Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

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

Archive for Ingredients

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.


On Going Wild with John Dory: A Year in Poe’s Kitchen

What a difference a year makes.

As I was beginning to revamp the menu for spring, I happened to look at my inventory sheets from March 2009:

Chicken tenders
Hot dogs



Premade pizza shells

My list this year reads:

Rattlesnake               Leg of lamb
Duck                           Buffalo
Boar                            Alligator
Venison                     Sweetbreads
Wagyu                        Veal bones
Ribeye                        Beef tenderloin
Chorizo                      Speck
Foie gras

Peruvian potato        Yukon Gold potato
Watercress                 Frisée
Baby arugula             Baby tatsoi
Chocolate mint         Purple asparagus
Chiles: cascabel, guajillo, ancho, Anaheim, poblano, jalapeno, serrano, habanero

Cod                              Salmon
Tuna                           Shrimp
U/10 scallops          Mussels
Clams: Wellfleet, Ipswich
Oysters: Cape, Duxbury

With all of these ingredients, we can go in most any direction our culinary hearts desire. My staff and I are constantly trying to push ourselves forward; we do our damnedest not to repeat anything on the Unleashed menu (though we have some favorites that bring us comfort each season).

Even so, every time I look at an inventory sheet, I ask myself what might be missing—and then I try to fill the gaps in ways that will be as fun for us in the kitchen as they are exciting for you in the dining room.

Take last night. At midnight, I called in my meat and fish orders—and at the end of both messages, I said, “I don’t wish to confuse matters, but if you could just do me one favor—please send me 5 pounds of the freshest ingredient you have in stock. I don’t care what it is—surprise me!” Then I called the produce company, and asked them to send me 1 pound each of 5 surprise ingredients.

This morning is wild; we’re gearing up for a busy lunch. There’s a photo shoot with Tony Caz of the Patriot Ledger on the roofdeck before all hell breaks loose on the line. We cook like mad until 3:15 pm, and now I’m looking at my grab bag of surprises. Yes—there’s a little John Dory, some morels….I’ve got it!

First I’ll season the fish with shiitake dust, wrap it in ramps, and grill it. Then I’ll serve it on a brioche bun with watercress and tomato. On the side, 3-potato salad with Meyer lemon, purple asparagus–morel salsa, and crumbled feta in a smoked Kalamata olive vinaigrette. Voilà—my new fish sandwich.

The opportunities I’ve had this past year to surprise my coworkers, customers, and even myself by transforming classic bar snacks into a wild new category of eclectic eats have been tremendous. Thanks to all who’ve accompanied me on this crazy culinary journey! That includes the exciting new crew who’s helping me make jalapeno sugar for our white chocolate ganache cheesecake with jalapeno lime and strawberry sauce as well as a habanero-infused margarita; for the complete current Unleashed menu, click here!

When Life Gives You Leftover Cranberries, Make Scallops!

With Thanksgiving over and Christmas on the way, I’ve got cranberries on the brain. But the beauty of New England is that there’s always something coming into season, and the window of opportunity I’ve got right now opens on another of my favorites—Nantucket scallops. Nantucket scallop season lasts from November through April. Only 10 bushels of scallops are allowed per boat, per day; it takes the scallopers about four hours to shuck their catch, and then it’s on a plane to me. Thanks to them, every bite of this dish smacks of winter on the Cape.

Nantucket Scallops with Basil Cream and Cranberry Salsa
For the Cream
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. toasted pecans
9 basil leaves
1 pinch chopped fresh garlic
1 pinch chopped fresh shallot
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender; add a touch more heavy cream if too thick for your liking.

For the Salsa
2 t. dried cranberries
1 t. chopped celery
1 t. chopped fennel
3 leaves basil, chiffonaded
1 t. chopped pecans
splash of white wine
juice of 1/2 lime

Mix together and reserve.

For the Scallops
1 lb. Nantucket bay scallops
ca. 1 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
splash of white wine
upland cress (hydroponic watercress) for garnish

In a hot saute pan, melt butter, then add scallops. Allow to caramelize, season with salt and pepper, and deglaze pan with wine.

In the center of the plate, spoon a bit of the basil cream, top with the scallops, then add dollops of cranberry salsa. Garnish with cress and enjoy.

To Market, to Market

We’ve been having loads of fun the past few weeks. We whooped it up at the Hoedown. We did a little cooking for the girls of to benefit Yelp Boston’s donation to ProjectSmile. This weekend, Chef Tony Ambrose, Richard Blatterman of J. Lohr Vineyards, and I will be doing an in-home dinner to benefit the kids and kind folks of AccesSportAmerica. And back at the Rattlesnake, we’re getting fresh.

You see, Poe’s Kitchen is surrounded by daily markets. And my Unleashed menu abounds with daily specials. And that’s no coincidence. We send one of our guys up to the market (mostly Copley Plaza, then the Pru—and sometimes I’ll swing by South Station Market on my way in) to pick out the most fun, freshest ingredients of the moment. We set them out in the kitchen and brainstorm for about 10 minutes—and then we start cooking.

Instantly, when we saw those beautiful brussel sprouts, still on the stalk, we pictured braised pork shoulder with sprout-and-pancetta salsa. Then we really turned our toques into thinking caps! We took a bite of those beautiful crabapples and candied apples came immediately to mind (perhaps because I had just seen Jessie from the how2heroes crowd make them in Groton at the Herb Lyceum?). So we carved out their centers (to be used later for whipped apple cream), baked off some ginger custard, dipped the shells into a cognac caramel and we had these awesome little treats! 


Meanwhile, for my new Market Tacos, I had ordered some goat. We braised it in a jalapeño broth while steaming some Peruvian potatoes, which we folded into fresh, homemade corn tortillas. The remainder of the potatoes we creamed and added pureed cilantro and purple cauliflower. There were some beet greens, so we chiffonaded these and sauteed them. Finally, we whipped up our purple cabbage-and-chile pepper slaw and voilà! We now have Braised Goat Tacos with Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw, Sauteed Beet Greens, Peruvian Potato Cream, and Peppered Topsfield, MA, Goat Cheese in Purple Potato-Corn Tortillas.


I like this taco so much that I’m going to keep it on the menu for a bit—but don’t worry! For the restless of palate, there will still be a new Market Taco available each day. I’ll see you at Poe’s Market—I mean kitchen!

Not for the faint of heart: Bourbon-Infused Bacon & Tasso Ham

We’ve been getting a lot of delightful, much-appreciated praise for our brunch special, the Bloody Mary & Bourbon Bacon Benedict. Or, to be more specific, the Bloody Mary–Infused Green Chile Cornbread Topped with House Cured, American Honey -& Whiskey–Infused Bacon & Tasso Ham, Queso Fresco, Guadalajara Butter, Bloody Mary, Vodka & Butter–Poached Eggs & Jalapeño Hollandaise.


If that sounds like a mouthful, wait until you taste it.

flamingegg bloodyegg
Your flaming, bloodied eggs are waiting!

Just how do you infuse bacon and ham with honey and whiskey? Funny you should ask, because I’ve got the recipe right here. All you need is a smoker and an attitude.

Obviously, this produces a whole heap of meat—but that’s the beauty of it: you’ll be in the pink all winter long. (If you want to reduce the yield, however, don’t hesitate to send a comment; I’ll walk you through the revisions.)

Honey & Whiskey–Infused Tasso Ham
5 lbs. pork sirloin
1 3/4 c. curing salt
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 T. cayenne pepper
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. ground mace
2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. dried sage
1 T. dried thyme
2 T. honey
3 c. Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur
3 c. Jack Daniels

Rub pork with all dry ingredients. Place on a roasting rack in a shallow pan. Spoon honey, liqueur and bourbon over the pork.  Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and allow it to cure atop a wire rack for at least 5 days, pouring the pan juices over the top of the pork twice daily.

On the 5th day, dry smoke the pork for up to 12 hours with mesquite and applewood chips at 165 degrees.

Honey & Whiskey–Infused Bacon

1 pork belly
1 3/4 c. curing salt
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 T. cayenne pepper
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. ground mace
2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. dried sage
1 T. dried thyme

black peppercorns and coriander to taste
2 T. honey
3 c. Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur
6 c. Jack Daniels

Season the pork belly with dry rub and allow it to rest for one day, turning it over halfway through. Then cut the belly into workable bacon-size blocks, about 5 x 5 inches.  Season with black peppercorn and coriander, then place into a large plastic container. Pour all of the alcohol and honey into the container, cover and allow to brine for up to 4 days.


On the 5th day, remove pork belly from brine and hang for the rest of the day to dry.












Then cold smoke the bacon for up to 12 hours. Slice thin and cook to order.

You know what we do with it at Poe’s Kitchen once it’s ready—but what will you do? The possibilities are endless. Tell me all about them!

Snake, Rattle and Roll: Serrano-Infused Rattlesnake Cakes with Mango-Jalapeño Puree

Walking into the kitchen at the Rattlesnake was one of my riskiest career moves. Still is…Not because I have to deal with the Rattlesnake, capital R, but because I have to deal with the rattlesnake—small r. It comes special delivery from Arizona via Jersey.

No, no, it’s not live. Its head has been removed; decapitation is the first step of “harvesting” rattlesnake, because there’s some evidence that the head can still strike for up to two hours after its removal. Makes your skin crawl a little, doesn’t it? Mine too, but don’t worry, it gets better…in fact, it gets delicious!


Early on I did a bit of polling to see what people wanted out of the Rattlesnake to make sure Poe’s Kitchen reflected that. The consistent answer: “This place would be a lot cooler if it actually served rattlesnake.” Passersby on Boylston would regularly ask the doorman: “Do you guys serve rattlesnake?” I had to get my hands on some—and we had to do with it what we try to do with everything else on the menu: ensure it’s of excellent quality and prepare it simply so that the goodness comes through.

Back in Arizona at the Pinon Grill, I served rattlesnake, but it came already ground up, so all I had to do was mix it in with other ingredients. I searched for my old purveyor, but for some reason I could not find him. It took me three months to even locate the product again—and I mean, I looked five times a day the whole time.  When my friend Lance from Fossil Farms finally came through for me, he told me that the reason I couldn’t locate anything online was because the gentleman that hunted and gathered the snakes was bitten—and therefore out of commission for a while!

So when the first delivery arrived, I wanted to be the guy to open the box. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, after dreaming for months about what I would do with it. I cut the box open and dug through the Styrofoam. Then suddenly I felt it—and saw it. Instantly I jumped! Frozen on the bone and perfectly coiled in a clear Cry-o-vac bag, it naturally gets the adrenaline going. In other words, I freaked out for a minute.

It’s on the prep table, though, that snake becomes the most bizarre thing I’ve ever cooked. I had decided to marinate the snake in buttermilk and cilantro for 24 hours. The next day I pulled it from the marinade to check it and suddenly, half the body moved. It was because of the way it was attached to the bone, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was alive—or the pain in the back of my neck from freezing up with fear!

We cooked the snake at a very low simmer for about an hour in a fresh batch of buttermilk, adding cilantro as it cooled so the flavors would infuse, then spent another hour cleaning the meat from the multitude of bones with a fork. The best way, we agreed, to reduce the shocks I’d gotten during prep was to make rattlesnake cakes.

I was a little reluctant when I put the dish on the Unleashed menu—was it too weird?  Would anyone order it?  So I offered it as a one-ounce taster—and we sold out in three days! Now we sell roughly 70 orders a week (that’s about 2.5 snakes worth!) This past week, we sold out on Thursday night around 9 pm.  We prepared more for Friday-night service and within two hours we sold out again! Tables on the roof deck were ordering six at a time, all on one plate. I’ve finally put the cakes on the regular menu due to the high demand. So get here early, because these snakes move fast! 


Serrano Chile–Infused Rattlesnake Cakes with Mango-Jalapeño Puree

Makes about 15. Can be made with crab instead of snake if desired.

For the cakes:
2 lbs. rattlesnake (or lump crab)
1 each red, green, and yellow bell pepper, diced fine
2 serrano chiles, diced fine
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. red onion, diced fine
1 c. Ritz cracker crumbs
2 eggs
1 t. Habañero Tabasco

Combine all ingredients well and form into 2 oz. cakes. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

For the mango-jalapeño puree:
4 mangos, peeled and deseeded
1/2 t. garlic
1/2 t. shallots
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed
2 jalapeños, chopped and seeded
1/2 c. hazelnut oil, or 2 t. fresh hazelnut if available
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white wine (I suggest a J. Lohr–style riesling)
1/4 c. lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the base of a large, hot sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil. Sear the cakes for about 1 min. per side, then place in the oven for about 8 min. more.

On the base of a large platter, pour the puree, then place the cakes on top and drizzle a bit more sauce over them. Now you’re ready to snake, rattle and roll!

Charting the Heat in Poeville Units: a few words on jalapeños and habañeros (+ recipes!)

Scoville units were developed during a 1912 experiment in which a sugar-water solution was sprayed on the tongues of chile tasters until the capsaicin—the “heat” of a pepper—could no longer be detected. The ratio of capsaicin to sugar-water determined the number of Scoville units. So, for instance, a bell pepper measures 0–300 Scoville units; a jalapeño is 10,000–15000 units; a habeñero is 100,000–300,000 units. (Here’s a good example of the Scoville Scale.)

Poeville units are what I’m developing in my own kitchen. At one end of the scale is the jalapeño, which I compare to a jog on a treadmill in a gym without air conditioning. It’s uncomfortable, but escapable; the discomfort will go away soon enough. At the other end is the habañero, which is more like a full marathon run barefoot in pure humidity on scorching asphalt. You think you might die, but you keep chasing that runner’s high anyway. 

Jalapeños hail from the city of Jalapa in the Mexican state of Veracruz. They also come from Oaxaca, Chihuahua and the border regions of the Southwest. In their smoked form, they are known as chipotles. I choose to play with these little green devils in dishes like my jalapeño clam chowder

chowder in the making

because I can control the heat level to the point that most customers can handle—just enough to make them break a tiny sweat. Bite into a jalapeño and you’ll get a hint of green bell pepper at first, with the heat cranking up slowly. Take a spoonful of the chowder, and the creamy comfort of the clams and potatoes will keep you in New England until the last minute, when that last little jolt reminds you that you are really in Poe’s Kitchen—the no man’s land between New England and Latin America!

For chowder eaters who can take a little more pain, we make jalapeño powder by slicing the peppers and dehydrating them overnight.

dehydrating jalapenos

Then we puree the dried, super-concentrated pods into a powder and sprinkle it sparingly over the fried clams that accompany the chowder just before serving.   


As regulars develop a tolerance and come in search of even hotter dishes, I treat them to the more tropical but meaner habañero (meaning “from Havana”). It is one of the hottest of any of the chiles grown in Central America and the Caribbean. In fact, it’s 50 times hotter than the jalapeño and should be handled with gloves, because it can even irritate the skin. Because it has citrus undertones, we pair it with Mexican shrimp, which we marinate with cilantro in Narragansett beer, then top off with a straightforward habañero puree. (Check out the gallery for a glimpse.) This dish comes with a warning label, two more warnings from the server and an advisory beer or three for the brave souls willing to jump into the firepit! After taking that leap, one guest of mine paced in front of the restaurant for 20 minutes, cursing me and the peppers too. But when I went to check on him, he laughed and said, “It just tasted so good I couldn’t stop eating it!”     

Here are the recipes for both the powder and the puree. Use them wisely! By the way, one of my all-time favorite reference books on chile peppers is The Great Chile Book by Southwestern cuisine pioneer Mark Miller.  The book can be viewed in its entirety here.


Jalapeño Powder

15 jalapeños yield about 1/2 c.

Destem peppers and cut in half lengthwise.  Place in a Ronco-style dehydrator for one day, rotating the bottom tray to the top every 2 hours until all jalapeños are dried. Place in a blender or spice grinder and puree until a fine powder is formed. Can be stored indefinitely.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place the jalapeños on a cookie sheet atop a baking rack. Set oven at lowest possible temperature and place tin the oven. Check every hour until peppers are dried. In convection ovens, this can happen in about 2 hours. In others, it can take 5 hours. Just keep checking!


Habañero-Citrus Puree

Yields 2 cups or about 20 servings

1/2 c. orange and red habaneros
1 c. high-quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar

Destem the peppers and halve them lengthwise; whether you remove the seeds depends on your taste for danger! Combine all ingredients and puree in a blender. Refrigerate until needed; it can keep about as long as your average condiment.