Monday, May 21, 2012

Yellow Jacket Social Club

What's up bros?! If you've wandered over to my ol facebook page you may have seen this. That's right. I'm gonna be a dad! That really has nothing to do with this post, but I'm bragging about it anyway. 

On to the post! We met up with Natalie, Elliott, baby Olivia, and Beka for Nat's bday brunch at Yellow Jacket Social Club. We'd never been there so it seemed perfect, since we've been to just about every brunch spot in town. Overall, it was a great experience. You order at the bar and they bring the food out. It did take about 40 minutes to get our food, so order as soon as you get there. 

Let's get down to it:
This was definitely the winner of the day (surprise!). A nicely cooked slab of pork belly atop a -perhaps slightly over cooked- hashbrown cake, topped with a fried egg.

This came in a very close second. It was the leader in the clubhouse until the belly came out. Buttery grits, bacon, sauteed onions, and well-cooked shrimp.

The off the menu special was a welcome surprise! Unfortunately, you can't really see the star here - the pork. Traditionally the pork is marinated in citrus and slow cooked in a banana leaf. I can't say that this was necessarily the way this pork was prepared, but it was super tender and delicious. Accompanied by frijoles, a real nice verde salsa - that had some kick, a fried egg and cotija. Tasty!

A smoked ham and gruyere panini. Topped with a fried egg. Topped with b├ęchamel. Forget about it. Ridic.

This was pretty much the only choice for the pregger (my wife, Summer). It was good, not great. It had organic Brussels sprouts and roasted tomatoes. Cooking them in, what I can only assume was, muffin tins was a nice touch though.

Overall, we definitely enjoyed our experience at the Yellow Jacket Social Club. The food was great. There's TONS of out-door seating. And they have a great beer selection. Other than the wait - it should be mentioned that it looked like a super tiny kitchen with like 2 or 3 cooks - it was an excellent time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poussin Control

Once again, I make a valiant return after a lengthy departure from regaling y'all of culinary wonderment. What's my excuse this time? Nothing. I have started a new job since last we adventured into the world of tasty foods! I am the Chef de Partie (lead lunch line cook) at Swift's Attic downtown on Congress between 3rd & 4th St. It's a Modern American Small Plates concept. Modern American in that we are constrained to no one central culinary genre and small plates meaning everything is shareable, not family style, more like tapas. It is great!

Our executive chef Mat Clouser - @SwiftsBlade on twitter - has come up with some really ridiculous food. Oxtail, ham hocks, squid AND octopus, pork cheeks, I could go on, but you'll just need to come check the place out. We are open for lunch 11-2 M-F; dinner 5-10 M-W and the kitchen rocks to midnight Th-Sa. We are closed on Sundays.

Now that we're all caught up, the wife and I had some friends in last night for dinner. I finally have weekends off so I took this as an opportunity to hit up the downtown Austin farmer's market to get as much of the mise as I could. They did not disappoint. 

The beginning:
We started the night with some tasty appeteasers. I made a pork rillette (basically braise pork until spoon-tender, then mix in the KitchenAid with a paddle attachment until it shreds, adding the reserved braising liquid until it's a spread) with which I served an apple bourbon mustard, cornichons, and crostini. Killer. 

For a lighter fare, I served farmer's market fresh strawberries - sidebar: we picked up a pack of these when we walked by the booth and Summer said, "We have to get those strawberries, I can smell them from here". There were that fragrant - with basil from our "killer basil plant", reduced balsamic vinegar, and house made ricotta. Yes. I made ricotta cheese. Yes. It was delicious. RECIPE:
2 cups milk (whole preferred)
1 cup heavy cream
.5 t salt
1.5 T white wine vinegar
Bring milk, cream, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add vinegar. Sit 1 minute until curdling begins. Pour into double cheesecloth that has been dampened with warm water and is sitting in a strainer over a large bowl. Allow to sit at room temp for 20ish minutes. Longer for thicker, shorter for thinner. So good. So easy.

Next, we had a very simple salad of herbed spring mix, orange supremes and a bacon sherry vinaigrette. I phoned in the salad, cause this was dinner:
Here's where the farmer's market really shined. Let's start with the brussels and work our way around. Baby brussels sprouts that were blanched and shocked earlier, got tossed in a hot pan with bacon fat, olive oil, salt, and red pearl onions. The fresh sprouts had a peppery quality to them that was both surprising and yummy.

Next is what I called "Spring-stuffed Squash Blossoms". I made a filling of brunoise (very small diced) carrot, celery, garlic scape and artichoke hearts with lemon zest and parmesan. That got carefully piped into amazing little squash blossoms (that were surprisingly being sold for $1/5 - they go for like $48/case from a produce purveyor). I just popped em in a super hot oven for like 10 minutes and they were ridic.

The star of the show. Poussin. These were picked up from a guy named Sebastian, whom runs Countryside Family Farm in Bastrop, TX. They are quite young, thus incredibly tender and juicy. I stuffed them with a half lemon, garlic scapes, celery, onion, carrot, thyme, and parsley stems. After rubbing the skin with olive oil and S&P, I placed them in a 450┬║ oven on top of more garlic scapes, for about 20-30 minutes. They rested for another 15-20 minutes after coming out of the oven and were spectacular! I deglazed the pan with white wine, added stock, mounted with butter, and seasoned appropriately to create a nice little pan sauce to have with the chicken.

All-in-all, the meal was really great, but the best part was hanging out with some really great friends and having an awesome time. My blogging may remain somewhat infrequent in the coming months, but I promise to try to get on it whenever possible - as long as y'all promise to come eat at Swift's as soon as you can!