|New Dishes at Butterjoint Test Kitchen
Tonight (Friday) we’re having a fish fry. Saturday night is (Not Quite) Prime Rib night.
We will have corned beef and cabbage on the menu beginning this Monday, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Choice brisket hangs out in a brine flavored with basic pickling spice for ten days, gets boiled, and then finished in a hot oven with a dijon mustard and orange marmalade glaze, a la’ The Silver Palate Cookbook, one of my favorites from the early 90’s, a period of time when professional American cooking was fun and flavor-forward, and chefs didn’t have to spend so much of their precious time fussing about the impression their cooking would make on instagram. If you’d like to try out the Butterjoint Test Kitchen you can give us a call at (412) 621-2700 or make a reservation on our website.
Also next Monday will be stuffed cabbage. The recipe was developed for Pie For Breakfast when we were open for dinner. The filling is ground beef and pork, onion, carrot, garlic, parsley, eggs, rice and bread crumbs from the salt rising bread we make next door at Pie For Breakfast, the secret ingredient that gives it (and our meatloaf and sauerkraut balls) a little funky je ne sais quoi. The tomato sauce is made unctuous with lard, rich chicken stock, dill pickle brine from last summer’s batch of pickles, homemade sauerkraut, lemon juice, and brown sugar, and is then reduced instead of thickened with starch, rather like a tomato demi glace. This is the food I love to cook more than anything, but couldn’t really make work in the fine dining context of Legume, where more elegant presentations were an expectation. But in reality, stuffed cabbage made this way is fine dining, perhaps more fine dining than a lot of things we served at Legume. Stuffed cabbage should be a frequent menu in this form until the summer, when we replace the pork and beef with lamb or goat, which are lighter and mingle well with the herbs of summer.
Last fall we bought the last of the hatch chiles from Who Cooks For You because they were amazing. Some of them were diverted to a batch of hatch chile sauerkraut, which we are now using in sauerkraut balls. Sauerkraut balls are on the menu because Jess and Csilla convinced me to get two fryers. My only stipulation was that they come up with some delicious fried snacks. I imagine the sauerkraut balls being on the menu all the time, but made with different kinds of seasonal sauerkrauts throughout the year. Soon we’ll be making ramp sauerkraut for August’s balls.
A lot of folks have been asking what elements of Legume will remain at Butterjoint All Day. Food-wise, the “Nice Things To Share” section of the menu – things like hand cut beef tartare, raclette, bluefish pate, and the like – will remain. The pork pate, which we haven’t made in a while, should be back soon as well. In terms of the drinks menu, beers and wines will be similar, though the cocktail menu will veer away from fussy house-made things. The house made stuff will still be on the menu, just not so much of it, in order to make room on the menu for more classic drinks priced in the single digits.
Another question is whether or not we will still work with local farms. The answer is: of course! It’s in our DNA. I think the difference is that we’re also open to exploring other options too. My hunch is that our explorations and openness to new things will continue to make us a vibrant, exciting place to eat, and that we will actually end up making more local food purchases in the long run because we’ll be cooking more food for more people than if we had continued on our previous path of cooking expensive hyper-local cuisine.
Come check out the test kitchen and watch the space evolve. Each day, Thommy is adding a new element to the mix, and it’s interesting to witness its evolution. The process of transforming the dining room has been different than any other restaurant build out I’ve worked on thus far. There have been many moments in the past few weeks when it feels like I’m a kid in the woods building a fort with my friends, or in the practice room creating music with a band. I find myself using a part of my brain that used to be more active when I was immersed in the kitchen every day, and I wonder if this new, supposedly simplified restaurant model we’ve created with my team will allow us to enter this creative space more often once again. It’s feeling like it will.
All of this excitement is tempered by the fact that it’s a scary time with a lot of uncertainty due to COVID-19. It is understandable why some folks are choosing not go out to eat, and this is being felt by all restaurants right now. Purchasing gift certificates is a great way to support your local food scene during this difficult time, and I would encourage all who are excited about our city’s amazing food scene to support independent restaurants and other small businesses in this way
Thanks for reading,