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Harvest Dinner

Harvest Dinner
November 2011
Jeremiah Bacon, chef of Oak and The Macintosh, falls for the season with an autumnal feast

It all began with a conversation about bird hunting, a popular Lowcountry sport and one that Jeremiah Bacon enjoys with his dad. “We’ve hunted on farms and plantations around the state, especially in Florence, Walterboro, and the Santee area, since I was 14,” he explains. “I’ve done a bit of deer hunting, but I really enjoy the challenge of bird hunting. Dove and quail are my favorite.” The talk quickly segued to the pleasures that come after, when the birds are dressed and browning in the pan.

So, what would Bacon, executive chef/partner of Oak Steakhouse and The Macintosh, pair with a bevy of bobwhites? “I’d plan an earthy, medium- to full-bodied palate, dishes that have a rustic elegance as well as refined flavors,” he says. Those musings morphed from small talk into a menu, and the menu into a feast: roasted fall squash and root vegetables, Brussels sprouts—“they roast up great, too”—a simple purée of spinach for contrast, and a stuffing of Carolina Gold rice. “After a feast like that, dessert should be low-key,” says Bacon. “Perhaps a caramel pot de crème with a touch of fresh plum chutney.” All seasonally perfect for a special post-hunt dinner party or even as flavorful sides for holiday meals.

<p>First Course Bacon delivers food with flavor-focused style and a chef’s knowledge of how to get the dishes on the table on time, a big help for the harried hostess. “The tzatziki sauce and pots de crème can be prepared two days ahead and refrigerated,” he instructs. “All of the roasted veggies can be made a day ahead, refrigerated, and reheated in a 200°F oven. Whether you bag the quail or buy them, they’re best cooked right before you serve them.”</p>
<p>Main Course Should you have luck on the shoot, the only difference in cooking the birds is cleaning them and, of course, removing the shot. But with the wild quail population declining for lack of suitable habitat, Bacon points to Manchester Farms, a premier producer only hours away in Dalzell, whose quail can be found frozen in most supermarkets. “Just thaw them for 24 hours, and you’re good to go,” he says.</p>
<p>Dessert Bacon’s caramel pot de crème with plum chutney reflects his skill for pairing sweetness with acidity. It also shows off his savvy for planning: this make-ahead dessert will work when the oven is booked. The pots de crème and tuiles can be made up to two days ahead. Keep the custards in the fridge and the cookies in an airtight container. The chutney is best when made the day it is going to be used and served at room temperature.</p>