Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to Chris Stewart's birthday AND the GO Offal Dinner!

My partner Chris Stewart celebrated his birthday yesterday, and I can think of no better way to commemorate it than by publishing his recipe for Chicken Liver Mousse and Holy Crap Those Are Good Pickles! These dishes really showcase the knowledge Chris has garnered over the years.

Furthermore, the mousse seems an ideal way to also celebrate the Glass Onion's 2nd Annual Offally Delicious Dinner that will be take place this coming Monday, December 6 -- a true foodie extravaganza. Check out the menu at www.ilovetheglassonion.com/tasting -- YUM!

Chicken Liver Mousse

After much deliberation, we decided to share our recipe for sublimely elegant Chicken Liver Mousse. Here you will find a starter that will blow your guests away, but be forewarned: you need a few special tools. First, you will need a pate terrine. This might seem like a frivolous investment, but it enables you to delve into a whole new realm of cooking. Second, you will do yourself a favor by going out to your local wholesale warehouse (think Sam's or Costco) and buy some commercial plastic wrap. While the grocery store variety will work, you will find the heavier-duty stuff proves much easier to manage for lining your terrine and for wrapping up all your leftovers! Finally, you will need to order "pink" curing salt from a website, unless you happen to have a genuine butcher that can provide you with some. This preservative is a necessity, as it will keep your mousse a beautiful, rosy shade in the center as opposed to dull, brownish gray. One website to check out is www.butcher-packer.com for this and other cool charcuterie items.

Now, the rest should be a breeze. Just be sure to check your mousse after about 40 minutes to make sure all is going well. Serve with our housemade pickles (see recipe below), Creole mustard (or other whole grain mustard), and butter crackers.

1 pound chicken livers
2 cups buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for greasing terrine
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon "pink" salt (see head note)
1 quart heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease a 1 1/2-quart pate terrine with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap.

Puree livers in food processor or blender until smooth. Add eggs, salt, white pepper, and "pink" salt; pulse to combine. Add 2 cups of heavy cream; pulse to combine. Strain mixture through a chinos or other fine-meshed strainer into a large bowl. A ladle will help you push the mixture through the strainer. Add remaining 2 cups cream; whisk to combine. Pour mixture into the terrine. Place the terrine in a roasting pan and put into oven. Fill a large bowl with scalding hot water and pour into roasting pan until the water comes three-quarters of the way up the side of the terrine. (This is a water bath!)

Bake mousse until mixture is firm when jiggled, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until completely cold. Remove from refrigerator, run a paring knife around the edges of the mousse, and invert to release on a baking sheet or serving tray. If the mousse will not release, allow to warm slightly (about 15 minutes) and then it should release easily.

YIELD: About 12 generous slabs; enough to be served as an hors d'oeuvre at a 40-person cocktail party.

Holy Crap Those Are Good Pickles

5 cucumbers, peeled on 3 sides and sliced ¾-inch thick
½ sweet onion, thinly sliced
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup kosher salt
1 quart cider vinegar
1 quart sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine cucumbers, sweet onion, pepper, carrot, and salt in a large bowl or storage container. Let sit for one hour. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Return to a large bowl or storage container.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over vegetables, cover, and refrigerate. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

YIELD: 1 1/2 quarts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Charles!

Anne's Grillades and Grits

If one dish could epitomize New Orleans comfort food I would place my bet on grillades (pronounced "gree-yadz"). Many associate it with brunch, but my partner Charles most enjoyed it for his birthday dinner. His mother, Anne, makes hers with beef, but lots of New Orleanians would insist on veal. Defying both these traditions, we make ours with pork butt, which happens to be very affordable and flavorful. Serve this dish in the depths of a cold, dreary winter when you have nothing better to do than cook the day away. You will be sure to win many fans!

2 cups red wine
3 ½ pounds pork butt, diced
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
¼ to 1/2cup flour
3 cups chopped onion, about 1 1/2 mediums onions or 1 large onion
2 cups chopped green bell pepper, about 2 1/2 medium bell peppers
2 cups chopped celery, about 3 stalks
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup hot sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
About 20 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4 whole garlic cloves

Bring wine to a boil in a medium saucepan and reduce by half. Reserve for later use.

Season pork with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or other large pot over high heat. Add pork butt and sear until all of the meat is well browned and has released some fat, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large baking dish and reserve for later use.

Reduce heat to medium. (Be sure to allow the pot's temperature to reduce a bit so that you do not immediately burn the flour. This will also calm down the spitting and spatting that the leftover pork bits are most likely doing.) Add oil and flour (amount of flour will depend on amount of fat released from pork butt. If it released a lot of fat you could need up to 1/2 cup flour. Basically, add enough flour to form a thin paste. This is your "roux"!) Cook, stirring constantly, until your roux has become dark chocolate brown in color, 15 to 20 minutes. This obviously take a little while and is a very important part of the process. The key with a roux is patience. If you try to speed up the process by increasing the heat you risk burning the roux. This will ruin the entire dish as it is the foundation of the flavor. Simply relax and stir. Also, be careful of splashing yourself with the roux as it is molten hot!

Once you have achieved desired color, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the pot. Season with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved wine, stock, tomatoes, hot sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, and reserved pork. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until meat is very tender (it should fall begin to shred when prodded with a fork), about 3 hours. Discard thyme bundle and bay leaves before serving.

Serve over grits.

YIELD: About 8 servings

P.S. At the GO we often add shrimp to this dish to create our Wintertime Shrimp and Grits. To do this, simply add one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp as the last step in the cooking process (once your meat is fork tender.) Stir and cook until shrimp are just pink and firm, about 5 minutes. This will increase your yield -- giving you 10 to 12 servings.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fred Dockery -- A Man of the Lowcountry Waters

Fred Dockery defies an easy definition. He comes to the shrimping and crabbing business not by birth but by choice. He comes armed with a degree in philosophy and an impeccable fluency in the French language. But the waters cast their spell on him years ago. Now, he utterly depends on them just like the multi-generational fishing families he works alongside. It's not simply a job but a way of life.

However, Fred does bring a unique attitude to this passion, and it's an attitude cultivated by his rich and varied upbringing -- beginning in Montpellier, France. There, in 1964, his single mother, a Portuguese psychologist gave birth to Fred. Shortly thereafter, she met a young American man who happened to be in the area on a Fulbright scholarship. They fell in love, married, and moved to America in 1968. His adopted father's career as a French professor kept the family on the move -- from North Carolina to Iowa to Maine and finally back to North Carolina. Fred even spent another year in France where he spoke the language as if he had never left, and even now his eyes light up when he talks of France.

Eventually, Fred found himself at Bates College in Maine where he studied philosophy simply out of interest. Like so many youth on the cusp of adulthood, he had no idea what he really wanted to do. After college he tried his hand at screenwriting in New York City and environmental education in Connecticut. When neither panned out to his liking, he found himself living in an old airplane hangar on the Connecticut coast contemplating his next move. He also found himself hungry, and when one of his "housemates" offered up his position on a commercial fishing boat Fred started work the next day. He still remembers that first seasick morning out on the water; he loved it.

As it turns out, Fred entered the New England fishing scene at a dynamic time -- the end of the "lobster-trawler wars." Territorial rights play a significant role in commercial fishing, and here the lobstermen believed that the big trawlers had infringed on theirs. Within his first month, the lobstermen fired shots and sunk the 40-foot trawler that employeed Fred. The crew pulled the boat up and repaired it, but the captain had fought his last battle. He offered the job up, and with one month's experience Fred began running his own boat.

"It was like setting a kid loose in a gravel pit with a backhoe!" he says, smiling broadly.

Fred worked various fishing jobs until he met his wife, Catherine, in 1987. They decided to move back down South, closer to both their families, and wound up in Charleston. Fred found work at Atlantic Clam Farms and remained there from 1991 to 1996. After clamming, he tried his hand at oystering, but the work wreaked havoc on his back. Next, Fred turned to crabbing and eventually shrimping. He laughs now, remembering his first attempt at shrimping.

"I had no idea what I was doing," he says. "I was measuring [my catch] in numbers not pounds."

Thankfully, veteran shrimper Neal Cooksey took Fred under his tutelage -- selling him an old net and introducing him to tricks of the trade like the "tickle chain." On his next trip out, he found success -- catching so many shrimp that he ran out of coolers and ice.

These days, his catch can vary from less than a pound to 40 pounds, but Fred does not have quite the stress of the big trawlers. He goes out on a 19-foot skiff, which burns only a fraction of the fuel, and he can crab on the same day. Of course, it's not easy work. Fred goes out most days by himself -- hauling in heavy nets and crab traps. And he hauls them in knowing the sad reality of a market flooded by cheap, imported shrimp. Fred believes that the only real answer to this issue would be taxing these shrimp from Asia and South America or creating government subsidies for American fishermen. Simply put, he likes the grassroots campaigns, but he believes they are just not enough.

"It is not a wasted lesson teaching the value of fresh and local, but people shop with their pocketbooks, and the bulk of them still want big shrimp at a low price," he says.

In addition to such larger issues, Fred also still deals with the territorial drama that seems unavoidable in the fishing business. Feuds between crabbers result in lines to identifying buoys being cut -- meaning a loss of crabs, equipment, and time. Fred tries to stay out of such disputes because one can never be sure who victimized you.

"If I retaliated, remorse would eat me up," he says.

Besides, Fred does not come across as a fighter. In fact, he seems genuinely happy despite the long hours and low pay. He recognizes that that this is a life he chose for himself and his family. He and Catherine have three children -- Carlisle, Evan, and Emma -- all old enough to de-head and sort shrimp. Only one -- his son Evan -- has a real interest in the business. He goes out with Fred on most weekends and even saved up to buy his own boat at age 10.

When asked whether he wonders if Evan would be better off choosing another path, Fred laughs.

"I don't have to wonder; I know he would be better off," he says. "I would be better off too! But on a day like today, where else would I rather be?"

He waves his arm motioning to the world around him -- the sweetgrass whispers; a few white, picturesque clouds float lazily in the blue sky; Spanish moss hangs from the oak trees; herons and egrets soar gracefully; red-winged blackbirds and purple martins flit about; and a gentle, breeze strikes up, as if on cue.


At the GO we buy shrimp, blue crabs, and stone crabs from Fred, and they all represent the supreme quality that only local seafood can offer.