Get comfortable with new take on home food


MIAMI (AP) — Bryan Voltaggio’s new cookbook may be titled “Home,” but these are not the breezy, 30-minute meals you might expect from book named with an everyday ethos.

Because when this star of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and owner of nine restaurants cooks at home… Well, it isn’t quite the same as when you and I cook at home.

“When I cook at home, it’s a little more involved,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

There are no weeknight dinners here. No lunches or toss-together this-and-that meals. Voltaggio is all about brunches, Sunday suppers, Super Bowl Sundays and big holiday meals. In other words, his home cooking is all about special occasion cooking, dishes that are a bit more labor intensive, helped along by recruiting family members to chop, stir and gossip with big flavor pay-offs.

The roasted pork shoulder with coffee barbecue rub and pumpkin sauerkraut, for example. We’re talking hours in the refrigerator marinating, followed by another five long and luscious hours in the oven.

“That’s the perfect meal for me because I can make something really delicious that takes hours to cook that’s going to be slowly braised, roasted and caramelized. … And all that depth of flavor and juicy meat is going to be on my table, but it didn’t take a lot of physical labor,” said Voltaggio. “It’s 10 times better than anything you’d ever put together in 30 minutes.”

Brunch is a favorite of Voltaggio’s because he actually gets to eat it with his wife and three children, rather than be out bouncing between his restaurants. The book includes homemade banana granola which he turns into oatmeal with bananas and cream, or into thick granola pancakes. He also gives a nod to his Maryland heritage with a twist on eggs Benedict served on waffles with a spicy beer-naise sauce.

The book is heavy on seafood, including tempura battered soft-shell crab tacos, lobster rolls, blue crab stew with shells, and a squid Bolognese with a beautiful inky blue sauce, a tribute to the dish that won him a challenge on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”

He also reached for classics from his restaurants — which are scattered around Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia — including the specially brined fried chicken and potpie fritters, which he said “are one of those fun dishes that everybody asks for.”

Though success on “Top Chef” enabled Voltaggio to expand and open a variety of restaurants, it also created a challenge — how to balance them all.

“I want to go and cook in all of them,” he said. “It’s really hard for me as a chef and someone who believes in hospitality to not be there for every guest.”

Ultimately, Voltaggio just wants to motivate home cooks to be inspired in their own kitchens, a concept his son, Thacher — one of Voltaggio’s three children — perhaps brought to life better than any dish in the book.

As a team of chefs and photographers scurried around plating food and taking photos for the book, his then 6-year-old son spontaneously jumped up and started making cola braised potatoes. Near the end of the book, Thacher’s untouched handwritten post-it notes calling for a topping of soda, pine nuts and extra sea salt along with a seasoning mix that includes fennel, chili and poppy seeds, are displayed.

“It’s about cooking with friends and family and inspiring people to cook. He jumped up and wanted to be a part of it … I want people to get this book dirty and use it,” said Voltaggio. “He understood exactly what I was trying to accomplish.”

BACON-WRAPPED CORN ON THE COB

Start to finish: 1 hour, plus chilling

Servings: 8

3 pounds sliced bacon

1 bunch basil, leaves only, torn

2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced

8 ears corn, shucked

Charred lime crema (recipe below)

Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

Lay a 13-by-18-inch sheet of kitchen parchment on the counter and lay 6 or 7 slices of bacon on it alongside each other, slightly overlapping, fat side against meat side, to form a rough rectangle that is as wide as an ear of corn is long. Cover the bacon with a second sheet of parchment and pound lightly with a meat mallet or small saute pan to flatten the bacon and press it together.

Remove the top sheet of parchment. Top the bacon with 10 to 12 small pieces of basil and a few slices of jalapeno pepper. Lay 1 ear of corn across the bottom of the rectangle and roll the corn up in the bacon, using the parchment to help. If the bacon is particularly long, trim the excess. Transfer the bacon-wrapped corn to the prepared baking sheet, laying it seam side down. Repeat the process with the remaining corn.

Cover the corn with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium.

Grill the corn, starting with the bacon seam side down. Give each ear a quarter turn every 5 minutes until all of the bacon is crisp and caramelized and the corn is tender, 15 to 20 minutes total. Alternatively, you can lay the bacon-wrapped corn on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and cook it in a 350 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with charred lime crema.

Nutrition information per serving: 1,010 calories; 820 calories from fat (81 percent of total calories); 91 g fat (36 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 190 mg cholesterol; 1,270 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 28 g protein.

(Recipe adapted from Bryan Voltaggio’s “Home,” Little, Brown, 2015)

CHARRED LIME CREMA

Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces cream cheese, diced

1 lime

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Let the creme fraiche or sour cream, heavy cream and cream cheese sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan to high. Use a wand-style grater to remove the zest from the lime. Reserve the zest. Cut the lime in half, then grill the halves, cut sides down, until a deep black crust forms, about 10 minutes. Remove the lime halves from the heat and let cool slightly. Juice the charred lime over a mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Discard any solids in the strainer.

Add the lime zest, creme fraiche or sour cream, heavy cream, cream cheese and salt to the lime juice. Use an electric mixer on medium-low to mix until combined. Increase the mixer to high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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