Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

imgresIt was a tremendous afternoon on Sunday Nov 6 in Charlotte! It was the first time I attended an Order/fire screening, but I can assure you it won’t be my last.

img_6319

From Left, Chef Greg Collier, Chef Marc Jacksina and Photographer Peter Taylor

The Web series, done in an exceptionally well thought out, casual documentary style, of sorts,  is a series of filmed interviews of Charlotte area chefs and farmers and is the brain child of Charlotte’s own videographer and award winning photographer, Peter Taylor and chef and on screen host Marc Jacksina.

img_6323

Greg and Subrina Collier

 

The screening this day was an afternoon of new and old friends all from and in support of Charlotte’s culinary community – chefs, farmers, media and more attended the Order/fire screening of Episode 3  of the series’ second season, featuring chef and owners of The Yolk in Rock Hill and @Dawn in Charlotte, chef Greg Collier and his wife Subrina.

Both places are wonderful breakfast joints  with lunch and sometimes dinner options.  I personally love that  menus at The Yolk and @Dawn are always changing. Greg is an exceptional chef and always has something new and different up his sleeve that he is anxious to try out on his regulars. The wait for a table at The Yolk, the first and more established of the Collier’s two restaurants is sometimes long, but always worth it. Both places should be on your Must- Go-To-Soon list #TellThemHeidiSentYou

This Sunday, the afternoon family friendly  event in Greg and Subrina’s honor, an O/f viewing party  and benefit chicken dinner took place at Free Range Brewing in NODA.

imagesFree Range brewing is a great place with something for everyone. Have to admit it – I am not a beer lover at all – seems I am missing the beer-loving gene altogether, but I am thrilled that Free Range had other local options in addition to their line of lovely local brews.

img_6342

Old North brand shrubs – 2 bottled and one on tap at Charlotte’s Free Range Brewing

And its thanks to Free Range Brewing that I am now officially obsessed with farmer Jamie Swoffords seasonal Old North brand shrubs on the menu.

A shrub is an artisanal drinking vinegar often flavored with other ingredients. For Swofford that, of course, means local ingredients, often directly from his farm.The shrub is concentrated and may be used in cocktails or thinned with carbonated water for a good-for-you thirst quenching beverage.  The non alcoholic, fresh and fizzy muscadine and rose hips shrub is on tap NOW at Free Range and is simply delicious!  Two others, in the concentrated form, are available in bottles at Free Range Brewing. (You’ll be hearing more from me on these delicious drinkables these soon.)

The A Bao Time food truck in the parking lot on Sundays was a great addition as well. Note: you can learn more about all the events that take place at Free Range Brewing and all of their local brews here;  follow A Boa Time via the truck’s social media and learn more about Jamie Swofford , “The Chef’s Farmer” on his website and in his own Order/fire documentary on the O/f website.

For the Nov 6 event, chefs Geoff Bragg, Marc  Jacksina, Greg Collier and others hosted a Chicken Pickin’ for guests to enjoy.

 

img_6325Whole chickens were rubbed with Collier’s own Tennessee Rub, then smoked and served in quarters with a nap of Alabama white sauce – Wow. Sides of Mac and cheese, vinegar based slaw, baked beans and rolls were prepared by  the talented faculty and students team from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte – a real Charlotte treasure! Stop by the school to taste for yourself for breakfast or lunch or hire their team at Encore Catering to help with your next event!

img_6341

Life is short -I just had to taste the cookie first!

Yummy sugar glazed Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies from 300 East made for a sweet finish to a delightful afternoon.  Chickens for the event were graciously donated by Springer Mountain Farms so that the proceeds from the event could all go to benefit the programs at the Community Culinary School of Charlotte.  

Not sure when the next screening for Order/fire  will be, but follow this blog and my social media and I’ll be sure you hear all about it. Meanwhile catch up on other episodes from this season and last  online at http://orderfireclt.com/  #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater | Seasonal Squash Aren’t Just for Carving

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODWhen the Colonists first landed in North America they found the Indians growing and using pumpkins. The new Americans were quick to enthusiastically embrace the large round and sometimes ungainly fruit, which is actually a member of the gourd family, and subsequently pumpkin pie became an American tradition.

Today most of us do not hesitate to go out and choose a real pumpkin for our Halloween Jack-o-Lantern, but when it comes to actually cooking this seasonal squash, we tend to forgot that “Eat Local” mantra and all the possibilities of using fresh versus canned. This year, I suggest you shop from local farmers, rather than the canned veggie aisle of your local grocer and make some puree you can freeze and use for months to come.

Okay, I’ll admit it, while it is comforting to have a can or two or organic pumpkin puree on the shelf for back up; it’s easy to put up your own pumpkin puree this season and I am happy to use this post to show you how its done. Fresh pumpkin, like all other varieties of winter squash is abundant in this area and makes for some very fine eating not only in pie, but in custards, ice creams, breads, cookies and muffins as well as savory recipes like soups, salads, pastas, tempura and pureed or baked as a side with grilled or roasted meats and its great for juicing, too.

Whew! Pumpkin is also quite nice served raw, either grated into salads or thin sliced and served with raw veggies and your favorite dip.

These seasonal squash are low in calories, yet abundant in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Pumpkin is a great source for vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E all are rich in anti-oxidants and anti-aging properties. Health benefits aside,  legend and folk lore has it that this grandest of gourd’s is also an aphrodisiac…so all of a sudden, pumpkin season could take on a whole new meaning … just sayin’

In this post I’ve included a recipe originally given to me by my friend Linda Singerlie,  for one of the best pumpkin cheesecakes I have ever tasted. I tweaked it a bit to make it more local with the inclusion of local Una Alla Volta ricotta, local eggs and homemade brown sugar made from organic sugar and local molasses – instructions all to come.

But, before you cook, you must carve…

PCG_carved14_FB_highlightIf you are looking for some  inspiration before you carve, why not join me  and 25 plus other Charlotte chefs, all members of the Piedmont Culinary Guild on Sunday October 19 at 4 pm for the Guild’s annual fall fundraiser at 7th Street Market in Uptown Charlotte: a family event appropriately dubbed, CARVED. In attendance, skillfully wielding their knives and sharing their pumpkin carving skills will be the likes of Larry Schreiber from the Moffett Restaurant Group; Marc Jacksina from Earl’s Grocery; Chris Coleman from The Asbury; David Feimster from Fahrenheit; Ben Philpott from Block & Grinder; Gregory Collier from The Yolk; Michael Rayfield from Ballantyne Resort; Miles Payne from Little Spoon Eatery; Nicolas Daniels from The Wooden Vine; and Paul Verica from Heritage – just to name a few! For more info about these chefs and their restaurants – check out the links in the “shopping” portion of this post.

In addition to the two hour pumpkin carving competition all of the shops at the Market will be open for business and the Guild will have a tasty apple cider press demonstration complete with samples presented by Coldwater Creek Farms; and a beekeeping demonstration by Art Duckworth of Apple Orchard Farm.

Lenny Boy Brewery will be on hand with a special sweet potato beer.  As a ticket goer, adults will receive a souvenir CARVED 2014 cup good for two (8 oz) pours and one ticket to vote for your favorite pumpkin. The guild will be also be selling more tickets on site if people want to vote more than once.

Advance tickets are still on sale – links to purchase are at the end of this post. Tickets are $10 in advance  or $15 at the door. Kids 18 & under: $5 (unless they bring their own already carved jack-o-lantern and then it’s free!) Proceeds go to Piedmont Culinary Guild and Slow Food Charlotte’s Farmer Fund.

From carving to culinaria

pumkins in the fieldPumpkins grow in a wide variety of sizes, some weighing in at well over 100 pounds. Save the big brusiers for winning awards at county fares and for carving contests. Nothing like a large Jack-o-lantern set out and lit up on the porch designed to welcome treat or treating seasonal guests. Keep in mind that once “Jack” has been carved and spent several nights out of doors, all sorts of ants and other creepy crawly things may take up residence, to say nothing of the melted wax. That’s all fine, if the plan is to keep the carved pumpkin outside, but if you were planning to cook and eat the pulp after the 31st, then best to buy another pumpkin or two or three for all  your upcoming culinary endeavors this season.

For eating purposes, look for medium to slightly smaller pumpkins, those with more tender and succulent flesh.  Like any other winter squash – butternut, acorn, golden and Hubbard – the skin should be free from blemishes and the pumpkin or squash heavy for its size. Store whole any winter squash, pumpkins et al, at room temperature for as long as a month or keep in a cooler place for as long as three months.

To easily get inside the tough outer shell, place your pumpkin in a large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, take it outside and drop it on some hard concrete – this might be one fun and good way for the kids to help with the process.. The pumpkin will split open into several pieces. Remove the pumpkin pieces from the bag, scoop out the stringy pulp that surrounds the seeds and then cut the firmer pulp from the outside pumpkin shell. Boil, steam, bake or fry the chunks of pumpkin as you would potatoes, or oven roast by placing the pumpkin chunks, skin and all, cut side down in a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, or an hour and a half or so, or until the pumpkin pieces are fork tender – about the same consistency as a baked potato. When the squash has cooled slightly, scoop is of the cooked shell.

For pumpkin puree, mash or process the roasted, boiled or steamed chunks in a processor, blender or by hand. Season to be sweet or savory, as you choose and then use as directed in your favorite recipe. Cooked pumpkin pulp will keep in your freezer for six to eight months.

In addition to being used as a base for many sweet and savory recipes, pumpkin or winter squash puree may also be served on it’s own as you would mashed or creamed potatoes. Simply add a little butter to the puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.

From little seeds, big pumpkins grow

pumpkin heirloom-seeds-740x493The pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, may be rinsed from the stringy pulp, which holds then in place inside the pumpkin and then baked. Because you will remove them before setting your Jack-o-lantern outside, you can bake and eat the seed from pumpkins you carve as well as those you cut up and cook.

First, rinse the seeds well, removing all of the pumpkin pulp. Then, pat the seeds dry between several layers of paper toweling. Spread the dry pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a lightly oiled or buttered baking sheet. Season them generously before baking with your favorite spice or spice combination. Use something as simple as a mix of salt and pepper or go for a zestier blend of garlic salt, chili powder and a dash of cumin. Toast the seeds in a preheated 200 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, turning them over halfway during the baking time. When the seeds are dry and toasted with a crunchy consistency, remove them for the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and enjoy over the course of the next several weeks and months.

 

pumpkin cheesecakePUMPKIN STREUSEL CHEESECAKE

Recipe adapted by Charlotte Culinary Expert Heidi Billotto

For the Crust:

2-1/2 cups crushed  graham crackers

3 Tbsp. your favorite cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

For the Filling:

2 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 (8oz) container Una Volla Alta locally made ricotta cheese (available at Pasta & Provisions)

1 cup organic sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

2 tsp. your favorite Savory Spice Shop cinnamon

1 Tbsp. fresh minced Windcrest farms local organic baby ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 Tbsp.  fresh grated nutmeg

1-1/2 cups of your own fresh made roasted pumpkin puree ( or use an equal amount of organic canned pumpkin)

4 whole local eggs

For the Streusel Topping:

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar ( i like to make my own by combining about a cup of organic sugar and about 1/4 cup of local Molasses ( I love Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses) – it makes the most delicious brown sugar you will ever eat!)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup cold butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times to mix well. Press in bottom and up sides of ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven 10 minutes and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat the first seven ingredients  together; add pumpkin and eggs, mix until well blended. Pour into prepared crust; bake 55 minutes on middle rack. Place a shallow cake pan partially full of water on the bottom rack of the oven to provide moist heat in the oven and keep the cheesecake from drying out.

Carefully remove cheesecake and gently sprinkle streusel over the top before returning to oven for another 10 minutes. To help avoid cracking, turn oven off but leave cheesecake in oven with door cracked for a slow cooling process – about 30 minutes or until cheesecake center is set.

Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate cheesecake at least four hours or preferably overnight in the pan then removed sides and gently slide the cake off the bottom of the pan and onto a cake stand. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and enjoy!

Shopping and Contact info for tickets, products and chefs mentioned in this post:

Visit the events page of the Piedmont Culinary Guild website, to purchase advance tickets for the Oct 19 CARVED event online and remember tickets will also be available at the door

sss

 

For all of the spices mentioned in the Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe above, visit my friends Amy and Scott McCabe at the Savory Spice Shop in SouthEnd at Atherton Mill. 2000 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203   980.225.5419

una alla volta

 

Uno Alla Volta cheeses are available at the Matthews Community Farmers Market and  at the regional Yorkmont Road Market on Saturdays and at cheese shops around town. For more info visit and “Like” them at  https://www.facebook.com/unoallvoltacheese 

 

hhfmolasses

 

Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses is available by contacting the farm in Bakersville, NC – contact information is on the farm’s website at http://harrellhillfarms.com/molasses.htm 

 

Lots of great area chefs are members of the Piedmont Culinary Guild – for more info or, of you are an interested chef, to become a member yourself, check out the Guild’s website at http://piedmontculinaryguild.com/what-is-the-piedmont-culinary-guild/  

For more info on the chefs and restaurants mentioned in this post, just click on the Urbanspoon or website links here:

Larry Schreiber from Good Food on Montford –Good Food on Montford on Urbanspoon

Marc Jacksina from Earl’s Grocery Earl's Grocery on Urbanspoon

Chris Coleman from The Asbury The Asbury on Urbanspoon

David Feimster from Fahrenheit Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon

Ben Philpott from Block & Grinder Block & Grinder on Urbanspoon

Gregory Collier from The Yolk The YOLK on Urbanspoon

Michael Rayfield from Ballantyne Resort Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge on Urbanspoon

Miles Payne from Little Spoon  http://www.littlespooneatery.com/

Nicolas Daniels from The Wooden Vine The Wooden Vine Wine Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Paul Verica from Heritage Heritage Food and Drink on Urbanspoon