Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hawthornes Attend Cooking Class At The North Carolina Aquarium. Chef Wes Stepp From Red Sky Cafe In Duck.

Tuesday, the Hawthornes and Zelda headed once again to Manteo to our cooking class at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Must stop by to say hello to my otters.
This little feller kept looking at something "up thar."
All these critters are in the "Wetlands on the Edge" exhibit.
There are two alligators in this exhibit.
And one box turtle. Now, on to our class, hosted by Chef Wes Stepp of the Red Sky Cafe in Duck, North Carolina.
This was one of the best classes I've been to yet. So enjoyable. Chef Wes is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and entertaining; and it's clear that he loves what he does. He's very comfortable in front of his audience, no doubt due to the numerous informative videos he's done and his experience doing cooking demos for a local TV channel. As we watched Chef Wes prepare four different seafood dishes and be terrifically organized with his sauces and accoutrements - the consummate professional - he told us the story of one of his TV experiences. It was a nine-minute segment and they wanted him to do three three-minute segments, with commercial breaks in between. On one dish. Three minutes discussing the dish. Three minutes preparing the dish. Three minutes plating the dish. After watching Chef Wes today, I'm sure that was impossible for him to do. I imagine he did six different dishes in a lesser amount of time and he still had to do filler. For more information about Red Sky Cafe and Chef Wes please check out Cooking Outer Banks Seafood with Chef Wes Stepp and his Party Catering Site. Chef Wes has been a chef on the Outer Banks for over 25 years. He was Executive Chef at Kelley's Restaurant for 15 years before buying the Red Sky Cafe in 2002.
His focus is on the abundance of local seafood and produce - expertly prepared and exquisitely presented. This is Mauritzio. He made lovely, edible garnishes to accentuate Chef Wes' dishes.
Chef Wes produced four different seafood dishes for us - all with local seafood from Wanchese. For that alone, I applaud him. First he made miniature crabcakes using lump and claw meat, mayonnaise, chopped scallions, Dijon mustard, egg, horseradish, Old Bay seasoning, and panko breadcrumbs. It's very important to gently fold in the crabmeat. You want to keep the lumps of meat in the cakes. You don't want to shred the meat. He used a sriracha aioli sauce with which to top the crabcakes: 3 cups mayo 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 1/4 cup sriracha sauce
We learned from Anne Marie, one of the very informative Aquarium employees, that harvested crabs must be between 5 inches and 6 3/4 inches from point to point on their carapace and the daily limit for crabbers is 50 crabs. Here's the Sports Fisherman's Guide for size and bag limits.
Chef Wes plated the crabcakes on a granite pedestal (presentation!) and Mauritzio dotted each cake with the sriracha aioli.
Next, Chef started on charred raw tuna. He's using yellowfin tuna. Yellowfin tuna is a deep sea fish, also known as ahi. Ahi, in the Hawaiian language, is the word for "fire." Long ago, Hawaiians fished for tuna in wooden canoes. When the tuna was caught and reeled in, the friction of the ropes against the wooden canoes caused smoke, hence the name "ahi." Yellowfin is smaller than bluefin tuna and the taste is less fatty and oily than bluefin. We learned from Anne Marie that tuna are usually caught on a long line or by rod and reel, close to the surface and usually no more than 100 meters deep. Tuna swim in schools following their food sources. The minimum length is 27 inches and the bag limit is 3 yellowfins per day per person. Chef Wes showed us his tuna filets. You want a deep, blood red color. If the tuna is whitish, it's been on ice too long. If it's a bright bubblegum pink color, then it was gas-frozen on the boat.
Chef Wes coated the tuna with wasabi paste and quickly seared each side in olive oil. You can see the tuna in the pan on the monitor, left. In the right-hand pan he's searing shrimp.
The tuna was thinly sliced and served with a seaweed salad with rice vinegar, pickled ginger, red pepper, and what he called an Asian Lacquer sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 1 cup sugar (Chef Wes used a raw sugar, not white.) Combine and bring to a boil. To the seared shrimp, on the right, he added applewood smoked bacon, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, sweet red peppers, scallions, Cajun Seasoning (garlic powder, paprika, chile powder). He slowly added in heavy cream, reduced it so it coated the back of a spoon, and poured this over his Redneck Risotto.
Here Chef Wes is showing off one of Mauritzio's garnishes - a fringed scallion. He also had carrot roses.
On the right hand side of the monitor is Chef Wes' Shrimp 'n' Grits, or as he calls it, "Redneck Risotto." His grits were cooked in chicken stock, then heavy cream and Asiago cheese were added.
This is all being plated on a mirrored surface.
I betcha Wes liked to finger paint as a child.
Lastly, Chef Wes prepared Pesto Seared Scallops. Simply sear the scallops and toss with your favorite basil pesto. The pesto scallops were served on a bed of spinach and mixed greens with fresh herbs, orange segments, sweet red pepper, and a rice wine/sugar/citrus vinaigrette.
Charred raw tuna in the background with a seaweed salad and pickled ginger on a granite pedestal. In the foreground on the mirror is Shrimp and Redneck Risotto (grits) in the front, crabcakes back left, and pesto scallops on a mixed green salad with citrus vinaigrette. Assorted sauces were drizzled across the mirror.
I loved the presentation.
Here's my plate. Pesto scallop on salad on left, crabcake on top, charred tuna on right draped with pickled ginger.
And here's the shrimp and grits.
Yes. The Hawthornes will be making a visit to Red Sky Cafe in the near future. I'm loving this. Sun-dried tomato rockfish.
Delicious. As Chef Wes said, "I like fresh, colorful, and lots of flavor." So do I. "Upscale, without the uppity." Home run here.


Marilyn said...

The food does look good. Will we be getting some Rosie-spins on some of the offerings?

SweetPhyl said...

Lurve me some Red Sky, should see what Wes does with DUCK! *hint, hint* ;) LOL

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Always, Mar.

And Phyl, don't rub it in.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Better yet, Phyl, why don't we double team Mr. Hawthorne?

SweetPhyl said...

Done. He doesn't stand a chance.

SweetPhyl said...

*insert evil laugh here*

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Phyl -
Heh heh heh.
Rosie twirls her mustache.

Now, about those tickets ...