Hot browns, street corn, tres leches and more … The Taste of Boca Grande, Part II

Hot browns, street corn, tres leches and more … The Taste of Boca Grande, Part II

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Here we are with the second installment of three rounding out the menus of the Taste of Boca Grande, which will be held on Monday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.

The Boca Bay Pass Club will once again host the event on their back lawn, and the giant tents will be present to keep your heads dry and your loins toasty.

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet the cost per ticket is $125, and they are available at the following locations:

• The Boca Beacon office, upstairs at 431 Park Ave. 964-2995;

• The BRC Realtors of Boca Grande, 333 Park Ave. #2C 964-8180;

• The Boca Grande Club, 5000 Gasparilla Rd., 964-2211;

• The Boca Bay Pass Club, 898 Gulf Blvd., 964-0769;

• Michael Saunders & Company, 420 E. Railroad Ave., 964-2000

You can also go to harrychapinfoodbank.org for more information.

Don’t forget, you’ll be able to dance a few of those calories away with the Brett Foreman Band playing all of your favorites from the past few decades. They are a very diverse, musically sound band and the crowds have enjoyed them since they began coming to “Taste.”

All proceeds from this event benefit the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, an organization that just announced they are partnering with Publix Super Markets in “Feeding Southwest Florida,” a one-day food drive being held Saturday, Feb. 8 in Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties. Residents are invited to shop any of the 62 Publix stores across those three counties from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day to support the mission to fight to end the hunger that many all around us face every day.

We have some fascinating items to discuss this week, so let us once again amble into the culinary of world of “Taste” …

Eagle Grille & Miller’s Dockside, Boca Grande 

Chef Antonio Olivero

Seared scallops with ponzu sauce; Churrasco steak street tacos served with fresh cilantro, fresh sweet onions, and mild and spicy chili sauce

Chef Olivero is skilled in many types of cuisine, and his interesting combination of tastes – Asian and Portuguese – will offer something for almost anyone to enjoy.

Last week we discussed ponzu sauce a little bit, in the fact that the word itself has Dutch origins but is Japanese in nature and means “punch vinegar.” But did you know that it is as common in Japan as a condiment as ketchup is here? Did you know that while it is commonly used in seafood, it can also be used in pork, steak and vegetable dishes? It’s an extremely versatile, relatively healthy sauce that will hold a high place in the court of your kitchen once you start experimenting.

So what is Churrasco? Quite simply, it means “grilled meat,” quite often beef. Normally it is cooked on skewers made of wood or metal. Many purists cringe at the thought of cooking the meat over charcoal instead of wood, but it is becoming more and more common. It features prominently in the diets of folks from Central and South America.

It makes sense that barbecue is so popular in these countries, as the Pampa region of South America was a very prominent livestock transport area. The word derives from the Spanish “Socarrar.”

Quite often Churrasco is paired with rice, salad, potatoes, even cheese curds.

The difference between a regular taco and a street taco is the size. Street tacos are meant to be more of a snack than a meal, which is great for the vendors because there are few people who order just one when they’re small.

Street tacos are much simpler than their larger counterparts, and usually are filled with meat, raw onion, cilantro and perhaps some chili sauce. If you’re lucky they might throw in an avocado slice. Chef Olivero will be bringing it old school, as you can see above, with the meat being the centerpiece of the taco, flavored with cilantro and onion and topped with a mild chili sauce.

By the way, in case you were wondering …

In 2008 Paraguay made headlines when the country got into the Guinness Book of World Records for consuming the most outdoor barbecue in the world: A recorded 59,000 pounds of meat consumed by more than 40,000 people.

Farlow’s On the Water, Englewood

Chef John Mazza

Shrimp & Kentucky cornbread: Pan-seared wild pink shrimp in a Morita chili and roasted garlic butter sauce over house-made cornbread and wilted greens; world-famous Kentucky hot brown sliders: King’s Hawaiian rolls topped with all-natural, antibiotic-free sliced turkey, creamy cheddar cheese, tomatoes and pecan-smoked bacon on top, baked until hot & heavenly; sticky toffee cake: A moist date sponge cake covered in a toffee sauce, served with vanilla custard and fresh thyme

Chef Mazza is taking it over the top at “Taste” this year with several amazing concoctions. Let’s start with that good-looking cornbread and shrimp. We will lead off with a question that many of you might be asking – what is Morita chili? No, it isn’t from the Karate Kid, though Mr. Miyagi’s name in real life was Pat Morita. Morita chilies are smoked red jalapenos, and are used in similar ways that a chipotle pepper would be used. The difference is, though, that Moritas are smoked a little less, which leaves them softer and retaining more of their fruity flavor. They are very rich, and have a distinctive taste. On the Scoville Heat Unit Chart Morita chilies are rated at 2,500 to 8,000, and they are about the size of a prune.

By the way, it is absolutely amazing the wealth of information that can be found about chilies. There are so many kinds, so many aficionados … so many glasses of milk to follow.

Why would someone want to eat wilted greens? If you were to ask most people if they wanted fresh or wilted produce, they would look at you as if you told them you’d rather eat a wormy apple. Actually this form of salad is called “killed” instead of “wilted” by many people, so don’t be confused … killed is wilted.

Have you ever been served a hamburger at a restaurant with the greens on the side, and they lay there staring back at you when you have taken the last bite of meat? Have you ever picked it up and decided, what the heck: I’m eating this last morsel of goodness on my plate, because surely that bit of greens will balance out the grease and carbs in that burger. You’ll notice the difference it makes when you taste it, when it’s been consorting with a bit of grease and warmth on the plate.

I’ll read you a quote I found on a web site called Deseret News, where a cook is talking about his secret love of wilted greens.

Every night I prepared the same frugal but reinvigorating repast – a basket of hot-from-the-water fettuccine dumped into a bowl of salad. I sloshed it together until the greens were hot and limp, and the vinaigrette coated the pasta. Sometimes I threw in a handful of roasted nuts or some fresh lashings of Parmesan cheese.

It was so weird. It was soooo good.

What can I say? Hot lettuce spins my dials.

The French have a dish called a “salade frisee aux lardons,” which includes endive lettuce that is wilted when mixed with bacon grease, bacon chunks and vinegar. It sounds like a great way to be able to look your doctor in the eye during your check-up and say, “I’ve been eating a lot of salad lately.”

This same chef we quoted above says the correct way to wilt greens is to wash them, chop them, then place them in a skillet to cook, covered, until they release their moisture.

“The heat disrupts the turgid cellulose walls that keep the greens crisp, and the water stored inside rushes out like a flash flood. And there’s an added bonus of giving you a concentrated shot of vitamin A and phytochemicals, which fight cancer,” the web site states.

If you’re curious as to what a Kentucky hot brown slider is, be curious no more. This is an authentic American creation, first made in Louisville (which is pronounced “LOO-uh-vul, by the way – drop that jaw on the second syllable), Kentucky at the Brown Hotel. It is an open-faced sandwich that has been around since 1926, when a man named Fred Schmidt first created it as an alternative menu item for late night/after-party dance patrons.

Specific enough for you?

The original recipe called for turkey with bacon, covered in a Mornay sauce and parmesan cheese. It also called for heavy cream, Pecorino Romano cheese, tomatoes and Texas toast.

Chef Mazza’s “hot brown” will be served on a King Hawaiian roll. These rolls were first made in Hilo, Hawaii in the 1950s by a man named Robert Taira, and they are actually a form of Portuguese sweet bread called “pao doce.”

There is a lot of controversy in the “fowl” world about the claim that animals are raised in a “hormone-free” or “antibiotic-free” atmosphere. If you go to treehugger.com you’ll see one thing, if you go to money.com you’ll see quite another.

If you’re wondering how our meat became imbued with antibiotics in the first place, it’s because many farmers like to go overboard with them if they have one more animals in the herd that are sick. They will prophylactically dose the herd with these drugs sometimes when just one or two are ill, and these medications enter our system when we eat the meat. When you take too many antibiotics what happens? You become immune. So when you see meat in the supermarket that has a label that says that your steak wasn’t on drugs, that’s a good thing.

Chef Mazza’s dessert sounds absolutely sinful, and has a unique history. Sponge cake has actually been around since the 1400s, during the Renaissance, when Italian cooks became renowned for their baking skills and were hired throughout Europe. One of the new items they brought to tables in England and France was something they called “biscuits,” which were actually the forerunner for sponge cake.

In 1615 a man named Gervase Markham recorded the first sponge cake recipe, and by the middle of the 18th century yeast was become less common in cakes and beaten eggs were being used as raising agents more often than not. This made it easier to make an airy cake, and sponge cake took off like a shot.

Not many people don’t like toffee. It is a very patrician, rich taste that rolls on the tongue and dissolves into a mellow, bold after-flavor. The first mention of toffee in history was in the early 1800s, but little is known as to its proper origin. Some say it was Creole, others say it was British.

Either way, it is made by carmelizing sugar (or moleasses) with butter and sometimes flour. The mixture is heated until it cracks and is in solid form.

Chef Mazzo’s dessert will be drizzled in a toffee sauce, which is sure to be delicious.

Gasparilla Inn & Pink Elephant, Boca Grande 

Gabriel Maldonudo, C.E.C, C.C.A

Street corn with cotija cheese, chili lime, tortilla crisp with scallop ceviche, coconut ginger gel, tobiko, avocado, charred hot sauce; coriander-crusted smoked pork tenderloin; poblano crema, chayote slaw, cilantro; tres leches rice pudding with spiced rum, sweet milk and a cinnamon twist

Yo yo yo, this ain’t your mama’s street corn. Chef Maldonudo will be offering up some of the best corn you’ll ever eat, fo shizzle.

Maybe it’s not the “street” you’re thinking of, so let’s elaborate.

People around the world have loved handleable, on-the-go cuisine since time began, and Mexico City is a mecca for such cuisine. There they call it “antojitos”, which means “little cravings,”  In the example that Chef Maldonudo will bring to “Taste,” a full ear of corn is grilled and slathered with a number of toppings, including chili lime, coconut ginger gel, tobiko and cotija cheese, among other toppings. The final product is then served on a stick, providing an easy means for mobile consumption. At “Taste,” that’s a welcome thing.

The Spanish know pork, and they know how to cook it to perfection: Chef’s pork tenderloin encrusted with coriander will most certainly be a glorious example of Spanish meat perfection. There are some things in this recipe, though, that may sound confusing … so let’s break it down.

Poblano Crema is a thick, creamy sauce that is similar to crème fraiche in French cooking. The sauce is infused with Poblano peppers, which are dark green and have a mild heat (measuring between 1,000 and 2,000 on the Scoville Scale).

Chayota slaw? It sounds like coyote slaw, but luckily it’s not.

Chayote is a member of the gourd family. Specifically, it is a  Cucurbitaceae, and in the same family as

pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and melons. You probably have walked by it in the produce section of the grocery store and just never noticed it.  Chayote is also called a mirliton squash, christophene or christophine, cho-cho (cute!) or my favorite – vegetable pear.  And although it does look a bit like a misshapen pear, it actually isn’t a vegetable. In fact, Chayote is a fruit – all gourds are (yes, even pumpkins).

For dessert Chef M. will be serving tres leches rice pudding. People are either in the corner of loving rice pudding (overall legit people in general) or hating it (those that kick puppies). It’s similar to tapioca, so do you like tapioca pudding (aka, you’re a fun, energetic, intelligent person), or do you hate it (otherwise known as a complete dud of a human)?

The three types of milk used in this dessert are whole, evaporated and sweetened condensed. This makes for an extra-creamy ride on the dessert train, so be prepared to grab some of this before it’s gone.

Loose Caboose Restaurant, Boca Grande

Chef Jacques Boudreau 

Seafood chowder, bread pudding with cinnamon brandy glaze

Chowder is an interesting dish that has fed the poorer folks of this nation have known about for centuries. While many people first think of New England when they hear the word, it was actually created in the fishing culture of Newfoundland. Hundreds of years ago Breton fishermen returned home to Bordeaux or Brittany with their catch to find their wives sitting at home with the kids. When they asked what was for dinner, the wives shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Just make something with what you have.”

That last part isn’t exactly true. The wives would actually mix up huge pots of hot food for the fishermen who returned, but because pickings were slim they had to find a way to make the odds and ends of food that they had into something tasty. With a milk base (or water and flour paste) they could slow-cook vegetables and meat bits and turn it into something rib-sticking for the men who hadn’t had a hot meal in a long time.

New England’s culinary history is marked by a varying array of chowders. Early forms were thick and layered, but the adaptability of this beloved recipe has allowed for a multitude of tasty preparations to emerge. Thick or thin, brimming with fish or clams or corn, chowder springs up throughout the region in as many distinctive varieties as there are ports of call yet always remains the quintessential expression of New England cuisine. Food writers and chowder connoisseurs Robert S. Cox and Jacob Walker dish out the history, flavors and significance of every New Englander’s favorite comfort food.

The word “chowder” originated from the Latin word “calderia,” which meant “a place to warm food.” Later it was used as the word for a cooking pot, and then became “caldron.” The French made the word “chaudiere,” and the Old English culture took it a step further and called it a “jowter.”

Maybe chowder was a simple poor man’s food centuries ago, but it has been taken to magical heights since then.

While chowder frequently has a seafood component, there are always those vegetarians out there who want something hearty as well, and corn chowder is just the ticket.

Of course, when you add grouper and other seafood to the mix it turns into something otherwordly.

Chef Jacques has a secret recipe handed down through the ages, from the first Chef Jaques who ever walked upright and cooked over fire.

OK, that might have been embellishment but it is true that he makes a a great bread pudding.

The idea originated in 11th or 12th century England, where frugal cooks used their stale bread bits, milk or cream and sometimes eggs to whip up something that could be either sweet or savory.

Chef Jacques is pulling out the stops with the cinnamon brandy glaze, so he’s definitely going for sweet with this.

 

 

Scarpa’s Coastal, Boca Grande 

Chef Glenn Scarpa/ Exec. Sous Thomas Tirpak

Baked crab cakes with Meyer lemon aioli, Italian meatballs

This is an exiting feature at “Taste,” as there are quite a few people who haven’t sample fare from the newest of the Boca Grande restaurants. Scarpa’s Coastal is set up in the Old Theatre Building, and the callouts so far have been phenomenal. Chef Glenn Scarpa has had extensive experience in the kitchen, beginning when he was a child. He and his wife own another Scarpa’s restaurant in central Florida, and many who have come to this one have been to the other.

We begin with Chef Glenn’s baked crab cakes, which most people know are crab meat compressed with spices added and pan fried.

The most important thing about the crab cake is … well … the crab. This is NOT the time to skimp on da meats, so expect to spend a little more on the nights when you go out to eat or cook them at home.

Starting with lump crab meat, most chefs add a little mustard, some egg and mayo, and finish with bread crumbs (occasionally hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce are used as well).

Pretty simple stuff, but every chef does their crab cakes differently, and every level of fantastic goodness is different as well.

But what is with the Meyer lemon aioli? Specifically, what is a Meyer lemon and why is it different than all the rest?

For more than a century, the Meyer lemon was known mostly for its looks. In its native China, it was primarily a decorative houseplant. It is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and has smooth golden skin the color of a fresh egg yolk. It also has a thin, edible rind, a high volume of juice and none of the tartness of a regular lemon — so it’s potential in the kitchen increases exponentially. Its aromatic, slightly sweet quality brightens desserts, sauces, salads and roasts. In fact, Meyers may be substituted for regular lemons whenever you want a burst of lemon flavor without the acidic bite. Though it took a long time for the Meyer lemon to make its way into the culinary limelight, it was worth the wait.

The Meyer lemon might still be decorating homes today if it weren’t for one man.

In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent Frank N. Meyer, an agricultural explorer (yes, that was his actual job title) on several trips to Asia with the mission of collecting new plant species. Among more than 2,500 plants that he introduced to the U.S., the Meyer lemon was named in his honor. Sadly, Meyer would never live to see the success of his namesake. He died on an expedition near Shanghai in 1918.

Lastly, Chef Scarpa is going to wow you with an old favorite – the meatball. You may think you’ve had a million meatballs in your life and weren’t impressed … but perhaps you haven’t eaten Chef Scarpa’s meatballs.

No one really knows where meatballs came from. No one knows where they originated. They’re like the Easter Island or Stonehenge of the culinary world. They’re superb, they’re simple … they’re every man’s ball of meat.

Tune in next week for the third and last installment of our “Taste of Boca Grande” menu series.