Tag Archive | "John Besh"

White Asparagus with Poached Egg Dressing

green and white asparagusIn John Besh’s new book, “Cooking From the Heart,” ($40), he dedicates a chapter to vegetables called Vegetable Love.  And, veggie lovers will appreciate these recipes, many of which could easily outshine the usual suspects that turn up on the Thanksgiving table.

Think instead about a Fava Bean and Tomato Ragout, or battered and deep-fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Tomato Vinaigrette. Or, this candidate for our own Thanksgiving dinner, White Asparagus with Poached Egg Dressing.

We’d say that any asparagus would do, from purple, green, white or white with green tips. This recipe, though, gives tips on how to treat white asparagus, which is done a little differently from the green variety: It must be cooked a little longer at at a lower temperature, says Besh, so that it loses its astringency and develops a sweet, delicate flavor.

White Asparagus with Poached Egg Dressing

1 bunch white asparagus, about 1 1/2 pounds


Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 small shallot, chopped

1/4 cup verjus (see note)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 small bunch fresh chives, snipped

Leaves from three sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped

Trim about an inch from the ends of each asparagus spear, then peel with a vegetable peeler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the lemon juice and sugar. Drop in the asparagus and simmer for about 10 minutes; drain.

Bring the eggs to a simmer in a small pot of water. Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit for about 3 minutes, allowing the eggs to slowly cook. Crack the eggs into a blender, making sure you have removed all of the egg from the shells.

Add the garlic, shallots and verjus to the blender. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and blend. With the blender running, add the olive oil slowly, until everything is fully  incorporated and the dressing is creamy and pale yellow. Pour the dressing into a small bowl. Fold in the chives and tarragon and season with salt. Serve the asparagus with the warm dressing.

(Note) Verjus, also called verjuice, is a high-acid juice made from pressed, unripe grapes (or sometimes with another sour fruit, such as crabapple). If you don’t have verjus, try lemon juice, an acidic young white wine or vermouth.

Makes 4 servings.

From John Besh, “Cooking From the Heart”




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Fine Swine, Cold Beer and a Prelude of Summer in One Event

Members of the the Art Institute of San Antonio prepare a paella for guests of the second Fine Swine Cook-off.

Members of the the Art Institute of San Antonio prepare a paella for guests of the second Fine Swine Cook-off.

FLORESVILLE — The temperatures hit new heights for the year Sunday and the sun was somewhat unforgiving at the South Texas Heritage Pork farm as three culinary schools prepared pigs for the second annual Fine Swine Cook-Off and Flavor Fest.

Guests line up for lettuce cups filled with pork and rice.

Guests line up for lettuce cups filled with pork and rice.

But withstanding the heat of the kitchen — even an outdoor kitchen — is something all chefs-in-training learn how to handle, so there were few grumbles, though most welcomed the shade of their tents while they cooked away.

The teams from the Art Institute of San Antonio, the Culinary Institute of America and the San Antonio Food Bank were all trying to be the most creative with every last bit of meat found on the pig. So, the ear might be fried and used as a garnish on a salad. Or the heart could be turned into jerky (see recipe below). One group even bottled its own … mmm … Bacon Soda.

These dishes were all for the judges. Meanwhile, the rest of the guests treated themselves to an assortment of treats available in another competition. A group of chefs from Corpus Christi offered a seafood sampling that included an oyster on the half shell with a lemon grass and horseradish gelée, shrimp headcheese, shrimp shell stock with lemon foam and shrimp sausage. Where Y’at’s Pieter Sypesteyn served crispy pork boudin balls and steaming hot bowls of goat and hominy gumbo, while Brandon McKelvey of Say.She.Ate fried chicken in duck fat. James Canter, who won last week’s Paella Challenge, showcased quail in an oyster kimchee sauce with watermelon radish.

Local beers from Ranger Creek, Alamo, Guadalupe and Saint Arnold were on tap, while Pedernales Cellars wines were available.

Cutting up every bit of pork flavor.

Cutting up every bit of pork flavor.

In the end, the judges’ panel gave top pork prize to the Art Institute while their favorite of the open contest from the rest of the chefs on hand went to the team from the Corpus Christi area, which included Paul Morales, Audie Morris and David Graham. (This was a second win for Morales, who was part of the award-winning pork team from last year, also the Art Institute.) The people’s choice award went to the team from the Texas Cooks Co-op. (The judges’ panel included celebrity chef John Besh as well as local chefs Steven McHugh, Michael Sohocki, David Gilbert and John Russ among others.)

But the real winners were those who got to sample these local foods, whether it was the pork at center stage, the goat, the chicken or the quail. All of it came from Texas, if not specifically from the region south of San Antonio where South Texas Heritage is located. It had to be prepared on site, but it also had to be humanely raised, which also means healthier for those eating the food.

Pig Heart Jerky

Brian West of the CIA bastes a fresh ham.

Brian West of the CIA bastes a fresh ham.

1 pig heart
3 1/2 ounces soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red chile flakes6 ounces crushed black peppercorns or red chile flakes (optional)

Pat dry the heart and remove all fat and veins from the heart. Cut into thin slices, approximately 1/4 inch thick. Mix soy sauce, liquid smoke, granulated garlic, Worcestershire sauce, granulated onion, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon red chile flakes together in a zip-lock bag. Add the heart slices and marinate for 24 hours. Flip the bag over every 5 hours or so to get even distribution of the marinade.

Remove the heart slices from the marinade and pat extremely dry. If you want a more peppered jerky, roll the slices in crush black peppercorns or red chile pepper flakes.

Lay out the pieces in an even layer on a food dehydrator. The slices are done when they shrunken 30 percent to 40 percent and are dry but pliable.

From the Art Institute of San Antonio


A member of the Art Institute's team prepares to serve the judges.

A member of the Art Institute’s team prepares to serve the judges.

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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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Restaurant Notes & Quotes: Fig Tree Tasting Menu, Barriba Cantina to Open

Chef John Besh, right, of Lüke New Orleans and Lüke San Antonio.

Notable Quote
“When I speak of one of our chefs doing good acts through food it’s not about Besh, but it’s about what we can all do each day.”

— Chef John Besh,on Twitter, talking about Lüke San Antonio chef Steven McHugh cooking jambalaya for those involved in the Bastrop area fire.

 Z’Tejas Chile Fest to benefit San Antonio youths

Between  now and Sept 25,  Z’Tejas offers dishes featuring the popular Hatch green chiles. One dollar of every entrée sold from the Chile Fest menu will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio. This is the first year for Z’Tejas’ new location at The Shops of La Cantera to participate in the annual event.

Barriba Cantina coming soon on the River Walk

Serving Mexican street food and offering catering and live music, Barriba Cantina, from The County Line Bar-B-Q restaurant, will open Sept. 12 on the River Walk, 111 Crockett St.

Barriba Cantina will be on the second and third floors of the same building that houses The County Line. It will have balconies and patios overlooking the river, while the second floor will offer large meeting spaces, also with river and San Antonio skyline views.

Open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday – Saturday, Barriba will serve food such as Mango Pork Carnitas (slow-cooked lean pork with a blend of traditional Mexican seasonings, garnished and served on corn tortillas; Baja Pescado (tilapia seasoned with a mild ancho chile rub, served on corn tortillas); and Tacos Del Rey (beef marinated with mild chipotle chiles and a blend of Mexican spices).  The Tacos del Rey were created in honor of Randy Goss, the late owner of The County Line.

On the drinks menu: Bango Mango Martini (pineapple infused Sauza Tequila, mango, lime juice and Dulce Vida Organic Agave Nectar) and Berriba (Bacardi, Triple Sec, pineapple juice, blueberries and raspberries).  A to-go menu will eventually be added.

Barriba will also offer live acoustical music everyday from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., with a cover charge after 10 p.m. (cover charge will vary based on musicians).  Music schedules will be updated regularly on Barriba Cantina’s Facebook page.

Fig Tree tasting menus through September

The Fig Tree Restaurant is offering its popular tasting menu through September. The prix fixe price is $39, and there is complimentary parking at the restaurant, in La Villita. The menus will change weekly. To see what is being served, check this website. To make reservations, call 210-224-1976.

Fishland Fish Market to move next door

Fried fish at Fishland.

Fried fish at Fishland Fish Market, 4941 Walzem Road, is closing for a few days while the owners pack up and move to a larger space next door. The move will give them more room for customers to dine in and enjoy the fried fish, shrimp and oysters on the menu.

The new place will open Thursday (Sept. 15), so be patient while waiting for some of that drum, tilapia or sole.

The phone will still be 210-655-3232.

SavorSA reviewed this gem close to two years ago, on Sept. 10, 2009, and the praise still holds true.)

Take tour of Northern Italy at Tre Trattoria downtown

Italian red wine on the pairing menu

Chef Jason Dady takes you on a tour of the flavors of Northern Italy paired with wines from that region, on Sept. 16. Priced at $40 per person, this four-course wine pairing dinner begins with a cocktail reception and seasonal hors d’oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Alamo St., at The Fairmount Hotel. For reservations: 210- 223-0401 or email

On the menu: first Course, Baby Arugula, toasted walnuts, gorgonzola, roasted grapes with NV Tervisol Prosecco; second course, Risotto Milanese with ‘08 Pieropan Soave Classico; third course,  Bistecca alla Fiorentina, sweet corn crema, roasted mushrooms, goat cheese polenta and radicchio marmelatta with ’06 Sanguineti Nessum Dorma. For dessert,  Lemon Panna Cotta, blueberry and thyme shortbread with  ’06 Ceretto Moscato D’Asti

Country French Wine Dinner at Crumpets Restaurant & Bakery

Crumpets, at 3920 Harry Wurzbach, offers this wine dinner featuring premier French vineyards matched with French fare. 7 p.m. Sept. 16, $70 per person. Make reservations at 210-821-5600. Or send email to Seating is limited, so make reservations soon.

Wine and food pairing: Macon Lugny “Les Charmes” with Vol au Vent St. Jacques; Ragotiere Muscadet with Paté Mousseline aux Truffles; Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages with Escalope de Veau aux Cognac; Chateau Larose Trintaudon Bordeaux with Filet de Bœuf aux Poivres; Les Clos de Paulilles Banyuls with Mille Feuille de Deux Crèmes for dessert.

Frances Strange to be guest on KCWX cable channel 4

Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes

What do Paula Abdul, Kim Kardashian, Ivanka Trump and Frances Strange have in common? They all have the distinction of being celebrity guests on the national syndicated lifestyle show from “Better Homes and Gardens Magazine,” titled simply, “Better.”

Now, San Antonio author Frances Strange will head to New York City to tape her “Better” segment, which is scheduled to air in San Antonio Sept. 23 at 7 a.m. on KCWX, local cable channel 4.

Tune in to catch Strange dishing about her famous cookbook “Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes,” sharing her secrets for entertaining and preparing her best Texas-style recipes including Shrimp and Crab Corn Cakes, Pan de Campo, and the cool Café Mystique iced beverage.










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John Besh Here in August for KLRN Chef Series

John Besh (center) talks with guests at Luke.

Celebrity chef John Besh, owner of Lüke restaurants in both San Antonio and in New Orleans, will be here  Monday, August 15, as the guest chef and star of the KLRN Chef Series.

The award-winning chef, whose cooking show airs on KLRN-TV, will bring the flavors of New Orleans here as he presents from 7 to 9 p.m. at the St. Anthony Hotel, 300 E. Travis St.  He’ll do a cooking demonstration based on recipes from his cookbook “My New Orleans: The Cookbook.” Then, those in attendance will dine on a multi-course, authentic Southern meal.

Tickets are $150 a person or $1,800 per table. For more information, call 210-270-9000 or click  here.




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Texas Food and Wine — What a Sensational Pair

Chef Kelly Casey (with pastry bag) of Hudson's on the Bend in Austin plates her dinners.

It wasn’t about the prosciutto-wrapped quail, so juicy and tender with each bite. It wasn’t about the cocoa powder and raspberry flavors that mingled so beautifully in each sip of the Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet blend.

It was, however, about how the lush red fruit flavors of the 2007 Fall Creek Meritus joined with slices of Texas beef tenderloin marinated in coffee and chipotle to reach new  gustatory heights.

That was the point of the first Edible Texas Wine-Food Match, held Friday at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

Five chefs, narrowed down from a field of more than 35, were competing to see who could make the most successful pairings of Texas ingredients with Texas wines.

It was clear to both the celebrity judges’ panel and to the audience who did that best: David Garrido of Garrido’s in Austin.

Susan Auler (left) of Fall Creek Vineyards and celebrity chef Jacques Pépin enjoy the Edible Texas Wine-Food Match.

The chef, who once worked for Bruce Auden at the original Biga, took home the $5,000 grand prize as well as the People’s Choice Award. The centerpiece of his meal was the already-mentioned beef tenderloin with the Meritus,  but he also presented a crispy oyster with habanero-honey aïoli partnered with the Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2010 and a pastel de calabaza, or zucchini cake, with lemon crema and spicy caramelized pecans served with the Sister Creek Muscat Canelli 2010.

Patrick James “P.J.” Edwards of San Antonio’s Bin 555 won a second place commendation from the judges for his meal, which started with a crudo of Gulf Coast group with cured Poteet strawberries and Becker Vineyards Provençal Rosé 2009. It was followed by roasted lamb loin with herb-glazed turnips and porcini-raspberry soil, which was presented with the Becker Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. A Grapefruit “Dreamsicle” with vanilla semifreddo and the Becker Vineyards Clementine 2010 rounded out his meal.

Organizer Marla Camp

Other chefs in the competition included Peter Smith of the JW Marriott in San Antonio as well as Kelly Casey of Hudson’s on the Bend in Austin and Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill in Fredericksburg. Each presented small plate versions of his or her entire menu to the crowd.

Chef Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill's Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail alongisde a Fredericksburg Market Salad with Pickled Peaches.

The local ingredients included a number of treasures worth seeking out at farmers markets as well as grocery stores: Pure Luck cheeses, Round Rock Honey, quail from Diamond H and Texas Quail farms, Shiner Bock, Broken Arrow Ranch Venison, Bluebonnet Hydroponics lettuces, and Texas olive oil. Alongside Casey’s blue cheese cheesecake were figs from her own trees.

Other Texas wines poured included Messina Hof’s Riesling and Riesling “Angel,” Perrisos Viognier and Petite Sirah, Stone House Scheming Beagle Port, and Flat Creek Muscato, Estate Syrah and Port.

Kelly Casey's Hopelessly Blue Cheesecake with her homegrown figs.

The judges included celebrity chefs Jacques Pépin and John Besh as well as Mozzarella Company found Paula Lambert, François Dionot of L’Academie de Cuisine and Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Proceeds from the evening, planned by Marla camp of Edible Austin and Terry Thompson-Anderson of the Texas Food and Wine Gourmet, will benefit the not-for-profit Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, which is being planned for Fredericksburg. The goal is to raise all of the money needed to operate the center before it opens in October 2013.


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CIA: Video Podcast with Steve McHugh of Lüke

Check out a new video podcast from the CIA, with Steve McHugh, executive chef of Lüke San Antonio.

During the podcast, McHugh speaks about his experiences working with chef John Besh (owner of Lüke in New Orleans), the process of opening Lüke here in San Antonio, and the myriad of culinary resources that exist within this city.

“San Antonio is a tourist destination for people seeking history and culture,” says McHugh. “Within the last 10 years the city has also become a culinary destination. What visitors find when they eat in the restaurants here is cuisine rich with Latin and German influences.”

Steve McHugh of Luke featured on CIA video podcast.

McHugh partnered with Besh, a renowned New Orleans chef, to open Lüke on San Antonio’s River Walk in 2010.

Thirteen years earlier, he had graduated with his associate degree in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America’s flagship campus in Hyde Park, NY—the same program Besh completed in 1992.

McHugh also takes the opportunity to reflect on how his CIA education prepared him for the challenge of working alongside Besh. In addition, he speaks about the CIA expanding its San Antonio offerings to now include a full associate degree program in culinary arts, and what the college’s presence means for the city.

“I think the CIA opening up here in San Antonio is going to do a lot for the city,” says McHugh. “Having these students and graduates available right here to bring into our restaurants is a great asset to all of us.”

The first class for the CIA San Antonio associate degree program starts on August 22, 2011. For more information about the program, or to learn more about upcoming admissions information sessions, visit

To view the video, connect here to YouTube page.

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Two Local Chefs Are Finalists in Food-Wine Competition

The finalists for the first Edible Texas Wine-Food Match have been announced, and two San Antonio chefs are among the top five.

They include Patrick James Edwards of Jason Dady’s Bin 555 at Artisans Alley, 555 Bitters Road, and Peter Smith of JW Marriott Hill Country Resort, 23808 Resort Parkway.

The other finalists  include Kelly Casey of Jeff Blank’s Hudson’s on the Bend in Austin, David Garrido of Garrido’s Restaurant in Austin and Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill in Fredericksburg.

The finalists were chosen from a field of 27 entries. Each chef had to present a three-course meal featuring Texas products and paired with Texas wines. Among the judges were chef Monica Pope of Houston’s t’afia, Mary Martini of Central Market, Pat Sharpe of Texas Monthly, and Bonnie Walker and John Griffin of SavorSA.

Judges for the finals will include celebrity chefs Jacques Pépin and John Besh; François Dionot, founder of L’Academie de Cuisine; and Paula Lambert, founder of the Mozzarella Company.

The five finalists will prepare their tasting menu at a sit-down dinner set for 7 p.m. June 3 at the AT&T Executive Conference Center, 1900 University Ave., Austin. Tickets are priced at $100 apiece with proceeds benefiting the new nonproft Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts. The grand prize winner will be announced at the end of the evening. A People’s Choice Award will also be presented.

The event is being presented by Edible Austin and The Texas Food and Wine Gourmet.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

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Pork Rules at Paella Challenge

Jeff Balfour's paella

Want to make your own award-winning paella at home? Start with a whole roasted pig.

That was chef Jeff Balfour’s secret at Sunday’s second annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

“We took a roasted whole pig, a happy little Texas pig,” said a beaming and exhausted Balfour of Citrus at the Hotel Valencia, 150 E. Houston St., shortly after winning the award. His team used the shoulder and the butt among other fleshy parts in the paella itself and then garnished each serving with succulent bits of tongue and cheek.

It was over the top and gave Balfour victory in the competition. “We placed third last year and first this year,” he said, while holding the crown-shaped award.

Jeffrey Balfour of Citrus with his award.

Balfour offers paella at Citrus, but it’s a made-to-order version. For those who couldn’t make Sunday’s Paella Challenge but want to try the chef’s winning creation, it will likely be offered for a few nights in the near future, he said. Call 210-230-8412 for more details.

Winning second place was the team from Lüke, which is near Citrus at 125 E. Houston St. “They’re practically just right across the street from us,” Balfour said.

Chef Stephen McHugh, who worked with John Besh on the Lüke team, also used pork in their paella. Pork belly, actually, which was mixed with crawfish. McHugh was grateful for second place considering it was the team’s first time to participate.

Third place went to Jhojans Priego of Villa Rica in Veracruz, Mexico.

Last year’s champion, Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, Calif., had planned on defending his title. But word had it that a bad case of food poisoning prevented him from showing.

Crowds enjoy the perfect weather as well as the excellent food.

What he missed was an imaginative array of paellas that used ingredients in wholly unexpected ways, said Leslie Horne of Aurelia’s Chorizo in Boerne. Truffles and foraged mushrooms as well as her chorizo were among the ingredients the throngs sampled in the various dishes served throughout the day.

“The imagination that went into all of these dishes was most impressive, to say the least,” Horne said. “They went the whole hog with Jeffrey’s.”

The most creative, in her opinion was a Thai green curry paella from Jeffrey Axell of the Grand Hyatt, 600 E. Market St. The dish was a way of showing off the restaurant’s new Asian fusion cuisine.

Ford may not have made the event, but other chefs from around the country did. A few included Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas, Peter Holt of Houston’s Lupe Tortilla, Dale Miller of Sperry’s in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Tim McCarty of the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minn., who was grateful for the balmy weather.

Paellas of all different flavors filled the event.

Local chefs who served up paellas to the hungry masses included Craig Bianco of RK Group, Brian West of the Hotel Contessa, Jason Dady of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and others, and David Wirebaugh of the downtown Hyatt Regency.

Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria Ice House at the Pearl and True Flavors Catering organized the event, which benefits scholarship programs at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus and the Education Foundation of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Besh’s Pork Rillettes a Great Party Appetizer

Pork Shoulder Rillettes

Cookies, cakes and sweets of all type are exchanged among friends this time of year. But the food gift you give doesn’t have to be sweet. Try this recipe for Pork Shoulder Rillettes from Lüke creator John Besh.

Put this savory appetizer out for a party, with crackers, sliced baguette, cornichons and olives.

“Rillettes are meats cooked in lard, shredded and packed into jars, and then chilled and spread like pâté on toast,” the chef says in “My New Orleans: The Cookbook.” “It is certainly an ambitious recipe, which is precisely why I love to put up jars of rillettes and give them to friends around the holiday season. Cooked duck legs and their fat, the skin and bones removed, can easily be substituted for the pork shoulder and pork fat.”

People also love the personal touch of a handmade food gift, Besh said when he was in San Antonio recently for the grand opening of the San Antonio Lüke at 125 E. Houston St. That’s what makes these so welcome at Christmas or any time of year.

Pork Shoulder Rillettes

1 pound lard
3 onions, chopped
1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless Boston butt pork roast
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, halved
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Melt the lard in a large enameled cast-iron pot with a lid over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut the pork into large pieces and season with salt and pepper.

Add the pork to the pot along with the garlic, celery, chicken stock, wine, thyme, bay leaves and pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and slowly simmer for 3 hours.

Remove the pork from the pot and place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed.

Remove and discard the celery, thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the pot. Slowly add the remaining broth from the pot to the meat in the mixer bowl, continuing to mix at low speed until all the broth has been incorporated back into the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Pack the cooled pork in a terrine or in small sterilized jars. Cover well and refrigerate. Jarred rillettes will keep for 6 months.

Makes 10-15 pint  jars.

From “My New Orleans: The Cookbook” by John Besh

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