Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tis the season for a fish fry!

As I noted last week, the weather really does dictate so much about what you feel like cooking, and this week the rising temperatures down South make me realize that we best take advantage of this time when outside cooking can still be a pleasure rather than a sweaty chore! I admit that you folks who live further north have the advantage; many of y'all will probably grill out throughout the summer in near idyllic weather.

Well, here I have a proposition for something much more fun and exciting than a about a fish fry? At the Glass Onion we are known for our fried catfish,and as someone who grew up eating a lot of fried catfish I feel that I can attest to its deliciousness! We are proud to serve the only all natural, farm raised catfish in the United States, which comes from Carolina Classics in North Carolina. Their farming practices yield an especially tasty fish, as does our recipe, which I share below.

In my mind, Memorial Day weekend would be the perfect time for a fish fry!

Fried Catfish

Let's be upfront -- frying seafood at home is just not that easy. This is why in our upcoming cookbook we have chosen to include a recipe, only for fried catfish, versus fried shrimp or oysters. The catfish is a little more forgiving, and it is truly unique because of our mustard marinade. Plus, there are few parties more fun than a fish fry. To turn this into a party, simply double the recipe, fire up your gas camp stove, and set up on your porch or deck. Line the table with old newspapers, and you are in business. The reality is that fried seafood is best straight out of the oil, and the party setting allows you to serve folks immediately. Just be sure to snag a couple of pieces for yourself and have an assistant handy with cold beverages!

2 pounds catfish filets, boneless
1 cup yellow mustard
1 cup Creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups corn starch
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine catfish, yellow mustard, and Creole mustard in a large bowl and toss with your hands until the catfish is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Heat 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a large pot. (A skillet can also be used, but the pot helps reduce splattering!)

Combine flour, cornmeal, corn starch, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Dredge catfish through flour mixture and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Using tongs, carefully drop two filets at a time into oil and fry until breading is very crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer filets to a paper-lined baking sheet, season with additional salt and pepper (to taste), and hold in the oven as you fry the remaining pieces of catfish.

Serve with cocktail, tartar, or remoulade sauce! I'll include our recipe for remoulade below as this classic French sauce (and staple in New Orleans cooking) might not be in your repertoire.

Red Remoulade

Remoulade is a classic French mayonnaise-based sauce. And like many French culinary traditions, it is a staple in the cuisine of south Louisiana. You might toss peeled, boiled shrimp in it for the famed shrimp remoulade salad found on many New Orleans menus. Or you might use it simply as a dipping sauce for our Fried Catfish.

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Splash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk until well combined.

YIELD: About 1 1/2 cups (enough to dress 1 pound of peeled, boiled shrimp)

P.S. You can leave out the ketchup, making it "white remoulade" -- a similarly tasty sauce!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Italian Sausage Ragout...Warms the Soul!

My grandmother introduced me to a new/old expression yesterday that I adore -- "Blackberry Winter". This refers to the last bit of cold we might have down South in the springtime that happens to coincide with the first blackberries!

And in fact, we have been experiencing just such a cool snap here in South Carolina and where she lives in Georgia. It is really a time to be savored as any veteran Southerner knows that the sweltering days of summer will soon be upon us.

Of course, I associate any occasion with food, and consequently, I figured what better way to celebrate Blackberry Winter than with one last hearty dish. One of my favorite soul-warming meals that you can enjoy here at the Glass Onion is our pasta with Italian sausage ragout (aka Bolognese sauce.) Here is the recipe for you to try at home!

P.S. If you are wondering about the truth in the Blackberry Winter expression -- I have to admit that I have not seen any blackberries around Charleston yet, but my grandmother said a family friend just brought her a basketful!

Chuck's Italian Sausage Ragout

We call this an Italian Sausage Ragout, but really it's my partner's take on Bolognese, the classic northern Italian pasta sauce. Traditionally, it is tossed with fresh tagliatelle, but at the GO, we serve it with our housemade handkerchief pasta or locally made cavatelli. If you happen to enjoy making fresh pasta yourself, or can buy some, I would highly recommend taking that extra step, but even dried noodles produce an outstanding meal.

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped bacon (about 5 ounces or 4 to 5 standard grocery store slices)
1 pound ground pork butt
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed, finely chopped or ground in spice grinder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 1/2 stalks)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium garlic cloves)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken livers, pureed in blender or food processor or finely chopped
1 pound cooked pasta (of your choice)
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a large bowl break apart tomatoes with your hands; set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add ground pork, fennel, oregano, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly so that pork does not clump, for another 5 minutes. Add onions, carrot, and celery and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, cream, stock, and tomato paste; stir to combine.

Simmer until about 75 percent of liquid has cooked down, about 45 minutes.

Add livers and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for another 5 minutes before tossing with pasta. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

YIELD: 6 to 8 servings

P.S. Don't be scared off by the chicken livers that finish this dish. They add a necessary richness, but most folks would never place the flavor. They can be your "secret" ingredient!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fried Chicken -- Does Life Get Any Better?

Fried chicken has been on my mind of late. On a recent trip to New York City I experienced a midnight fried chicken dinner at Momofuku that I had to reserve a month in advance. A few days later at a Southern food summit hosted by Garden & Gun magazine right here in Charleston, the subject of fried chicken came up repeatedly as we discussed exactly what constitutes Southern food.

And our own fried chicken dinner on Tuesdays here at the GO grows in popularity each week. In fact, we plan to institute a Momofuku-esque policy...from now on we encourage guests to call and reserve their fried chicken in advance so that we can better meet and gauge the demand.

If you are ambitious enough to fry chicken at home -- I will share our secret recipe, but first I must share its evolution. Growing up in Georgia I loved home fried chicken but always had to be in the right place at the right time as there was definitely no one frying chicken at my house! (Luckily, a very special lady named Maudell could usually be talked into cooking up a batch when I spent the night with my good friend Leah.)

Once I began teaching myself to cook I tackled fried chicken almost immediately with the idea that I could then eat home fried chicken any time I pleased. However, once I realized the nuance required to yield perfectly fried chicken I wavered a bit.

Several years later while testing recipes for Emeril Lagasse I set out on my mission again and came up with my basic technique. Over the years I have tweaked the recipe this way and that, but I finally feel that I have my own fried chicken, and we serve the restaurant version of that at the Glass Onion. Call and reserve yours for tomorrow (843-225-1717)! Or see how the recipe works in your kitchen!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

We believe that ours is extra special because we use all-natural chickens. These days it is not overly difficult or expensive to find such birds, and we swear you can taste the difference.

Vegetable oil for frying
1 buttermilk-brined chicken (see recipe below)
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne

Heat 4 inches of oil to 325 degrees in a large pot.

Combine self-rising flour, all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne in a brown paper grocery bag. (Two bags -- one inside the other -- ensures no blowouts!)

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and shake to remove excess. Add the chicken in batches to the flour mixture (in the bag) and shake to completely coat. Remove and shake over trash can to remove excess flour. (Alternatively, you could simply combine the flour/seasoning in a shallow baking dish and dredge the chicken pieces through it. However, the paper bag method thoroughly coats the chicken and, in my opinion, happens to be more fun!)

Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to rest until ready to fry, at least 30 minutes. (Allowing the chicken to rest after flouring ensures that the flour will better adhere to the chicken during the frying process.)

Fry the chicken in batches, skin-side down, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Turn and fry until golden brown on the second side and cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Remove and drain on paper towel-lined sheet pan.

An instant-read thermometer should read 165 degrees when chicken is probed. If your chicken happens to be slightly under, you can finish it in the oven at 350 degrees.

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings

P.S. Don’t be intimidated by this recipe -- just allow yourself time to brine and time to fry. The good thing about fried chicken is that it tastes really good at room temperature. So unlike fried seafood, you could do all the work in advance and sit down to enjoy the feast with your friends/family without forsaking flavor!

P.P.S. An even oil temperature is key to frying at home. A clip-on candy/fry thermometer should be kept in the pot at all times, and the temperature should register at least 300 degrees during the frying process.)


1 quart buttermilk
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 1 large garlic clove)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4-pounds) cut into 8 serving pieces

Combine buttermilk, hot sauce, salt, garlic, black pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl; stir to combine. Add chicken pieces and make sure all are submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.