Summer finally brought the heat, but three local chefs stayed cool long enough to dazzle guests with their ability to tame the challenge of surf and turf at the latest Open Flame.
As usual, Open Flame was hosted by American Propane, 7401 Broadway Extension, and for the first time owner Jim Grigsby had to outfit the spacious new showroom with dining tables to beat the heat.
Complimentary samples from Mustang Brewing Co. and wine expert Bruce Upthegrove of Republic Beverage Co. helped keep the late-arriving thermometer-busting temperatures at bay. Upthegrove chose wines from the south of France for the occasion, including Caprice de Clementine Rose, Black Beret Grenache/Syrah and Rigal Malbec.
To start off, Alyson Dykstra and the culinary team from Homeland, which provided most of the ingredients for the evening, set up cheese and snack trays. I also added my own surf-and-turf dishes, which both came from the smoker.
I knew I wanted to put the smoker to use, so I reached for the outstanding James Beard Award-winning cookbook “Smoke and Spice,” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison, for inspiration. I adapted a couple of simple recipes to arrive at Cherry-Smoked Pickled Salmon and Pecan-Smoked Marinated Flank Steak. The salmon was marinated in vodka and my own pickling spice plus extra dill and brown sugar, then put in a smoker outfitted with soaked cherrywood chunks between 200 and 220 degrees for a little under 45 minutes. The flank steak was marinated in a bevy of popular bottled sauces — soy, Pickapeppa, Sriracha and Worcestershire — and some brown sugar to tie it to the salmon. I smoked the flank steak in practically the same manner, substituting soaked pecan chips for cherry chunks.
Dykstra got dinner started with a tasty, health-friendly Blueberry Waldorf Salad.
Then our guest chefs wowed the crowd, starting with Chris McCabe of A Good Egg Dining Group. The local group’s corporate chef, McCabe oversees the kitchens at Iron Starr Urban BBQ, Red Prime Steakhouse, Republic Gastropub, Cheever’s Cafe, Kitchen No. 324 and Tucker’s Onion Burgers, which is on the verge of opening its third location on May Avenue, just south of NW 154. McCabe has been playing with a lot of seafood lately in preparation for the much-anticipated opening of The Drake, which will be a part of The Rise development on NW 23 Street. The timetable has been pushed back to early 2015 due to construction and remodeling delays, but when it opens I hope it features the Pan-Seared Sablefish with Chorizo, Pickled Peppers and Microgreens in Lemon Oil he served last week — not to mention the lardon-topped smoked oysters he did last year.
Next up was Eric Smith of West, Urban Johnnie, Sara Sara Cupcakes and the newly opened Pierre Pierre Creperie. Smith charred some lush skirt steak to mid-rare and mixed it with stunning seared ahi tuna and served it in his signature rice chips, a favorite at his Pachinko Parlor when it was open, and topped it with whipped avocado to bridge the premium proteins and some charred corn on the side.
Batting cleanup was chef David Henry, executive chef of The Coach House. He stepped in for boss Kurt Fleischfresser, who was busy at Vast but did stop by for a visit. Henry’s dish clashed classic Roman-style Lamb and Smoked Trout with Okie-Smoky Salad, which was chopped and mixed with okra, heirloom tomatoes and smoked corn.
Smith surprised the crowd with some mini cupcakes from Sara Sara that vanished faster than the moderate summer temperatures when August arrived.
Washed down with Bruce’s southern French wines, the capacity crowd ate fast and lingered long into the summer night, basking in the bacchanalia.
Up next: South of the Border
The next Open Flame is scheduled for Sept. 18 and will feature flavors from South of the Border. I will be joined by chefs Ana Davis of Cafe do Brasil and Niel Zambrano of La Brasa and Inca Trail for the event. Mexican food is my wheelhouse, so I will feature classic Cochinita Pibil, which is pork marinated in achiote paste, citrus, garlic, onions and chiles wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted. Zambrano will feature his Peruvian delicacies, including the two-day marinated rotisserie chicken he’s known for, and Davis will represent the Brazilian churrascaria of her homeland with style.
To find out what other surprises we have in store, get your tickets now. Cost is $50, and the festivities begin at 6 p.m. Call 843-6868 to get your reservation.
Cherry-Smoked Pickled Salmon
1- to 1.5-pound salmon filet
2/3 to 3/4 cup vodka
1/4 to 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons dill seeds, cracked
1 teaspoon mustard seed
6 to 8 whole nutmeg seeds, cracked
6 to 8 coriander seeds, cracked
6 to 8 whole black peppercorns, cracked
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
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