Sunday, March 15, 2015

15 March 2015

Chef Sean Brock and Bill.

Chef Vivian Howard and Bill. Say "Tom Thumb Y'all!"

Chef Virginia Willis and Bill.

I am still in foodie heaven since returning from the Charleston Wine and Food Festival last weekend. Jeff and I had a blast and attended several of the special chef events, in addition to the Grand Tasting tent in Marion Square. We love Charleston any time of year, but when it is crawling with James Beard winning chefs and cookbook authors, I am beside myself. After all, these men and women are my rock stars, especially the ones from the South. So tonight's Sunday Supper features recipes from some of my favorite Southern chefs that I met in Charleston, and I have the photos to prove it!

This year, I had a few on my "must meet" list, and I am happy to report that I met them all. My top hit, however, was Vivian Howard from the Peabody Award-winning PBS series, "A Chef's Life." She is chef at the Chef & The Farmer in Kingston, NC. She and her husband moved back to her hometown from NYC to open a restaurant, and it has become a mecca for foodies. I must go there, soon. On Saturday of the festival, we attended the Southern Betty Brunch, an event celebrating Southern female cooks and chefs, and Vivian was one of the featured chefs. She made an amazing grit dish, and I was one of the first in line! I sheepishly asked if I she would mind if I had my photo made with her, and she said that would be awesome. I was star struck, and when Jeff took the photo, I told her I had been stalking her the whole time. She laughed out loud and sported a huge smile for the photo. It is a prized possession! We returned after the brunch was winding down to get Jeff's photo with her, and she was equally as gracious. Tonight, I made a version of her strawberry and beet salad with lemon and vanilla infused dressing. I was delighted to find some beautiful strawberry's at Cherokee Market today, along with a lot of the other ingredients for tonight's Sunday Supper.

On Saturday night in Charleston, we attended the Southern BBQ Tent Revival at the original Jim and Nick's. The night celebrated Rodney and Ricky Scott's whole roasted pig, and they paraded one through the restaurant! Several other chefs were involved in the 8 course meal, including one of my idols, Sean Brock of McCrady's and Husk restaurants. Sean was there, and I got to chat with him for a few minutes and, of course, have my photo taken with him. I was telling him how inspired I was with his food, and he asked what I did for a living. I told him about Grant Design Collaborative, and he replied, "Cooking is about salt and pepper. The hard work is making your business work, treating your employees right and taking care of your customers." I was so humbled! Tonight's entree came from this Rock Star, Sean Brock! I wanted something lighter and healthier, so I searched some of his lesser known recipes and found a fascinating Oat Risotto! It called for Anson Mills Stone Cut Oats, or steel cut oats as an option. I used Bob's Steel Cut Oats, and it turned out great! It also listed one of my favorite local ingredients, Ramps, but said you could use spring onions instead. I bought some young Vidalia Spring Onions at Cherokee Market, so I charred them and substituted them for the ramps. Jeff has a customer who brings me ramps every Spring, and this year, I am going to try to go foraging with him. I'll be making this dish again and using the real thing!

On Tuesday before we left for Charleston, we attended a launch party for Virginia Willis's awesome new cookbook, "Lighten Up Y'all!" She signed my copy and said she would see us in Charleston, and we were delighted to see her at the BBQ Tent Revival. We chatted while enjoying Angie Mosier's divine Coconut Cake and listening to a great band sing "I'll Fly Away." It was a magical evening, filled with great table companions, amazing food and lots of bourbon. I tried to honor that moment by baking a Classic Buttermilk Pie from Virginia's new book. It has a yogurt and wheat pie crust that will become my standard. You would never know this was a "light" pie, and the other recipes we've tried from her book have also been delicious. Yes, Virginia, there is hope for healthier Southern cooking!

To top off a great Sunday Supper, it was the first one we had on the Side Porch this year! The weather was fantastic, and Spring has arrived. Tomorrow, my team at Grant Design Collaborative travels to Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge GA to tour and meet with their team on some upcoming projects. I am so excited to be working with them because will combine everything I love and value: local, food, farming, and friendship. Thanks to my dear friend, Steve Martin, for the invitation to collaborate.

For now, I am getting a taste of the good life, and for that, I am extremely thankful y'all!

The Menu:

- Oat Risotto with Peas and Pecorino

- Strawberry and Beet Salad with Vanilla Lemon Vinaigrette

- Classic Buttermilk Pie with Yogurt Wheat Crust

The Recipe – Oat Risotto with Peas and Pecorino (Inspired by Sean Brock, Charleston, SC)


4-5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 leek (white and tender green parts only) halved, sliced thin and washed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1½ cups stone or steel-cut oats

1 cup English peas, fresh or frozen

4-5 ramps or spring onions, cleaned and sliced thin (I used 2 spring Vidalia Onions with Greens and charred them)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Kosher salt, to taste

Good olive oil or black truffle oil, for garnish


Put stock in a small pot and bring to a simmer. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. When butter starts bubbling, add leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook until aromatic, 1-2 minutes more. Add wine and stir to combine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Stir in oats, and toast 1 minute.

Stir in 1 cup simmering stock and cook while stirring frequently. When nearly all the stock has been absorbed, add another cup of stock. Continue adding 1 cup of stock at a time and cooking until the liquid is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the oats are chewy-tender, about 25 minutes total.

Stir in peas, ramps or onions, ¾ cup Pecorino and remaining butter. Cook until peas and ramps are heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt, to taste.

Sprinkle risotto with remaining cheese. Drizzle olive or truffle oil overtop and serve immediately in warmed bowls.


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