Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beaujolais Nouveau Release

Yes, beaujolais nouveau was released today. Yes, we continued our yearly tradition of sampling the new bottles. Yes, Sam is sporting an awesome flannel jacket. Enough said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Talking Potatoes

That's right, it's not good enough to just be a potato anymore. We've started using a myriad of different potato varieties thanks to our annual mid-winter seed catalog meeting with Kathy Glahn and my dad's subscription to Seed Savers Exchange. The video below describes a few of the varieties we are using right now at the restaurant. I'll be posting videos over the next couple of days that show what type of application we are using for each potato variety. Please check back frequently to see how we are using these spuds. Like I said in the's what's cool about this whole scenario. None of these potatoes were flown in FedEx from who knows where. They were expertly grown right here. South Central PA. Center of the food world.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A 'Taste of Elegance' Preparation - Winner, Winner, 'Pork' Dinner Edition

I suppose you can tell from the title of this post that we were awarded the top prize at the National Pork Board's Mid-Atlantic 'Taste of Elegance' in Baltimore on Monday. I'd like to thank the following folks:
Howard Greenblatt from the Pork Board
Beau Ramsburg- without him there's not a pig
Scott, Dan, Taulbee, Karen, and my mom and dad without them there's no way this would have happened. Thanks guys!!!
The staff of the Renaissance Hotel - always professional and very welcoming as we invaded their home
Finally, all the participating chefs for an amazing event

I don't have much more to say....It's an amazing feeling to bring this award back to Hanover. Now we're on to the national event in which may be in Chicago in June. Hear that Nick Kokonas? I might be heading to Chicago....Love to snag a reso. at Alinea.....

Here's the closing video for the project. For all of you Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen junkies, here's what it looks like in the real world. Without make-up, lighting, sound and even 'Gladware'. This is the ultimate 'quickfire challenge'. Believe me, your blood pressure shoots up when the judge comes over and says 'oh, by the way you have 3 minutes.'

By the way....the camera catches everything. Here's our boy Taulbee......working hard.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A 'Taste of Elegance' Preparation - Day Three

I have to say a big 'I'm sorry' right up front. We took these videos late saturday night after a full night of service....and....Dan decided that he'd like to go see the Flyers, so we were a man down in the kitchen. So, I'm pretty sure the videos aren't the most descriptive, but you get the idea!


In this video we are preparing the shoulders for braising by putting a hard sear on them and then transfering them to a roasting pan. Please note how cool, calm and collected I am even though there is an open flame shooting out from under the pot. Unflappable!!!

No, this isn't a video on how not hot I look in a chef coat. It's me preparing the pork belly for braising.

The final video is me making the base for our sauerkraut sauce. I finished this sauce up today and it is........awesome. No really. It is.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A 'Taste of Elegance' Preparation - Day Two

Day Two: Today we moved forward with our preparation for monday's event. Check out the videos for the full run down....

First step: Strain the pork stock and then strain again. Once strained, I moved the stock onto the flame and proceed to clean it of impurities. Once cleaned and reduced slightly, this stock will form the base with which we braise the various parts of the hog.

Step Two: Grinding the fatback. We are calling the preparation we are presenting on monday a 'rillette', which is really stretching the terminology, but who cares. Basically what we're going to do is braise the shoulders, belly, head and tongue in the rich pork stock. Once the meats are cooked, then we're going to pick them and reform the meat into a log which we'll coat with panko bread crumbs and pan fry. Part of the flavorings we're going to add to the meat mixture is ground fat back which I think will promote the natural pork flavor, as well as, provide an amazing mouthfeel for the finished dish.

Step Three: Stomach Chips. Enough said. Watch the video.

Step Four: Making the fry oil. Yes, we're even messing with the fry oil to try and add more flavor. Actually, now's a good time to discuss how we're going about layering flavors for this particular dish. My whole idea behind this dish is that I want to make sure that the pork has maximum 'porkiness' and doesn't get lost behind another flavor that's trying to elbow in. Basically every decision we make has to have the underlying thought of 'is this going to enhance the pork flavor'? If the answer is no, then the idea gets thrown out. So, Beau's pork has a very earthy quality to it. Mushrooms also have earthy tones, so I thought perhaps we'd infuse the oil were going to fry in with mushroom stems. Done.

Step Five: Processing lard. Does anyone else's heart flutter hearing the words 'processing lard'? Anyhow, back to using the whole animal. We are taking lard from the animal and rendering it down so that we can use it to confit the yukon golden potatoes we'll be using as the base of our dish.

Step Six: Cutting brunoise vegetables: I alluded to the fact that I'll be folding 'flavorings' into the cooked pork product when I begin to roll the logs. One of the additions I'll be using is a brunoise(really damn small for the uninitiated) of carrot, leek and granny smith apple. Just thought I'd leave you with a video of how far we're willing to go in order to get an amazing dish. Seriously, cutting brunoise is a HUGE pain in the ass..... but worth it.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A 'Taste of Elegance' Preparation - Day One

A couple of months ago I was approached by Howard Greenblatt of the Pork Board and asked if I would like to participate in this year's Taste of Elegance in Baltimore, MD. The Taste of Elegance gathers 10 chefs from the Mid-Atlantic states and asks them to present their most innovative pork dishes for judging and then opens the room up for a gala tasting. I said, 'Sure, I'd love to do it, but.....'. There's always a 'but'. In true Sheppard Mansion style, I asked if it would be possible for me to bring my own pig instead of using the pork products provided. I'm sure Howard was on the other end of the phone thinking 'Who is this guy? He's wants to bring his own pig? This isn't a 4H show....' Anyhow, regardless of what he was thinking, he agreed. Next stop: Call Beau Ramsburg and get that little piggy to market. Actually since it was a couple of months ago, it was more like 'Hey, do you think you'll have a hog in line for the first week of November and can we do some of those super cool finishing techniques on it?' Answers: yes and yes. So, on monday, the whole team will be packing up everything we need and traveling to Baltimore to show off our pig prowess. I thought it would be fun to document our every step leading up to the competition for everyone to check out. Please check back often. I'm going to post every day leading up to the competition. Here we go.....

So, obviously, that was Beau and that was our competition hog. We won't be using all the parts shown on the video for our dish, put PROMISE to use the 'fun stuff' like tongue, head, stomach and tail. Yes, tail. Oh yeah, if you're a frequent watcher of my videos, you notice that both Beau and I like to keep our phones on during filming. For historical reference click here.

Next stop: The stock pot.

That stock will come off today, get cleaned and clarified and be a base for braising the shoulders and head.

Fat. Mmmm, fat.

We'll grind the fatback today and then store it for use in the rillette.

I just can't stomach this....

When the hog got dropped off yesterday, I noticed a small bag stuffed in the corner of the cooler. I instantly broke into a smile and said 'stomach'. Beau smiled and said, 'yeah, I thought it would be cool to see what you would do with that and you said you wanted the 'whole animal'.' Well, here's your answer. Stomach chips. Just sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Stomach chips.

There you have it. Day one. Please check back over the next couple of days and see our progress.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Its been a long campaign season with robo-calls, seeing Russia from our collective houses and 'Joe(Samuel) the(unlicensed) Plumber'(now turned back tax owing country music singer...Ah America, the land of opportunity). I encourage everyone to go out and vote....then come back to your computers and watch this video it ALWAYS makes me laugh.

Please remember....while some cling to guns and religion, I cling to pork products and pretzel rolls. Why wasn't that a campaign slogan?