I said I wanted to put more effort into sharing some of my better dinners with you – so here’s the first one I’m actually shooting with my Nikon, properly. I resent this process slightly, as my dinner gets cold, and who wants cold dinner?! But it’s pretty and worth shooting.
One of my newest cookbooks is Sean Brock’s Heritage. South Eastern American (Lowcountry) food produced with great sensitivity to farmer relationships, local traditions, and absolute seasonality. His restaurant Husk won best new restaurant in America in 2011. His menus are known to change multiple times per day, in keeping with what’s available right now, something unique to the industry. Sean now owns multiple restaurants in Charleston and Nashville, grows his own heirloom (and endangered) crops such as “Jimmy Red” corn, rice peas, and different types of farro, and is even known for raising his own pigs. Sean is one of very few chefs in the western world who are this well connected to their foods’ source, local relationships, and real cooking and preserving traditions. I’m glad to have my hands on his book, as his food is as inspiring and beautiful as it is downhome and unpretentious.
This is what we’re referring to when we say “real food” or “comfort food”. Comfort food to me isn’t mac’n’cheese or loaded potato skins, and it isn’t greasy, sloppy or overindulgent (ie: gluttonous). Comfort food is that which is grown nearby, therefor rich in the flavors that are missing from crosscountry-shipped grocery store foodstuffs, and recipes that are many generations passed down.
As someone who grew up in a small farm town I can tell you for certain – that old Uncle George’s peas, carrots and corn are otherworldly in comparison to supermarket version. And the pork and beef raised up the valley by Farmer What’shisface has a richness and depth of flavour you can’t compare anything else to. Food you grow yourself has flavour before texture, while most mass produced food lends texture before you notice flavour. Think about it next time you’re in the produce aisle choosing between the single jumbo carrot and the small bunch of skinny ones with tops still on.
Food that has a story and is grown and prepared with real love…
That is comfort food.
Tonight I made a version of Sean’s sweet corn and goat cheese soup, and topped it off with grilled beef striploin and some shiitake mushrooms. Like I said – it was cold when I ate it, but now you get to enjoy this nice photo! So you’re welcome!
Quick Version of Sweet Corn + Goat Cheese Soup: (slightly altered)
1 L vegetable stock
4 ears of fresh corn, kernels sliced off and reserved
100 g goat cheese
3 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch salt, freshly cracked pepper
-Shave the kernels of corn from the husks, reserving for later. Bring the stock to a simmer with the herbs, and using a box grater – grate the milky juices from the corn cobs into the stock, then cut the cobs in half and toss them in too. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain.
-Add the corn kernels and goat cheese, cook for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a blender and blend 3-5 minutes until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
-Serve with a handful of sauteed shiitake mushrooms, and grilled beef striploin steak, medium rare.
-Take photos quickly and try to eat before cold! Ha!
Ciao for now folks