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.
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.
Turkey 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.