Over the weekend, I was at the Austin Food & Wine Festival, enjoying fancy pants bites of food that I could never make at home but trying to glean tips from chefs and participants that I might actually use.
In Wednesday’s food section, you can find an entire section of news-you-can-use, but here are some of the pieces of info I filed away to try one day.
“Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons developed a tea-poached shrimp and rice noodle salad that would be relatively easy to replicate at home. The noodles are cooked in unsweetened ice tea, which lends a layer of nuttiness to contrast the cilantro, lemongrass and ginger. Tea is also in the dressing that would be great on a regular salad or served with fish.
Blaine Staniford from Grace in Fort Worth served a sweet and tangy pork jowl at the Taste of Texas on Friday night, and if you were making something similar at home, you’d cut a pork shoulder in cubes and braise it in water, rice wine vinegar, scallions, sweet soy sauce and garlic and ginger that have been grated on a Microplane.
During the grand tasting Saturday, Lenoir chef Todd Duplechan served a beet stem sofrito that became a teaching tool for all sofritos, a sauce made from aromatics simmered in oil, almost like a confit. Those could be a classic combination of peppers and onions, or a French mirepoix of celery, onion and carrot. He used beet stems chopped up like celery to give that same earthiness to garlic, onions and spices. The beet greens were sauteed and then tossed with the beet stem sofrito to go with miso flan bursting with umami.
Matt McCallister of FT33 in Dallas, who led a preservation demo on Saturday, says he makes a fancy French onion dip by mixing dehydrated ramp tops with creme fraiche. For preserved lemons, use half salt and half sugar (instead of the traditional all salt) to make a more versatile cured lemon whose floral notes will blossom in the jar. You can also speed up the preserving process by freezing and thawing the jar over and over again for three days. Freezing helps the salt/sugar mixture permeate the cell walls.
Don’t be afraid to use your hands. Wu Chow, the next restaurant from the Swift’s Attic team, served a noodle salad at the grand tasting on Sunday that was well-coated in a peanut sauce because chef Ji Peng Chen was tossing the salad with his hands over a big bowl.
Andrew Wiseheart served a very Gardner-esque dish of charred cabbage with pork in sour beer, the smoky edges of the cabbage infusing the whole dish with a taste of the grill. Just quarter the cabbage and throw it on the grill. Chop and toss with olive oil and vinegar for a smokey slaw.
Eric Silverstein served cauliflower three ways at the Sunday grand tasting, including one variation in which he pureed cauliflower and cream with brown butter and nori. Seaweed and brown butter? Talk about packing a savory punch to pair with steak, chicken, roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes. Just brown the butter and soften the nori. Skim the solids off the brown butter, drain the nori and blend together.
The owners of Tiny Pies handed out perfect little bites of pecan pies with a super flaky crust. I found out that they are now hosting baking classes at their storefront at 5035 Burnet Road. The next classes ($65 per person) will take place on June 7, one from noon to 2 p.m. and the other from 3 to 5 p.m., and you can sign up at tinypies.com.