Classic blue cheese-stuffed olives are
the inspiration for these onion rings at
Brennan’s of Houston.
Meritage’s garlic-potato fries are made to
order with just five ingredients: duck fat, russet
potatoes, Gilroy garlic, parsley and salt.
Next, he adds blanched peanuts, and stirs
until the sugar crystallizes and becomes
nearly impossible to stir. He turns the heat to
medium, continues stirring to break up the
sugar, and adds grapeseed oil. He turns up
the heat a little, while continuing to stir, until
the sugar melts back and coats the nuts.
origin. Danny Trace, executive chef at
Brennan’s of Houston, pays homage with
his blue cheese olive and onion rings (five
large rings, $7, 50% food cost).
with a mixture of chopped garlic, chopped
parsley and salt, and served immediately.
“I prefer to use palm sugar because it has
more character than regular sugar when
pairing with spices,” Critchley says. “The
grapeseed oil tends to help the spices
adhere to the nuts without being too oily.”
His inspiration came from the classic
blue cheese-stuffed olives. “We took the
classic martini garniture of onion, olives
and blue cheese and turned it into an
appetizer,” he says. “Comfort food has many
interpretations for us. This dish hits many
elements of that. It certainly brings back
memories for me of eating olive salad on
a muffaletta. This dish is an appetizer that
would be comforting to anyone who bellies
up to the bar for a snack.”
John Critchley, executive chef at Urbana
Restaurant and Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.,
says he got hooked on seasoned nuts in
Bangkok, where he ate crystallized spicy
nuts. He now serves his version of beer
nuts ( 4 oz., $3) because “guests want small,
inexpensive but creative bites to go along
with their drinks.”
It takes time to make the nuts to ensure they
are perfectly coated and sweet. “As a good
friend said, ‘If you aren’t dripping with sweat
by the time you are done with these, they
aren’t evenly coated,’” Critchley says.
He starts by boiling palm sugar and water
until the mixture has turned into caramel.
Rob Benes, a Chicago-based journalist, was
previously editor of Chef and Chef Educator
Today. He has more than nine years of
experience writing about chefs, food, wine and
spirits for trade and educational publications.
Josh Thomsen, executive chef at Meritage
at the Claremont, Berkeley, Calif., menus
garlic-potato fries ( 10 oz., $6). “Fries are
served at every college or professional
sporting event in the Bay Area—especially
with garlic on top,” he says.
Pork cracklings are seasoned with
jalapeño/lime salt and served with
mustard aioli at Red Star Tavern
and Roast House.
The key to the recipe is that everything is
made to order, and it’s simple, with only five
ingredients: duck fat, russet potatoes, Gilroy
garlic, parsley and salt. The potatoes are
cut by hand, similar to large shoestrings,
fried in duck fat, drained, then seasoned