Friday, November 18, 2011

Herbin' Outfitters

Herbin’ Outfitters

Have you ever had more herbs than you’ve known what to do with? At Restaurant Eugene, we welcome such an embarrassment of riches as it poses an exciting challenge.  The other week Rashid Nuri delivered a delightful bevy of herbs from Truly Living Well Farms on Auburn Avenue.  Rather than throwing out bunches and bunches of marvels from the herb garden, our chefs decided to enhance our pantry with house-dried basil, marjoram, oregano, and sage.  What didn’t become chiffonade was hung from a shelf to wear the wondrous dress of time. After a week or so, what had been supple, soft green leaves were transmuted to brittle paper --- crinkles of deliciousness.

Just as our overall enterprise strives to preserve southern food traditions with more than a dash of innovation, this dynamic deployment of herbs demonstrates Chef Hopkins's steadfast dedication to being good stewards of what we have. Norman Wirzba, a professor at Duke Divinity School who writes about food and faith, says “When our eating is mindful, we celebrate the goodness of fields, gardens, forests and watersheds, and the skill of those who can nurture seed…into delicious food.” So let’s celebrate!

Here is just one dish yielded from our new herb pantry – we hope you’ll stop in soon to try it, and also encourage you to cook and eat with your friends and family home. And stay tuned – next week we will take a further look at Truly Living Well Farms, the source of these herbs and many other items regularly found on our menus.

Rutabaga and Celery Root Gratin

1 lb. rutabaga or purple-top turnip
1 lb. celery root
2 cups cream
1 lb. Gruyere
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch sage
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. black pepper
1)    Peel rutabaga and celery root and shave on mandolin to 1/8th inch thickness.
2)    Simmer cream with herbs, salt, and pepper.
3)    Shingle alternating rutabaga and celery root in a buttered casserole dish. Ladle some of the herb-infused cream onto each layer, just enough to coat. This should make about 5 layers. Grate gruyere on top to cover.
4)    Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until cheese is golden tan and layers are tender throughout.

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