In response to last year’s Covid lockdown my wanderlust kicked in hard this February so I decided to commit to getting on the road inside the quarantine zone. Starting in early March I initiated a personal challenge to ride my bicycle north from Manhattan to Canada on the Empire State Trail with my friends from New York. The plan included inviting as many chefs as I could to join me. I sent an early note to Cesare Casella whom I’d met 15 years ago at his 22nd street restaurant, Beppe.
Although Chef Casella couldn’t join me on the trail he was quick to respond and invited me to visit him in Hurleyville, while he didn’t provide more details than a dinner invitation, I didn’t care. My goal is to spend time connecting with like minded people in New York State this spring so Cesare’s invitation was like gold. He suggested I touch base when the trail ride reached New Paltz. That time has come and contact was made last week and a dinner plan in Catskills was scheduled.
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It’s been 8 years since the A.Sisters have made a batch of pasta with our machine at Estia.
Now that each of my daughters has their own kitchen and more of an interest in cooking (Mansell especially), we thought it was time to put together a Christmas gift of red, white, and green pasta with a simple tomato sauce and a chunk of cheese. We gifted these to family friends and a few hard working chefs that I love, too.
After a traditional Ambrose family Thanksgiving day breakfast of roasted pork loin and sweet corn hash with red skin potatoes and poached eggs, Mansell and I stuffed the turkey that we’d boned out on Wednesday morning.
All of the vegetables we used came to us in a farm box from our friends at the Foster farm in Sagaponack.
We diced carrots, chopped green onions and garlic, rosemary, arugula and 4 lovely dried Shishito peppers. Then, in a sauté pan the vegetables were softened with Cromer’s Italian sausage. After the mixture cooled we rolled it into the boneless bird and tied the roulade off with sage.
My corn crop was destroyed by birds this past summer. It was coming in strong, 6 feet tall with a wonderful showing of several cobs on each plant in mid July. The bed I set wasn’t large, about 25 feet wide and 40 feet long. Then, late in the month a freak hurricane named Hanna ran up the Mississippi River and turned right mid way through the country, we were hit with its tail end. Just enough force to mess with my corn, twisting it up and opening the tightly packed rows. This in turn provided the birds access to each Cob which are generally buried tightly in the mass of plants that I refer to as my wall of Oaxacan green “Indian corn”. The birds ate all of my corn this year, it was hard to watch nature take her share.
Sunday night dinner with all 3 of the A. sisters home. That is a special night. We had planned on dining out at the Main Street Tavern in Amagansett, 177 Main Street. This is a special address for my family as we spent 16 years in that space running it as a coffee shop and restaurant. It would be safe to say that our family was born out of this coffee shop which started in that address in 1981. It was commonly known as Estia.
Jessica and I purchased the lease for Estia in 1991 and maintained a business there until 2007. Since selling the lease, 3 different operators have worked the space. Presently Main Street Tavern which has been open since the spring. Challenged by the Covid pandemic it’s been a struggle for them and I’ve chosen to wait to visit. Tonight’s reservation was canceled, apparently they have plumbing issues. Chalk it up to growing pains. Operating a restaurant in Amagansett is not easy in any business climate. We can wait.
With tonight’s plan for dining out off the table, I volunteered to cook (my daughters are all good cooks now) and I decided to let a walk through Citarella steer my menu. As I looked in the butcher case, braised short ribs were the easy choice, 3 1lb boneless short ribs to be exact.
The annual Hayground school visit is a highlight on my winter schedule. This year the class was all boys. We started in the classroom and watched the riverside video demonstration for our main course recipe from Estia’s American Rivers Tour website.
Both situations were a first in my experience cooking with the students in that school. I think the kids were excited and better informed going into the kitchen after watching recipe demo in the classroom.
Our menu included corn bread crusted chicken pot pie, cranberry sauce, a salad of spinach, arugula and cabbage in a tangerine, mustard vinaigrette, and for dessert, chocolate pudding.
cooked over open fire by the Teton River, Driggs, Idaho
This is one of the most satisfying open fire meals I can think of. Chicken pot pie is a complete campfire dish with vegetables, protein, starch and dairy. All you need besides a plan and ingredients is a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a lid and a spoon.
On this trip we bought a wooden spoon, which split in half as I opened the skillet that has a tendency to seal lid to base while cooking. But as you will see if you watch the video, it all worked out.