Announcing Underground Kitchen No. 4: October 25, 2008!

September 30, 2008

The Saturday before Halloween is your next opportunity to get in on Charleston’s sort-of clandestine dining scene!  You know the drill.  To get an invite, sign up on our website.  Wait for the invite to pop up in your email inbox.  Then request a reservation, up to two seats per person.  We’ve only got 30 seats available, first-come, first-served.  Since we emailed the invites out to the list this morning we’ve already had six seats spoken for!

As always, see our FAQ for more information.  If you’ve been to two (consecutive) dinners, we ask that you sit this one out.  Email us if you have any questions.  Be kind to strangers.  Don’t take any wooden nickels.  And don’t forget to register to vote.

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Gorgonzola Potato Gratin

September 21, 2008

Susan, of Fork You fame, shares her Gorgonzola Potato Gratin recipe from UK3 on the Fork You blog:

I wanted a creamy gratin that would not compete with the other flavors on the plate.  An important component of chimichurri is garlic, so I did not want to overdo it by adding garlic to the gratin as well.  I opted to keep it simple and classic.

Serves 15

5 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
7 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
butter, for dish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 baking dish.  (I used glass.)

Slice potatoes very thinly using a mandoline.  Place a layer of potatoes in the dish, overlapping them.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat layers, seasoning each one, until all potatoes are used.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream to boiling.  When the cream boils, reduce heat slightly and add Gorgonzola, stirring until smooth.

Pour the cream/cheese mixture over the potatoes, cover with foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender and they have browned around the edges.

Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing into squares.

This dish can be baked in advance and refrigerated.  Reheat, covered with foil, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Let the gratin cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Note- If you do not own a mandoline, you should really consider getting one.  It is importatnt the potatoes are thin so they will achieve the proper doneness and texture.  You can pick one up at Wal Mart for about $10.

Underground Kitchen No. 3: Fork You @ Tabor-Lindsay

September 20, 2008

Underground Kitchen No. 3 hit it out of the park.  We had food reviewers turned chefs.  A lavishly restored Victorian home on the East End.  Thirty more-or-less strangers.  An incredible tapas menu, Appalachian-style.

In case you missed out on the event, you owe it to yourself to do three things.  First, go check out the pictures— in this case, you don’t need much imagination to be blown away by the food and the beautiful location.  Next, head over to the Fork You blog to read a culinary play-by-play by the Chefs themselves, Susan and Daniel.  Last but oh my, definitely not least, go sign up on our email invite list so you won’t miss out on the next UK dinner (coming soon…watch this space!)

A few of the UK3 dishes:

Gorgonzola potato gratin, tenderloin with chimichurri and breaded asparagus

Crenshaw melon, country ham & arugula with white balsamic vinegar reduction

Espresso Brownie with White Chocolate-Hazlenut Sauce

Seat’s (Almost) Taken For Sept. 6

August 29, 2008

Ladies & Gents, we’re a week away from Underground Kitchen #3, and just a few seats remain at the table.  And we can’t write any more than this, because then we’d be tempted to tell you about the insanely elegant venue we’ve got lined up.   Okay.  Sign up, we’re signing off.

Announcing: Underground Kitchen No. 3 on September 6th!

August 2, 2008

Ladies & Gentlepeople, it’s time to sign up for the next Underground Kitchen, which will be held on (ta da!) SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6th, 7pm ’til the cows come home.

The cost is $40,* we’ve got space for 30, and reservations are first-come, first-served. No reservations will be taken, and no refunds given, after Thurs. Sept. 4th (although we sold out early last time and expect to do so again, so don’t wait!).

(Please note that, with enormous love & appreciation for our charter diners, we’re asking people who have been to TWO (2) CONSECUTIVE Ug. Kit. dinners, to sit out the 3rd, so we can give new folks a chance to come. Trust us, this hurts us more than it hurts you. 😦  (2-In-A-Row, Sit-1-Out)

**Just FYI, the price may sound steep but your entire $40 donation goes to the cost of food & equipment. The Underground Kitchen is an entirely “no-profit” enterprise.

Elizabeth’s Sangria

July 30, 2008

Best surprise of the 7/19 Underground Kitchen: Elizabeth’s amazing sangria.  As you can see from the photo, it didn’t last long.  By popular demand, she sent us the recipe:

To make the sangria (very imprecise recipe):
Bottle of white wine or cabernet
Lime/lemon concentrate
Frozen Fruit bag (peaches, strawberries, grapes cut into smaller pieces)
Cut up fresh limes, apples, oranges, blueberries, whatever
Lemon lime soda (I used diet)
Vodka (if you want kick)
Fresh mint (optional)

I used about a 50/50 mix of wine to soda, about a cup of vodka, and a heavy splash of the concentrate.

(P.S. we predict that invites for the next Underground Kitchen will go out this week… so sign up now to make sure you get the invite!)

Ug.Kit. 7/19: Because Eating Dinner With 30 Strangers Is Not As Scary As Eating Dinner With 3 Strangers

July 23, 2008
photo credit to Dan Todd!

We’ve eaten the leftovers, washed the tablecloths, returned the rental salt & pepper shakers, and written up the recipes, so the only thing left to do is, uh, say thanks to everyone who turned out for the Second Underground Kitchen Ever! We had a GREAT time at the Habitat ReStore on Saturday night. A million thanks to Amy and Shawn for saying “yes, and we can even install a sink for you” when we said, “can we bring 30 complete strangers over to your store for dinner after hours?” They are really wonderful folks, and are doing great things for the Charleston community.

You have to wonder– would an Underground Kitchen be possible without the internet? We put up a website, sent anonymous emails to people, posted an open signup, and set up a PayPal account. Next thing we knew, people were blogging about the Ug. Kit. on twitter. Or finding us by chance through a local blog directory. And signing up. And now, after the event, you can read people’s impressions of the dinner online, see photos and videos, and more photos. If only there was a way to transmit flavors through the “internets” . . .

We’re not sure yet when or if the next Underground Kitchen will be, but the best way to find out is to sign up for our email list if you haven’t already. We’ll email invitations to everyone who signs up.

And while you’re waiting for that invitation . . . go check out the Habitat ReStore! It’s a building materials re-sale store, where you can donate used fixtures and tools, or buy items that you need. You can see a list of the materials they resell here. 815 Young Street, near Fazio’s and Green’s Feed & Seed. They’re open 9-6 on weekdays, and 9-4 on Saturdays.

Thanks to Dan for the pictures!

Grouper with Zucchini Cakes and Stewed Tomatoes & Olives

July 23, 2008


It was so simple. Three components. The fish included oil, salt, and pepper and I tossed a few fresh thyme leaves on as it cooked. The cakes had three veg, eggs, and breadcrumbs. The stew was five ingredients with NO salt or pepper added.

But for the amazing moisture content of the zukes we had, this may have been the dish that most closely resembled the flavor combination I anticipated. We didn’t strain every drop of excess water out, so we had some steaming going on in the cakes on the griddle. Not bad, but not the picture in my mind.

Herbert worked miracles pulling those together in the dark on a plug-in Oster griddle. I was cooking grouper in a 12-inch stainless skillet on a high-school chemistry class ceramic hot plate.

The grouper was sweet and fresh. And I have to give a huge thank you to the owner of Fresh Seafood Market in St. Albans, who drove to the store to open it up for us when his staff at the Farmer’s Market called him to let him know I needed 12 pounds of grouper but quick.

Here’s how you can recreate it…

4 grouper fillets
1 jar whole tomatoes in juice
1 ½ cups kalamatta and green pitted olives
¼ cup whole capers
1 med Spanish onion
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 carrots
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

1. Prepare your grouper by tossing with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Set aside in the fridge. Pull it out five minutes before you cook it.

2. Chop the onion half into a fine dice and half into a rough chop. You want some to pulp out and just be flavor and some to remain as larger pieces for texture.

3. Add the onion to a stock pot or sauce pan and sweat in a little olive oil for three minutes. Add in chopped olives and whole tomatoes (crushing by hand as you add them) and juice. Bring to a quick boil and reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Add capers. Turn off the heat and keep it on the stove top ready to ladle and serve.

4. While your tomatoes are stewing away, grate your zucchini, squash, and carrots, pressing to remove as much liquid as possible.

5. Whisk the eggs and add to the veg. Stir through the breadcrumbs. Form into palm-sized patties.

6. Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. When shimmering, drop zucchini cakes in and cook until crispy on each side. Keep warm in the oven.

7. Scrape pan (or get another one dirty, that can be fun too) and cook the grouper over medium-high heat. Turn the grouper when you see the edges on the first side turn opaque. Pull it off the heat when you can see the individual segments (ribs) start to pull away from each other easily (that’s what they call the flaking).

8. Serve the fish over a ladle or two of the tomatoes with a zucchini cake.

Again thanks to Susan for having a camera and a willingness to share her photos.

Roasted Corn & Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese and Ginger/Tomatillo Sauce

July 23, 2008

This turned out to be one of most fun recipes to cook. I kept tasting the sauce and looking at Herbert saying “It worked. Taste this again! It WORKED!”

Ginger and Tomatillo ‘sounded’ like they would pair well together. The sweet spice of fresh ginger and the tart pungency of tomatillos. Add in sugar to bring the bitter under control.

The corn was also one of the best surprises. I sing its praises over on Kitchen Geeking. It really was some of the sweetest corn I’ve ever tasted in my life. Cooked with no seasoning, no butter, just steam from the husk in the dry heat of a 350 degree oven.

Garnish with scallions for a crunch and fresh onion flavor.

Roasted Corn & Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese and Ginger/Tomatillo Sauce

  • ½ pound orzo
  • 3 ears of corn
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers
  • 3 T minced fresh ginger
  • 12 medium tomatillos, husk and stems removed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ log of goat cheese
  • Water
  • Salt pepper

    Salad

    1. Cook orzo until al dente. Strain and place in bowl. Toss through with olive oil to avoid clumps.
    2. Place ears of corn in husks in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove hushs and slice corn off the cob.
    3. Dice peppers and add with corn to large bowl. Toss through with salt and pepper.

    Ginger Tomatillo Sauce

    1. Place ginger, tomatillos and water to cover in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatillos are soft.
    2. Place solids in food processor and add liquid by ¼ cup full until sauce is thick to coat the back of a spoon.

    Place ½ cup orzo salad on a plate with a 2 oz. round of goat cheese and pour sauce over goat cheese.

    Thanks to Susan for the photo of this dish.

Curried Chicken Salad with Walnuts & Cranberries and Curried Pea Dip

July 23, 2008


What we have here is my love of curry. It’s only foreign until you try it. It’s a sweet and tangy blend of spices. You can beat someone over the head with it, or you can tempt them with it. Lead them to a head turning “What is that flavor?” moment.

Garnish on this particular plating was parsley to get an herb note and lemon zest to cut into the creamy texture of each appetizer with an a bright acid note.

Also of note, the pea dip is not an original recipe. It came from one of those urban-hipster living magazines that matches article versions of the Travel Channel, HGTV, and the Food Network for today’s sassy-yuppy.

I think it just tastes very refreshing and is damn easy to pull together.

Curried Chicken Salad with Walnuts & Cranberries

  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 diced scallions
  • ¼ head chopped radicchio
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T curry powder
  • 2 T Olive oil
  1. Trim any skin and fat from the edges of the chicken.
  2. Toss the chicken in the curry powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat a skillet to med-high heat. Add chicken and cook through. For thick breasts, you may want to cook on each side for about 4-5 minutes then butterfly the breasts and sear off the middle to ensure doneness.
  4. Allow the chicken to cool.
  5. Chop the chicken into small pieces and add to a bowl with the other ingredients. Mix well and chill.

Curried Pea Dip

  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 scallions, rough chopped
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1-2 T curry powder
  • Olive oil (between 3 and 6T)
  1. Throw the first four ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse a few times.
  3. Turn processor to on and drizzle oil in until desired consistency.
  4. Serve with toasted pita, bagel chips, or veggies.

If you haven’t thawed the peas, start the process with a bit of water in the bowl to get things started.

Thanks to Susan for the photo of this dish.