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January 2010

Chef's Table:
Recovery Dinner
Written By: 
Marion Sullivan
Photography By: 
Peter Frank Edwards

The Glass Onion’s fun-loving chefs serve up communal comfort food for the New Year


There’s a different way of doing things in N’Awlins. There, a warm welcome and a down-home menu with a low price tag are often as revered as the fancy food of a white-tablecloth restaurant, and great cooking can be “rustic without being simple-minded,” a phrase the late R. W. Apple coined about the NOLA restaurant Cochon.

Emeril’s Delmonico alums Sarah O’Kelley and Charles Vincent wanted to open just such a place, but when Hurricane Katrina wiped out their plans, they migrated to Charleston—Vincent to FIG, Sarah to food journalism. But they persevered, and by 2008, in partnership with kindred spirit, FIG sous chef, and Birmingham native Chris Stewart, they opened The Glass Onion, a charming, colorful, brown paper-covered-table café that delivers the simple foods of New Orleans and the rural South using Lowcountry ingredients.

The time for ambitious dinner parties passed when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, so we tasked the trio with creating a simple January “recovery dinner.” Like their café, their meal is casual, responding to the after-the-holidays hunger for a cozy helping of communal comfort food. Whether it serves as a thrifty way to have a few friends for supper or gather a crowd for the Super Bowl, here’s a hearty menu that’s sure to please foodies and French-onion dippers alike.

The Challenge

Chefs: Chris Stewart, Sarah O’Kelley, & Charles Vincent of The Glass Onion
Goal: Prepare a hearty yet effortless winter dinner using fresh, seasonal ingredients
Number of guests: 8
Per person budget: $10
Menu: Salad: Bibb lettuce wedge with vinaigrette and deviled eggs Main: Chicken and sausage jambalaya with coleslaw and cornbread Dessert: Chocolate pecan pie


Salad

Butterhead lettuce, a tender, loose-leaf variety that includes Bibb, is a refreshing change from the ubiquitous mesclun. “A wedge of Bibb seems so simple,” says Sarah, “but is actually wonderful when it’s a really nice hydroponic head like we get from Kurious Farms in Moncks Corner.”

The vivid red Thunder Sauce adds even more color to the already deep yellow yolks of Celeste Albers’ farm eggs, which The Glass Onion devils fresh twice a day. If cooking for a crowd, the chefs advise making the deviled eggs one day ahead, but no earlier. “The salad dressing, on the other hand, can be doubled and made several days in advance,” they say.

The Shopping List

  • Bibb lettuce $5.98
  • Creole mustard $2.29
  • Shallot $0.65
  • Garlic $0.69
  • Farm eggs $3.50
  • Thunder Sauce $5.00

Final Cost: $18.11

From the Pantry

  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard
  • Hot sauce

see Wedge of Bibb Lettuce with Vinaigrette and Jennie Ruth’s Deviled Eggs recipe below...


Main Course

“Without seafood, this chicken and sausage jambalaya is considered a poor man’s version of the traditional Cajun stew,” explains Chris. “We sometimes even make it with all pork, adding pieces of belly to the sausage. That’s the tradition in Arcadia—using whatever ingredients are handy and stretching them with rice.” Sarah explains that this jambalaya isn’t altogether spicy. “That’s a misconception about Cajun food,” she says, noting that real Andouille sausage will add some heat, but making the dish extremely spicy masks the flavor. “Instead, we put a selection of hot sauces out on the table and let folks determine their own degree. We like Tabasco, Crystal, and Bulliard’s—all are Louisiana favorites made with cayenne peppers.” It may be the basic fare of bayou country, but cooled by the coleslaw and bolstered by the cornbread, the jambalaya leaves guests warm, comforted, and ready for a cold January recovery.

For jambalaya success, Chris recommends brining the chicken to lock in moisture and season the bird. Be exact in the salt-to-water ratio in the brine: one cup of salt to one gallon of water. Kosher salt is cost effective when compared to sea salt and doesn’t contain iodine like table salt does. He also uses converted rice for a cleaner grain, preferring Uncle Ben’s. While the jambalaya is best straight from the oven, it can be kept covered in a low oven (200°F) for a couple of hours. Leftovers should be reheated in small batches in the microwave.

The Shopping List

  • Butter $2.69
  • Sausage 2 lbs. @ $6.99/lb. $13.98
  • Onion $1.98
  • Celery $1.49
  • Bell pepper $1.99
  • Chicken 4 lbs. @ $1.99/lb. $7.96
  • Chicken stock $2.59
  • Fresh thyme $1.99
  • Canned tomatoes $1.89
  • Rice $3.59
  • Green onions $1.19
  • Cabbage $2.07
  • Sweet pickle relish $1.59
  • Cornmeal $1.19
  • Buttermilk $2.09

Final Cost: $48.28

From the Pantry

  • Garlic, leftover from salad
  • Bay leaves
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Coriander
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cider vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Bacon fat
  • Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Eggs, leftover from salad

See Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya and Coleslaw recipes below...


Dessert

Charles says this is The Glass Onion’s take on “Derby Pie,” a name trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen of Prospect, Kentucky. Making the all-butter crust by hand brings an element of down-home goodness to it that no frozen crust ever could.

Running short of regular semisweet chocolate chips on the day of their dinner, Sarah substituted chopped unsweetened chocolate in the pie. It was deemed a happy accident; against a filling double-sweet with brown sugar and dark Karo syrup, the bitterness in the melting chocolate offered an agreeable contrast.

The Shopping List

  • Pecans $3.99
  • Chocolate chips $1.79
  • Bourbon $1.86
  • Heavy cream $1.50

Final Cost: $9.14

From the Pantry

  • Eggs, leftover from salad
  • Corn syrup
  • Brown and white sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Butter, leftover from main course
  • Salt
  • Flour

See Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe below...


The Results: CHALLENGE MET!

The Glass Onion chefs dished out easy and economical comfort foods for a party of eight, coming in well under the $80 budget.
Amount Spent: $75.53





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