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Cuisine

On Denny’s, road trips, Slim Jims and GMO

7/20/17 | By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PCIII

I am back from national convention and settled in to the point that I can truly reflect upon the past week-and-a-half of travelling, educational seminars, Disney World, four fidgety kids in the car, southern fireworks stands and chicken fried steaks at roadside Denny’s. I did not eat any of the latter simply because heavy food makes me fall asleep behind the wheel. As I was hauling precious cargo, I had no interest in taking that chance, so I just stuck to Red Bull and Slim Jims.

As soon as I returned to my little paradise on the Eastern Shore, it was time to get back to the grind – helping my amazing green-thumb mother-in-law with the backyard (she gets all of the credit on that), catching up on laundry and cleaning. I installed a safety railing in the pool and today will be a day filled with cleaning the house, gutting the refrigerator (God only knows what I left in there two weeks ago stashed behind the Kefir and eggs) and vacuuming. Well, at least all of that is on the list. We’ll see.

But I can’t stop thinking about a speech that we saw in Florida from the CEO of Blue Apron, Matt Salzberg. What fascinated me most about his speech was not the product, that of which he was not promoting in the least, or the success of the company which is practically unparalleled in its four-year explosion. No, I was enthralled by his knowledge base. It was refreshing to watch a speech by a leader who believes so much in his company and their mission that he spends practically all of his time on the road visiting farmers, watermen and producers to see personally where the product is sourced.

It was inspiring to watch him craftily dissect an argument by a chef in the Q&A segment on how GMO crops are “necessary to feed the world’s population.” Careful to share a caveat and apologies for anyone who works for the world’s largest fertilizer company that may have been sitting in the audience, Salzberg shared a government study just released a year ago that debunked the myth that GMO crops are necessary for the human race’s survival. His argument, well laid out, was that we can have a world in which sustainable and regenerative agriculture and aquaculture can feed the world while not depleting the existing supplies of food. Not having any idea what the speech would be on, it has given me plenty of material over the past week, and as I prepare dinner this evening, I make sure to ask questions about where the fish came from and to know the source of the produce.

As my kids and I move into the next step of our catering company, this all makes me wonder what will be important to us; food sourcing, disposable products, menus, waste. It all plays a role in the ever-changing climate of foodservice, and it is exciting. I can’t wait to see what little nuggets will come from other business leaders who will inspire us as we grow and try to do our part to keep the world a beautiful place.

Spicy Seared Halibut, Pickled Cukes & Bird Chilies

Serves 4

4 8-ounce pieces of halibut, thick

4 each Medium shallots

1/2 cup Buttermilk

Wondra, as needed

1 English cucumber

1 cup Sherry vinegar

2 Fresh bird chili or other spicy chili, sliced

Tomato-garlic brodo (recipe follows)

Basil or Purple Basil, as needed

Salt & Pepper, as needed

1. Shave shallots on a mandolin so that they are as thin as possible. Soak in the buttermilk for at least 2 hours

2. Heat vegetable oil to 350F and drain the shallots

3. Toss them in the Wondra, sieve and fry until golden and crispy. Remove and salt immediately and then set aside at room temperature for service

4. Halve the cucumber, and remove seeds

5. Cut into half-moons

6. Heat the sherry vinegar, making sure not to breath in the noxious fumes

7. Pour over the cucumber and refrigerate, allowing the vinegar to permeate the cuke flesh

8. Heat some fat of choice

9. Season fish with your own secret blend of spices, but make sure that it can stand up to the acidity of the brodo and the slight ferocity of the chilis

10. Sear the fish on one side until you have an admirable crust

11. Turn and place in a 350F oven to finish

12. When the fish is cooked through, place in a bowl, surround with a pool of brodo, chilis and pickled cucumbers

13. Garnish with basil and frizzled shallots

Tomato-Garlic Brodo

Makes about 1 quart

3 Vine-ripe tomatoes

1 cup Dry red wine

4 Garlic cloves, smashed

1 Shallot, quartered

2 cup Good quality shrimp stock

1 cup Good quality chicken stock

2 Thyme sprigs

a few black peppercorns

1. Put tomatoes and wine in a saucepan and heat on medium for twenty minutes

2. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 10 minutes

3. Add remaining ingredients and cook until everything has become mush and you know that those wonderful flavors have had a chance to get together and have a little party

4. Remove from heat and strain to reveal your brodo

5. Then, and only then, season with salt and keep warm until service

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