Recently, I had the honor of hosting Jennifer Biggs, food writer for the Commercial Appeal, with her bi-monthly Lunch Bunch. Jennifer has a restaurant host a luncheon, and the chefs prepare a special meal for her group. Usually these are limited to around 20-30 people, but I was hosting at Steak by Melissa, so we had plenty of room! I decided to turn it into a “chef’s table” luncheon and serve small plates. We had nearly 90 people come to the event, so I knew I had my work cut out for me!
In the restaurant business, you get used to working some long days. Consistency is key- executing the recipes over and over so you can ensure good quality for your guests. However, since this was a special event, I decided to step out a little and share some of my favorite dishes! Even though it was hectic, stressful and super busy, I literally have not had that much fun in a long time!
For the menu, I decided to start with a deviled egg. My daughter will tell you I am a deviled egg addict! When I make them at home, you’ll be lucky if I end up saving any for dinner! For this meal, I made a classic deviled egg but topped it with a chive-truffle vinaigrette. Delish!
The next course was burrata and prosciutto salad. If you haven’t had burrata, think ultra-creamy mozzarella. It’s a fresh mozzarella cheese that has been filled with ricotta. The saltiness of prosciutto goes perfectly with this. I added some EVOO, some peach puree and a balsamic reduction, then sprinkled just a bit of Malden salt on it. One of my favorite things to enjoy in the world.
Next up was one of my broiled crab cakes. Now, if you’ve had most crab cakes you know that they are mostly cake, and little crab. What a waste of calories. I make mine with just crab, a dab of mayo to hold it together, and seasonings. Broil them until hot then serve with a little remoulade (this recipe is in my second cookbook Smokin’ Hot in the South.)
Where’s the meat?
You know when I plan a meal, it will certainly have a meat course (or two!) First up was a petite (5 oz) grilled filet, topped with shiitakes and a shishito pepper (check out a recipe here.) You may not know of my love for shishitos, but they are a mild, fresh-tasting green pepper. I get them all the time when I travel to the west, but they don’t have a huge following around me yet. I’m working on changing that! They are best served blistered, sprinkled with a little bit of flaked salt. The shishitos were sautéed with sesame oil and just a hint of soy sauce, and went with the filet quite nicely!
The star of the show, however, was a bone-in, Duroc pork chop my friends from Smithfield sent me. These were in whole racks, and I seasoned them and smoked them over pecan wood until they hit 135 degrees. They were then sliced into individual chops, drizzled with a cactus pear BBQ sauce, and served with vanilla-scented sweet potatoes. Very, very good and about the best pork chop I have ever tasted (crediting Smithfield, not myself there.)
For dessert, I served a Meyer Lemon-Bergamot mini bundt cake, with a lemon glaze icing. O my! Bergamots are a citrus, and used to flavor Earl Gray tea, so if you haven’t heard of them before, you’ve probably still tried them. They are very seasonal, and this just happened to coincide with tail end of their growing season, so I couldn’t resist. They add a freshness to items that you just can’t get from other citrus, and they smell wonderful!
I had a great time preparing the food, and was so thankful for my team that helped me get everything served. I think everyone enjoyed their luncheon, and got plenty of food!
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you soon!