Chinese Box

shrimp

This dish has been on our menu for more than 20 years, to say it is a crowd favorite is an understatement.  We sell a lot of orders everyday, repeat customers exclaiming “it’s the only dish I ever order” or “I came here just for the Chinese Box”.

Here’s the deal with how I came up with it:

In the 90’s I was the Executive Chef of the Bostonian hotel and it’s fancy restaurant Seasons, where every entree was served covered with a silver cloche.  The waitstaff would present the cloched entrees  to the entire table of guests before uncovering all of the dishes simultaneously with white gloves and much fanfare, the guests loved it.

seasons bostoian

As the cloches were removed, unveiling the sights and smells of their entrees, the guests were wowed.  It was more than a bit too precious for what I wanted for EVOO, I wanted to replicate that “wow” of the unveiling without the pretense.

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It was one of those ideas that took a while to come to fruition, it was there, stuck in the back of my head, I new what I wanted to accomplish, I just couldn’t quite pull it together.  I was thinking about what I could use as a cover, I even thought about  getting some silver cloches to use as a homage to my time at Seasons.

One night after many months of mulling over different options, it just popped into my head.  I was driving home after a busy night, thinking about what I often think about, food.  POP there it is!  Stack different layers of flavor and texture in a Chinese style to-go box invert it on a plate and uncover it at the table.  That was the start, from there I had to come up with what the layers would be and in what order it would be stacked. 

Since I was using what in my part of America is a Chinese to-go container, the food would be Chinese influenced.  I quickly thought that the rice should be placed in the box last, so when it was inverted onto a plate the rice would be on the bottom as a good base to hold up the other ingredients.  From the get go I went with a surf-n-turf angle, the first iteration was with Seared Arctic Char, Gingered Vegetable Salad and Orange Braised Lamb.  Then I tried Seared Sea Scallops with Braised Pork. Both iterations were very good, but not quite right.  Neither had the mass appeal I was hoping for.

Eventually I settled on the current version: Mustard Glazed Rock Shrimp, Gingered Vegetable – Cashew Salad, Hoisin Braised Beef and Organic Brown Rice.  Each layer offers something different to the whole.  The shrimp layer is sweet ‘n’ spicy with honey-mustard and herbs.  Clean, crisp, crunchy gingered vegetable – cashew salad makes up the top-middle layer.  The rich, succulent hoisin braised beef is the next layer, sitting directly on top of the final layer of organic brown rice with it’s earthy nuttiness soaking up all of the other flavors and adding some of it’s own texture.

There have been a few changes to this version over the years, early on we were using Jasmine rice from Thailand, which I love.  However, as I always try to do, I wanted to make it more local and preferably organic.  So, I switched the rice to short grained organic brown rice from California, which doesn’t have the floral aroma and flavor that the Jasmine rice has.  But, it more than makes up for that with its own nutty-earthy flavors, as well as being from California and organic, had a lot to do with my decision.  Early on we braised beef flap meat from our local distributor, eventually I was able to find a consistent source for local pastured beef, so I made the switch to beef chuck.  The most recent change was switching from Gulf Shrimp to Rock Shrimp.  This change made the dish taste better, have better texture and made it easier to eat, especially with chop sticks.

So, all of this came from me wanting to add a little wow to our guest experience when a dish was served.  It’s been on the menu for so long I sometimes forget how good it is.   Every so often I try it again and realize why we sell so many orders.  It has the “wow” and a whole lot more!

It is available for lunch and dinner, at dinner we offer it in two sizes and it is always available with organic Maine tofu and our in-house made Kimchi for a vegan variation.

Valentine, oh, Valentine

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Well, it’s that time of year where restaurants like ours try to entice you to bring your paramour to their establishment for what is promised to be an exquisite evening of fine food and wine, and, as a possible / hopeful prelude to uhm… other enticements.

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We’re no different, this post is a shameless promotion of our Valentine’s Menu.  Our locally sourced Here’s the Love Menu will be available starting at 5 pm on Friday, February 14.  The menu is a prix fixe menu with several choices available in each course, priced at $65 for 3 courses and $95 paired with wines chosen by our beverage director Dan Harrington.  The menu is vegetarian friendly and we can always accommodate our vegan friends.

If you’re trying to impress your date, don’t go to the super expensive, over-the-top formal place where their only concern is their bottom line.  Impress them at EVOO where we believe that if we take care of our co-workers and our community, our bottom line will take care of itself.

We take pride in being the Massachusetts’s only Good Food 100 Restaurant.  This is a really big deal to us.  We have their highest rating of 6 links, which is solely based on our food purchases; it means the vast majority of the food we serve is sourced locally and ethically.  The point i’m trying to make is- dining at EVOO will not only impress your Valentine, it will help us support our local farming community.

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Me and my Valentine!

So, come on in and spend some time with me and my Valentine, we’ll both be here, working hard to exceed your Valentine’s expectations.

Here’s a little Valentine’s music for you…

 

 

Lamb Sandwhich

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Continuing with the lamb we received from Feather Brook Farm- A sandwich on our lunch menu.

Slices of Roast Lamb Leg with Smoked Cloumage, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Lettuce, Red Onion and Carolina White Barbecue Sauce on Mark’s Cumin Focaccia

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lamb leg in the immersion circulator

We marinated the legs in a mixture of garlic and spices and then sous vide’ the legs at 137 degrees for 3 hours. We then chilled them in an ice bath, finally put a nice sear on them before slicing them.

The cloumage is an artisanal fresh, creamy cheese from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport MA, which we smoked in our backroom smoker.  The Lettuce was grown in The Food Project’s greenhouse in Roxbury, MA. We pickled the Kimball Fruit Farm’s green tomatoes last September.  Mark our excellent lunch sous chef made the Focaccia.

Sous Vide

 

sous vide
/ˌso͞o ˈvēd/
noun

Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method. –  Anovaculinary 

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Our sous vide station.

I have been cooking for a long time, starting in the late 1970’s.  First as a prep cook in a neighborhood restaurant, while in high school, making beer money.  I had no passion for food at the time.  I was still feeling my way through life, not sure what I was going to do.  Slowly, and I mean really slowly, I found that I not only was pretty good at cooking, I was actually enjoying it.  Looking back I don’t think it was the food that I was falling for.  Rather, I was an impressionable young man who enjoyed the camaraderie, the manual work and the fact that a free beer was never far from reach.  However, the more I cooked and discovered new foods my passion finally blossomed…I digress.

This post is supposed to be about sous vide, my digression stems from- In those many years of cooking there have been a few techniques or processes that I have learned which have changed the way I cook and think about food. Cooking sous vide is probably the biggest one for me, with whole animal butchery / charcuterie being a close second (see my 10 part “Death of a Pig” blog post).

When I first encountered cooking sous vide I remember thinking- cooking something in a pot of water in a plastic bag…how lame; what skill does that take?  Well, I was quite wrong.

About 14 years ago we started experimenting using a big pot of water, Ziplock Bags and an instant read thermometer on a burner where we would constantly check the temp and adjust the heat.  I quickly realized that this was a great  cooking method.  We could perfectly cook a piece of meat ahead of time, taking the guess work and timing with a lot more possibilities of screwing something up out of the equation.  Once the meat was cooked ahead of time, perfectly, all we had to do is once the customer ordered and it was time to pick-up the meat all you had to do give a quick sear to the meat and serve it.  No more inexperienced cook fucking-up an expensive piece of meat.

Our experiments started with meats using the ziplock method, now we have several immersion circulators and a restaurant size vacuum sealer that are in constant use cooking all sorts of different things; red meats, burgers, chicken, vegetables, eggs, fish and even an occasional pudding for part of a dessert.  Gone are the days of over cooked chicken breast (sorry, Trisha), every chicken breast we serve is moist and tender.

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My initial trepidation was replaced with “why wouldn’t we cook this way”…a little bit more forethought (prep before service) equals serving a better, more consistent product, it only makes sense.

Sous vide cooking is not just for the professional kitchen,  My Anova immersion circulator and FoodSaver vacuum sealer have been an integral parts of my home kitchen for the past 10 years.

I highly recommend all cooks- pros, wanna-be pros and amateurs to get into sous vide cooking.

The below link is to an informative article in Bon Appetit Magazine.

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-sous-vide-cooking

 

 

 

 

More Lamb Love

Just like I said in the previous post- ” the chops will sell out quickly”, they did.  We’re on to the loins, which also will be gone fast.

I marinated the loins with a lot of herbs, shallots, garlic, mustard and EVOO

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Next I vacuum sealed them and sous vide them for 2 hours at 137 degrees.

 

At pick-up I seasoned the loins with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and then seared the loins.

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After letting the it sit for a few minutes I put a few thick slices on the plate with the rest of the ingredients. The final result is perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!

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We got a lamb

Tad in a Hat

Farmer Tad

Farmer Tad from Featherbrook Farm in Raynham, MA brought us a lamb.  It’s our first lamb in a long while, unfortunately our long-time supplier of local lamb bought-the-farm and we had been looking for a new supplier.

feather brook logo

 

Tad, who already brings us chickens, rabbits and eggs mentioned to me that he was growing a few lamb and wanted to know if we were interested in one of them.  I jumped right on it, telling him we would happily take one of them off his hands.

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Tad’s lamb awaiting processing

We have a long history of serving locally produced lamb.  I have been butchering and cooking them since long before we opened EVOO.  I became quite proficient at it; I would time myself to see how long it would take to butcher the lamb into the desired pieces for roasting and braising.  I can easily break-down a lamb in less than 7 minutes; my record is 2 lambs in 11 minutes.  Keep in mind butchering is my least favorite job to do in the kitchen, I’m a closest wanna-be vegetarian and I just want to get it done as quickly as I can.  The below video of me breaking-down a lamb is a couple of years old.

 

 

We have already started serving the chops with some braised meat:

Herb Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops and Braised Lamb with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Crushed Olives, Pickled Cauliflower, Parsley, Marcona Almonds, Goat’s Milk Feta and Mint Salsa Verde

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Being just one lamb there are not a lot of chops, even paired with braised lamb meat we will only have 7 orders before we switch the chops out with roasted loin which will only make an additional 5-6 orders. Later this week or perhaps the beginning of next we will have a roasted lamb leg sandwich on the lunch menu and a braised lamb dish, possibly a pasta dish. Then it will be gone…

 

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loins to be sous vide

 

 

 

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legs waiting to be marinated, roasted and sliced for sandwiches

 

 

New Vegetarian Dish

Polenta Croquette with Braised Spinach, Stracciatella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Parsley, Last Summer’s Tomato Sauce and Pine Nut Crunch  

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I have written in the past about my approach to vegetarian dishes, you can check out my previous post here.

 

This dish came about when I was thinking about what should we do with all of the plum tomatoes that we put up in Mason jars this past summer.  To me that’s the coolest thing about this dish; we are using local tomatoes in the middle of January. Sure they’re not fresh tomatoes. However, they were bought from local farms (Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA and Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA) during the height of the local season. So.. we are still supporting the local community and best of all- they’re freaking delicious!

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To go with the tomatoes-we made polenta croquettes with Four Star Farm’s (Northfield, MA) cornmeal.  We braised The Food Project’s (Roxbury, MA) spinach and topped the croquette with  stracciatella from The Mozzarella House (Peabody, MA).

This one of the many vegetarian dishes that we have produced where you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy.