Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren

Southern Chefs Series



February 2015



Linton Hopkins: A Man with A Can and a Plan

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous, Southern Chef Series, Southern Chefs Series

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As the founding partner of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, past president of the Southern Foodways Alliance and board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Linton Hopkins believes deeply in preservation—of culture, tradition and food.

That’s why the man who practices and preaches the gospel of seasonality in his home and many Atlanta restaurants—including Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and The Café at Linton’s in the Atlanta Botanical Garden—stood in my kitchen during his visit to the Chefs Series a few week ago and made a soup with canned tomatoes.

Like me, Linton believes tomatoes are only for summer. But in soup season, when fresh tomatoes are little more than a memory, he reaches for a can opener and 28 ounces of San Marzanos.

But of course it was much more than that. Linton is high energy, incredibly passionate about food and a charming teacher. So the participants and I got a fascinating lesson in DOP, or a special certification that guarantees that the tomatoes are the San Marzano variety.

He wanted everyone to learn how to break down a duck, so he brought a duck for everyone and we had duck breast with persimmon bacon chutney and rutabaga gratin. We made cashew cheese, a shaved root vegetable salad and tarte tatin. But my favorite was that tomato soup—so simple, so delicious—topped with basil pesto and olive bread croutons. So many ways to have a great meal when fresh produce is in its slowest season.

Linton Hopkins’ Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sliced yellow onion
  • 4 cups San Marzano canned tomatoes
  • ½ bay leaf
  • 1 each thyme sprig
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  1. Sweat the onions and garlic slowly in oil and butter over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato, bay leaf, thyme and salt.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until tomatoes soften.
  4. Add water and cook another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove thyme and bay leaf and puree in batches.
  6. To plate: pour tomato soup into bowl and top with basil pesto and olive bread croutons.



December 2013



John Currence And The Best. Dessert. Ever.

Written by , Posted in Southern Chefs Series, southern cooking


Chef John Currence showed up for his appearance at the Southern Chefs Series in a baseball hat and sport coat. And when it was time to cook, he just walked over to the stove. Didn’t even want an apron.

I’d never met the “big bad chef” from Oxford, Mississippi, but I got to know him quickly through his stories. I loved the ones about his childhood in Louisiana and especially his mother. She was a schoolteacher, but she made dinner for the family from scratch every night. That meant a lot to him as a child, but even more to him now that he’s an adult.

John became a first-time father at 48 years old and also gave birth to a fascinating cookbook called Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from my Three Favorite Food Groups And Then Some. It includes a recipe for bananas foster bread pudding with brown sugar-rum sauce and candied pecan “soil,” and in the four years I’ve been hosting the Southern Chefs Series, it is The Best Dessert we’ve ever had. It was so phenomenal I did a cooking class a few days later with a group of executives and made them bake it so I could have some.

In his new cookbook, John’s introduction to the recipe includes childhood brunch memories in his sarcastic Southern style:

Sunday brunch after church when I was a youngster was a huge deal. Mom and Dad cooked all the time, and eating out was definitely not routine for us. Brunch, after the fanfare that church was, always seemed like a circus to me. There were dining rooms full of guéridon at Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s and Antoine’s preparing café brulot, cherries jubilee, baked Alaska, crepes Suzette, and our favorite, bananas Foster. This was a deft creation of flambéed bananas with loads of rum, brown sugar, butter and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. It was magic.

Turning this into a bread pudding, when we first opened the Grocery, took about as much creativity as, I’m sure, coming up with the McRib did. But it is still a serious crowd-pleaser 20 years later.

Before John left, he said, “Now Marie, what do I have to do to get back here?” John’s welcome anytime, but I’d be especially happy to see him again if he came bearing a big pan of bananas foster bread pudding.




Serves 8

10 large eggs
2 cups  heavy whipping cream
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, melted
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup banana liqueur
10 cups torn stale bread (any variety of white bread will do)
3 large bananas, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the cream, milk, vanilla and melted butter and combine well.

In another large bowl, blend together 2 cups of the sugar, the salt, 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon and the nutmeg. Stir in the egg mixture and blend well. Stir in the banana liqueur. Add the bread, combine well and let rest for 10 minutes. Mash the bread pudding mixture with your hands to make sure all the bread is soaked through. Stir in the bananas.

Butter a deep 10-inch square baking pan. In a small bowl, blend the remaining ¼ cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the cinnamon sugar. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Grab the edge of the pan with a dry towel and give it a shake. Look to the center of the pan; if it doesn’t jiggle and looks firm, it is cooked through.

4 cups pecan halves
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 pinches of cayenne
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 large egg white, at room temperature

To make the pecan “soil”: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a stainless steel bowl, mix the pecans with the butter and then spread them into a single later on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 4 minutes, for about 12 minutes, or until you can begin to smell them cooking. They will give off a distinct “toasted-nut” smell. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In another bowl, blend both sugars, the salt, cayenne, paprika, cinnamon and cloves.

Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water until frothy in a large bowl. Stir in the pecans to coat evenly. Transfer the pecans to another bowl and toss with the sugar mixture until evenly coated. Spread the sugared pecans into a single layer on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and let cool, separating the nuts as they cool. When completely cool, place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until broken into a “soil” consistency. Set aside until ready to serve.

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark rum
½ cup heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean, split

White the bread pudding is baking, make the sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the melted butter to a simmer. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla, combine well and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the rum and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Swirl in the cream and the split vanilla bean and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and, with a small sharp knife, scrape the seeds from inside the pod and blend them into the sauce. Discard the empty pod or rinse and add it to a bottle of bourbon to make your own extract. Simmer 5 to 6 minutes more, stirring constantly, or until sauce thickens.

To serve, scoop a large, warm spoonful of bread pudding into a bowl, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pecan “soil.”



April 2013



Chef Andrea Reusing Visits Serenbe

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe, Wholesome Wave

On a recent spring weekend, the Southern Chefs Series welcomed Chef Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant to my kitchen.  What a weekend it was!


One of the most exciting aspects of the series for me is the exposure to the many talented chefs and the range of menus, flavors, and experiences they bring to their class.  It’s such a joy to have the opportunity to try different types of cuisine in an intimate class setting.  Sometimes we “travel” to other regions of the country through a guest chef’s chosen menu, and other times, I feel as though we boarded a plane and landed in an exotic locale.  We traveled far with Andrea and what a culinary journey it was!

Chef Andrea enjoying class.

Chef Andrea enjoying class.

Andrea’s menu was inspired and clever.  On Sunday afternoon, we prepared and then enjoyed warm paneer, kombacha and date salad with red watercress, vadouvan shrimp with spicy carrot puree and cardamon rice, and Louisiana tangerine sorbet with candied kumquat.  In Monday’s class, we prepared and happily consumed all night pot-au-fen (French beef stew) with spring vegetables in broth and crushed strawberry mess (see recipe below).

Kombacha and date salad with red watercress - it's gorgeous!

Kombacha and date salad with red watercress – it’s gorgeous!

We are having a fabulous time with each guest chef in the 2013 expanded Southern Chefs Series.  There are still spaces available in future classes.  Proceeds from this year’s series benefit Wholesome Wave.  Visit the Inn at Serenbe online for information on upcoming classes and call the Inn to register for Southern Chefs Series classes, 770 463 2610.

Crushed Strawberry Mess, Delicious!

Crushed Strawberry Mess, Delicious!

Crushed Strawberry Mess

Serves 4

For the meringue:
3 egg whites from jumbo eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of kosher salt

For the strawberries:
About 25 very ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
3 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar, or to taste
2 pinches of kosher salt

For the cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar or honey, or to taste
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds removed by scraping with a sharp knife

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with half the sugar at medium speed until they are foamy.  Beat in the remaining sugar, the cream of tartar, and the pinch of salt until the egg whites are shiny and stiff.  Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment to form 12 to 14 mounds, and bake for 30 minutes.  Continue to bake for an additional hour with the oven door slightly ajar.  When done, the meringues will be crisp and dry on the outside and tender and fluffy within.  (Serve within 4 hours.)

Place the strawberries in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the sugar and salt.  Crush them with a potato masher or large fork until they are juicy and a spoonable consistency but still chunky.  Let the strawberries sit for 15 minutes before serving.

In the meantime, combine the cream, the sugar or honey, and the vanilla seeds and pulp in a medium bowl (save the vanilla pod for another use).  With a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream until it is thickened and softly set but not firm.  Whip the yogurt and fold together.

To serve, arrange the meringues, strawberries and juice, and the cream in layers on a platter or individual plates.



March 2013



Southern Chefs Named 2013 James Beard Nominees

Written by , Posted in inn at serenbe, Kevin Gillespie, Sean Brock, Southern Chefs Series, Steven Satterfield

Some people wait with bated breath for the Oscar nominations announcements, others for the Tony Awards’, still others for the Grammy’s or Country Music Awards’ announcements.  I wait for the James Beard Foundation’s nominations, and they are out!

Congratulations to some of my favorite people!  The following Southern chefs have been honored with nominations from the James Beard Foundation in the following categories:

  • Steven Satterfield, Best Chef: Southeast
  • Sean Brock, Outstanding Chef
  • Kevin Gillespie and David Joachim, Book Awards – American Cooking – for their cookbook Fire in My Belly
  • Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, Book Awards – American Cooking – for their cookbook Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking

Steven Satterfield

Sean Brock

Kevin Gillespie

Kevin Gillespie









Steven, Sean, and Kevin are all in my 2013 Southern Chefs Series lineup.  Nathalie has served as a guest chef in the series in the past. It’s exciting to have the BEST Southern chefs cook in my home kitchen for intimate classes of 10.  You can be one of those.

Call the Inn at Serenbe today at (770) 463-2610, to register for an upcoming class.  Classes sell out in advance.  Don’t delay.



March 2013



All Eyes on Chef Anne Quatrano

Written by , Posted in Anne Quatrano, marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, Star Provisions, The Inn at Serenbe

Oh, the thrill…The Southern Chefs Series‘ February guest chef was Anne Quatrano.  I adore Anne, queen of Star Provisions, Bacchanalia, Abattoir, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, and Summerland Farms.  Chef Anne graced this past weekend’s class with her wit, stories, tips and techniques, and infinite wisdom.
The 10 class participants held on her every word and eagerly tested their new or refined skills in the preparation of two sumptuous meals.  Dinner featured a salad of winter citrus, radish, fennel, Caramont Farm Esmontonian cheese, and Summerland Farms microgreens; pan-seared halibut, green garlic, greens, fine herbs, and preserved Meyer lemon; quail with heirloom grains, roasted mushrooms, and preserved pears; chocolate souffle with chantilly cream; and madeleines.  Lunch was a feast of celery root soup, pickled Vidalia onion, and pesto; peeky toe crab toast (see recipe below); winter lettuces with pecan, apple, lemon, and olive oil; and ginger cookies.

I am invigorated in the presence of Anne and always learn something new from her.  By the buzz in my kitchen, I think the others felt the same.  There was great energy and camaraderie among the group.

The beauty of the Southern Chefs Series classes is participants get to learn from the best of the South’s best in a casual, intimate setting.  We work together to create delicious and memorable meals and leave knowing we can recreate these meals in our own kitchens. The featured chefs are down-to-earth people who make preparing great food approachable for every level of cook.

What are you waiting for?  Join us this year for what Forbes lists as 1 of 5 Foodie Fantasy Camps.  Call the Inn at Serenbe today to register, 770 463 2610.

Chef Anne Quatrano’s Peeky Toe Crab Toast

Serves 4

4 thick slices sourdough bread
1/2 pound peeky toe crab meat (may substitute lobster for crab if desired)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for brushing bread
Black pepper
1 tablespoon spicy mayonnaise
Fresh herbs

Brush each side of the bread with olive oil and toast under the broiler or on a grill.  Pick through the crab meat to ensure there are no shells; try to retain the large pieces of crab.  Toss the crab with the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Top each slice of toast with crab.  Put small dots of spicy mayonnaise on top of the crab and garnish with the freshly picked herbs.



January 2013



Chef Linton Kicks Off the 2013 Southern Chefs Series

Written by , Posted in Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe, Wholesome Wave

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

(serves 12)

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
kosher salt
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.



January 2013



New year, new series

Written by , Posted in Linton Hopkins, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe, Wholesome Wave

The Chefs Series is coming, the Chefs Series is coming.

We are less than two weeks from kicking off the expanded Southern Chefs Series cooking classes in my home kitchen in Serenbe, and Linton Hopkins, James Beard Foundation award winner and acclaimed chef/owner of Atlanta standouts Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House, and H&F Bread Co., will lead us into the new season with his class on January 20 and 21.

Chef Linton Hopkins

The Series’ classes are filling up, and I don’t want you to miss out.  Call today to reserve your place in what promises to be an outstanding year of classes.  Each of the renowned Southern chefs invited to participate this year will assist you in fine tuning your culinary skills with hands-on instruction and a good measure of fun. 
Excellent meals, comfortable overnight accommodations at the Inn at Serenbe, and lively conversation await.

Chef Linton during the 2012 class

All proceeds from this year’s series will benefit Wholesome Wave, one of the most-effective organizations at improving the accessibility and affordability of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables!
Call the Inn at Serenbe to reserve your spot, 770 463 2610.  Visit for the complete list of participating chefs. 

I look forward to cooking with you in my kitchen.



November 2012



Miller Union’s Steven Satterfield visits my kitchen

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, Steven Satterfield

With my talented friend Steven Satterfield

This month, Steven Satterfield, of the acclaimed Atlanta restaurant Miller Union, graced my kitchen for the November installment of the Southern Chefs Series.  What a great time we had!  Steven is gracious, funny, interesting, and a consummate professional.  Oh, and how he debones a chicken, making it look effortless…crazy good.

From this…
Steven’s menu included wonderfully savory flavors one associates with autumn: grilled pork tenderloin with an apple cider vinegar basting sauce; roasted butternut squash and apples; farro and roots; bean salad in vinaigrette, featuring field peas and roma beans; a crispy salad tossed with a tangy Dijon mustard/champagne vinegar/ginger root dressing; griddled pastured chicken (see photos); a to-die-for potato, sweet potato and sunchoke salad; and roasted pepper and eggplant soup (recipe follows). 

…in process…
to this…in preparation for several dishes
We chopped, diced, and roasted to our heart’s content, and the results were outstanding.  It’s impossible, really, to fully describe the complexity of the flavors.  Suffice it to say, we are excited that Steven will be returning for the expanded 2013 Southern Chef’s Series. In the coming year, he’ll be our June chef. I’m already looking forward to experiencing an early summer menu of Steven’s.  I know we will be equally impressed and completely sated after those meals. 

From this…

to this…it was as good as it looks
Please enjoy Steven’s soup with its subtle hint of heat and savory goodness.  You’ll want to serve this soup with a crusty loaf of bread so you can soak up every drop…it’s that good.

Steven Satterfield’s Roasted Pepper and Eggplant Soup

Oven roast 2 large or three small whole eggplant; cool, peel

Oven roast 4 large or 6 small peppers; cool, peel, reserve liquid

Oven roast 3 fresh tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs; cool, peel

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 small or 1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 hot pepper, seeded

¼ cup local honey

2 quarts chicken stock

kosher salt

black pepper

smoked paprika

Heat butter and olive oil in a soup pot and add onions, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Sweat until translucent.  Add roasted vegetables, stock, and remaining ingredients.  Simmer 30-45 minutes and taste for seasoning.  Remove bay leaf and blend until smooth.  Serve hot in individual bowls.  Garnish with smoked paprika and drizzle with olive oil. 

Some members of our class with Steven
Happy Thanksgiving to all.



October 2012



2013 Southern Chefs Series classes filling up – register today

Written by , Posted in marie nygren, Southern Chefs Series, The Farmhouse at Serenbe, The Inn at Serenbe, Wholesome Wave

2013 Southern Chefs Series classes filling up – register today

Chef Chris Hastings
and “students”

The 2013 Southern Chefs Series is attracting attention, and classes are filling up. To date, three classes are sold out, with others nearing capacity.  If you want to work side-by-side with the bestchefs in the South, many of whom are James Beard Foundation awarded chefs, you’ll want to take advantage of this opportunity and register now! 

January 20-21, Linton Hopkins, Georgia

February 24-25, Anne Quatrano, Georgia

March 24-25, Andrea Reusing, North Carolina

Chef Kevin Gillespie

April 14-15, Sean Brock, South Carolina

May 19-20, Hugh Acheson, Georgia

June 23-24, Steven Satterfield, Georgia

July 28-29, Chris Hastings, Alabama

August 25-26, John Besh, Louisiana

September 29-30, Tyler Brown, Tennessee

October 27-28, Kevin Gillespie, Georgia

November 10-11, Johnny Currence, Mississippi

December 1-2, me! Marie Nygren, Georgia with

Wholesome Wave founder Michel Nischan, Connecticut

Chefs Series participants busy at work
Chef Michel Nischan

Proceeds from the coming year’s classes will go to a seed fund to establish additional Wholesome Wave chapters.  Wholesome Wave Georgia, launched in 2009, is going strong, and Wholesome Wave founder Chef Michel Nischan’s goal is to establish additional Southern chapters.   

Wholesome Wave improves access and affordability of fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to historically underserved communities.  Wholesome Wave programs benefit consumers and the farmers who provide for them. 

One of their innovative programs is the Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP), which matches the value of a consumers federal nutrition benefits (i.e. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], formerly Food Stamps) when used to purchase fresh, healthy, local produce at participating farmers markets. 

Chef Anne Quatrano and Star Provisions
cheese monger Tim Gaddis

Every SNAP dollar spent at a Wholesome Wave partner market becomes two dollars for the shopper andthe farmer.  DVCP consumers realize health benefits, and farmers reap the economic benefit.  Wholesome Wave programs impact the economy and the health and well-being of the communities and consumers they serve.  

To register for Chefs Series classes, please call the Inn at Serenbe at 770 463 2610.  

See you in my kitchen!



September 2012



Southern Chefs Series Welcomes Birmingham’s Chris Hastings

Written by , Posted in Bobby Flay, Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Hugh Acheson, James Beard, Linton Hopkins, marie nygren, Recipe Articles, Southern Chefs Series, The Inn at Serenbe

This has been a banner year for Southern Chefs Series chefs as three are 2012 James Beard Foundation top chefs, two for the Southeast region (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV) and one for the South region (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS).  Earlier in the season, we hosted Linton Hopkins and Hugh Acheson, who shared the award for the Southeast region, and this past Sunday and Monday, Chris Hastings, the South region’s honoree made his first trip to my kitchen.  In addition to his James Beard award, Chris beat out Bobby Flay earlier in the year on Iron Chef America!  The BEST chefs really do come to Serenbe; I hope you will also!    

Chris, chef/co-owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham with his wife Idie, had been a finalist in the category previously.  He was up against four chefs from New Orleans this year and beat out the competition.  Cook with him, and you’ll soon find out why he was chosen!  

Chris is a brilliant chef who makes cooking seem effortless.  I’m excited he accepted the invitation to teach this year and is on the schedule for next year as well!

The ten participants in his class this past weekend were the winners for having registered for his class.  His rapport with students of all skill levels is something to behold.  He is down-to-earth and wonderfully personable.  It was fun to have Chef Chris in my kitchen. 

He is the first visiting chef to include a cocktail hour (complete with a signature cocktail) with his class.  Chris’ was the Donnie Draper Cocktail made from his housemade bitters and sassafras syrup.  This was a smooth libation and so tasty you’ll want to drive to Hot and Hot to try it for yourself.  It’s got a kick, so plan for a designated driver.  And, as it’s dove season, he also treated us to doves harvested the day before, and what a treat they were!

If you missed his class this year, call now to register for his class next year, July 28-29, 2013.  Classes for the 2013 Southern Chefs Series are already filling up.  If you want a chance to learn from Chris and any of the other outstanding chefs, call the Inn at Serenbe today to reserve your spot, 770 463 2610.

In the meantime, try Chris’ outstanding recipe for shrimp gazpacho with lemon oil.  It is refreshing and satisfying. 

Chris Hastings’ Shrimp Gazpacho with Lemon Oil

This is our Southern take on a classic Spanish soup.  Because it is always served cold, it is a light and refreshing meal for a sultry Southern day. You can substitute jumbo lump blue crabmeat for the shrimp, if you prefer.  Many good olive oil companies also produce lemon oil in which the olives are pressed with fresh lemons, creating fragrant, flavorful oil. Lemon oil adds a bright, rich quality to this soup.

Serves 6; about 6 cups

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, about 3 to 4 medium tomatoes

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber

1/2 cup finely diced zucchini

1/2 cup finely diced yellow squash

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced tomato

1/2 cup seeded and finely diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup seeded and finely diced yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup finely diced Poblano pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

26 large (21 to 25 count) cooked, peeled, and diced fresh shrimp, about 1 pound

12 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons lemon oil

Slice each of the tomatoes into 4 quarters. Place the tomatoes in a food mill and turn until all of the juice is extracted. You will need about 2 cups of the fresh tomato juice. Discard the tomato seeds and peel. Alternatively, the tomatoes can be seeded, roughly chopped, and pureed in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and discard any solids. 

Combine the tomato juice and the next 9 ingredients (cucumber through vinegar) into a large bowl, stirring well to combine. Season the soup with the salt and pepper and stir in the diced shrimp. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the soup is well chilled. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish each serving with 1 teaspoon of the chopped basil and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon oil. Serve chilled.

Buen provecho.