January 20 and 21 marked the kickoff to the new year for the Southern Chefs Series, now in its 4th full season. Ten eager participants arrived at my door on Sunday afternoon to learn from a master. Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, and H&F Bread Co. and a 2012 co-winner for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, donned his apron, unpacked his coolers of food, and began instructing his protégés in the preparation of what was termed a “Southern Masala” dinner, this to be contrasted with the next day’s “Southern Classic” lunch. The mood was light, the instruction complete, and the resulting meals delicious, colorful, and world’s apart in flavors, despite the fact, as Chef Linton pointed out, southern India and Georgia are on the same latitude and have many foods and preparations in common.
Uniquely, none of the students had attended any previous Southern Chefs Series classes, but all left indicating they plan to enroll in additional classes, citing the intimate setting, personal interaction, and Linton’s attention to each person as favorite aspects of the class. Fabulous, wonderful, and beautiful are adjectives participants used to describe the experience.
Our Sunday Masala Dinner featured tandoori BBQ chicken and pork shoulder, fragrant butter-laced pureed mustard greens (recipe below), sea island red pea dal, kale chaat, corn bread with radish, accompaniments (including a saffron laced mango chutney with almonds), and sweet spoonbread with buttermilk and persimmon lassi. Monday’s Southern Classic lunch included shrimp salad with citrus, lettuce, and fennel; winter squash soup with bacon and herbs; buttermilk yeast rolls; and old fashioned chocolate cake.
Restaurant Eugene’s Fragrant Butter Laced Mustard Greens
5# mustard greens
2# fresh spinach
½ cup yellow corn flour
4 each serrano chilies, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
5 cups water
2 each green bell pepper, chopped
4 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 4 tbl water
12 tbl ghee
½ cup minced ginger
6 tbl minced garlic
1. Destem and wash all greens thoroughly and chop coarsely.
2. Place corn flour, onions, and serrano chilies into water and bring to a boil; add the greens and bell pepper and 1 tbl of kosher salt; bring back to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.
3. Puree in small batches with a food processor until smooth.
4. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened and smooth.
5. Heat ghee in pan, add aromatics, and cook until they just begin to brown.
6. Place greens in serving vessel and stir in fragrant ghee.
The proceeds from this expanded season of the Chefs Series will benefit Wholesome Wave as it prepares to establish additional chapters in the South, making fresh, healthy, local fruits and vegetables affordable and accessible to all. All of us involved (the chefs, Lori and I who assist, and the photographers) are doing so free of charge. We will publish a cookbook, also benefiting Wholesome Wave, at the conclusion of the 2013 series, featuring the chefs and recipes from each month. Registration for future classes is still open. Call the Inn at Serenbe, 770 463 2610, to reserve your space.
I am thrilled to welcome this year’s outstanding chefs to my kitchen and hope you will join us.