A Weekend Food Tour
It was so wonderful to be back at Cider Days in western Massachusetts this past weekend. This festival of apples and apple cider (hard and sweet) has become a touchstone. I only wish I could’ve stayed longer!
Here’s a shot of me demonstrating how to make cornbread dressing with sausage and apples, courtesy of my old college friend, Jennifer Rippel.
My demo happened at a gem of a restaurant called Mike & Tony’s Pizzeria at Green Emporium in Colrain. Chef Michael Collins and co-owner/artist Pacifico Palumbo first ran the Emporium as a critically acclaimed fine dining restaurant, but decided to take a more casual approach when the economy shifted. It has that wonderful homespun feel of a real community restaurant, decorated with Pacifico’s artwork and a great vintage neon collection, and the pizza consistently earns raves. I can’t wait to go back for dinner.
After my demo, a lovely Swedish couple named Lars and Kathrarina came up and introduced themselves. They’re apple growers from Färingsö, an island off the coast of Stokholm, and they make artisan jams, marmelades, chutneys, syrups, and glögg. Their business, the Apple Factory or Appelfabriken, sounds like just the reason to take that long-imagined trip to Sweden, ideally during apple season. To sweeten the deal, they also gave me a jar of their apple marmalade, which is wonderful, with such vivid apple flavor you’d swear the fruit just came off the trees.
The next day, I headed up to Portland to be a judge at Hood’s annual New England Dairy Cook-Off. What a great reminder of how many talented cooks we have here! All five finalists presented excellent dishes, from Holly Campbell’s Fruity Brickle Breakfast Biscuits Blintzes to Mary Lou Dahle’s Creamy Fresh Tomato-Arugula Soup with Cheese and Basil Crostini to Jessie Grearson’s Tandoori Express Chicken Naanwiches with Sour Cream Raita and Buttermilk Mango Lassi to Marie Connor’s Mystic Magic Chocolate Tart. But there could only be one winner, and that was Dan Rinaldi, a Cranston, RI firefighter, who made some unbelievable Surf and Turf Sliders with Maine Lobster Sauce. It was a flawless dish and it was a thrill to see his hard work rewarded with a $10,000 prize.
Dan Rinaldi’s Surf and Turf Sliders with Maine Lobster Sauce
12 slices reduced sodium hardwood smoked bacon
4 tsp Minors lobster base
4 tsp tomato paste
2 cups dry sherry
2 tsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeds removed and minced (reserve 1 teaspoon for sliders)
2 2/3 cups heavy cream (preferably Hood, of course)
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves (reserve 1 teaspoon for sliders)
4 oz Maine lobster tail meat, cooked and cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp butter
2 pounds sea scallops (10-20 per pound size), dried
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups panko breadcrumbs canola oil
12 slices focaccia bread, cut into a round shape and sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup arugula micro greens
Put a frying pan on the stove top over medium-high heat and cook bacon until crispy then set aside. Reserve the bacon dripping in the pan. For the sauce, put a saucepan on the stove top over high heat and whisk together: lobster base, tomato paste, and sherry. When mixture comes to a boil, cook for 10 minutes, then add one teaspoon chipotle pepper and heavy cream. Bring back to a boil and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take pan off of the heat and add one teaspoon of tarragon, lobster meat and whisk in butter (cold) one tablespoon at a time. Wrap focaccia in foil and put in a 250 degree F oven.
For the sliders, put: scallops, olive oil, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, remaining teaspoon chipotle pepper, remaining teaspoon tarragon and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped, there should still be some noticeable pieces of scallop. Scrape in to a bowl and fold in panko breadcrumbs. Form 12 evenly sized sliders. Put enough canola oil in the frying pan with the bacon drippings to come up around 1/8th of an inch. Turn burner to medium-high. Cook sliders for 3 minutes on each side.
To assemble the 12 sliders; Put 1½ teaspoons of sauce on the inside of each piece of warm focaccia (top and bottom). Place sliders on bottom piece of foaccia, evenly divide and top with remaining sauce, one slice of bacon and divide the arugula evenly between the burgers, add top piece of focaccia. Insert skewer and serve. Yield: 6 servings.