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
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf, crumbled
Combine the vodka and spices and store at least an hour, as long as overnight.
Rinse the salmon, pat dry and place in a large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. If it’s too large, cut the filet in two or three pieces.
Cover with marinade up to two hours.
Soak 2 to 3 chunks of cherrywood in water at least an hour.
Prepare a barbecue for indirect smoking between 200 and 220 degrees.
Place salmon onto the grill, toss cherrywood chunks onto hot embers and smoke 45 minutes to an hour.
Cover a platter with fresh greens like watercress. Serve finished salmon over greens and top with lemon slices, and fresh dillweed.
Adapted from “Smoke & Spice” (Harvard Common Press, $24.95) by Cheryl and Bill Jamison
Tartare of Tuna and Skirt Steak
7 ounces whole No. 1 ahi tuna
1 pound trimmed skirt steak
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Prepare grill for high-heat cooking.
Brush the skirt steak and whole tuna with 1 tablespoon olive oil each and season with salt and pepper.
Sear tuna on all sides and remove to cool. Sear skirt steak 1 to 2 minutes on each side and remove to cool.
Mix remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl to make a vinaigrette.
Chop tuna and skirt steak into 1 1/8-inch pieces and toss with vinaigrette. Serve with salad or in rice chips, top with whipped avocado or fresh avocado slices.
SOURCE: Chef Eric Smith, West, Urban Johnnie, Sara Sara Cupcakes, Pierre Pierre Creperie
Blueberry Waldorf Salad
16 ounces orange juice
2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 large Granny Smith apples
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
2 cups celery, sliced
8 ounces baby spinach
In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium-low heat, simmer orange juice until reduced to 1/4 cup and syrupy.
Cool slightly. In a blender container, combine reduced juice, half of the blueberries, the honey, lemon juice, mustard and salt. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, gradually drizzle in oil until a thick dressing forms.
Core and quarter apples. Slice quarters crosswise. In a large bowl, combine apple slices, pecans, celery and the remaining 1 cup blueberries.
At service: Blend dressing to loosen. Arrange spinach leaves on cold salad plates. Top with blueberry-apple mixture, dividing evenly. Drizzle with dressing.
Source: Alyson Dykstra, Homeland
Seared Sablefish with Crispy Chorizo, Pickled Peppers and Chorizo Oil
4 8-ounce pieces Sablefish (black cod)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound chorizo, cooked through
1 avocado, mashed and whipped
Pickled peppers (recipe at right)
Lemon oil (recipe at right)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat then add olive oil. Season fish with salt and pepper. If you want to grill the fish, rub the pieces with the oil and add salt and pepper then bring the grill up to medium-high heat.
Cook skin-side down for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Gently turn fish and cook another 2-3 minutes. If grilling, use a spatula to make sure the fish isn’t sticking to the grates.
Set fish aside to rest.
Prepare Pickled Peppers and Lemon Oil (see recipes).
To assemble: Put a dollop of avocado on plate, top with seared sablefish. Toss microgreens in lemon oil. Add pickled peppers and microgreens to the plate. Place cooked chorizo in front of cod and swirl a little of the cooking oil from the pan drippings and serve.
Source: Chris McCabe
6 to 8 jalapenos, sliced thin
6 to 8 Fresno peppers, sliced thin
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a small sauce pot, bring vinegar and water to a boil then add sugar and salt and turn off heat after 30 seconds to a minute. Place chiles in a bowl. Remove brine from heat, pour over sliced chiles and reserve.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together all ingredients and reserve.
Pecan-Smoked Marinated Flank Steak
1 to 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Pickapeppa Sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons Sriracha
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 to 5 fresh Thai chillies
Handful of pecan chips
Combine all ingredients in a resealable plastic bag and marinate overnight.
Soak chips in water for at least an hour.
Prepare a barbecue for indirect smoking between 200 and 220 degrees.
Remove flank steak from the marinade and shake off excess. Reserve marinade.
Place steak on the grill, toss pecan wood chips onto hot embers and smoke 45 minutes to an hour.
Pour remaining marinade into a saucepan and place over high heat and reduce by half.
After 45 minutes, use an instant-read thermometer to take the steak’s temperature. When steak registers 125 degrees, you’ve got mid-rare, 145 for medium well. Remove the steak from the grill when it reaches desired level of doneness. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes, spoon reduction over steak for added flavor and garnish with Thai chillies.
Serve sliced thinly with crusty bread.
Adapted from “Smoke & Spice” (Harvard Common Press, $24,95) by Cheryl and Bill Jamison