Welcome! Below are a few photos of some new small plate ideas I’ve been working on including: chili crusted tuna tataki, bobwhite quail w blue corn arepas, vanilla spiked foie w barrel aged burbon and 24 hr sous-vide short rib w syrah redux. Ultimately, the goal here will be to post easy recipes of dishes like these along with plating notes, a step by step photographic guide and wine pairing suggestions. I would love to hear any requests for specific dishes from our readers and of course, #wine pairing suggestions are always welcome. Hope you enjoy!
Confit (pronounced con-fee) originated as a French method of preserving meat. Nowadays, it’s mostly used as a way to make delicious, fall-off the bone duck. In our version of duck confit, duck leg quarters are cooked slowly in rendered duck fat, fresh herbs, orange peel and spices resulting in an incredible flavor. This method also works well with chicken, pork and goose. Great with a salads, sandwiches, charcuterie and more. Lots of options!
The flavorful fat from the duck confit may also be used in many other ways, as a frying medium for sautéed vegetables, potatoes, savory toasts, scrambled eggs or omelets, and as an addition to short crust paste for tarts and quiche.
Some of the more classic recipes call for you to fry or grill the duck legs in a bit of the leftover fat until they are well-browned and crisp, or to roast potatoes and garlic as an accompaniment. The potatoes roasted in duck fat to accompany the crisped-up duck confit is called pommes de terre à la sarladaise. Duck confit is also a traditional ingredient in many versions of cassoulet.
1 dozen Duck Leg Quarters (frenched)
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
6 T Whole Peppercorns
5 Bay Leaves
5 Juniper Berries
3 Tbsp Coriander seed
3 Cloves Garlic
1 tsp Red Chili Flakes
1 bunch fresh Rosemary
stems from 2 bunches fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh Thyme
Peels from two large fresh oranges-pith removed
Rendered Duck Fat to cover
Combine herbs, spices, salt, orange peels & bay leaves. Rinse duck legs, dry, place in large roasting pan or oven proof casserole pot, & cover with rendered duck fat, gently stir to mix ingredients. Cover pan & place in 225 degree oven for 7 – 8 hours or until duck is tender and falling off the bone (test by using tongs to lift a duck leg by the bone and gently shaking). Leave duck in the fat & allow to cool overnight. Remove from fat, heat and caramelize in 350 degree oven. Enjoy!
As a young man growing up in Key West Florida, I was exposed to a variety of fantastically flavorful ethnic dishes from an early age. Dishes that I would, over the years, constantly try to recreate or infuse into new ideas. South Florida in general is home to a diverse multi-cultural landscape of people, rich in tradition and passionate about the foods of their homeland. The bounty of both fresh produce and super fresh seafood readily available in Florida at any given time gives chefs the opportunity to come up with almost limitless inspiration and flavor combinations. Bahamian Conch Ceviche, Cuban Ropa Vieja, Puerto Rican plantain mofongo, Hatian Oxtail stew, these are all dishes that take me back to my childhood. One preparation always stood out for me, especially because I tend to go for fresh and spicy, flavor packed foods with a simplistic approach…seafood in particular, it was Ceviche. Fish, Shrimp, Conch, whatever…I LOVED ceviche.
Long before I ever dreamed that I would end up being a chef, I had the good fortune to eat many, many times at a little place called Louie’s Backyard in Old Town Key West. You see, my mother was a huge foodie and luckily for me, introduced me to all kinds of strange and exotic foods from an early age. The owners of Louie’s had recently brought in a young chef named Norman Van Aken, who would soon blaze a trail for what would one day become known as “New World Cuisine”, he was and still is the father of it…a new world Escoffier of sorts…Norman is obviously a culinary genius, few would argue that.
I used to love the irreverent cooking style and seemingly bizarre, yet playful flavors Norman created and there was definitely a buzz going around about his cooking from very early on. After finishing culinary school, I sought Norman out at his restaurant in Coral Gables and hung around until I was able to work my way into the kitchen, it was a brief time that would change my perception of what food could really be and how far an idea could be taken. Hopefully Norman knows what an incredible impact he has made on so many young chefs, including me…I doubt I could ever really fully thank him in a way that sounds as good as it does in my mind but, thank you Norman.
Now, looking back on a successful career as a professional chef for the last 15 years, I have begun to seek out the flavors that remind me of my childhood. Afterall, isn’t that one of the great things about food? The fact that one bite can transport you back to a certain time and place…remind you of good times or bad, connect you with a family memory or simply remind you of sunday dinners at grandma’s house. Food connects us with our roots in a way that few other things in life can and I think that any great cook, at any given time, draws inspiration from or strives to re-create dishes that remind them of something dear to them.
My take on a wonderful recipe by Chef Rick Bayless– Chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, creator of Frontera Gourmet foods, cookbook author and host of “Mexico One Plate at a Time“. This recipe is from his cook book “Mexico One Plate at a Time.” A must-try!
- ½ cup plus 2 Tbs fresh lime juice
- 1 generous pound unpeeled, smallish shrimp
- ½ medium white onion, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1-2 Tbs vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce
- About 2 Tbs olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to smooth out sharpness)
- 1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jicama (or ½ cup of each)
- 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
- Several lime slices for garnish
- Tostadas or tortilla chips for serving
- To cook the shrimp, bring 1 quart salted water to a boil and add 2 Tbs of the lime juice. Scoop in the shrimp, cover and let the water return to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat, set the lid askew and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 10 minutes. Spread out the shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Peel and devein shrimp. Toss the shrimp with remaining ½ cup lime juice, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
- In a small strainer, rinse the onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid. Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, optional olive oil, cucumber and/or jicama and avocado. Taste and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.
- Serving: spoon ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime. Serve with tostadas or tortilla chips.
Justin-Thyme Personal Chef Service Provides Elegant Full-Service Dinner Parties to the to the Tampa Bay Area!
Do you love fine food and wine but dread a long night out at a fine dining restaurant? In today’s dining scene, people are taking advantage of another option! If you were to compare a personal chef service to restaurant, you could think of it this way: For a restaurant, you must drive to get there, possibly wait for a table, take a chance that your server is having a good day, and if you have allergies or special requests you don’t always have the guarantee that they will be honored, since most entrees are “assembly line” ready in the kitchen.
After eating your meal you must pay for it, tip the server, and get back in your vehicle to drive home. If you have a Personal Chef Service, you can eat a wonderful entrée that has been prepared specifically for you palate and requirements, and eat it in the comfort of your own home.
How it works:
Chef Justin will help create a delicious gourmet menu suited to your particular tastes for any special dining event in your home. He consults with you about what kind of party you’d like to give, how many guests you plan to invite and any other special detail to make your party perfect. He will then design your special custom menu of four or five courses suited to your particular tastes as well as help you pair up the best wines with the cuisine. We are also happy to make changes to the menu to accommodate a guest’s special requests or restrictions. Once menus are finalized, we print up custom copies detailing your event for your guests to keep.
You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and our high-end four-star service, and then, while you’re savoring dessert, we’ll scrub your kitchen spotless as you bask in your guests’ praise at what a clever host you are for bringing in a private chef to create such a delicious and memorable experience.
We service the following areas: Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Largo, Madeira Beach, Mango, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, South Tampa, St. Petersberg, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs, Tierra Verde, Orlando Fl
Justin-Thyme Personal Chef Service Tampa‘s Premier Personal Chef!
- Tampa Personal Chef Services (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
- Full Service Catering in Tampa (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
- Sushi Cooking Classes in the Tampa Bay Area! (via Justin-Thyme) (chefjustinthyme.wordpress.com)
Mangospacho with basil infused lobster
- 2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted
- 1 small green apple, peeled, chopped
- 1 small celery stalk, chopped
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 large jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 fresh cilantro sprigs
Purée first 10 ingredients in blender. Chill 2 hours. do ahead Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.
For basil puree: In a blender, puree 2 bunches of picked fresh basil leaves with 4oz of canola oil and a pinch of salt. add 1TBS of rice wine and a teaspoon of sugar. Reserve half of basil puree for garnish.
For lobster: Place 4oz. Maine lobster tails in simmering water for 6-8 mins, remove from pot and shock in ice water. Shell, devein and split lobster tails in half lengthwise. Toss lobster tails in basil puree and chill for at least 1 hour.
Ladle soup into 4 bowls; top each with 1 half lobster tail. Garnish with basil and cilantro.
So, I’ve got an old friend who is a HUGE Rush fan. He’s seen them live more times than he’s visited his in-laws, owns every bootleg known to man, and can recite each member’s biography with the nostalgia of having lived it himself. But one summer night, after a couple of Grey Goose martinis had begun to take hold, he made a startling confession to me about a musical guilty pleasure…Barry Manilow. Yeah, it’s ok, laugh…lord knows I did. But despite the fact that I can still remember how silly he looked singing a horrible rendition of ‘Could It Be Magic’, it only made me respect him even more because, we are after all, all human, and we ALL have guilty pleasures…not just in music, but in food and wine too.
See, here’s the thing- I absolutely love Foie Gras, Beluga Caviar, Kobe beef, Truffles, first-growth Bordeaux and San Pellegrino. But I also love (and I can admit this because most of you have never actually met me) white castle burgers, E-Z cheeze, Beefaroni, frozen pizza, Mac & Cheese with cut up hot dogs, Ketchup on eggs, fried Snickers, Slurpees, Cajun boiled peanuts and those little wax bottles with the liquid candy inside.
I’ve been fortunate to have dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world and have had meals that are indelibly etched in my memory, but it doesn’t change the fact that every once in a while (when no one is around except me and the dog) I will sit down to a peanut butter & fluff (yep, a fluffernutter)sandwich on WHITE bread, not the healthy stuff. The dog gets a little peanut butter too just in case she’s thinking of ratting me out. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of treating yourself to a Drake’s Yodel or Ring Ding, do me a favor- put down the Riedel stemware and the truffle butter, step away slowly, get in the car and drive to the market as fast as you can, without stopping for pedestrians.
So I asked around, and when promised anonymity, several friends, family and co-workers have admitted to the following gastronomical guilty pleasures:
- Uncooked Ramen Noodles, right out of the container, crunch and all
- McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets…what, that’s not bad enough for you? Did I mention she dunks them in her chocolate milk shake?!?
- Spaghetti with ketchup (a distant cousin of my beloved Beefaroni)
- Skillet-fried Spam with pineapple
- Frozen Pop-Tarts
- Fried bologna sandwiches on wonder bread, sans crust
- Pork cracklins’
So my question is, what’s YOUR guilty pleasure? Don’t sit there with your nose up in the air and tell me you live on haute cuisine, because I know somewhere deep down, in places you don’t talk about at cocktail parties, you WANT that New York City ‘dirty-water’ hot dog, you NEED that cold left-over pizza. It’s okay, the first step is admitting it, so share your guiltiest pleasure I won’t tell a soul…
All photos taken with a 10 megapixel Nikon coolpix L100 with Nikkor 15x optical zoom VR