Our fine-dining writer seeks out dishes – and procures a few recipes, here and on cityandshore.com – from South Florida restaurants that are made in-house, from scratch and with love.
By Rebecca Cahilly
In the early 1980s my parents bought the most popular diner in town. When word got out that the new owners planned to transform the Friday-night fish-fry hot spot into an elegant fine-dining establishment, loyal patrons cautiously considered the idea with one caveat: the pies – and Jeannie the pie maker – must stay.
From Monday to Saturday, Jeannie would arrive at dawn and within minutes her station would be a flurry of flour, whisking, a pat of the crust here and a dash of cinnamon there. By 8 a.m. glorious banana crème, coconut crème, chocolate mousse and apple pies were proudly on display alongside cinnamon buns and cinnamon bread in the new pie case, to be enjoyed well into the evening hours by locals dressed in their finest.
With each passing decade, finding a Jeannie in the kitchen of a new restaurant became increasingly rare. The once-demanded customer/chef connection was overtaken by fast, frozen and distribution en masse.
These days, however, the concept of the soul of food, of the human connection and of dining being a complete and wholesome experience, is gaining in momentum.
At Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton, the emphasis is on healthy and organic. Two noteworthy dishes come from this kitchen – the Baked to Order Bison Meatloaf and the Fig Roasted Young Chicken. Comprised of grass-fed bison meat procured from Durham Ranch in Wyoming, the bison meatloaf is baked with a hole in the middle, which is filled with a butternut squash and parsnip mash and topped with an egg sunny side up. Over this is a mushroom black skillet bordelaise. The eggs are sourced from South Florida’s favorite farmer, Farmer Jay, who also tends the herb garden at the front of the restaurant. The Bison Meatloaf was originally to be called a bison “bundtloaf,” but when Executive Chef Wilson Wieggel couldn’t find the perfect-sized bundt pan, he adapted small individual deep-dish pizza pans with upside-down ramekins to bake the meatloaf with a doughnut-shaped hole.
Marinated in a thick garlic brine (and paleo-friendly) slather for 48 hours, each Springer Mountain Farm whole chicken is fig roasted and served with organic Tuscan kale sourced from Chef Roderick Smith, toasted wheat berries and winter squash and served in a natural jus. Both of these Farmer’s Table dishes are cooked to order, and all prep and production is done daily, just like back on the farm.
FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH
Hakkasan, the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant located at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, has a reputation for its dumplings. From the kitchen headed up by Chef de Cuisine Jian Heng Loo, known for his innovation with traditional Chinese cuisine, come a variety of dumplings ranging from tender to crispy. Chef Loo shares with us the recipe for Pan-Fried Chive Shrimp Buns, which you can enjoy during weekend dim sum.
Pan-Fried Chive Shrimp Buns
1 lb shrimp, deveined and cut in half
3 oz Chinese chives, cut into 1/4 slices
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 oz potato starch
¼ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp chicken powder
Dumpling Wrap Ingredients
4 oz wheat starch
4 oz potato starch
4-6 oz hot water
To prepare dumplings:
Add the wheat starch and potato starch into a mixing bowl and slowly incorporate hot water to the mixture while stirring constantly. Once fully combined and mixture is malleable, knead the dough for about one to two minutes on a surface sprinkled with potato starch – adding additional potato starch as you go and until dough is no longer sticking to your hand. Roll about 4 oz of the dough into a log and cut into 1/2 oz portions. Roll the pieces flat into the shape of a circle about three inches in diameter.
Method of preparation:
Add 6 oz of the shrimp to a mixer with a paddle arm and slowly break the shrimp down into a paste-like consistency, adding more until all shrimp is blended. Mix the dry seasoning together in a small container and add dry seasoning and chives to the shrimp mixture. Fill each dumpling wrapper with 1 1/2 of the shrimp mixture. Fold buns into desired shape, then steam for about 5-7 minutes or until fully cooked. Using a small amount of beaten egg yolk on the bottom of the dumpling, pan-fry the bottom of the dumpling in a frying pan until brown and crispy. Garnish dumplings with fried taro chips.
HOT & SOUL
“We love the feel of the Mom & Pop restaurant, where the owners cook and serve the food,” says Mike Hampton, who co-owns Hot & Soul, an eclectic eatery in Fort Lauderdale, with his wife, Christy Samoy. “You can taste the care that went into making the dish. We wanted to create that same feeling here.” The duo arrived in South Florida via San Diego via New Orleans via Boston, bringing with them a passion for food that is as diverse as their former addresses. Everything at Hot & Soul is made from scratch – the pastas, the sauces and soon, the vinegars. The daily menu is inspired by trips to the market and whatever Mike and Christy feel like trying out that day – they recently made, and sold out of, head cheese – but there are a few base menu items, one of which is the Gnaughty Gnocchi. Mike makes the gnocchi fresh daily, using boiled Russet potatoes run through a ricer and mixed with flour, egg, a dash of pecorino and salt. Once cooked, the gnocchi is sautéed in a sauce of gently crushed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, onions and spices with boiled fall-off-the-bone oxtail meat and basil, and topped with grated pecorino cheese. It’s really not “Gnaughty,” it’s just plain good.
MAX’S SOCIAL HOUSE
At Dennis Max’s latest restaurant, Max’s Social House in Delray Beach, there’s one house-made item that is a bit of a well-kept secret – until now. The Cavatelli Mac & Cheese is served as a side dish to the Akaushi Short Rib entrée but is delightful on its own.
Cavatelli Mac and Cheese
Sauce base ingredients
1 qt heavy cream
1.5 oz butter
5 oz yellow onion, diced
2 oz shallots, diced
½ oz minced garlic
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped fine
3 oz white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the butter, onion, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper in a sauce pot on medium high. Cook until the onion is translucent. Do not brown. Add the white wine and cook until almost dry. Add cream and reduce by half on medium heat.
To prepare the cheese sauce, add 8 oz of the base to a pan over medium heat. Add 4 oz of Grafton Village 2-year cheddar, 2 oz of Taleggio and 2 oz pecorino cheese. Finish with 1 oz of butter and mix well.
Homemade pasta ingredients
1 lb ricotta cheese
4 cups flour
1 tsp of salt
Mix all ingredients using a dough hook until the dough becomes smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes. Roll out a long, pencil-size tube of dough and cut this into ½-inch pieces. On an unfloured surface, press and roll each piece, using a forward motion with your thumb, to form the cavatelli. Once the pasta has been rolled out, place it in boiling, salted water for 7 minutes, drain and place in an ice bath to cool. Add 8 oz of the pasta to the cheese sauce and serve.
SEMINOLE CASINO COCONUT CREEK
After you’ve met Walter the Butcher, selected your dry aged prime cut and enjoyed a most satisfying meal, you’ll turn your attention to Mark Weideman, the pastry chef at NYY Steak at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Chef Weideman creates decadent desserts daily. For the recipe for his Colossal Chocolate Cake – a dark chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse and served with berries and warm homemade fudge.
ONLINE BONUS Recipe for Colossal Chocolate Cake
(Makes one 10-inch round cake)
1 qt sugar
1 cup peanut oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 ½ cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp ground kosher salt
1 ½ cup baking cocoa
2 cups milk
2 cups boiling water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, spray two 10-by-2 round cake pans with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper.
In mixer with whip attachment, combine sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. Mix five minutes on speed 1. Add the dry ingredients and mix on speed 1 for 10 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of bowl every 3 minutes. While mixer is running, gradually add the boiling water. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix for three minutes.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans using four 8-oz. ladle scoops per pan. Bake the cakes in preheated oven for 50 minutes. Cake is done when the top feels set in the center and it shrinks slightly from the sides. Let the cakes cool and remove from pans.
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp coffee extract (or Kahlua liqueur)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 sheets silver gelatin
Place the gelatin sheets in a small saucepan and top with ice water. Soak for at least four minutes.
Reserve ¼-cup of the heavy cream and set aside. Place the remaining heavy cream, sugar, cocoa, Kahlúa and vanilla in mixer with wire whip and mix on speed 2.
Meanwhile, drain the ice water from gelatin and add the reserved ¼ cup heavy cream. Heat over medium heat until melted. Quickly pour into mousse and continue to mix until light peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tsp coffee extract
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
1/2 lb butter, room temp
1/2 lb vegetable shortening
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa
In mixer combine the butter, shortening and vanilla. Mix with paddle on speed 1 for five minutes. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the powdered sugar and continue mixing on speed 1 for 15 minutes, scraping down the bowl every 5 minutes. Add the cocoa and continue to mix for 5 minutes.
1/2 lb semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
Bring the cream to a boil in a sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Place ganache in squeeze bottles and keep warm for cake assembly.
Place one 10-by-3 round cake ring on a 10-inch round cardboard cake circle. Remove domed top from cakes and reserve. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Place a layer of cake in each ring. Soak with simple syrup and top with three heaping scoops of mousse. Level out the mousse and repeat using four layers of cake. Do not top last layer of cake with mousse. Wrap each cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove cake from ring and place on a cake circle. Place some of the chocolate buttercream in small mixer and mix with paddle until soft and smooth, about five minutes. Frost the cake top and sides with buttercream. Press chocolate curls into side. Spread some melted ganache on top. Cube the reserved cake tops into ½-inch pieces and mound on top. Drizzle with melted ganache.
Two dishes on our list come from Tanzy in Boca Raton. Situated in the iPic Theater complex, Tanzy offers rustic Italian fare. All pastas are made in-house, but the signature Orecchiette pasta with spiced turkey sausage (made in-house) and wilted Swiss chard is a must try. During Sunday brunch, the Bombolini – jam-filled, vanilla-sugar-dusted, baked-to-order Italian doughnuts – are a little bite of homemade heaven.
THASOS GREEK TAVERNA
What’s better than homemade? Homemade passed down through the generations. The Baby Eggplant dish at Thasos Greek Taverna in Fort Lauderdale is inspired from an old family recipe passed down to owners Sophia Mylona and Gus Leontarakis. In this dish, the Japanese eggplant is roasted, rather than fried. The meat sauce is made with beef and lamb ground in-house, and is infused with allspice and fresh basil. This is topped with béchamel sauce, freshly ground nutmeg and Kefalograviera cheese. Another favorite from this Greek family hot spot is the Shrimp Saganaki, which features freshly deveined shrimp topped with house-made tomato and fennel sauce, fresh Cubanelle peppers, parsley and feta cheese.
1901 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
Fontainebleau Miami Beach
4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Hot & Soul
3045 N. Federal Highway, Suite 60B,
Max’s Social House
116 NE 6th Ave. , Delray Beach
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
5550 NW 40th St., Coconut Creek
301 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Thasos Greek Taverna
3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd.,
Springer Mountain Farms
Chef Roderick Smith
Grafton Village Cheese