Food is a paradox. We consume it, and increasingly, it consumes us. One of the more notable movements in food lately is built around the doctrine of locavores, who believe that the food that comes from your backyard is better than anything that comes from a supermarket, and that the food from a local market is better even than, say, the chocolate-dipped pears that are shipped to Montana from Oregon in a Harry and David gourmet gift basket.
As hard as it is for us to get past the mere idea of chocolate-dipped pears—chocolate-dipped pears!—we generally concur. And so, in that vein, we've asked five local chefs to give you a look inside their kitchens and offer recipes for a soup, salad, appetizer, entrée and dessert that capitalize on local or locally-available ingredients.
Individually, the fruits of any one of these recipes could brighten a repast. Together, they'd make an outstanding holiday meal. Bon appétit!
The Silk Road's Jacob Osborne has your appetizer
Silk Road chef Jacob Osborne likes to use all of an animal. Even the organs. It's more sustainable that way, he says—plus, the flavors in the meat and organs of an animal correspond to one another and so can tie a meal together.
"Things that are considered delicacies in other countries often arise out of necessity," Osborne observes as he works in the Silk Road's kitchen.
"People ate liver because they couldn't afford to not eat liver. It's a cheap form of protein. We've gotten away from that, but I think it's starting to come back...Chefs are focusing a lot on using whole animals."
That's why, when we asked him to help us with an appetizer, Osborne, a veteran chef who's also worked at Brooks & Browns and Sapore, chose to share with us his recipe for duck liver pâté: It can easily be adapted to use the turkey liver that most people use only in stuffing or stock, or just give to the lucky dog.
Making pâté is fairly simple, though you'll need to start it a couple of days ahead of time to prepare it properly. And that can be a good thing, as it allows you to complete most of the dish before guests arrive and clutter your kitchen.
Jacob Osborne's turkey liver pâté
Two days before the meal, soak the liver in milk with a touch of salt and pepper and let it sit overnight (this helps to mellow its flavor). The next day, take the liver out of the milk and pat dry with a paper towel. While it's drying, make the cream reduction: Pour two cups of heavy whipping cream into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Wrap the garlic cloves, sprigs of thyme and orange peels in cheesecloth and tie it with a piece of butcher's twine, then drop it into the saucepan.
"I like using cream reductions as well as butter just because it gives you a chance to impart some flavors that you don't otherwise have," Osborne says.
Lightly boil the cream until it's reduced from two cups to about one. While the reduction's boiling, drop the liver in a hot, oiled frying pan. Sear it on both sides; don't cook it through. Set it aside.
When the reduction's ready, take out the cheesecloth. Drop the liver into a blender or food processor and pulse a few times, then slowly pour the reduction into the blender and blend until smooth. The heat of the cream will finish cooking the liver. Don't pour so much that it gets watery; you want it to have the viscosity of a thick sauce. Next, add small pieces of cold butter, being sure to blend each piece completely before adding the next piece. Once all the butter is incorporated, taste the pâté and season with salt and pepper if needed. Then pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a pâté mold. Wrap the mold and put it in the refrigerator overnight to harden.
The next day, before your guests arrive, sauté mushrooms in olive oil. Osborne uses a mix of portabella, chanterelle, oyster, shitake, crimini and button mushrooms. While they're sautéing, add the cream sherry, which pulls out the mushrooms' flavors. Remove the pan from heat and let a tablespoon of butter melt into the sherry, making a sauce.
Now for the presentation: Take the pâté mold out of the fridge and turn it upside down on a serving plate. If it doesn't slide out of the mold, try heating the mold with a lighter. Then fill out the plate with the mushrooms. Splay pear slices on top. Garnish with another sprig of thyme. Serve with sliced baguette.
"One thing about pâtés," Osborne says, "is you can really form it into whatever you want it to be."
Indeed, molding pans come in all kinds of shapes. There are even molding pans shaped like turkeys.