Food & Wine : Spring Fling
Author: Clayton Rollison
After all of this silly cold weather (I know it’s Hilton Head and it wasn’t all that cold), spring is right around the corner. It is the time of year when chefs start to get excited again. Most of us love all the root vegetables, cabbages, greens and hardy braises that we use during the fall and winter seasons. But it’s time for some lighter fare.
Spring is very much the unicorn season for us here. It almost always seems a little elusive. Some years we get way too much rain, or it gets hot really fast, or there is a late freeze that kills everything. It’s just a strange weather pattern for us, but that is what makes everything that is spring so great.
First and foremost, soft shell crabs are coming. We take for granted how truly special they are. When I was cooking in Manhattan, we were bringing in soft shell crabs from northern North Carolina and Virginia. They would cost you your first born child; we sold them for over $40 an entrée. Fresh and alive coming in the back door, they looked like our crabs, they smelled like our crabs, but they weren’t our crabs. They just were not as soft.
They had to spend extra time in the water getting a little firmer to be shipped. If you really want to see how soft shells are harvested, go check out Hudson’s on the Docks. They are doing it in their packing house on the back dock! Yet spring is so much more. The vegetables that show themselves for such a short period are fantastic. At the market, we will see asparagus, fava beans, English peas, spring onions, spring garlic, chive blossoms, fiddlehead ferns, ramps and so much more. That asparagus you just ate in December out of Peru has nothing on what is going to be at the farmers market. Not just that, but there are wild edible greens that pop up: lemon balm, purse lain, sorrel, chamomile, dandelions, and still too many more to name. Maybe that’s why all of this sounds so great—it’s only here for a moment.
I couldn’t tell you if I would still love fava beans if I could have them year round. I think because the season for them is so short, I love them much more. Maybe it is all the work that goes into shucking them, blanching them, peeling them, and finally cooking and serving them.
Spring is tricky. It separates who is truly paying attention and who is still doing the same ol’ thing. That flash of life is why I love the spring: It’s here, then it’s gone.
Clayton Rollison is the chef/owner of Lucky Rooster Restaurant in South Island Square.
Sausage Stuffed Yellow Peppers
Recipe courtesy of Pomodori
INGREDIENTS: 4 yellow peppers (Make sure you find the ones that can stand up on their own.) 1 lb mild Italian sausage (You could have your butcher grind some pork and mix your own!) 1-11/2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce 3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (Don’t skimp on the cheeses; they are very important for flavor… Buy the good stuff; it’ll be worth it. I grate mine in my food processor so it’s fresh…just use the normal blade and let it run until it’s in tiny tiny pieces) 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Same thing, get the good stuff, save and freeze the cheese rinds for flavoring sauces and adding depth of flavor to soups)
Sauté the Italian sausage in a little bit of olive oil until cooked through. in a medium bowl, combine the sauce, cooked sausage and cheeses until you find a desired consistency and flavor.
Carefully cut off the tops of the yellow peppers, keeping the stems intact so that you can replace them during cooking. Remove the membrane and the seeds inside the pepper and underneath the stem. Place the peppers in a baking dish and try and wedge them up next to each other so they stay upright. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Fill the peppers with the mixture and return the tops to the peppers. In your baking dish, add water to the bottom of the pan, about 1/2 inch up the pepper. Cover the peppers with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes, or until the peppers take on your desired firmness.