Fritter - A Pantry Blog

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Soup
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I’m not going to lie, these posts are getting harder and harder to write.

I frankly don’t have a lot to say about soup at the moment, so let’s just get in there and talk about the state of our country.

Being born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama meant that I grew up keenly aware of racial tension. All around us were reminders of the Civil Rights movement: the church where King preached, the Capitol steps where the Selma march ended, the Maya Lin Civil Rights Memorial, the defunct bus system that didn’t survive the boycott, the humiliating public schools that were defunded after desegregation, the all-white private schools that were created as a back door to re-segregation, and the racist slurs that slipped out of my parents’ mouths without anyone noticing. So as far back as I can remember, I struggled to make sense of the complicated history that makes up the current Southern reality, and searched for ways to be a better citizen than many of those who came before me.

But it was probably during my college years that I started to really connect the dots about my immediate family and the timeline of the Civil Rights movement. When we studied that period in school, and even when we talk about it now, it feels so distant and abstract – a faraway time that’s hard to imagine or relate to. And while yes, it was before I was born, both of my parents were in junior high school when the Montgomery public schools were desegregated, and my grandparents were as old as I am now. That means they were cognizant of the fight for equal rights happening right in their backyards. And while I’ll never understand the nuances of their positions on equal rights, I do know that not one member of my family felt the call to march.

My grandmother, who had more of a hand in raising me than either of my parents, cannot explain this chapter of her life. It has taken most of my adult life for me to come to reconcile the person I know her to be – someone who took me road-tripping all over the country, who constantly peppered me with advice about doing the right thing, who opened her home to me when I could no longer live with my mother – with the person that my young militant mind would likely be angry at, for not standing up and fighting. I love her more than anyone I have known or ever will know, but I don’t know how to explain away that indifference. And while I understand how easy it can be to ignore truths that are staring us in the face, I cannot imagine not fighting this administration, this proposed wall on our border, this ban on Muslim immigration, this horrible display of ignorance and fear. So many years ago I promised myself that if there ever was a moment to march, I would be there, no matter the effort or cost. Immediately after the election, I snapped up a plane ticket, canceled a class I was scheduled to teach on inauguration weekend, and made my first-ever trip to our nation’s capital.

Sprouts
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I was so extremely proud to have marched with over 3 million people from around the world, in protest of the election of the most repulsive man possible. A man who admits to sexually assaulting women. A man who makes fun of the disabled and those wounded in war. A man who is a known racist, who thinks Mexican Americans are rapists, and who thinks Muslims deserve fewer rights. An incurious man who places no value on decency, and who thinks intelligence and education are overrated. A man whose ego is so fragile that the slightest challenge sends him into a full temper tantrum. A man who seeks to punish those who disagree with him. A man whose sanity is in question. The Civil Rights fight of our grandparents generation has grown to include so many corners of our beautifully diverse country, and I am ready to fight to preserve that diversity.

I arrived to a city taken over by pink knit hats and Make America Great Again caps, and fought the urge to size up everyone I saw, to draw the line and find out which side they were on. It felt so right to be there, standing up for what is already great about this country, yet I couldn’t wait to return to my big blue bubble where I could hide from that specific kind of diversity. The relief upon returning lasted approximately 24 hours — and this constant swinging between despair and inspiration is exhausting. We’re now only ten days in and already that weekend in DC feels like a microcosm of what our whole country now feels like. On one side we have a president signing executive orders that will do nothing to help our national security and economy, that will only punish innocent people that many of our fellow citizens have deemed scary by virtue of nothing more than their race, religion, or country of origin. We have Republican politicians remaining silent, alongside huge swaths of our Christian leaders. And on the other side we have a large portion of the population screaming “no!,” running into the streets to protest, and preparing to fight like hell. I am both broken and made whole by my fellow Americans.

So that’s where I’m at. This week I spent my days reading the news voraciously, taking walks to look at the mountains and calm myself, researching the best use of my time, money, and the Pantry’s table, and feeling overwhelmed with how to be impactful. I spent my evenings teaching classes, joining with my neighbors, who all have the same wild-eyed look, laughing and eating cake, feeling so thankful for and proud of our community. The yo-yo of emotions is dizzying, but I suspect it’s what we all need to get through this. One of the many bits of my advice my grandmother used to repeat to me was “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” She credited Hank Williams for that little nugget, though I’m fairly confident that’s not where it originated (a quick internet search left me with the feeling that it’s been said many times, and well, really, who cares). Well grandma, this is what standing up looks like.

And we’ll probably need some soup.

Pumpkin
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

White Bean Soup with Brussels Sprouts and Apple Cider-Glazed Pumpkin

Yield
8 servings
  • Soup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 8 ounces carrots, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces celery ribs, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound Great Northern beans, washed and picked over
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 sage sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2-3 quarts water, as needed
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream, or more to taste
  • Brussels sprouts
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 13 ounces brussels sprouts, shaved very thin
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cider-glazed Pumpkin:
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 11 ounces 1/2-inch diced butternut squash
  • High heat oil, for roasting
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Prepare the soup:

- Place a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Melt the butter, add the onion, and cook until the onion becomes tender and light golden brown. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits. Add the carrots, celery, beans, thyme, sage, bay leaf, and 2 1/2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the beans are very soft and creamy and the broth is fragrant. Remove the herb sprigs.

- Working in batches, use a blender to purée the soup until it is very smooth. Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Heat through, thin out as desired with more water, and season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cream.

Sear the brussels sprouts:

- In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat and quickly saute the brussels sprouts leaves until wilted and a bit browned. Season to taste. Set aside and hold warm.

Roast the pumpkin:

- Bring the cider to a boil, and then lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer to reduce the apple cider to a syrup - it will reduce to about 1/4-1/3 cup in volume, and will take 20-30 minutes.

- Preheat an oven to 475 degrees F.

- Toss the squash cubes with enough oil to lightly coat, and place them on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Combine 3 tablespoons of the cider syrup with the vinegar. Drizzle the syrup over the squash cubes and toss to coat. Season liberally with salt. Roast until the cubes are just tender and starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer the squash to a hot, well-oiled sheet pan. Toss with a little more cider syrup and salt, to taste.

To finish:

- Ladle the soup into hot bowls. Top with a small pile of the brussels sprouts, then with some of the pumpkin. Drizzle a little cider syrup over the soup, and serve immediately.

Building Community

Plated Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin.

Fritter is a wonderful place for me to share stories and food from our kitchen with like-minded folk from around the country and the world. It offers me a challenge every month: to reflect on the past weeks, to pick a recipe that I think others might actually cook on their own, and to write, even when writing feels like the last thing I want to do.

It feels especially hard this month. Not because I don’t have things to say — if you know me outside of this context then you’re well aware that I have plenty to say — but because the standard “pick a recipe and then write a story connecting that recipe to your feelings right now” just doesn’t feel like enough. There literally is no recipe that makes sense this month. I’m still going to share one, because we can’t fight the good fight if we’re not feeding ourselves, but my words are going to digress. Indulge me, if you will.

I was born in Alabama, a state that has historically been dragged kicking and screaming into contemporary standards of civil rights, and was raised by racist parents. But life offered many chances to catch a glimpse of the other side: being educated in the bombed-out remains of Alabama’s (supposedly) desegregated public education system, reading the autobiography of Malcolm X at 13, and leaving the church altogether when “black people wouldn’t be comfortable here” wasn’t a good enough answer for why our church lacked diversity. I questioned and I studied, and ultimately I left, because the burden of correcting over a century of injustice felt too great for my tiny shoulders. I enrolled in art school, moved to San Francisco, and never looked back.

Art school is a haven that draws in people from all walks of life, and there my world expanded to include a variety of people that I would have likely never crossed paths with had I stayed in Alabama: Latino people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people, Muslim people, Hollywood people, LGBT people, descendants of royalty, politicized hip-hoppers from Detroit, and people with an array of mental heath disorders. I learned to embrace all of our differences, I learned that there are more forms of injustice than just racial oppression, and I learned that there’s more to being a badass than being a punk rocker in a depressed Southern town.

I go home twice a year, to visit my grandmother who did most of my raising, to see my niece, who I hope will find her path and continue to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance that is rampant in our family, and to check in with a few friends who stayed behind to fight for a better South. Other than that I have lived a comfortable West Coast life, filled with all of the geographic, social, and economic riches that we have at our disposal. I have found a home in a beautiful corner of the PNW, and opened a community kitchen that has filled me with more pride than I could ever deserve. I am thankful for this life, and thankful for the range of experiences that have allowed me to see the many dimensions of America. But I am also aware that I have become complacent, and that simply growing up as an antiracist teenager doesn’t mean I’m doing enough now to stand up against injustice in all its forms.

The act of cooking for another is one of humanity’s most beautiful gestures. At the Pantry we see this as key in our goal of building and strengthening our community. It starts with thoughtful consideration for who is growing the food we purchase, extends to building a staff that feels respected and supported, and culminates in carving out a space that allows our guests to connect with neighbors at our table. It is our greatest hope that what we do carries forward, encouraging everyone to continue cooking and sharing meals at their own tables.

No meal feels more significant than the upcoming holidays, where family members from all across the political spectrum will come together to continue old traditions and make new ones. For many of us, this year the intrigue at the holiday table has a few extra layers, with the election having drawn sharp lines in the sand. I don’t have answers for this. In fact, long before Nov. 8th, when I still held hope that fear and anger would not win the 2016 election, I cancelled my trip to Alabama for Christmas. It will be my first year missing it, but even then I knew that I wouldn’t be up for it.

I’m grappling with the paradox of owning a business that celebrates difference and encourages dialogue, while refusing to break bread with my own family because of who they voted for and what they believe. I don’t know how to reconcile my reality — one steeped in acceptance, curiosity, and a lot of privilege — with the large swaths of the country that are angry, fearful, and suffering in the age of globalism. And I’m struggling with how to love and respect those who had a hand in raising me into the compassionate fighter that I am today, but who ultimately chose their white economic privilege over the dignity of others. No matter how “woke” you considered yourself on November 7th, this election was a punch in the gut to those who’ve spent their lives fighting for social justice — for those who have been celebrating how far we’ve come in the last 60 years, and for those who saw just how far we still have to go. I have spent many hours wallowing in the loss, overwhelmed with shame for not fighting harder, and crying for my friends and neighbors who are now afraid because they are not white, because they are muslim, because they are not here legally, or because they are LGBT.

Unfortunately there are no take-backs for this one, so that means we’ve got a lot of work to do to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. Here at the Pantry we’ll be spending the next few months studying up on how we can help locally, through political engagement, community outreach (it’s time to leave the kitchen!), and partnerships with local schools. We’ll also be looking for ways to help nationally, through donations to organizations like the ACLU and SPLC, and through scholarships for underprivileged students of social justice. At our first post-election staff meeting, I wept when I realized that everyone had an item on their discussion agenda on how to reach out, get involved, or protect each other. We are all ready to fight, and we welcome any ideas that you have.

So for anyone out there who feels alone, scared, threatened, or intimidated because of your race, religion, sexuality: please know that you have a place at our table. We welcome open and honest discussion, but have zero tolerance for intolerance, and are more than ready to remove anyone from our kitchen who engages in hate speech, bullying, or any other behavior that makes our guests feel unwelcome. And we’ll continue to do what we can to foster community through education, through sharing, and through eating.

Take care of each other, and maybe I'll see you in DC on January 21st.

Cranberries Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Farro Cakes with Duck Confit and Pickled Cranberries

Yield
6 servings
  • Farro Cakes
  • 1/2 cup small diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5-6 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs, plus more as needed
  • High-heat oil for frying
  • Duck Confit
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 inches rosemary
  • Zest of 1/4 medium orange
  • 2 duck legs
  • 2 cups duck fat
  • Pickled Cranberries & Cranberry Puree
  • 4 ounces cranberries
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 each allspice berries
  • 1 whole clove
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Make the farro cakes:

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven until just below medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent and barely brown. Add the thyme and farro and stir to combine.

Add the white wine and half the stock to the farro mixture and bring to a brisk simmer. Lower the heat to keep at an even simmer, and stir frequently. As the stock dips below the farro, add more hot stock to cover. Continue this process until the farro is tender and bathed in just enough stock (now slightly thickened) to coat, around 40-45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir to combine.

Spread the risotto on a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator to cool and thicken, at least 2 hours. Once completely cooled and thickened, add in the mascarpone, egg, and breadcrumbs. If you used whole farro instead of pearled farro, you may need to add an additional 2 to 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs a to form the cakes. Test one farro cake before continuing with the recipe.

Scoop up small balls of the farrotto and flatten them into 1/3 inch thick discs. Cakes are best fried when cold in order to keep them from falling apart, so it might be necessary to chill them in the refrigerator again after they have been formed.

Fry in 1/4 inch deep oil over high heat until nicely browned on both sides and hot. Top with the cranberry puree, duck confit, and pickled cranberries and serve immediately.

Make the Duck Confit:

Toast bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be sure to constantly move the spices to prevent them from burning. Use a spice grinder to coarsely grind spices. Combine the ground spices with the salt in a medium bowl.

Finely chop the garlic, shallot, thyme, rosemary, and zest. Combine these with the spice mixture and toss the ingredients until the mixture is uniform.

Place the duck legs in a deep oven proof baking dish, skin side down, so that they sit snugly together. Spread the spice mixture evenly over the legs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. After the legs have cured for at least 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator and rinse off the spice rub under cool water. Place the legs back in a large baking dish, skin side up, so that the legs are not crowded.

Preheat the oven to 270 degrees F.

Melt the duck fat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Pour the fat over the legs, being sure to cover them completely. Bake for 2 hours, then lower the heat to 225 degrees F and bake an additional 2 1/2 hours, until the duck is fork tender.

Remove the duck legs from the oven and cool without removing the legs from the fat. The legs will begin to sink and submerge themselves in the hot fat. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate.

Before serving remove the duck from the fat and let it come to room temperature. Remove the skin from the duck and shred the meat, discarding the bones and skin. Simply re-warm the duck in a medium-low pan with a teaspoon of the duck fat until hot, browning if desired.

Make the Pickled Cranberries & Cranberry Puree:

Bring the water, sugar, and apple cider vinegar up to a simmer. Wrap the spices in cheesecloth or use a tea ball and add them into the pickling liquid. Add in the cranberries and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the cranberries chill to room temperature in the liquid.

Strain the cranberries, remove the spices, and reserve half. Put the other half of the cranberries in a food processor and puree them, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve, and whisk in the olive oil to form the puree.

Culinary Magic

Anglaise Sm
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

My culinary awakening happened fairly late in life.

It was around my second year in college, eating pomegranate-braised chicken legs at a Turkish restaurant that a friend dragged me to. I distinctly remember that first bite, and the bites that followed – of spinach and feta wrapped in filo pastry, of smoky eggplant purée, and of walnuts drowned in honey. Realizing that food was, in fact, not scary at all, sent me straight on to the streets of San Francisco, seeking out every cuisine imaginable over the next 10 years. Pakistani, Peruvian, Burmese, Senegalese – the Bay Area had it all.

As you can imagine, growing up in Alabama was a bit different. Globalization has brought a few more options to my hometown (we have a Korean restaurant now!), but as a young one, there really wasn’t much to eat outside of fast food chains, Applebee’s, and the occasional Southern meat-and-three restaurant. What we DID have access to, however, was Cajun food. So while my early years didn’t see much action in the way of ethnic cuisine, my palate was formed tasting that fantastic combination of spicy and sweet flavors and classic French technique that defines Cajun cooking. So when we realized that after five years of feeding the community, we hadn’t yet hosted a Cajun-inspired dinner, well, we changed that.

Dirty rice arancini with jalapeño pepper jelly
Rabbit rillettes, plum jam, pickled fennel seeds on crostini
Spicy corn fritters with bell pepper relish

Penn Cove mussels
Cranberry beans, peppers, andouille, and crispy cornbread

Shaved celery root and apple
Tasso ham, celery leaves, and creamy Creole mustard dressing

Housemade boudin blanc with sweet potato purée and fried sweet potato skins
Cream-braised chard and pickled grapes with pecan gremolata

Apple soufflé with buttermilk anglaise

Cooked Apples Sm
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

If you’re familiar with my desserts, then you know I’m not a huge fan of classic French pastry (the horror!). I mean, yes, they make a delicious... everything. It’s just a touch fussy and rigid for my taste, with all the rules, the precise widths of cake layers, and — let’s just be honest — the attitude. I appreciate good technique as much as the next chef, but I’ve always gravitated towards the more casual (rustic, if that sounds better) and approachable side of baking: pies, trifles, puddings, etc. Back in architecture school I attended a fantastic lecture on classic garden design history, and learned about the English garden vs. the French garden. Oddly enough they make a perfect metaphor for pastry: the classic French garden is rational, ordered, and clean, and the English garden is wild and uninhibited. I'm definitely an English garden. I like my desserts big, messy, and served family style. That being said, there’s one area of pastry where my aesthetic aligns perfectly with the French: the soufflé.

Batter Sm
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Soufflés are pure culinary magic, and bring with them a giant pile of anxieties and fears. I’ve been making soufflés for years, and I still find myself staring impatiently at the oven door EVERY TIME, terrified they won’t puff. But they always rise, and they always leave me promising to make them more often. If you haven’t already heard this, let me be the first to tell you: their reputation for difficulty is a bit overblown. They’re easy to prepare in advance, and once you get the hang of it, they’re actually a breeze to whip up on a weeknight.

This soufflé is a touch more complex than some – it has a pastry cream base, and really needs the buttermilk custard sauce to feel complete. But you can make the pastry cream and custard sauce in advance, and if you’d like to serve them at a dinner party, you can have them assembled in their ramekins and resting in the fridge before your guests even arrive. If you decide to make them completely in advance, just pull them from the fridge about 30–40 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, as a cold soufflé will not rise as much.

Filled Sm
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Apple Soufflé with Buttermilk Custard Sauce

Yield
6 servings
  • Apple Souffles
  • 1/2 ounce unsalted butter
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pastry cream (below)
  • 2 cups apple cider, reduced to 5-6 tablespoons
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 ounce cornstarch
  • 2 ounces sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • Buttermilk Anglaise
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 vanilla bean
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:

Cook the apples:

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter until bubbly. Add the chopped apples and cinnamon, tossing to coat them with butter. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the cider and continue cooking over medium-high heat. The apples should be cooked, but still firm to the touch, with all of the cider absorbed. Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge to cool.

Make the pastry cream:

Combine the milk, sugar, salt and split vanilla bean pod and seeds in a saucepan, and heat on medium until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20-30 minutes.

Place the egg yolks in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl and whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly ladle the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Place the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it becomes very thick, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and pour through a strainer into a clean bowl. Stir continuously for a minute to release the heat, then whisk in the butter until it is melted. Place in the fridge to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Make the soufflé:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the ramekins by brushing them with melted butter and dusting them with sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the pastry cream, egg yolks, and 6 tablespoons reduced apple cider. Whisk in the cooked apples and set aside.

In a medium bowl (or stand mixer), whip the egg whites and salt until they start to foam. Slowly drizzle in the sugar while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form. Do not over whip.

Add a third of the meringue into the soufflé base and fold them together to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the rest of the meringue just until you no longer see streaks of white. If needed use the tip of your spatula to break down any solid bits of meringue, being careful not to over mix.

Gently spoon the batter into the prepared molds, overfilling slightly. Scrape a knife across the top of the ramekin, completely flattening the batter. Wipe down the rim and sides of the ramekin if needed. Bake for 17-19 minutes (resisting the urge to open the oven), until puffed and no longer liquid in the center. Serve immediately with chilled buttermilk custard sauce.

Make the buttermilk custard sauce:

Heat the cream, sugar, salt and vanilla bean (pod and seeds) in a saucepan. Once heated, cover, remove from the heat, and infuse for 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, pour in the buttermilk. Place a strainer over the top and set aside.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cream, and then slowly ladle the hot cream into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Once you’ve mixed in the cream, return it to the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon. If you are nervous about over-cooking, you can use a thermometer and cook the custard to 180 degrees. Pour the custard through the strainer, and into the buttermilk. Stir well to release the heat and place in the fridge to chill, stirring every 5-6 minutes. Once chilled, the custard sauce can hold for up to five days in the fridge.

Collaborating Over Ribs

Ribs Plated
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I love the fact that the Pantry is a team effort. But it's not without its challenges.

Sometimes we're not actually sure who's in charge, and there's always the need to make sure we're staying true to the Pantry's voice, and keeping it consistent across many individual styles. We write our menus together, we recipe test together, and, as much as possible, we eat together. That being said, the lack of hierarchy keeps everyone invested and supportive, and means that we get to flirt with so many great cuisines, reflecting the stories and travels of each of us.

I've been itching to cook a Mexican-inspired menu since we opened, but I've been skeptical as to whether there was interest. All of us have been to Mexico, and have had our turn falling in love with the food, but in the United States, Mexican food tends to be relegated to food trucks and taquerias. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but I wasn't sure how many people would sign up for three and a half hours of feasting when they're used to quick and tasty tacos. We decided to go for it, and boy, were we happy to see this dinner fill the quickest on our summer line up. So yeah, I think we can expect more Mexican-inspired dinners in our future.

Chorizo and queso-stuffed jalapeños
Seared masa cake with shaved snap peas, radishes, and cotija
Grilled corn with Fresno chile-lime aioli and cilantro

Coconut and lime-marinated albacore tuna
Shaved hot and sweet peppers, jicama, and fried sweet potato

Chile and honey-glazed pork ribs with pineapple-radish salsa
Chipotle-braised Anasazi beans with cotija

Wedge salad with avocado, pickled jalapeños, and lime-salt chicharrones
Cilantro and crema dressing

Roasted peach crema ice cream
Cinnamon sugar buñuelos, grilled peach dulce de leche, and candied pecans

Ribs Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Our family dinners are easily one of our favorite things we do here. Big piles of food, bubbles and wine throughout, fun music (we think), and 40 of our neighbors gathering at the table and getting to know each other. We serve as much food as possible family-style, and we relish the chance to get everyone's hands dirty. So when ribs were proposed as the main dish, I let out a resounding YES! Because what better way to get food all over you than with a sticky rack of ribs? Darin developed this recipe for baby back ribs slow-roasted in honey and lime, and then piled high with a pineapple-radish salsa. We made a little extra for us to nibble on throughout the night, but we were secretly pleased when there was barely a rib left. Next time.

Pineapple Salsa Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Honey Glazed Ribs with Pineapple Salsa

Yield
6 servings
  • Marinated Ribs
  • 5 pounds baby back ribs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 poblanos, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 20g kosher salt
  • Honey Glaze
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pineapple Salsa
  • 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
  • 6 ounces tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 ounces pineapple, finely diced
  • 3 ounces jicama, finely diced
  • 2 ounces radishes, finely diced
  • 1 canned chipotle chile en adobo, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Instructions:

Make the marinade:

Combine the orange juice, tequila, honey, crushed tomatoes, ground pepper, poblanos, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a blender and pulse until smooth. Marinate the ribs for at least 12 hours in a plastic bag, turning once or twice.

Cook the ribs:

Preheat the oven to 250F°. Make the honey glaze by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove excess marinade from the ribs and arrange them on the baking sheet, meaty side up. Roast for about 2 1/2 - 3 hours, loosely covered in foil, until tender but not quite fall-off-the-bone. Baste the ribs with 1/2 of the honey mixture and roast for another 15 minutes, until browned and glossy. Remove the ribs from the oven and baste again with the remaining honey mixture.

Make the salsa:

Combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Let the flavors come together for at least an hour before serving over top of the ribs.

Finding Inspiration

Meatballs Pan
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I've written a lot about how much I love Seattle.

But to be honest, I probably spend more time daydreaming about the rest of the world. I've been an avid traveler all of my life, starting with the road trips my grandma took me on as a kid, where I learned that Tennessee has crazy amazing mountains, that South Carolina has an eerily beautiful coastline, that in Pittsburgh the houses almost touch, and that I would DEFINITELY need to return to New Orleans WITHOUT my grandma. I took my first plane trip in high school to attend an art camp at a college in California, where I would eventually enroll. My next trip took me to Europe, and from there I was hooked, saving every penny I could through my college years for trips around the world. I lived in San Francisco for 13 years, but took regular breaks to live in Chicago, New York, Tel Aviv, and Sydney. I could not sit still. I promised myself I would visit a new country every year, and did a pretty good job keeping my promise until I began a new career as a pastry chef. Then my energy turned toward learning a new craft, relocating to Seattle, and eventually opening up the Pantry. My feet are definitely still itchy, and I'm back to keeping my promise to see more of the world, but most importantly, I try to encourage my staff to travel as much as they desire.

Beach Copy
Photo by Brandi Henderson

The Pantry is my dream business for many reasons (it's fun! the people are nice!), but one of those reasons is the built-in flexibility. We're always changing what we're doing, which requires a steady stream of inspiration to keep us full of ideas. It also means that, as long as we work with each other, vacation time is easy to plan around. In fact, I'm writing this post from a beach house on the Washington coast, where we're hanging out for our annual staff retreat. A vacationed staff is a happy staff, and we try our best to put that philosophy into action. There were many trips this year among the Pantry family – the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Florida Keys, Hawaii, Berlin, Rome, Thailand, Tokyo, the Dominican Republican – but Michelle's trip to Vietnam was definitely the winner, so much so that it became the theme for our August family dinner:

Coconut caramel-glazed pork meatballs with pickles, peanuts, and basil
“Pho” bone marrow butter crostini with lime chimichurri
Turmeric-coconut pancakes with papaya slaw, mint, and pickled Rainier cherries

Grilled shrimp with crispy black rice
Thai basil, heirloom tomato, fried shallot, and chili-tamarind dressing

Sticky pork chops
Pickled watermelon rind, herb salad, and lemongrass eggplant puree

Watermelon and red grapefruit salad
Pickled shallots, coconut chips, mint, cilantro, and passion fruit vinaigrette

Coconut and blackberry parfait
Vietnamese coffee caramel sauce and lime meringues

Michelle's journey was about as dreamy as it gets, with piles of fresh seafood, soup for breakfast, and many, many spring rolls. Meatballs were a regular accompaniment in the spring rolls of her trip, where they were commonly served as collaborative do-it-yourself project at family gatherings. We got excited about developing a recipe for Vietnamese-style meatballs, so that was the first dish we added to the menu. We skipped the spring roll wrapper, and instead glazed them with a sticky coconut caramel sauce, and served them with pickled vegetables, peanuts, and fresh basil. They're a snap to make, and fantastic for casual get-togethers.

Meatballs Eaten
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Coconut Caramel-Glazed Meatballs with Pickles, Peanuts, and Basil

Yield
6 servings
  • Pork Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground pork (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil
  • Coconut Caramel:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 Thai chilies, sliced thinly
  • Pickles:
  • 8 ounces carrots, peeled
  • 8 ounces daikon, peeled
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Garnish:
  • 2-3 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons toasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced thai basil

Instructions:

Make the pickles:

Cut the vegetables into long matchsticks using a mandoline or your fabulous knife skills. Place the cut vegetables in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and let them sit for 10 minutes.

While the daikon and carrots are draining, add the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water into a small sauce pot. Give the vegetables a quick rinse and put them into a small heat-proof container. Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables and place a lid or plastic wrap over top, and let the vegetables chill to room temperature.

Make the coconut caramel:

Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan. In a separate small bowl combine the lime juice, coconut juice, fish sauce, and thai chilies. Heat on low to dissolve the sugar, stirring. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to melt any sugar crystals. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to medium high and stop stirring.

Once the water has evaporated and the sugar has caramelized to a medium amber, very slowly stir in the contents of the bowl. Let the caramel reduce by a third until lightly syrupy and strain it through a fine mesh.

Make the pork meatballs:

Put the bowl and blade of your food processor in the freezer for 20 minutes before beginning your prep. Put the pork in the processor and pulse in 10 second bursts until smooth, scraping down the sides after each pulse. This will take 30 to 40 seconds.

In a separate bowl, add the potato starch, salt, baking soda, water, sesame oil, hot sauce, scallions, and garlic together and whisk until full combined. Pour this over the pork and pulse for 10 more seconds, then turn the pork mixture out into a bowl. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.

Form the pork into heaping 1-inch balls, and place onto a pan lined with parchment and chill for 10 minutes before cooking. Heat a pan on medium high heat. Sear the meatballs, basting with the coconut caramel, until browned and crispy on the outside and cooked though in the middle.

Brush the top of pork meatballs with more of the coconut caramel. Drain the pickles well and sprinkle over the meatballs, along with the peanut, coconut flakes, and basil. If desired, drizzle a little more caramel over everything.

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