pasta ​​my wife liked that idea. ​Cole and I love pizza and my wife likes pasta. ​If you have read our book, you will see a page in the Pizza section where I talk about a particular calzone. Growing up, when my aunt would come to town, we’d get a ham and salami calzone and I’d split it with her. I am going to recreate that dish for me and Stacy. And too, I am going to bring all the stuff home for Cole in order to make pizza—which will be a great afternoon activity for us.

I have been working with my 3 year old son on how to spin dough, add cheese and bake it. ​ Whenever he comes to the restaurant these days he always wants to make his own pizza. ​Showing him the process from beginning to end, from raw to cooked is exciting. Last night he said to me, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a Chef like you”. Naturally I replied, “I will be happy to teach you everything I know.”

In regards to the pasta, I am going to simmer down some sausage that is from a meat shop in Wisconsin where Stacy’s grandmother lives. I’ll add some peppers, onion and tomatoes and it will cook all day. The pasta will be coming from ​N​ico​letto’s​ which is here in East Nashville​. He is going to bring me some for our family dinner. We will also be be using their pasta for our New Year’s Eve menu. Then the tiramisu will fall down out of the sky, which is one of my wife’s favorite desserts, if not her favorite.

Ringing in 2016
There are always logistics here every day to plan and prepare for, but none more so than for New Year’s Eve. It’s our busiest night of the year.

When we get back from Christmas we have a couple of days to get ready for it. But you have to get ready before Christmas. We will be very organized. At a time of year like this, you have to be—and Danny and I will be. If you’re organized, than all you have to do is cook. It’s about ordering the right amount and getting the product here on time. We have to come up with the right numbers. For example, if we are serving 175 and we are covering 4 entrees, how many of each will we sell? We know beef will be number one, fish will be second and then the other protein, chicken or pork will come in third. The vegetarian dish will be last. When I create a veg dish, you have to offer an item for each course, appetizer, and entree. That option could beat the chicken this year as we are doing a beautiful pasta dish with ​N​ic​o​letto’s bucatini which you can find on the menu for that night.

Basically, you have to plan a bit high overall so that you don’t run out. If we did run out of beef at 9:30pm we know we have other options we can substitute in for the filet. All of this has to happen before the actual night. Danny and I will meet on that this week. We’ll just lace up our boots and do the work.

As far as being busy goes, I prefer it. I love waking up in the morning with a long list of things to do. It motivates me and gets me going. I am a man who judges myself on production, so that helps me live with myself. Now, that being said, being too busy isn’t a good thing. But you just have to know your limits, not go over them on a daily basis, and plan well. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just fit in the bag what fits. If you can discipline yourself well enough to do that, I think your happiness and success rate will be happier and better. With that, Merry Christmas and we hope to see you New Year’s Eve.

Sourcing Seasonally, Brining Turkeys and a Holden-Bache Holiday Kitchen Tradition

I recently attended the Farmer/Chef Summit out at Green Door Gourmet. It was an event which is meant to bring Chefs and farmers together and addresses issues important to each. Overall, the event is meant to introduce, educate and network. For example topics discussed ranged from farmers understanding how to introduce themselves to a chef, as well as some of the protocols when they come to call on a restaurant, to helping chefs better understand how to work with the growers and purveyors.

An example for me personally would be an item like Bok Choy cabbage. Last year it was difficult for me to figure how best to use it on my menu. Some items our farmer harvest are harder for me to immediately implement into our menu. It often takes time for a thought to occur where I can use most of the bounty from the farm. I do consider it my duty to use as much as the farmer has to offer and to use it in such a way that integrity is maintained by all. Anybody can buy tomatoes in July.

The word I kept hearing that day was one Cara and I love: relationships. At LT we have many relationships that are important, but relationships with the farmers are key. As I heard people talk during the sessions, I was reminded of how blessed we are to have a relationship with purveyors who exhibit such care and technique with their bounty. Those we source from play a big part in helping to bring care and technique to the plate. Guests receive the benefit of these relationships.

We are very grateful at this time of year for providers such as White Squirrel Farm. The beauty of the harvest that they bring us is truly to be admired. We had someone here recently who saw their produce walking through the back door and was impressed with the harvesting, the cleaning and the bundling. When food like that is available to us, it helps a chef to be creative. Mother Nature is the true artist, we just kind of follow in her direction. The things she brings us at this time of year are radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, kale, arugula to mention a few.

One of a few unique things we have done this year with farm by-products includes kohlrabi tops. We cut and braised them. It’s one of my new favorite things. God gave us the bulb and the leaf, let’s figure out a way to use both. It makes it more of a sustainable product and we’re making profit off of both parts. Another item we are enjoying are the carrots. We take the tops, blanch them quickly and make a carrot pumpkin seed pesto. We then toss the roasted carrots in the pesto. A great story that expresses this type of creativity is from Marco Pierre White. One day while bird hunting he saw a pheasant eating huckleberries. He shot the pheasant and he picked some of the berries. He then made a huckleberry au jus to accompany the roasted pheasant. It was him being observant and paying attention to the environment around him and how it can all work together naturally and beautifully.

Turkey Day
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays I don’t truly understand. I get the being thankful part, and the family time, but—Thanksgiving makes you work! You have to cook—a lot. It’s not a day off. Even growing up. I remember helping my mom. We had the shopping from Sunday to Wednesday. Then Wednesday was dessert day. Thursday you got up early and prepared the turkey.

From a family man standpoint, I do begin thinking of Thanksgiving early. I have already ordered the turkeys for Cara’s family and mine from the same place that we also source our chickens. I usually prepare the turkeys and the stuffing here for both me and Cara. She is very blessed to have me in her life (wink). I prepare the stuffing and the turkey’s here at the restaurant.

A cool tradition in my home that I have extended into my adult life is something that I even do when we travel to see family. I take the liver, the neck and the heart and make a stock with them. Then I make the gravy. Next I will make a hard boiled egg mix that with the liver along with mayonnaise, dijon, salt and pepper and some minced onion which becomes a liver pate. It is served on crackers and becomes a snack for the kitchen as we’re preparing the food.

brineTurkey Lockeland Style
One suggestion for Thanksgiving would be brining your turkey. We have the brine and the recipe waiting for you here at the restaurant and will be selling it during the month of November. Just buy the jar and follow the directions and brine your turkey.

Pork and Poultry tend to dry out, especially if overcooked. People tend to overcook thinking they are doing their family a favor to eliminate problems. The internal temperature of a turkey should be 165 degrees. When the turkey comes out, it is already so hot that it will continue cooking when you pull it from the oven for awhile. This is often where the over cooking will happen. Pull it out when it hits 165°, let it rest before slicing. The other thing about brining, if you only salt the skin of the turkey, you are only seasoning the skin of the turkey. When you brine your turkey overnight, it pounds that sodium level from skin to bone, and then even the meat in the center is perfectly seasoned.

Another fun fact about brining, I didn’t brine my first turkey until about 8 years ago. Growing up I was the guy who, when fixing my plate, poured gravy all over it. But with the brined turkey, it was so good on its own, for the first time in my life I didn’t put gravy on the turkey. But I certainly put it on the mashed potatoes. When you don’t have to put gravy on your turkey you have achieved turkey cooking perfection.

Hal M.Holden-Bache

The Chew, The Chimi, and The Cluster

So what do the TV show The Chew, Chef Hal’s Chimi, and a Goo Goo Cluster have in common? Check it out!

Four-five months ago a friend of mine, Beth Sachan, the Marketing Director for Goo Goo called. If you haven’t seen Goo Goo’s award-winning rebranded packaging, by the way, or visited their retail store downtown, you need to go.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Goo Goos, in 1912, over on Clark and First here in Nashville, the Standard Candy Company made a “first” in the candy business. It was the first time multiple elements were mass-produced in a retail confection. The Goo Goo Cluster (a round mound of caramel, marshmallow nougat, peanuts and milk chocolate) was a bar that consisted of more than just one principal ingredient. Before the Goo Goo, candy bar manufacturers only made bars that were either chocolate, caramel or taffy.

Anyway, Beth called me one day and mentioned that they were doing a Summer Chef Series. There were 8 chefs chosen and the Goo Goos would not only be available at the retail shop but would be sold at our restaurants. In addition they would be served at this year’s Music City Food and Wine Festival. She asked if I’d like to participate and I responded, “Of course, I do.”

The first thing I thought about was my son Cole. I wanted to do something cool for him and I was talking to my wife about it. Stacy is sometimes a catalyst to a thought, or recipe or a menu idea. Anyway, she threw out the idea of using figs. I found that very interesting. It certainly wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind. I was thinking more along the lines of peanut butter and pretzels, but another chef in the series had already taken that combination.

So, I began some research, and it led me to a fig molasses jam. Then my brain started to think about the turtle candies that my mom had around when I was growing up. That led to pecans and caramel. And the recipe began to take shape.
 
Hals Goo GooI smoked the pecans here at Lockeland. We then made an orange scented caramel and we used a dark chocolate. As I am trying to work on my health, I have personally moved to organic dark chocolate as it has less sugar. We then used the JQ Dickinson family salt that we use and sell here at Lockeland, as it is from West Virginia. Putting a bit of salt on chocolate is always fun to do, and the fact that it originates from my home state makes me proud.
 
We submitted the idea and they accepted the combination of ingredients. The pastry chef, Lauren from Goo Goo, worked with me which was nice. Then they asked me to name it. I talked with Cara and Danny. Danny is always creative when it comes to giving things fun names. I wanted to implement Cole and West Virginia, thus we came up with a play on coal miners, and landed on Cole Miner’s Surprise. The name was well accepted.

Wine & Mine

Then Music City Food and Wine Festival came along. It’s such a great event—excited happy guests, eating drinking and enjoying music on a beautiful fall day. Lockeland Table was there doing our Strip, Chimichurri and pickled Cherry Tomato bite. Goo Goo was there that weekend as well. One of their featured offerings on Sunday was my Goo Goo.  It was one of only two that were sampled at the Music City Food and Wine Festival

Carla Hal (The Chew) & The Chef’s Panel

Another highlight for me during the festival was the opportunity to sit on the Chef’s Panel that was hosted by Carla Hall, who is a native Nashvillian and is a featured co-host on ABC’s The Chew. Many people came to know her when she appeared on the hit TV show, Top Chef. The panelists included myself, one of my friends Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker), and Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, and H&F Bottle Shop). Our discussion topic was The Best Meal I Ever Ate.  Basically, defining what the meaning of a great meal.

Being with Linton was an honor for me. He has truly shown his expertise and quality in this industry. I already had a respect for him, as he is someone I have looked up to for years. It was humbling to be on a similar playing field with him that day and to hear him appreciate my thoughts and views. He made me feel that I was doing something right as a business owner, family man, etc. He made me better that day.
 
Carey was great, too, as he added a bit of a different outlook and the comic relief. Linton and I are more classically trained. Carey comes from a different angle on some subjects, as he is a Pit Master.
 
We never really said what our favorite meal was. But we talked about family, the socializing… That is why Lockeland Table is called Lockeland Table. Everything we want to happen around a meal usually happens around a table.
 
After that special experience, and a great day of serving our bite, I was able to meet Stacy and go to the Harvest Dinner. It was a beautiful night to be outside, enjoying food from the out of town chefs. The music this year was perfect. The theme of it had a soul, bluesy type feel.
 
Sunday of the event I was able to go back to the festival and just be a guest. I was able to have some one-on-one moments with people I don’t often get to see. Then, we all wound up down at Patrick Martin’s cooking arena, where local chefs had gathered and were cooking great food.  It doesn’t get much better than that. All in all, it was a very special weekend, with memories that will stay with me for years to come.

– Chef Hal

A Page From Our Lives

lt_signIf you would have asked me five years ago, “Do you think you’ll write a book?” I don’t think my answer would have been, “Yes.”

I don’t know how this whole book thing happened. Cara and I were figuring out how to run this restaurant and we brought in Anna-Vija McClain to help us with booking events. That was her original job. Over good times and laughter, I don’t if I said something out loud about writing a book, or maybe I was talking about the book that I have been working on for a while for Cole​ that will come out next, but, somewhere we decided to write a book. Anna-Vija got involved and politely said, “I know the perfect person for you guys. Let me bring her in to meet you.” We didn’t see any harm in meeting someone, and of course that person was Stephanie Huffman of Epiphany.

I remember the day very clearly. The girls came in and were sitting at table 40. When I met Stephanie, I felt like she was a person I could hang out with and talk to. I wouldn’t want to spend this much time with someone I didn’t enjoy. It’s been a 12 month process.

We began building a strong team. Getting Ron Manville as our photographer was a great move. With Epiphany and Ron, the process of writing a book began. It was fun and exciting.

The fact that we wanted to – no – the fact that we could, was pretty amazing. During the process we had to ask, “Is there enough here to make a book?” A lot of the information was the progression that led us to Lockeland Table, which was followed by this wonderful organic business that has formed through awesome, amazingly talented people. So, the crazy thing is that we even decided to do it. It wasn’t on the agenda. It wasn’t on the list. The staff is so amazing that we can step aside to dedicate time to this.

At the beginning, it was only an hour or two a week. It kind of started slow, and those meetings were fun. We told Stephanie about ourselves. She made us go to Books-a-Million and she did research exercises with us, looking at what we liked and didn’t like. She taught us the funnel approach—start with what you don’t like or want, and move on from there. I’d never gone to a store before to look at book covers for the purpose of realizing whether I liked them or not. We notice things now about a book that we never saw before – things we have learned through this process. There are so many decisions that must be made to create and publish a book.

That was all neat and fun. Then we got to the recipes. That was work! It was a difficult part of the process and Ally Otey was a great help​. I guess I finally got to a point where I just accepted the fact that I was going to have to do it, so I just chopped away. I’m not necessarily a recipe writer. Even though I do realize there needs to be recipes in my kitchen, and we do write those recipes, it was quite a challenge to write a number of recipes.

It was difficult for me to be as thorough in the instructions as I needed to be, at first. I am used to speaking with people everyday who speak my language. The home cook doesn’t quite speak the same language, so I had to back up and add sentences that, if I were in my kitchen, I wouldn’t have to explain. Taking the time to break it down into layman’s terms is important, but it was work. I want the average cook to be able to understand my directions.

The photography is amazing. I worked with Ron quite a bit and was heavily involved. I helped to stage things. I would bring props. When he would come, I was organized. It’s an expensive process so you want to be ready and get it done as quickly as possible. We didn’t want to waste his time, or ours for that matter. The staff had fun helping prepare the food for the photography as well. It had to be perfect, and they knew that. There was a lot behind the scenes that people don’t see or imagine. Photoshoots are a lot of work. I would always send Ron home at the end with something for his wife. That was something he enjoyed. He didn’t eat much himself, but he enjoyed taking food to her.

Ron has taught me how to take better photos with my iPhone and iPad by using the natural light between 4-6pm.

One of the things that excites me about this book is the sentimental factor. It has been an emotional process. When I would take sections of the book home at night to read and proof, those moments would take me to a different place, like a daydream. I have enjoyed the process—the exercise of something that makes me reflect and remember.

A lot of my thoughts, feelings and the story of my life are now documented. Whether I am still here in 20 years, or gone in 20 days, this book, will be on a shelf in my home and other homes, and that’s something special. To know that my son Cole, will read this book years from now—that’s especially exciting. The same goes for Cara. Even people who are closest to us, when they read it, will feel like they will learn things about me and Cara that they never knew.

Though we’ll actually have more than 70 recipes in the book, our book is not a cookbook. It’s what we’re calling an “experience book.” We want you to feel like you’re taking us home with you, in a way, when you take the book home or when you give it to someone who has experienced our restaurant or plans to. Maybe you have a special occasion that you celebrated with us.

I began thinking recently about how blessed we are, to be able to open a restaurant and run a successful business after one of the biggest financial downfalls of the century. I hate saying we’ve been successful, because we all know things can change tomorrow. But we’re sitting here, in a very difficult time in the country and the world. Not only were we able to start a business, but two years later we started writing a book. I mean, who does that?!

We’d love to sign that copy, along with everyone else at our table, and be a part of that moment and memory with you. It will be a special book, or so, we truly hope.

Pizza: Lockeland Style

In our last blog, we talked about the Margherita pizza. If you’ve ever been to Lockeland Table, you know that we have our own wood-burning oven. What guests may not know, is that we not only make our own dough we make our own mozzarella as well. We pride ourselves in being artisanal, if you will.

Many places that you go for pizza may not make their own dough in house. We make ours fresh. It’s a 3-day process, however. We make it, allow it to proof, portion it, and then allow it to proof again. We don’t actually use it until the third day. It’s a daily routine. We always have dough in one of those stages.

After creating the base of the pizza, the dough, we then begin to build up.

We start with tomatoes from San Marzano, Italy. Our extra virgin olive oil is sourced from Georgia and the salt we use for finishing is mined in the great state of West Virginia, of which I am a native.

hal_in_kitchenReally Cheesy
We not only make our own mozzarella from scratch, we smoke it. That’s a process too. One I enjoy very much.

In order to make pulled fresh mozzarella, you must start with curd. We cut it uniformly and place it strategically in a very large bowl. We have a certain recipe of water and salt that we bring to a boil and then poured over the curd.

We then begin to pull the curd towards us with wooden spoons. As we pull, in time, it becomes a beautiful, shiny melty mass. This stage of the production always reminds me of a taffy machine, like the ones you see on the boardwalk of a beach where the mechanical arms pull the taffy. That is very similar to how we pull the mozzarella as we get near to the end of the process.

Once the mozzarella has been pulled, and has reached the proper consistency, we drain off the water and form it into small balls which are placed into cold water. We then store those. That is now the cheese. When it’s time to be used, we tear it and place it on pizzas for service as needed. if you ever happen to be at LT while the cheese is being made, we will often pinch off sample bites for friends and staff. It might just be the freshest mozzarella you may have ever tasted.

I sometimes enjoy making mozzarella between the hours of 5 and 7 o’clock in the evening, before service gets too busy and I have the time for such a project. When I have the proper amount of time for the process, I find myself enjoying it. On days where the clock may be ticking a bit too fast to my liking, making the cheese from scratch can become a time issue and stressful.

mozarellaQuality, Not Convenience.
We have tried to use some high-quality, pre-made mozzarella products and have never found one that we like more than what we can make here ourselves. It’s often the water that leaks out of a pre-bought product that I find unfavorable. Homemade product doesn’t release water the way the store bought versions do.

With that being said, we will continue to make our own mozzarella at Lockeland Table. I have now made it so many times over the past couple of years, that I feel very confident with our procedure and outcome.

At the end of the day, it’s a pride issue. When you’ve had the chance to see the preparation through from the beginning to the end, it brings a sense of pride. Since we get to experience this every week, we have pride in the final product that we’re serving.

Who knows, perhaps this mozzarella process could be an upcoming Saturday morning class hosted at LT. Who’s in?

The King of All Pizzas—The Margherita

When we began building Lockeland Table, I knew I wanted a wood burning pizza oven. I love pizza, and it’s been a part of my culinary story.

My mom and I were talking recently, and she didn’t remember this, but when I was 10 years old she gave me a cookbook by a chef called Mr. Food. It was written for young kids. I remember one of the first recipes I made was a hot dog pizza. They had you make the dough, the sauce and use sliced hot dogs as a substitute for pepperoni. Then you baked it. That experience obviously stuck with me. It was a big deal. My first scratch pizza.

When I finished the 11th grade of high school, I had to go to summer school to become eligible to play sports my senior year. One of the classes offered was Home Economics. That course pretty much solidified my future. I really enjoyed the cooking portions of the class. One day we made a pizza from scratch. I can remember waking up early on a summer morning and thinking other kids were sleeping in or at the pool, and here I was excited about going to summer school to make pizza.

Later, I put myself through college working at Tony’s Pizza Den- my home town pizza shop. When I was at the Greenbier I worked at the Golf Course, which included a restaurant that was part of the resort. That was where I experienced my first wood burning pizza oven. I enjoyed it so much. I knew I wanted one someday. I truly believe that the best pizza comes from high-temperature, wood burning ovens.

margheritaSpeaking of the best pizza, I believe, as do many chefs, that the king of all pizzas is the Margherita. It defines pizza. Everything derives from it. Dough, tomato, cheese, olive oil, basil and salt. The simplicity of this pizza is what makes it beautiful. It’s a classic not to be altered.

I once had a guest ask for pepperoni on a Margherita pizza. They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t fulfill their request. After all, if you put pepperoni on a Margherita pizza, it’s no longer a Margherita pizza.

That being said, I am willing to add two things to the Margherita- a farm fresh egg and fresh arugula. An egg with a runny yolk doesn’t ruin too many things. And adding fresh arugula to the pizza after it comes out of the oven is a nice addition. I would do it for someone as long as we had fresh arugula in house. Those are my only two exceptions. And that’s as much flexibility as I have on the subject.

At Lockeland Table we take pride in our pizza menu. We are not a build your own pizza joint. In order for us to purchase ingredients and prep properly, we can’t allow guests to add or substitute items. Many people think, “Well, you have sausage for the Pig Pizza, why can’t you just add it to my Margherita?” The reason is because we’re all about the integrity of the food and the dish. It’s up to us to maintain high quality standards. And in doing so, we have to be consistent in how we answer requests.

Recently, my wife and I were traveling and we visited a pizzeria that a Lockeland guest had suggested. The guests were Italian and told us exactly where to go, so we we trusted their judgement. The experience was awesome. We ordered a Margherita as well as another pizza with lots of toppings. After I ate a piece of both, it just clicked again. “Why do I keep trying other types of pizza? I am in love with the Margherita.” It makes me happiest. And if I could only eat one pizza in my life, it would be the Margherita. There’s a place for others, but the Margherita is the one that puts the biggest smile on my face. The level of happiness that it brings my belly, mouth and brain…it doesn’t get much better than this. I think I’ve made my point. I just love pizza production—period.

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