Best Bites: Cooking for Solutions edition

For those of you who missed my column in last Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald, I’m reposting the stories here on my blog. Check out this week’s Best Bites–a recap of the week’s tastiest treats from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions event.

Best Bite: Pepper-salted pork belly from Kevin Gillespie (Woodfire Grill, Atlanta)

This week’s best bite hails from Friday’s Cooking for Solutions gala. There were many delicious small bites, but my favorite came from Kevin Gillespie, executive chef at Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill, but probably better known from Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Kevin’s pepper-salted pork belly was perfectly crispy and topped with tangy marinated bok choy.

Kevin served a delicious fried pork belly that was crunchy outside and dusted with a blend of spices — including Szechuan peppercorns for a little bit of kick. The rich pork was served over a tangy marinated bok choy.

Want to give this recipe a try for yourself at home? Check out the recipe here.

Kevin Gillespie’s pork belly may have taken the title of “Best Bite” for the week, but there were lots of other tasty bites at last week’s Cooking for Solutions gala event. Here are some of my favorites from the evening.

I had so many delicious bites, it’s hard to choose my favorites, especially when I stuffed myself so full that I actually missed a couple stations, like The Girl and the Fig’s braised rabbit with chickpea fries. But here are some of the bites that stand out most in my memory.

Bay scallop “shooter” with Thai curry and truffle popcorn (Dragonfly Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Truckee)

Truckee’s Dragonfly Restaurant and Sushi Bar served up a great shooter of scallops and curry.

The Sushi Lounge was quite popular during the Cooking for Solutions gala. I sampled some great sushi from Tataki, but the bite that stuck with me most was this shooter of Thai curry with bay scallops and truffle popcorn. If it hadn’t been so crowded, I would have happily lined up for seconds—and maybe even thirds—of this one.

The truffle popcorn was an unexpected–and delicious–addition.

The addition of truffle popcorn was a nice touch. I’d never expect truffle—a distinctly European flavor—to pair with Thai curries, but the two tasted like a match made in heaven!

Poached Icelandic cod with seaweed butter, mousseline potatoes and carrot-leek salad (Hákon Már Örvarsson, Culinary Institute of Iceland, Reykjavik)

This bite was another one of my favorites for the evening. The cod was lightly poached, flaking delicately with the touch of my fork. The seaweed butter gave it such a depth of flavor—the fish was salty, earthy and fatty in one bite.

The cod was poached so delicately and served with a rich seaweed butter.

And the potatoes were so dense—the perfect canvas for the fish.

Gulf shrimp with jalapeño and mint (Sam Talbot, New York)

This photo doesn’t do justice to this delicious dish with Gulf shrimp, jalapeños and mint.

Former “Top Chef” contestant Sam Talbot had a line of hungry foodies waiting for this delicious combination of hot and cold. The succulent shrimp was served with spicy jalapeños and a touch of cooling mint.

Fried chicken with Sriracha butter (Charles Phan, The Slanted Door, San Francisco)

While sustainable seafood was the star of the show at Cooking for Solutions, this fried chicken was actually one of my favorites for the evening. No, it wasn’t made with chicken of the sea—just good, old-fashioned fried chicken.

Charles Phan’s fried chicken was great–and even better with Sriracha butter!

The kicker—literally—was the addition of Sriracha butter. I love Sriracha, and liberally douse my pho with it any chance I get. Pairing it with fried chicken was a great combination—a lovely crunch followed by some lingering heat.

As an added bonus, check out the recipe for Charles Phan’s fried chicken if you want to make it for yourself at home.

Fried chicken with Sriracha butter:
Courtesy of Charles Phan (The Slanted Door, San Francisco) via Monterey Bay Aquarium

For the flour mix:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/8 cup salt
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper

For the chicken:
1 whole organic chicken
1 gal. canola oil

For the Sriracha butter:
4 oz. butter
1/2 cup Sriracha
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste

For the flour mix:

Mix flour, garlic, salt, turmeric and cayenne pepper together. (This can be done a day ahead.)

For the chicken:
Cut chicken into 8 pieces. Lay chicken pieces on sheet pan, not touching, and salt and pepper each piece evenly. Let sit overnight.

Heat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a large pot. Lightly coat each piece of chicken in flour mix. Fry 2 pieces at a time for approximately 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

For the Sriracha butter:
Melt butter. Mix together Sriracha, lime juice, salt and sugar. Slowly whisk butter into the Sriracha mixture.

To serve:
Serve fried chicken with Sriracha butter.

Serves four to six.

This entry was posted in Best Bites, Events, Extra Bites, Herald, Off The Menu, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

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