Fritter - A Pantry Blog

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.

Turning Five

Spoonbread Eaten
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I doubt I need to spell out the ways in which 2016 has been... challenging.

Between international acts of terrorism, national debates about whose life matters more, and a presidential prospect that is just plain terrifying, it's hard to stay focused on the Pantry's mission. I repeatedly find myself sharing a photo of a dish that we're rather proud of and thinking, "Really, is this what I'm talking about right now?" Things are tough out there, spirits are low, and I certainly don't have answers. I opened the Pantry with a vision of bringing people together – to gather, to eat, to celebrate the good things that we can all agree on. One could argue that it's during seasons such as this that we need, more than ever, to plow forward, engaging our neighbors, and sharing a meal. So that's what we're doing. This July the Pantry turned five(!), and we decided to party on. We hung streamers, threw sprinkles everywhere, and baked birthday cake. Because dammit, five years is something to celebrate.

In these past five years we've had thousands of neighbors and visitors walk through our doors and join us at the table. We've seen new friendships made, we've seen romances start, we've seen families grow bigger, and we've seen our own staff expand from just a few to nearly a dozen (with a few babies now on the way!). We've built a new kitchen, watched our garden fill in (and burst right out of its seams), and we've broken bread with so many of you. So: thank you. Thank you for showing up when life is amazing, and thank you for showing up when you've just gotten off of work and could really just head home and get in bed. Thank you for celebrating our birthday with us at a moment when cynicism might feel easier than celebration. We might not be able to solve all the problems around us, but at least we can talk about them over a long meal and a few glasses of bubbly. You know what they say, "the family that drinks together...."

So here we are, turning five, and throwing a dinner party with all of our favorite things:

Smoked new potatoes with whipped ranch and grilled scallion
Buttermilk brined and fried Walla Walla onions with spicy plum-tomato dip
Ginger and honey-brushed peaches with crispy country ham and mint

Corn and feta spoonbread
Charred tomatoes, bacon, snap peas, and hot sauce

Grilled steak with sweet-hot pepper relish, lime-spiced peanuts
Grilled green beans with herby lime gremolata

Grilled stone fruit and bread salad
Fennel, ricotta, purslane, and citrus dressing

Summer strawberry trifle
Strawberry-almond cake and cream cheese mousse

Spoonbread Saute
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I wrote about the strawberry trifle last year (Fritter's first post!), so this time I'd like to talk to you about my other favorite food: spoonbread.

I can still remember tasting my first spoonbread. It was several years ago in my backyard in San Francisco, at a potluck that our upstairs neighbors were throwing. I’ll admit that, as someone with strong feelings about cornbread, I was skeptical. It was kind of squishy-looking, without the browned, shattery crust of a properly baked southern cornbread. I spooned some on my plate to be polite, and knowing me, covered it with pie (this was also the potluck where I discovered the magical combination of raspberries and almond). Once I took a bite, though, I immediately hunted down the person who brought it. For some reason, they never shared the recipe with me, but I thought about it for years. One day I decided to research spoonbread, to find out what this magical bread was and where it came from. I was appalled to learn that it was a Southern tradition that had somehow never made it into my kitchen. Clearly I had some catching up to do.

When we were dreaming up the menu for the Pantry’s birthday party, spoonbread was on the list. The idea of guests digging into a family-style dish filled with piping hot corn custard and piles of summer vegetables made us so incredibly happy. I had a favorite Serrano ham and poblano corn pudding recipe (from Bon Appetit) that I had been cooking for a while, and Kim turned that into this version with chunks of feta. We like serving this spoonbread with a little sharpness, to cut through the richness. In past years we've served it with marinated roasted peppers and fried capers, but this year we tried out a new version with cherry tomates, sugar snap peas, bacon, and a healthy splash of hot sauce.

Spoonbread Finished
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Corn and Feta Spoonbread with Tomatoes, Bacon, Snap Peas, and Hot Sauce

Yield
5-6 servings
  • Spoonbread:
  • 2 cups raw corn kernels
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup masa harina
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • Topping:
  • 2 ounces bacon, diced
  • 4 ounces snap peas, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 ounce chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons high heat oil
  • 6 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, or more to taste (recipe included)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Make the Spoonbread:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

Combine the corn, eggs, melted butter, salt, and baking powder in a blender. Blend until almost smooth.

Place the sour cream and masa harina in a large bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the pureed corn mixture into the bowl. Stir well until the mixture is smooth. Pour in the rest of the pureed corn mixture and stir to combine well. Add the feta and stir to evenly distribute. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and place in the oven. Bake until the spoonbread is puffed and golden brown in spots on top, about 45 minutes.

Make the topping:

Place the bacon in a large skillet and place the pan over low heat. Slowly cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and it gets crisp and brown. Add the snap peas and green onions, raise the heat to medium-low, and cook just until they begin to wilt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are lightly charred and almost ready to burst, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the bacon mixture.

Stir the hot sauce into the bacon-vegetable mixture. Taste, and add more hot sauce, salt, or pepper, if needed. Spoon over the spoonbread and serve immediately.

Southern-Style Hot Sauce

Yield
1 quart
  • 1 pound red sweet chiles
  • 13 ounces jalapenos (red, if you can find them)
  • 3 ounces red hot chiles (cherry bomb peppers are great)
  • 2 cups distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Instructions:

Trim the stems off of the chiles — it’s OK to leave the base that the stem attaches to. Clean the chiles thoroughly.

Toss the chiles in enough olive oil to coat them. Then roast them in a broiler, or grill them. The goal is to get a nice char on them, but not to cook them all the way. I like to see spots of black, but they should retain their bright color.

Puree the roasted chiles in a blender with enough vinegar to keep them moving. Push the pureed chiles through a strainer, extracting as much of the pulp as possible.

Add the water, salt and the rest of the vinegar and chill in the fridge for a few days. You can eat it immediately, but it gets better (and the heat mellows) with time. Stored in the fridge, it will last for up to a year.

​Coming Around to Potato Salad

Eaten Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

I didn't start out as a potato salad fan.

In fact if you told my younger self that I would one day be waxing poetic about potato salad, I would have laughed you out of the room. I don't think I actually touched my lips to potato salad until my early twenties. It's not the potatoes – those close to me can attest that my love for potatoes runs DEEP. It was the mayo. And the mayo was just the tip of the iceberg. For most of my life, I was repulsed by pretty much all condiments. Ketchup on fries? Nope. Dill pickles? No thank you. Mustard would be tolerated if it was whole-grain, but mayo – mayo was never okay. So as you can imagine, growing up in the South, where most salads involved tossing something in mayo, I didn't eat a lot of salad.

I was in college when my friend Taeko cooked a German-style potato salad, something I had never heard of. Rather than slather their starches in mayo, they toss them in a dressing of olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and maybe even a little bacon. I gave it a tentative taste, and was shocked when I liked it. I mean, I REALLY liked it. After that I entered the world of a potato salad–eater with gusto, seeking out every alternative version available: pesto, yogurt, eventually sour cream (also on the no-fly list for far too long). I continued a happy mayo-free life for a few more years and then discovered homemade aioli. Apparently if I made it myself, added garlic, and called it something else, then mayo became acceptable. In modest amounts. Fast forward to now, and I've mostly recovered from my aversion to packaged condiments. You still couldn't pay me to eat Heinz ketchup, but I will tolerate the occasional bottled salad dressing (I know, first-world problems over here).

Potato Salad Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

So when we were writing the menu for our June family dinner, a dinner celebrating the salmon season that is now in full swing, it took some mental gymnastics on my part to include potato salad:

Fried potato skins with fennel-cured salmon, creamy mustard, and baby radish greens
Baby carrots, radishes, and turnips with spring pea puree
Vadouvan-spiced crackers with homemade butter, shaved celery, and salmon roe

Chilled watercress and arugula soup
Fried squash blossom and goat cheese mousse

Slow-roasted salmon
Melted leeks, sorrel, calvados cream, and buckwheat crepes

House-smoked salmon, braised artichoke hearts, and new potatoes
Sugar snaps and herbed mayo

Breton butter cake
Grand Marnier-marinated strawberries, creme fraiche, and fleur de sel

I mean, I wouldn't even call it potato salad! But somehow, having TWO dressings, with the mayo on the side, made it work. And work it did. I took home most of the leftovers, and they lasted about a minute in the fridge before being devoured. After every dinner we get the occasional email asking for recipes. It's always fun to see which dishes stood out to our guests, and lo and behold, for this dinner, it was ALL requests for this recipe. So there you are. Potato salad.

Ingredients Web
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Smoked salmon, ​braised artichoke hearts, and potatoes with sugar snaps and herbed mayo (AKA: potato salad)

Yield
5 servings
  • Braised Artichokes:
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pound baby artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled, sliced thin
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 arbol chile
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Herbed Mayo:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon
  • 3/4 cup nuetral-flavored oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Mustard Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Salad:
  • 12 ounces baby red potatoes
  • 1 pound shelling peas
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces asparagus
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced thinly
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions:

Braise artichoke hearts:

Place the water and vinegar in a container large enough to hold the artichokes. This acidulated water will help keep the cut artichokes from browning.

Peel off 3 to 4 layers of the outer leaves from each artichoke, just until the yellow leaves begin to show. Use a peeler to shave off the ends of the tough outer leaves and all dark green on the stem. Trim the stem, and cut off the leaves just above the heart of the artichoke. Use a small spoon to scoop out the fibrous choke and small, purple-tipped leaves. Rub each cut area with a cut lemon, then drop it into the acidulated water. Repeat until all the artichoke hearts have been trimmed.

Heat the oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. Cook the carrots and onions until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the drained artichoke hearts and lemon halves, and cook 3 more minutes. Add the wine, thyme, bay, black pepper, arbol chile, and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to very low, and cook at a low simmer until the artichokes are just barely tender, about 15 minutes. Gently remove the artichokes to a container where they are not stacked, pour the cooking liquid over them, and let cool. If your container is not large enough to hold the aromatics, you can strain the liquid before chilling the artichokes. Chill for at least one hour, and up to 2 days.

Make the herbed mayo:

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolk and mustard. Slowly, drop by drop, start adding the oil. As the emulsion forms, add a little vinegar if it starts to get too thick before you’ve added all the oil. It should eventually be thick, and you will have about 1 cup. If it is too thin, then add more oil until you get the thickness you’d like; if it’s too thick, then add more vinegar (up until it tastes acidic enough) or water. Stir in the herbs and capers. Season to taste and refrigerate until needed.

Make the mustard vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. While whisking quickly, slowly add the olive oil, to create an emulsified mixture. Season to taste and set aside.

Cook the potatoes and peas:

Place the clean potatoes in a large pot and cover with enough cold water to come 2 inches above the potatoes. Place the pot on high heat. When the water simmers, add the salt, and turn down the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender. Add the peas and cook until they float to the surface, about 30 seconds. Transfer the peas immediately to an ice bath. Drain the potatoes and the peas.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, cut the potatoes in half. Immediately dress the potatoes in some of the mustard vinaigrette.

Finish the salad:

Drain the artichokes from their braising liquid. Toss the potatoes, artichokes, peas, asparagus, and sugar snaps in the mustard vinaigrette. Season to taste. Mix in the smoked salmon and herbs, and serve with the herbed mayo on the side.

It's spring!

Finish
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

This year was a particularly rough winter.

If you don't live in Seattle, you might be thinking, "aren't all of your winters rough?". The truth, though, is that they're not. Sure, they can be dark, and there's no shortage of rain. But fall is so lovely, and spring is so magical, that winter here tends to feel more like a cozy interlude. A time to organize your house, teach yourself a new hobby, and maybe sneak a trip to somewhere sunny. This year it seemed like fall was only a minute, and then it rained for five months straight. I'm not kidding, apparently we even broke records. So this year, when spring started poking out its flower-covered head, you could practically hear the collective shriek across the city.

If you've never been to Seattle in the spring, I highly recommend it. It can be dicey, rain-wise, but for about a month, the city is literally bathed in blossoms. The colors, the smells, the marshmallow-like quality of it all — it's something special. So April is a great month in Seattle, and this year we decided to celebrate it with our third ever "We Heart Washington" dinner, where we seek out some of the fun ingredients unique to us:

Big leaf maple blossom fritter with chile salt
Bruleed Dinah’s camembert with syrah poached rhubarb and black pepper crackers
Wild boar rillette with five-spice glaze and watercress on Honoré sourdough

Ballard honey-roasted root vegetables with lemony bread crumbs
Cascadia Creamery Glacier Blue cheese and pickled fiddleheads

Reuben’s rye beer and chile-braised oxtail
Charred spring onion and green garlic farrotto

Wild greens and foraged spring blossoms
Pickled cucumber and first-of-the-season radishes

Rhubarb mousse
Honey graham cake, rhubarb-vanilla syrup, and candied ginger

Blossoms
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

With the never-ending dreariness of this year's winter, we jumped into our first spring menu with gusto. There aren't a lot of spring vegetables in April, so we decided to hit the streets for inspiration, and I dare say these fried maple blossoms stole the show. I don't think any of us had actually eaten a maple blossom before, so there was a lot of giddiness about the prospect. They're surprisingly simple to make — just dip freshly-picked blossoms (preferably from your neighbor's tree) in a thin batter and fry away. A little maple syrup, lemon juice, and chile salt later, and you've got just about the springiest dish for miles.

Fried
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Fried Maple Blossoms with Chile Salt

Yield
A mountain of fritters
  • Chile salt:
  • 1 teaspoon smoked ancho chile powder, or more to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon, dried on a paper towel to remove moisture
  • 1/4 cup flakey finishing salt (we LOVE Jacobsen!)
  • Fritter batter:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup cold carbonated water, or more as needed
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • As many Big leaf maple blossoms as you can find
  • High heat oil, 2-inches deep
  • Lemon, to taste
  • Maple syrup, to taste

Instructions:

Make the chile salt:

Toss all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Make the batter:

Place the egg yolk in a large bowl. Mix the yolk with the carbonated water.

Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Add all at once to the egg mixture and gently whisk just until smooth. Mix the batter just before cooking, so that the flour particles have limited time to absorb moisture.- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees. One at a time, gently dip the blossoms into the batter until they are completely covered. Drop into the oil and fry until golden brown. The batter should be thin and delicate, so if your fritters look like corn dogs, add another 1-2 tablespoons of carbonated water to thin it out.

Once fried, transfer the blossoms to a wire rack or paper towel to cool down. When ready to eat, drizzle with lemon juice, maple syrup, and the chile salt. Eat immediately.

A Warm Soup for January

celery-soup
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Ah, January.

I’m writing this post from the snow-covered Methow Valley, where I snuck away with friends for some snowy antics and birthday celebrations. It’s shocking to be reminded of how gorgeous Washington is, and even more shocking to realize that I went cross-country skiing my first winter in Seattle, six years ago, and am only just now returning. I guess I got busy? Back at the Pantry things are humming along at a new rhythm. Our second kitchen is finally completed, and we’re all rolling around in the luxury of more space. We’ve finally got HVAC, a fully functioning dishwashing station, and, most importantly, shelves in all the places that needed them, so things have a place to reside. That might not seem like much, but for obsessive organizers like us, it is soooo exciting.

January is a lovely month at the Pantry. Everyone returns from their holiday break bright-eyed and full of ideas for 2016. Somehow the craziness of December has been forgotten, and there’s this brief moment, before everything speeds up again, when I’m reminded of how proud I am of this little community we’ve built. We’ve grown so much in the past four and a half years, but I still manage to recognize a handful of familiar faces at every event. And there’s no event that brings in the regular crowd quite like our annual New England Crab Supper. It’s a meal with all the markers of being one of my favorites: it’s casual (translation: MESSY!), with piles of crab and potatoes being dipped in melted butter; it has an element of theatre, when we roll up the newspaper to reveal our wooden table underneath; and it’s friendly — every year, without fail, this dinner inspires people to get chatty with their neighbors, leaving us all beaming with pride. It’s always one of our more straightforward menus, letting the crab course do the heavy lifting:

Johnny cakes with maple-braised kale
Old Bay crackers with smoked trout salad and green apple
Brown butter-baked clams with linguisa and herbed breadcrumbs

Celery root soup
Black pepper popover, bacon, and tarragon oil

Cracked Dungeness crab
Roasted ozette potatoes with sea salt and cider vinegar
Drawn butter, salsa verde, and spicy aioli for dipping

Seared Savoy cabbage
Apple-cranberry relish, jalapeno, mustard, and cheddar crisps

Maple walnut trifle
Toasted walnut cake with maple mousse and candied walnuts

celery-root
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Since January kicks off the winter season (at least in my mind), soup is always a huge part of the crab supper. We’ve had some spectacular ones in the past: tomato-horseradish soup with cheddar biscuits and celery leaves, spicy pumpkin soup with caramelized brussels sprouts and apples, and watercress soup with a lemony crouton, almond and herb jumble. This year our new chef Darin was in charge of the soup, and I dare say he knocked it right out of the park. Celery root soup might seem like a tough sell (I hear there are people out there who don’t love celery root?), but once I saw the words written down as an idea, I was in. I love the fresh, slightly licorice flavor of celery root — raw in a salad, roasted in a gratin, or sautéed into a breakfast hash. It’s true that I’m an across-the-board root vegetable lover, but that celery root is special.

Since we knew some folks would need some coaxing to get excited about celery root soup, we sexed it up with some fun components: crispy bacon lardons, a bright green tarragon oil, and some mini black pepper popovers. And while you certainly don’t need all the bells and whistles to enjoy this soup, I overheard more than one person exclaim that “all soup should have a popover floating in it” — and I couldn’t agree more.

popovers
Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Celery Root Soup with Black Pepper Popovers, Bacon, and Tarragon Oil

Yield
8 servings
  • Celery Root Soup:
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil
  • 1 each medium leek, white and light green parts only
  • 1 large green apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 each garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 each bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste
  • Bacon Lardons:
  • 3 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Tarragon Oil:
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1/4 ounce tarragon
  • 1/8 ounce chives
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons high heat oil
  • Black Pepper Mini Popovers:
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons milk, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
  • reserved bacon grease from lardons

Instructions:

Celery Root Soup:
Wash the outside of the leeks and then slice them into 1/2 inch rings, and then give them a second wash to ensure no dirt remains.

Heat a stockpot over medium heat and add in the oil. Once the oil is fragrant, but not smoking, add in the leeks and apples. Let them cook down for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, then add in the celery root and potatoes. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and let the vegetables cook for 2 more minutes. A very light browning is okay, but you are not seeking deep caramelization.

Add the white wine and turn the heat up to medium-high. Let the wine reduce by half, and add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, lemon juice and zest, cream, and vinegar. Add some salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Once the vegetables are soft (20-25 minutes), turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup with a blender or food processor. Adjust the seasoning as necessary to your tastes. If the soup seems a little thick, simply add in a little extra vegetable stock or a combination of water and cream.

Bacon Lardons:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the bacon and water in a small oven-safe saute pan and cook over medium heat until the water is gone and the bacon has rendered most of its fat, about 5 minutes.

Move the pan to the oven and bake, stirring every five minutes, until crisp (10-15 minutes). Strain the bacon grease and reserve it for the popovers. Place the bacon on paper towels and set aside.

Tarragon Oil:
Bring a small stockpot of water to a boil, and prepare a large bowl with ice water. Once the water is boiling, add in the parsley, tarragon, and chives, and let them blanch for 20 seconds in the still simmering water. Immediately remove the herbs from the hot water and plunge them into the ice water. Let them cool for 5 minutes in the ice water.

Remove the herbs from the water and shake them dry, then use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the outside. Chop the herbs finely, then add them into a blender. Pour the oils over the herbs and turn the blender to low. Gradually turn the motor to high speed and thoroughly pulverize the herbs for about 10 seconds.

Strain the herbs, pressing them with a rubber spatula against the strainer and set the oil aside at room temperature in a see-through container or glass for 30 minutes. The oil will separate from the water left in the herbs. The oil will be floating, simply spoon it off and reserve, and discard the water.

Black Pepper Mini Popovers:
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl briefly until well combined. Measure out 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of scrambled egg for use in this recipe, and reserve the extra for another use.

Place all of the ingredients together in a food processor until well combined and smooth. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 45 minutes before using.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously grease the cups of the mini muffin tin with the bacon fat and place it in the oven for 10 minutes before cooking the popovers. Carefully pull the preheated muffin tin out of the oven and pour the batter into the cups, leaving 1/4 inch from the top of the cup. Place the tin back in the oven and let it cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and let the popovers cook until browned, an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove the popovers from the oven and pan and use immediately.

Assemble the Soup:
Give the soup one last taste for seasoning. Pour 6 to 8 ounces of the soup into a bowl and place a popover in the center. Sprinkle some of the bacon lardons over the top of the popover and soup. Drizzle a teaspoon of the tarragon oil around the bowl. Serve hot and enjoy!

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