Growing Home Ep. 3 - Growing Flavor with Chef Jonathan Hudak

Growing Home Ep. 3 - Growing Flavor with Chef Jonathan Hudak

 


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Episode 3 is our interview with Jonathan Hudak, the chef of Cafemantic, about what he looks for in quality ingredients, how we can prepare to be the chefs in our own homes this holiday season, and bit about what it was like to be recognized by the New York Times. 

Chef Jonathan Hudak at the Farmer's Market

1. What got you into cooking? 
  • Started working at the same restaurant as his mother as a dishwasher. 
  • Influenced by the French Laundry Cookbook
  • Eventually worked at Grants in West Hartford as a line cook and chef de cuisine.
  • Grants inspired Hudak’s interest in a variety of fine dining

2. When did you start at Cafemantic?
  • Founded as a coffee shop in 2012 by Andrew Gutt
  • Gutt wanted a dinner service
  • Hudak worked as a consultant, but ended up joining Cafemantic 
  • Cafemantic emphasizes sharing plates, so people can taste a variety of dishes

3. What was it like getting recognized by the New York Times?
  • Hudak says it changed restaurant for the better
  • “Very flattering” article written in 2014 by Rand Cooper

4. What makes a great meal?
  • Good company can make a good meal

5. Presentation
  • We’re focused on being a neighborhood restaurant
  • More concerned with the flavors than specific plating

6. Thought process behind dishes
  • We let season and availably dictate menus
  • An experienced chef can predict what a dish may taste like
  • Dishes are developed through conceptualizing and what ingredients are at their best

7. What did you learn from working with farmers and fishermen?
  • Winter Caplanson started RSAs - Restaurant Supported Agriculture
    o We’d get mystery ingredients from different farms and got to see who grew what.
  • Cafemantic and Sweet Acre Farm work together with planting. 

9. What are the criteria for putting something on the menu?
  • Are we excited to make a dish?
  • Is the guest excited?
  • Is it consistently available?
    o Climate can affect how the food behaves

10. What are some tips for Holiday Cooking?
  • Get knives sharpened
  • Do things ahead of time and try to do things in batches
  • Cut all of an ingredient ahead of time
    o Ingredients will stay fresh for a few days in Tupperware or a deli container
  • It’s peaceful to work in an organized fashion. 
  • Try to do things simply
  • Let other guests bring dishes
  • Roasting something ahead, then reheat before serving
  • Turkey legs need to be cooked a different temperature than the rest of the bird
    o Cook turkey legs in chicken fat, pork fat or duck fat
    o Cook the legs ahead of time, then crisp them up in a skillet before serving
  • You can make soups ahead of time, just serve with a fresh garnish

11. Is there an easy recipe of yours that can impress guests?
  • Butternut squash soup
  • People are always asking for it at Cafemantic
  • Recipe is below the outline.

12. Anything exciting coming up?
  • Busy with catering, but fall dishes are coming out.
  • Duck Leg Confit, Cassoulet style will be available the first week of November

13. Restaurant details
  • Menu changes regularly, check on https://cafemantic.com/ 
  • Cafemantic also has a catering company: https://www.ctfeast.com/ 
  • Hours:
           Sunday 10AM–3PM, 5–9PM
           Monday Closed
           Tuesday 11AM–3PM, 5–9PM
           Wednesday 11AM–3PM, 5–9PM
           Thursday 11AM–3PM, 5–9PM
           Friday 11AM–3PM, 5–10PM
           Saturday 11AM–3PM, 5–10PM

Butternut Squash Soup w/ Nutmeg Crème Fraiche by Johnathan Hudak
Ingredients
6 lb ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
1.25 lb SLICED YELLOW ONION
2 0Z MINCED FRESH GINGER
.75 lb SLICED LEEKS, WHITE PART ONLY, RINSED 3X
.5 lb SLICED GREEN APPLE
.5 lb SLICED CELERY
.75 lb SLICED CARROTS
.25 lb BUTTER
.5 C HONEY
1 EA SACHET, (FRESH THYME, SAGE, BAY LEAF, PEPPERCORN, ALLSPICE, CINNAMON, STAR ANISE), A FEW PIECES EACH TIED INTO CHEESE CLOTH.
1-2 GAL VEGETABLE STOCK
.5 lb BROWN BUTTER
----------------------------------
1) SLICE SQUASH IN HALF LONG WAY, SCOOP OUT SEEDS, SEASON WITH SALT AND VEG OIL.
2) PLACE A SAGE LEAF IN T HE CAVITY OF EACH SQUASH AND PLACE CUT SIDE DOWN ON A TRAY COVERED WITH PARCHMENT PAPER.
3) ROAST IN A 300F OVEN FOR ABOUT 1 HOUR, UNTIL THE NECKS ARE FORK TENDER
4) SCOOP SQUASH OUT FROM SKIN AND WEIGH OUT 6 LBS. ABOUT 6-8 SQUASH WORTH
5) MELT BUTTER IN LARGE STOCK POT AND ADD ALL VEG.
6) SWEAT UNTIL TENDER WITH NO COLOR
7) ADD HONEY AND LIGHTLY CARAMELIZE
8) ADD ROASTED SQUASH, SACHET AND ENOUGH STOCK TO COVER BY 3-4 INCHES
9) SIMMER ON MED LOW HEAT FOR 30 MIN.\
10) DISCARD SACHET, AND LET COOL TO ROOM TEMP
11) IN BATCHES, TRANSFER TO A BLENDER AND BLEND ON HIGH IN 1 MINUTE INTERVALS
12) COMBINE BATCHES TOGETHER IN POT AND WISK.
13) FOR BROWN BUTTER, HEAT .5lb BUTTER IN SMALL SAUCE PAN AND COOK UNTIL FOAMY, IT SHOULD SMELL SLIGHTLY NUTTY. REMOVE FROM PAN IMMEDIATELY TO STOP THE COOKING. THE MILK SOLIDS SHOULD LOOK GOLDEN BROWN
14) ADD BROWN BUTTER INTO SOUP, WISK AND ADJUST SEASONING WITH SALT, AND ANY FALL SPICES.
Nutmeg Crème Fraiche
1 C Crème Fraiche
½ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Salt
Mix together, garnish each soup with a drizzle or scoop of crème fraiche.

Previous episode Growing Home Ep. 4 - Holiday Pet Safety with Dr. Dennis & Dr. Ceranowicz
Next episode Growing Home Ep. 2 - Selecting and Understanding Grass Seed with Barry Green

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