Valentine’s Day at Russell House Tavern

Here is the menu for valentines day at RHT…It’s 59 dollars per person and you can call 617.500.3055 to book… or click here

FIRST COURSE
Italian Wedding Soup
Milk Fed Veal & Pistachio Meatballs, Sage Crostini

Parsley & Potato Gnocchi
Braised American Lamb’s Tongue, Capers & Calabrian Pepper Pesto

Creamy Salt Cod & Potato Brandade
Castelvetrano Olive Puree, Radish Pickles

Foie Gras Custard
Dried Plum Preserve, Smoked Walnuts, Amaro Syrup

MAIN COURSE
Tomato Braised American Lamb’s Neck
Crispy Aged Cheddar Grit Cakes, Wild Mushroom Gravy

Seared Gloucester Monkfish Loin
Saffron Stew of White Beans, Clams, & Escarole

Archer Farms Beef Trio
Marrow Bone, Petite Strip, & Tongue Cannelloni
Brioche Toast, Tangy Peppers & Artichoke Ragout

Cider Glazed Heritage Pork Shank
Apple, Celery Root & Guanciale Hash, Vinegar Greens

DESSERT
White Chocolate & Coconut Swirl Cheesecake
Dark Chocolate & Almond Crust, Salted Caramel Sauce

Red Velvet Cake
Vanilla Mascarpone Filling, Torched Meringue Frosting

Carrot Cake Bread Pudding
Cream Cheese Swirl, Toasted Walnuts, Golden Raisins

The New England Cheese Board
Three Local Cheeses, Seasonal Accompaniments
+Supplement add $9


January 18th Nose to Tail Menu

Here is the menu for our latest nose to tail dinner. I’m really excited to be welcoming friends from Brambly Farms, Island Creek Oysters & High West Whiskey for this epic meal. Not only will the great products of these folks be on display, but they will be on hand to discuss there passion, share their products, and enjoy an incredible night of food and drink…

I had a blast writing this menu & I hope it comes through! Join us at Russell House Tavern on January 18th at 6pm for courses of pig, oysters, and whiskey. 90 dollars per person.

Call RHT at 617.500.3055 to book now…

Amuse Plate-
A Picnic Lunch…
Oyster Shot, Smoked Pigs Foot, & Oat Whiskey Migonette
Liverwurst, Whiskey Mustard, Rye & Pickles

The Bits & Pieces. “Fried Chicken Style” on a Biscuit with Honey
Pork Rinds & Celery Ranch Dressing

Course 1-

Fried Oyster Club, Brambly Bacon, Pickled Tomato & Old Bay Hot Mayo

Course 2-

Pig’s Head Pierogis, Soured Cream, Spiked Apple Sauce

Course 3-
Oysters Rockefeller (Kind of), Spinach, Smoked Shoulder, Tarragon & Whiskey

Course 4-
“Manhattan” Brined Pork Loin, Baked Oyster & Pig’s Tongue Pie, & Honey Glace

Course 5-

Crispy Soy & Whiskey Glazed Pork Belly, Spicy Pickles, Yuzu & Oyster Finishing Move

Course 6-
Pig Sundae…
Pork & Peanut Brittle, Candied Pork Ice Cream, Smoked Pork Caramel, Whipped “Cream” & a Whiskey Punched Cherry


Here is the New Years Menu for Russell House Tavern…

RHT NEW YEARS EVE 2011 $59 per person

Course 1
Scituate Lobster Cream Soup
Lobster Hush Puppy, Fennel Oil

Foie Gras & Brioche Bread Pudding
Spicy Apricot Mostarda, Black Peppered Walnuts

Braised American Lamb Belly
Chick Peas, Roasted Tomato, Anchovy Toast

Smoked Brandt Farm Beef Tongue Terrine
Caper Crème Fraiche, Pickled Radish

Course 2
Grilled Petite NY Strip
Roasted Marrow Butter, Lobster & Potato Pierogi, Herb Salad

Gloucester Cod & Roasted Tomato Stew
Salt Cod Fritters, Verrill Farms Potato, Grilled Bread

Stuffed Brambly Pork Loin
Fig & Sage Sausage Stuffing, Parsnip-Apple Cream, Winter Greens

Gingered Duck Confit Ravioli
Crushed Duck Liver, Red Wine Reduction, Roasted Pears

+vegetarian option available…

Course 3
Vanilla, Black Pepper, & Mascarpone Cheesecake
Apple Caramel, Cinnamon Crumbles

Chocolate & Cherries…
Frozen Dark Chocolate Mousse, Cherries in Syrup, Laphroaig & Cherry Gelee


Thanksgiving menu…

$45 dollars per person…

contact russell house tavern @ 617.500.3055 or visit here

FIRST COURSE
Acorn Squash & Asian Pear Soup
Stuffing Style Corn Bread Croutons, Fried Sage

Roasted Ruby Beet Salad
Berkshire Bleu Cheese Fritters, Fennel & Orange Salad

Hickory Smoked Salmon Terrine
Baked Apple Chutney, Chive & Dill Yogurt, Pumpernickel Crumbs

Baked Cremont Cheese en Croute
Spiced Duck Confit, Cranberry & Onion Marmalade

MAIN COURSE
Peak Organic Ale Braised Beef Cheeks
Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke & Puree, Horseradish Gnocchi, Roasted Marrow Butter

The Turkey Duo
Brined & Roasted Breast & Crispy Confit of Thigh
Classic Apple Stuffing, Scelfo Family Mushroom Dressing, Pan Gravy, Sweet Potato Puree, Cranberry Relish

Pan Roasted New Bedford Scallops
Cauliflower Silk, Brussells Sprouts, Brambly Pancetta & Crispy Potato Hay

Roasted Verrill Farm Squash Risotto
Reggiano Crunchies, Walnuts & Grilled Scallions
Add 3 ounces Scituate Lobster +15

DESSERT
Chocolate Chili Cake
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream, Salted Pepper Caramel

Apple Spice Layer Cake
Cinnamon Butter Cream, Ginger Anglaise


Nose to Tail at Russell House on Monday May 2…

I’m really looking forward to the nose to tail dinner we are hosting at Russell House on Monday, May 2.

My staff is super excited to go through the break down and fabrication of a beautiful Black Tamworth cross from Brambly Farms in Norfolk MA. Also, our resident drink master Aaron Butler is crafting some awesome drink pairings from Heaven Hills Distillery & Farnum Hills Cider will bookend the entire 90 dollar 6 course meal.

There are a few reservations left and they can be made by contacting RHT @ 617.500.5055

Here is the current status of the menu, of course it might change a bit as the season change is providing me with some last minute ideas…

amuse plate-

fennel, trotter and prune pie, pickled ramps
tongue, heart, & green garlic sausage with soured cream
ear, tail, & liver  terrine, ginger & maple

course 1-
head & cheek croquettes, broken caper & sweet pickle gribiche

course 2-
pork fat ravioli, shoulder & skin sugo, pecorino pepato

course 3-
pork belly prepared three ways

course 4-
brined & seared chop, warm belly vinaigrette,
smoked tomato jam & pork fat biscuits

course 5-
cotechino sausage stuffed loin, green grape & ramp crostada,
parmesan & chestnut custard

course 6
warm ginger, brown sugar & bacon bread pudding, maple ice cream

Thanks for the peek and well see you there-
m


New Years Eve at Russell House Tavern

Have you checked out are new snazzy web site? If not click here

Lots of cool stuff to check out there including my new years menu…

New Years Eve 2010

Course 1

Silken Parsnip Puree

Black Truffle & Salt Cod

Warm Smoked Duck Breast Salad

Potato Aioli, Dried Fig Mustard, Walnut Toast

Three servings of Lamb in Cassoulet

Merguez Sausage, Slow Braised Shoulder, Hickory Smoked Belly

in slow cooked tomato & white beans

Foie Gras & Laphroaig Terrine

Black Pepper Simple, Cherry Gelée, Smoked Almonds

Course 2

Duet of Beef…

Grilled Petite NY Strip & Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek

Porcini Butter, Cauliflower & Apple Puree, Horseradish Panade

Seared Wild Carolina Wreckfish Fillet

Brussels Sprouts & Bacon, Crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes

Confit Saddle of Venison

Blackberry Jam, Molasses Glazed Turnips, Spicy Kettle Greens

Warm House Made Ricotta Crespelle

Artichoke & Roasted Tomato Stew, Petite Niçoise Salad

 

Course 3

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

Anglaise, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Toasted Hazelnuts

Orange Creamsicle

Vanilla & Orange Mousse, Creamy Caramel, Candied Orange

 

Menu 59 dollars per person.


Giving thanks at work…

I get a turkey every year from Outpost Turkey Farm here in Holliston.  Once it’s ordered I still stand in line for hours to get it.  It’s a yearly rite of passage.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday for me.  It’s a perfect marriage of food and family although admittedly those are two volatile ingredients that when mixed can lead to interesting results. It’s ultimately supposed to be a time of reflection and in my family we always clink glasses to those not with us.  We also issue thanks for our perceived health and happiness and look forward to the year ahead. Now that I have children, Thanksgiving has taken on even more meaning because it’s a day of memories that I will hold on to, and hopefully they will too.

That memory could be that of a culinary tragedy–my cinnamon-thyme turkey brine from a few years back generated many a furrowed brow. Or it could be of a guest’s unfortunate (and accidental) decision to light a stovetop burner that had a crock of creamed spinach resting on it- a fun clean up. Or there is the memory of the tryptophan induced squabble that occured between an oddly even match up of 7 and 74 year olds around who knows what topic of importance. You laugh at the memories that are being created, writhe in pain from the gluttony, and try to keep one eye on the games as you plan your late night stalking of the leftovers.

As I did last year, I will once again work in the restaurant on Thanksgiving this year for a good portion of the day – something I thought I had sworn off many years ago. And while it may seem a chore, I actually don’t lament working this day anymore. Rising early with my cooks to prepare food for those eating out on this special day is actually nice and everyone is usually very chipper and upbeat.

But what it does make me realize is that I often spend more time with my restaurant family than I do with my own. And the people that I work with see a crazed side of me that honestly doesn’t exist outside of the building.  And as I reflect on Thanksgiving, I realize that I owe them many thanks for putting up with that alter ego – for allowing me my obsessions, forgiving my impatience at times, and ultimately respecting my vision.

I owe them my best on Thanksgiving.

During most of the year, I’m intense in the kitchen – focused on the product and maybe not quite as reflective.  So on Thanksgiving, I try to give the people I work with a chance to witness a relaxed version of me and a chance to see the thanks that I have that they are here for me, as I am here for them.

These people I work with are my second family.  And while I try to appreciate them every day of the year, on Thanksgiving I take just a bit more time to realize just how important they are to me.  And I try to make an extra effort to thank them for all they have done for me and my family.  Without them, I couldn’t succeed.  And I recognize that they too are sacrificing to be with me – every day of the year, but especially on Thanksgiving.

So on this day, it’s just a little bit easier to understand what makes me tick and what is really important to me.  And I also remind myself that food is a form of communication. Some of our most important memories come from sharing food and drink – whether in preparing it for others in the restaurant or sharing it with family at home.  Food is a community that I am fortunate to be a part of.  The restaurant business for all its all faults and dysfunction has given me some of the most memorable and meaningful times of my life. And I am lucky that not only do I have an amazing family at home, but I am also surrounded by fantastic, creative, talented and hard working people in my second home, the restaurant.


Sustainability for everyone?

Butchering demo at the Summit

I had a great experience at the Chefs Collaborative summit earlier in October. I was a big fan of the seminars and demonstrations in particular. It’s exciting to hear the stories of passion from people who have dedicated their lives to the noble cause of promoting sustainable cuisine.

Overall it was a fascinating couple of days—although at times it seemed there were more questions than answers, more preaching than offers of real change. After spending some time reflecting on it, I started to feel that something was missing – namely, chefs. There wasn’t a great showing in terms of numbers. As I considered that lack of presence, it dawned on me that maybe I should have been questioning my own presence at the Summit.

How sustainable am I? How local is my product? The more I asked myself those questions, the more it started to come together for me.

Sustainability, while great and undeniably needed, can seem unattainable to most professional chefs. The expense of product, ease of ordering, and seasonal availability is not great. The chefs in attendance represented what are largely occasion places for most:  higher ticket venues with entrees running up into the thirty-dollar-plus range. At Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, MA, where I am the executive chef, we keep the price point low so we can reach many people. It’s a high-volume spot, and believe me, to be fiscally responsible and sustainable while maintaining your given concept is difficult for anyone.

So in terms of not a lot of chefs being at the Summit, in some ways it was understandable. Given the pitfalls and challenges of maintaining your commitment to sustainability, one could see why a chef would stay away – from both the conference and from that commitment. But if a chef or manager were able to hear concrete examples from others who are making it work in their restaurants, that opinion might change.

So, how do we make sustainability accessible for all chefs, so we can best maintain our businesses in the long-term?

So far I’m not convinced that anyone has found the answer in total, but it starts by making small changes.  Every little bit helps and if chefs at least asked the question of how to make their restaurants more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and shared answers and ideas with each other, then true progress might be made.

I hope that more chefs will attend the National Summit in New Orleans next year so that we can better learn from one another about how to make changes in the way we source food. In the meantime, I will continue to make incremental changes along the way. I’m always rolling out new items and adding as many local products as I can. I recently added PT Farms from Vermont to my vendor list. I’ll be using their grass fed beef for my burgers at Russell House Tavern.  This is an added expense that I’m not passing on to my guests but small sacrifices like this are just the beginning of being as loyal to the sustainable movement as I can.

I’m proud of the state of my menu right now; it’s at its highest level of sustainability yet. I just wish more chefs from different concepts knew it could be done.

***Special Thanks to Chef’s Collaborative for posting this post on their website…

Follow them here: http://twitter.com/#!/chefscollab

www.chefscollaborative.org


Shelling Peas.

My wife asked me last week if I would take off this past Wednesday night for a… “NO.”  I cut her off.

I am so obsessed with Russell House right now that I couldn’t fathom taking a night off. Honestly, lately I don’t sleep much, I’ve lost 30 pounds since Easter, and I run 3 miles every morning before a 15 hour day. My mind and body just won’t stop. Of course I couldn’t take that night off.  Two of our reviews are just out, one glowing, one not as much (but still flattering), and while both are fair and accurate (another topic), they still occupy my mind and fuel my drive even further. But it turned out that the night she wanted me for was our twins’ 1st grade Open House. Open House is the final night of the year when parents can see all that the children have learned and accomplished. I realized that I hadn’t been to their school once the entire year and here it was ending in less than two weeks   I was also struck with the fact that I hadn’t been to a baseball game, or a horseback riding lesson… I started to reconsider.  I decided to go.

I pulled into the school at 6:30, with not a minute to spare. It was all very heavy to me, even though it shouldn’t have been.  I thought of my own father. We have had some deep conversations of late. My dad worked so much and he was gone Monday through Friday. I remember a couple of isolated instances of us spending time together, not tons of memories. I used to be so angry with him. I carried that for many years, but I don’t anymore. I realize that I’m now wearing his shoes, and that I have been walking in them for a long time.

Into the classroom I walked.

My kids are in a French immersion school in our school district, a very cool program. I started with my son. I was just so overwhelmed. He read me a story in French that he had written himself. He showed me a robot that he had made; stunning I thought for his level. I was blown away as the teacher only conversed with the children in French, and they too in turn. There was a whole world there I hadn’t gotten to see – their friends, relationships, and even their personalities in a different setting. We played a math game and looked at calendars all in French. A thought raced across my mind of the review quote that my pasta was dry and tasteless. I chuckled to myself. We sometimes lose sight of what’s important in life.

My wife and I traded off the kids and I ventured to my daughter’s class. It was more of the same. I was struck by the utter genuine quality and intensity of their smiles and their enthusiasm. I was getting emotional as I looked around the classroom. And I realized that I was jealous of all the other dads.  It all looked so routine for them. For me it felt like a trip to Disneyland, and it was kind of sad really. I wandered over to the teachers who asked me about the restaurants. Some had seen the review. I really didn’t want to talk about it…

I re-grouped with my wife, both twins in hand, and they took me for one final viewing – to the first grade Pea Garden. We walked through the halls and into the courtyard where six not so perfectly groomed rows of peas stood tall and flowering. They looked pale green and so sweet. We walked over. I knelt down by the peas and dragged my hand through the plants gently. I picked off some leaves and handed them to my wife and kids. “Eat them” I said. They looked surprised at the notion. As they ate the leaves all of their eyes lit up, and smiles crept in. My daughter looked at me and said “they’re sweet daddy.”

“I know they are baby,”  I said. “And they grow so fast…”


Breaking a few eggs…

 

When doing the new menu at Russell House Tavern I had one luxury I had never had before, a period of time for testing. Often in an opening the pace is brutal, with time & money (same thing?) running short.  The lack of one or the other often adds loads of pressure & sometimes forces you to make compromises.

Not so in this case. Everything happened very organically with RHT so I had some precious time. I spent a lot of it on our egg dish.

Often dishes on my menu start with a standard dish that I want to do a take on.  In this case it was an egg sandwich.  Being from Long Island originally, I understand the importance of the egg sandwich. It’s a blue collar breakfast item to be sure, and you have to order them at delis quickly; everyone’s on the fly in the a.m. The delis serve them on bulkie rolls that are crispy on the exterior with an interior that is wispy light. You can get them with cheese, bacon or sausage. “Salt, pepper, ketchup” is what you hear ordered the most for toppings. You can get snooty with your order too and go “egg whites & turkey, swiss cheese of course.” Anyway, it’s a staple of that area and while there are plenty of good egg sandwiches to be had here in Boston, it’s always hard to beat a nostalgic memory.

So that was the idea for the dish.  Great, right? Big new restaurant and I want an egg sandwich?? Obviously I can’t get away with just that– but that’s where it begins – with an idea or some inspiration –  and then I get to decide what notes I want to hit for my version.

Thinking about eating an egg sandwich, it’s this great combination of smoky bacon (I use our house made pancetta), molten yolk, and buttery bread (we use brioche buttered and griddled for ours). I like mayo so I created an aioli using a good quality pecorino to bring the salt and then added lots of black pepper. It’s started coming together but then I started thinking about eating it and in my head it’s so rich so I brought some acidity in the form of vinegar.  Adding some red onion also helped. As I thought about needing more texture and color, I added frisée which brought a great freshness and by happenstance became a nest for the feature–the egg.

In creating this dish, I broke an embarrassing number of eggs. Originally I started with a mini fried egg, but cutting the white down was laborious & this needed to be fast. Then I went to soft poached which was great but was too much like a play on frisée lardon, which I had already done a cool homage to years ago at Dedo called “Duck, Duck, Goose.”  I kept thinking and experimenting and then I just decided to fry one. It sucked. I mean it was a pain to poach, shock in ice, then dredge and getting a consistent egg yolk texture was difficult. I was using David Chang’s recipe in the Momofuku cookbook that was cool in essence, but really needed an immersion circulator for the best results. The Russell House owners were actually cool and agreed to my pitch: “Can I buy a thousand dollar lab device that I’ve never used to cook eggs? I can? Sweet.”

After getting the circulator I played around, consulted some other chefs, continued to tweak, and finally got it. The eggs were coming out perfect for opening.  Dredging, holding, and frying are still labor intensive steps and still a pain during service – and don’t get me started on when someone drops a whole tray of eggs on the floor. But as with anything, the repetition is the best medicine and we found a rhythm with getting them done and, having them turn out perfect. People really seem to love it too…

And that reaction is what is so fantastic, just over the top.  And it just started with that simple egg sandwich.  I love that.