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Chefs' Challenge 2015: Inspirational Meals Prepared by Local Winning Chefs

Jul 27, 2015 02:46PM ● By James Houck
By James Houck // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Several 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, Bobby Jones of The Point Crab House & Grill in Arnold, and Best of Eastern Shore winning chef, Steve Quigg of The Kitchen at the Imperial in Chestertown, to create a multi-course meal; each course showcasing a different local ingredient. 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!

Steve Quigg of the Kitchen at the Imperial

Steve Quigg of the Kitchen at the Imperial
“Rather than create a conventional five-course meal, my approach to this year’s Chef’s Challenge was to highlight some of the small plate options that I serve in the Tavern Room, here at The Kitchen,” Steve says. “Since I buy local whenever possible and change my menu on a weekly basis, the hard part for me was picking which dishes to highlight.”

Mini Rockfish Tacos // Chef Steve Quigg

When local rockfish are available, they will always be on my menu in some form or another. This dish came about when I was trying to figure out a way to use the belly of the large rockfish we had. The belly is a cut that is often thrown out as waste—which makes me crazy—or tossed into soup as an afterthought. Rockfish is such a great product, I think it should be the star wherever you use it. We hand bread and panfry the belly, and pair it with house pickled red onions, avocado, tomato, cilantro, and a roasted poblano chili sauce.
Mini Rockfish Tacos

 

Mini Rockfish Tacos

 

Fish Charcuterie Plate // Chef Steve Quigg

This is a great medium for my staff and I to play with, using whatever seafood we have on hand that week. In this case, we used Sloop Betty Vodka out of Stevensville, along with citrus zest, salt, and sugar to cure Arctic char. At the same time, we smoked rainbow trout and local oysters. Just for fun and to give another perspective on the trout, we use half of it to create a smoked trout dip, keeping half to stand on its own. To plate the oysters we put them under a rocks glass and use a smoke gun to capture Hickory Smoke. The rocks glass is turned right side up table side and the aroma and visual of the smoke sets the tone for the dish.
Fish Charcuterie Plate

 

Scotch Guinea Fowl Eggs // Chef Steve Quigg

I had a local farmer come in and ask if I could use Guinea Fowl Eggs. My response was for him to bring them in and I would come up with something. I wanted to create a small plates dish that would highlight the eggs, not just use them as an ingredient where they were not the star and Scotch Eggs seemed to be a perfect fit. Classic Scotch Eggs use a hardboiled egg, but since I don’t like the taste or texture of a hardboiled egg yolk, the challenge was to cook the egg so that the whites are done, but the yolk is still soft and unctuous. After going through 3 dozen eggs playing with time and temperature, I found that 167 degrees for 13 minutes created a perfectly done egg. We plate this with a couple of asparagus spears and Hollandaise sauce.
Scotch Guinea Fowl Eggs

 

Scotch Guinea Fowl Eggs

 

Asparagus Soup // Chef Steve Quigg

I love when the local asparagus becomes available. It’s like Mother Nature’s coming out party for spring. We use cases of it on a weekly basis at The Kitchen. Anyone that has ever cleaned asparagus knows that there is a woody part at the end of the spears that you cut off and throw away. We use those pieces and any leftovers from dinner service, along with house made vegetable stock, to create this rich, silky asparagus soup, which does not have any cream in it. An added advantage to this soup is that if you reduce it down and add it to risotto it is equally fantastic.
Asparagus Soup

 

72-Hour Short Ribs // Chef Steve Quigg

This dish came about when Bob Fry from St. Brigid’s Farm offered me a deal on short ribs I could not turn down. I decided to take some of them and create an outside-the-box small plates dish. The ribs are vacuum sealed with a sweet Asian marinade for 24 hours, then cooked Sous Vide for 48 hours until they are super tender but still hold their shape. After chilling in an ice bath the broth is run through a coffee filter and reduced to a glaze, while the ribs are cut into little slabs of beef love. We plate them with a whipped butternut squash puree and drizzle on the glaze.
72-Hour Short Ribs

 

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Bobby Jones of the Point Crab House & Grill

Bobby Jones of the Point Crab House & Grill
“The entire restaurant design and menu is based on the ideas and memories I had from growing up and spending time at my grandparent’s house,” explains Bobby. “They lived on Crab Alley Creek off the Eastern Bay. We would have parties a few times a year, where friends and family from around the area (mostly Baltimore) would come and visit. We would eat amazing food, eat crabs, and have fun enjoying each other’s company. Those times had a huge impact on my love for food and hospitality. The inspiration for practically any of my dishes—especially on the menu at The Point—can be rooted back to those times as a kid hanging with my family creekside.

“All my local produce is sourced through Diehl’s Produce in Severna Park. They buy from several local farms and are fantastic to work with. In these particular recipes, the tomatoes, asparagus, spring onions, and corn are all purchased though Diehl’s and are from farms located on the Eastern Shore. The soft-shell crabs are sloughed in Crisfield. The jumbo lump crab is from WT Ruark off Fishing Creek. Beef tenderloin is all-natural, HMO free—as is all my protein—from Ohio Valley, Pennsylvania.”

Tomato Salad // Chef Bobby Jones

Eastern Shore tomatoes, crumbled Stilton, scallions, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.
Tomato Salad

 

Tomato Salad

 

Skewered Beef Tenderloin // Chef Bobby Jones

Grilled local organic beef tenderloin tips with a spicy dry rub accompanied by jumbo lump crab, fresh corn, thyme, tomatoes, scallions, and butter.
Skewered Beef Tenderloin

 

Spring Soft Crab Salad // Chef Bobby Jones

Tempura-fried fresh local soft crab, Eastern Shore asparagus tips, peas, spring onions, baby greens, red bell pepper, and fresh herb green goddess dressing (basil, spring onion, mayo, cream, etc.).
Spring Soft Crab Salad

 

Nanny’s Deviled Eggs // Chef Bobby Jones

Local eggs, Dijon mustard, vinegar, fresh chives, spicy pepper sauce. Jumbo lump crab and house crab seasoning top off each egg.
Nanny’s Deviled Eggs