The latest restaurant trend to source local, sustainable ingredients is gaining steam. Here’s how to implement it in your Texas kitchen
Story and Recipes by Tom Flynn
Seasonal ingredients locally sourced from sustainable suppliers are the future for restaurants, at least according to Current’s executive chef, Richard Mendoza, who preaches on creating ecologically sound menus. I’ve heard the sermon. Sitting at his desk wearing his tall chef’s hat with his feet flat on the floor, he spits fire and brimstone rhetoric on the sins of the food business. To paraphrase him: “Thou shalt not order product from California and waste hundreds of gallons on fuel having it delivered to Texas. Thou shalt not support a supplier who spits emissions into the air, or harms our streams, lakes or oceans. Thou shalt not serve aging and wilting ingredients that rode on a truck from afar. Thou shalt honor world-classic dishes created from fresh local ingredients.” Amen, brother.
I travel all over the world researching our “On the Menu” features. The kitchen at the Westin in The Woodlands (in which Current resides) is the most professional I’ve ever seen, from the facilities to the staff and processes. I spent an afternoon listening to their culinary philosophy and cooking secrets. When it came time to practice the recipes I learned, I realized how true they were to the chef’s philosophy. I ventured out to the beach, snagged a couple redfish and harvested crabs from my traps. I purchased dairy products, corn, edible flowers and shallots from Central Market. Virtually everything else came out of my garden. Get ready for a fresh, real Texas meal.
Tomato Burrata Salad
Place a mound of Burrata cheese in the center of a plate. Cut a variety of heirloom tomatoes into slices or wedges and scatter around the cheese, making sure not to overcrowd. Season the tomatoes and cheese with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. Garnish with micro arugula, basil and edible flowers.
Lump Crab Cake with Creamed Corn and Romesco Sauce
For the Creamed Corn:
3 ears corn
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup diced red onions
½ cup diced green bell peppers
salt and pepper to taste
For the Sauce:
3 red bell peppers
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ cup almonds
1 loaf white bread, cubed
3 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small shallot
1 (1-ounce) package ancho chiles,
salt and pepper to taste
For the Crab Cakes:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 celery stalk, minced
¼ yellow onion, minced
4 fresno peppers, seeded and diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups fresh bread, cubed
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons old bay seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced chives, plus
more for garnish
1 pound jumbo lump crab
- Make the corn: Shuck the corn, and then remove the kernels and set them aside.
- Place the corn cobs and cream in a pot over medium-low and and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, warm the oil in a skillet over medium and sauté the onions, peppers and reserved corn kernels for 3–5 minutes. Strain the cream and add to the skillet. Allow to reduce and thicken to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make the sauce: Roast the bell peppers over an open flame, cover, steam, then peel off the skin. Warm the oil in a skillet over medium and lightly toast the almonds, bread, garlic and pepper flakes. Place the roasted peppers and skillet mixture (including the oil) in a blender and puree with the remaining ingredients, adding water if needed to thin. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make the crab cakes: Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a pan over medium and sauté the celery, onions, both peppers and garlic, until translucent. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Combine the bread, mayo, seasoning, parsley, chives and cooled vegetables in a bowl until incorporated. Gradually add the crab, being careful not to overmix and break up the crab. Shape the mixture into patties. Warm the remaining oil over medium-high and cook the crab cakes on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Serve the crab cakes with the creamed corn and Romesco sauce on the side, garnished with chives.
Blackened Redfish with Beurre Blanc and Southern Green Beans with Red Butter
The classic French sauce Beurre Blanc is rich as can be, thanks to a heavy dose of butter and cream. Literally translating to “white butter,” it’s balanced here by aromatic shallots and acidity from white wine and lemon juice.
For the Beurre Blanc:
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 sticks butter, cubed and at room
For the redfish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound redfish
1 tablespoon blackened seasoning
microgreens for serving
For the Herb Butter:
1 stick butter
3 roasted garlic cloves
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped thyme
¼ cup chopped chives
For the Green Beans:
½ pound bacon
3 tablespoons herb butter
1 cup julienned onions
2 cups haricot vert, trimmed, halved
salt and pepper to taste
- Make the beurre blanc: Place the shallots, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, lemon juice and wine in a pot. Simmer over low until reduced by three-quarters. Add the cream and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and begin adding the butter. (Note: Add the butter to taste; the goal is to mellow the acidity with the butter.) Once complete, strain and keep warm. Remember that too much butter will break with too much heat.
- Make the fish: Melt the butter in a skillet over high. Coat the redfish in the seasoning and sear for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for 2–3 minutes.
- To serve, ladle some beurre blanc in the center of a plate and top with the redfish and Southern Green Beans with Herb Butter. Garnish with microgreens.
Herbed Butter and Green Beans
- Make the butter: Cream together all the ingredients in a bowl. Transfer the mixture to parchment paper and roll into a log. Chill in the fridge until firm, about 1 hour.
- Cook the bacon in a pan over medium until the fat renders and the bacon is slightly browned. Add the herb butter and onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the beans and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat once warmed through.
- Serve with the Blackened Redfish (see plating in last step, at right).
Mule Yakult Mojito
Yakult is a probiotic yogurt drink that delivers an almost lassi like, creamy flavor to this mojito.
For 1 drink, muddle fresh mint to taste with 2 teaspoons sugar and the juice from 2 lime wedges in a Moscow mule cup. Add ice and then 2 ounces rum. Top off with club soda or apple cider and Yakult. Garnish with more mint, 1 lime wedge and blueberries (optional).