Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

Chef Brian Poe shows you the world in the back of the house.

Archive for May, 2010

The Flavor of Friendship: Doughnuts

People have always been my favorite part of the restaurant business. Camaraderie is a source of warmth beyond the stove, and when I find a way to someone’s heart through food, it is always an inspiration. As the summer comes around again, we get to reunite with many an old friend—and their tastebuds—on the roof deck, at backyard BBQs, baseball games, and the beach.

Doughnuts I’m particularly fond of because they remind me of a dear friend I made when I first moved to Boston to run the restaurnat at the Boston Millennium Hotel, then called Seasons. It was a snowy Sunday night in January, and I was doing double duty as manager and chef. The snowstorm had gained momentum, so I sent my cooks and servers home early to beat the dangers of a Nor’easter. The restaurant had already closed for the night and as I did a pass through to turn off the lights and the stereo and lock up the wine, I looked up to see two people sitting at a table, menus and glasses of wine in hand.

I panicked, because not only did I have no servers, I had already put all of my mise en place away. I quickly called room service down to help me if need be. As I approached the table, I asked if I could be of assistance. I got the kindest response. The gentleman told me that that table was the one his mother had always sat at when she would came to Seasons, and that he and his girlfriend had just gotten engaged right there on the spot. Time for a celebration! They assured me they were not too hungry—but that they certainly loved food. So I took them back into the kitchen and we prepared a dish together. As we cooked, we began to exchange great stories about New England, especially its food.  Together we ate the dish that we prepared—which happened to include one of my first takes on the baked brie empanada!—and then I bade the lovebirds goodnight.

A few months later, the phone in the kitchen rang. It was Tom, the gentleman from that evening. He thanked me for the wonderful evening and asked if I would like to join him and his fiancée Alla on their boat over the summer. So we made a plan to meet up in mid-July.

Now, the girl that I was dating then was a little worried about this boat, picturing some tiny little fishing vessel, as was I. So we did a little research and, just in case, booked a room at the nearest hotel to the dock. But once we passed through the gates of the club, we found on the other side no little dinghy but an 80-foot yacht with 3 bedrooms! (Cancel that reservation please—we’ll be staying afloat tonight!)

The evening that followed was filled with great wine, incredible food, and fantastic conversation. Near the end of the meal, Tom turned to me and said, “You know, this is probably not something that I should share with a chef but I’ve got a really fun, great dessert…” After such a fun-filled evening, how could I say no?

So he snuck back into the cabin and came out with blueberry ice cream, some caramel, and, of all things—a box of doughnuts. I have to admit, I was a little confused.  But he just smiled—and turned on the grill. Within a matter of minutes we were plating up a messy, fun dessert of grilled doughnuts for everyone. There on the water, it was divine, and it has become one of my favorite summer treats—at home and now at Poe’s Kitchen!

Sure, we’ve added a little sass by making our own cheesecake, huckleberry, and chocolate chip ice creams, then topping it off with a champagne foam. But I’m not going to lie to you—I stay true to Tom and Alla’s recipe by using Dunkin’ Donuts! And they, in turn, have stayed true friends to me.

Now I invite you, new friends and old, to swing by the restaurant for a taste…

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My Multi-Talented Morel Vinaigrette

At Poe’s Kitchen right now we’re serving my take on an empanada: a puff-pastry square stuffed and baked with brie, then drizzled with morel vinaigrette. It’s a dish I’ve served to everyone from Curt Schilling (see here) to guests of the Legacy Dinner that marked the closure of Seasons in 2007, where I cooked with Lydia Shire, Jasper White, Peter McCarthy, and other fellow chefs of the legendary restaurant.

In fact, I’ve been tweaking it since around 2006; what I love about it is the versatility of the components throughout the year. For example, when beets are at their peak, I roast them in jalapeno and citrus and add them to the dish in paper-thin slices for garnish. I also switch the mushrooms in the vinaigrette depending on the season; there are grilled portobellos in the version I serve with my warm portobello salad (see the regular menu here).

Here’s the recipe for the dressing; have fun trying different ‘shrooms like I do!

Morel Vinaigrette

1 lb. morel mushrooms, cleaned
1 t. chopped garlic
1 t. chopped shallots
1 t. chopped fresh herbs (I like oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil)
2 c. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and sauté them in a pan; set aside.

Dip mushrooms into olive oil and shake off excess oil. Season with salt and pepper and sauté in the hot pan for about 5 minutes. Reserve juices and chop the caps with the stems.

In a mixing bowl, combine all remaining ingredients with a wire whip; add the diced mushrooms and juices. Reserve at room temperature. Can be refrigerated for up to one week.