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

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

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

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

Southern-Style Hot Sauce

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

​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)

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

It's spring!

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

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.

Photo by Aran Goyoaga

Fried Maple Blossoms with Chile Salt

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

A Warm Soup for January

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

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.

Photo by Aran Goyoaga

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

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

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