Tidewater Kitchen - September 2007

Labor Day Party with Chef Andrea Schnell
of Square Café in Hingham, MA

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   In the town of Hingham is a darling little café called Square Café. Every time I get a chance to dine there I do! One of my favorites for lunch is the Yellow Fin Tuna Two Ways Tartare. It’s out of this world.
    Chef Andrea Schnell has been cooking since she was very young. Her mother had a catering business while raising three children. Andrea learned from her mother’s passion, but developed her own path, creating foods with an Asian flair.
    Chef Schnell is also very passionate about what she does. She loves hearing the clanking of the plates, the buzz in the kitchen and the atmosphere with the wait staff. To her it’s like a huge symphony and she is orchestrating it. She also loves to make people feel good – making them happy brings her a lot of joy.
    Andrea loves to use seasonal ingredients. She suggests you develop a relationship with your local fish company or butcher, or even the people at your local grocery store. They will tell you what is best at that time of the year, how to prepare things and make sure you have the freshest ingredients. You may end up paying a little more from your local butcher or fish market, but in the long run it is so worth it.
    Andrea gets a lot of her inspiration from her vendors. They will tell her that the striped bass looks really beautiful and she will create a “special” around it. Her advice – go with your instinct. If it doesn’t look right, tell the butcher or fishmonger. Ask what they think and always tell them what you want. Whether you need advice for a special dinner party or something simple to throw on the grill, your main entrée is your first consideration, then everything else will fall into place.
    Chef Schnell has selected some fabulous recipes for your Labor Day gathering. It is great fun to have your friends feel a part of what you’re cooking. She suggests you have your guests make their own BLTs. Just have everything ready and let them serve themselves. Remember, the cocktails suggested can also be made without the alcohol.

BLT
1 lb. applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp
2-3 heirloom tomatoes, any variety*
1 head fresh romaine lettuce, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half
1 loaf ciabatta or baguette
1 recipe goat cheese mayonnaise
1 T. olive oil

* I like the green heirloom tomatoes for this recipe as they are not too wet and yet they are sweet/acidic.

GOAT CHEESE MAYO
4 oz. pkg. goat cheese, room temperature
4 oz. prepared mayonnaise
1 t. sage, chiffonade
salt and fresh black pepper

   Place the goat cheese in a bowl and add one spoonful of mayonnaise at a time to the cheese, slowly incorporating it. Add the sage and season with salt and pepper

   Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on a plate with a paper towel. Lightly salt and pepper them, allowing the salt to dissolve. Place the slices on a serving tray along with the romaine hearts and crisp bacon.
    Slice the ciabatta loaf in nice ½”-thick slices and brush with a nice olive oil. Toast or grill the ciabatta slices slightly so they are still soft in the middle. Arrange them in a serving basket or on a tray.
    Place all the items in the center of the table and allow your guests to assemble the ultimate BLT sandwich for themselves. Be sure to provide plenty of napkins.

THAI BARBECUE SAUCE
Makes 3 cups

6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. ginger, finely minced
1 T. red curry paste
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed and finely chopped
8 Serrano peppers or other small hot chilies, minced, including seeds
4 small green onions, green and white parts, minced
¼ cup cilantro sprigs, minced
1 T. grated or minced lime zest
Juice from 3 limes
1 cup ketchup
½ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
¼ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
2 T. dark soy sauce
2 T. flavorless cooking oil

   Sauté the first six ingredients in cooking oil until fragrant.
    Add the remaining ingredients on low heat and stir well until all the sugar has dissolved and other ingredients have incorporated. Keep on a low flame for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning.

For Ribs:
3 racks pork baby back ribs (Specify the phrase “two down” to your butcher. They are the meatiest.)
1 can coconut milk
Handful of garlic cloves
1 T. chili garlic paste
1 bay leaf
A few mint stems
2 T. salt

   Submerge the ribs in just enough water to barely cover them in a deep baking dish. Add the remaining ingredients and cover with aluminum foil.
Careful bake in a 350° oven until ribs are fork tender, usually anywhere from 1 to 1½ hours.
    Allow to cool before removing from the hot liquid...trust me on this one!
    At this point you can place the ribs in the refrigerator for a day or so, but make sure they are at room temperature before you continue.
    Pat the ribs dry and spray with a little vegetable oil and place on a medium hot grill. Allow the ribs to sear, but be careful not to let them burn. When the ribs are soft and warm, place aluminum foil on the top rack of your grill and transfer the ribs. Remember, it’s okay if they break as you are going to cut them up anyway.
    Brush your barbecue sauce on both sides and close the grill, allowing a bit of the smoke and flames to kiss the ribs for about 5 minutes. Reopen the grill and brush the ribs again. Keep them warm until it’s time to serve.
    I usually garnish them with some crushed peanuts and cilantro sprigs. Make sure that you eat these with your fingers (They’re finger-lickin’ good!).

PAVLOVA MERINGUES
1 cup egg whites, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 T. cornstarch
¼ t. cream of tartar
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. vanilla extract

   In the mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, place the egg whites and cream of tartar and place on medium-high setting until they become foamy and white.
    Combine the sugar and the cornstarch and mix together.
    Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture to the eggs one spoonful at a time until they are smooth and glossy. Add the vinegar and vanilla and continue to whip for 2 more minutes to achieve a shiny meringue.
    Preheat the oven to 325°.
    Place a sheet of parchment paper on an ungreased dry baking sheet and weigh down the four corners to avoid edge curl.
Using a rubber spatula, divide the mixture into two separate mounds and spread them slightly into approximately four-inch discs. Do not flatten too much. It is important to leave the sides about a full inch high.
    Bake the discs in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. When they are done, shut off the oven but do not remove the meringues. Leave the door open so the excess heat comes out and cools down. After the oven has cooled, close the door and allow the meringues to cool in the closed oven for at least 4 hours.
    Carefully lift the meringues onto a serving platter and top with seasonal fresh berries and freshly whipped cream.
    Remember, this dessert is not supposed to look perfect. The meringues should look a little jagged and messy. I think that is their greatest appeal.

CAFÉ MAI TAI
Serves 1
2 T. light rum
2 T. dark rum
1 t. Creme de Noyaux (usually found in Chinese drinks)
1 T. Triple Sec
2 T. fresh orange juice
2 T. pineapple juice

Mix all these ingredients together. Splash with grenadine and float 2 T. of dark rum on top. Garnish with an umbrella and pineapple piece.

BOAT DRINK
Serves 1
2 T. Malibu rum
3 T. coconut vodka
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. pineapple juice

Mix all ingredients together and serve on ice.

FRUITY WHITE WINE SANGRIA
Serves 1
½ cup Spanish Rosé
½ cut up lemon, lime and orange – squeeze the juice out
¼ cup raspberries
1 T. sugar
1 T. Creme de Noyaux
pinch of Kauifer lime leaves

Mix ingredients together and let the flavors blend together for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Strain it and add 2 T. club soda and 1 T. Triple Sec and enjoy.

STRAWBERRY MOJITO
Serves 2
Strawberry Pureé:
Mix together 1 cup strawberries blended together with ½ cup mint leaves
½ cup light rum
1 cup mojito mix: sour mix infused with mint oil

Mix all ingredients together and finish with a splash of gingerale and soda water. Garnish with mint.

So, the next time you’re in the Boston area, please check out one of my favorite places to eat...Square Café, 150 North Street, Hingham, MA.