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What's Up Magazine

Chefs’ Challenge 2014

Aug 11, 2014 09:00AM ● By James Houck
By James Houck // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Image titleSeveral years ago and on the heels of the annual Best Of contest voting, we developed a nifty idea; one that would parlay the talent of the Best Chef winners into a unique feature article for our August “foodie” issue. The idea: challenge each chef to develop a superb menu within a specific set of criteria. Over the years, we’ve been amazed at what local chefs have concocted using simple, fresh, and local ingredients…and this year’s set of skillful hands are no different. The impression they deliver is simply elegant; feasts for both our eyes and our palates.

We challenged the Best of Annapolis winning chef, Chris LaCasse of Chart House, and Best of Eastern Shore winning chef, Steve Quigg of The Kitchen at Rock Hall, to create a five course meal; each course showcasing a different local ingredient. We gave them choices of ingredients—some familiar, others intriguing—such as crab, local fish (other than rockfish), game of choice, peas, squash, honey, cherries, and local craft beer (chef’s choice). How they put together their menus and the resulting dishes will leave you craving a visit to their fine restaurants or, at the very least, inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. Enjoy learning about each dish in the words of each chef. Bon appetit!

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Grilled Squash Soup

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 “I love the idea of serving chilled soups in the summer; however I wanted to create something different than the ‘go-to,’ gazpacho. Instead I combined an assortment of local squash and zucchini with homemade vegetable stock and blended in Greek yogurt to create a delicate soup with a balance of tangy and savory. To add another layer of flavor it is topped with carrot crème fraiche.”

Softshell Crab with Malt Vinegar Aioli

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 “One of my favorite winter time staples is Fish & Chips; so I wanted to create a local dish that is more suited to summer and incorporates one of my other favorite things—soft shell crabs. To lighten it up, but maintain the flavors, I used Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA from Delaware along with tempura batter to fry the locally sourced soft shell crabs and drizzled with a malt vinegar aioli. Instead of serving it with fried potatoes I created a simple, crunchy slaw incorporating roasted Eastern Shore corn and bell peppers simply dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. The idea for me is to balance the heavy with something light and keep it simple.”

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Oyster Crusted Brook Trout

 “I think it is important to support our local watermen whenever possible, I sourced this Brook Trout from the Eastport-based Mahoney watermen. I wanted to take local ingredients and create an Asian inspired dish, so I made a crust for the fish using panko breadcrumbs, local oysters, and cilantro and then baked it to create a nice crunch on the exterior. This dish is served over very thinly sliced ribbons of squash, zucchini, bell pepper, and shitake mushrooms which I piled into a pasta bowl and topped with just enough miso oyster broth to cook the thin vegetables. The marriage of the savory umami broth, fresh vegetables, and crisp coating on the fish showcases each component without overpowering the delicate trout and oyster flavors.”

Seared Duck Leg with Port Sauce

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 “Duck and fruit just go together. I love the gaminess of the meat with the sweetness of fresh fruits. For this recipe, I used cherries and oranges along with some tawny port and duck jus to create a luxurious yet light sauce to accompany the duck leg which was seared over high heat and finished in the oven. I briefly considered using the duck breast instead of the leg, but choosing a cut that is bone-in really brings another depth of flavor to any dish. This is served over fingerling potatoes roasted in the oven with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary from the garden.”

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“Dark and Storm” Bread Pudding

“Few things bring the words “summer” and “local” to my mind more than a Dark & Stormy. Anyone who has never tried the sailor’s classic cocktail of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Ginger Beer are missing out. I wanted to make a dessert that was inspired by this drink, and immediately bread pudding came to mind. For the bread I chose Challah for it’s richness and also the ability to absorb the custard without becoming soggy. The custard is made with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg which I tossed with the cubes of Challah and diced crystallized ginger and baked until crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. For the sauce I made a thick caramel using sugar and ginger beer and combined it with Gosling’s rum which I reduced, then added finely minced crystallized ginger. This is served with homemade vanilla ice cream infused with local honey and topped with grated orange and lime peel.”


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Crab and Avocado Stack

Image title “This is a dish that screams summer with fresh tomatoes, ripe, creamy avocados and the sweetness of jumbo lump crab meat offset by the acidic bite of the lemon, red wine vinegar, and basil dressing.”

Ricotta and Parmesan Ravioli Stuffed with Quail Egg Yolk and a Sage/Bacon Butter Sauce

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 “This dish came about when a local farmer dropped off two dozen quail eggs for me to play with. I remembered reading about an Italian dish that did something similar with chicken eggs and thought it might be interesting. When you first cut into the ravioli, the egg yolk comes out and becomes part of the sauce, creating this wonderful creamy moment. The first iteration was for a wonderful customer of ours who is a vegetarian. I added the bacon later on just because I really liked that bacon and egg combination.”

Crust-less Summer Galette

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 “Monica [chef and co-owner of the kitchen] created the original version of this dish for a family Thanksgiving dinner using just sweet potatoes. It was a healthy (and I think tastier) version of the Sweet Potato Casseroles that are covered with brown sugar and/or marshmallows. For the summer she decided to try to add zucchini and yellow squash, which was a total winner. The rainbow of colors, the slight texture differences, and the flavors are phenomenal. The fact that it is super healthy is just a plus.”

Pistachio Crusted Catfish with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Capers, and Lump Crab over Wilted Spinach

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 “This dish has appeared often on the menu at The Kitchen in one iteration or another. It is one that you can have fun with, using whatever small fish is fresh and looks good at the market, adding or subtracting ingredients as they are available. We use a lot of different fish at The Kitchen and have done versions of this dish with Arctic Char, Rockfish, Skate, Tilefish, and Catfish.”

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16 Mile Amber Sun Ale Ice Cream

“We take great pride in the fact that we make everything from scratch here at The Kitchen, and desserts are no exception. Monica always has a small but interesting selection of ice cream available. Monica and I talked about different uses for beer in a dish, but most of them, while using beer as an ingredient, mask the flavor of the beer in the final product. Monica suggested ice cream and she hit this one out of the park. It has the creamy texture of her house made ice cream and a subtle finish of Amber Ale that is fantastic.”