Bradford Thompson is the award-winning chef de cuisine at Mary Elaine's in Scottsdale, Ariz. He also happens to be a huge football fan who loves hosting tailgates and viewing parties. He has developed a party menu for four on the Shoestring budget of $40.
Mary Elaine's has scored some of the most coveted industry awards such as the prestigious Five-Diamond designation by the American Automobile Association, The Mobile 5-star award, and the esteemed Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine, one of only a handful of restaurants in the country to have garnered such impressive honors.
As chef de cuisine, Thompson is responsible for all culinary operations and oversees a staff of 60 employees.
Thompson grew up in New England and learned about the fine art of line fishing and lobster trapping during his summers in Maine. Those summers ultimately ignited his culinary passions and his aspiration to become one of the top chefs in the country. Upon completion of his studies at the University of Rochester, he received his first professional kitchen experience at "Max on Main," a popular restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut. He then went on to study under some great chefs in Phoenix and then back east to work with Daniel Boulud in New York.
For the next five years, Thompson helped Boulud plan and develop a classic French menu, collaborated on two cookbooks and helped open two restaurants including, DB Bistro Moderne. During the time that he was in charge of private dining for New York's Daniel, the restaurant received numerous accolades and top food ratings from the New York Times and the "Best Private Room" award by the 2002 Zagat Survey-New York City Restaurants.
He returned to Arizona about four years ago.
Here is the party menu:
Crab and Sweet Potato Fondue
Slow-Cooked Brisket with Coconut Rice
Chocolate Beignets with Orange Sugar
Mascarpone Cheese: This Italian cheese is a buttery-rich, double-cream cheese made from cow's milk. It's ivory-colored, soft and delicate and ranges in texture from a light clotted cream to that of room-temperature butter. It's versatile enough to be blended with other flavors, like in the Chef's fondue, and is sometimes sold sweetened with fruit.
Fondue: Literally from the French word for "melt" (fonder)
Brisket: An inexpensive cut of beef that comes from the breast area. It is sold without a bone. The meat requires long cooking in order to become tender.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning: The ingredients vary depending on the cook, but are generally a combo of chiles, thyme, spices, garlic and onions. Chef Thompson uses this to bring a Caribbean flavor to his main course.
Beignet: A traditional New Orleans yeast pastry that is deep-fried and served hot with a dusting of powdered sugar. The name comes from the French word for "fritter."
CRAB AND SWEET POTATO FONDUE
Serves 4 people
1/2 pound of crabmeat
1 large sweet potato (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
5 cloves garlic, blanched 3 times
1 small onion, sliced thin
4 slices bacon, sliced thin
1 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- In a large saucepan, add sliced sweet potatoes, garlic cloves and enough water or milk to cover. Simmer until potatoes are very tender and then drain and puree in a food processor or through a food mill.
- Cook the bacon until it renders some fat and then add the sliced onions, cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes until caramelized, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add to the onion mixture to the puree and heat over very low heat to warm. Add the mascarpone cheese and when warm, stir in the crabmeat.
- Serve with plantain chips, toasted pita, crusty bread or vegetables.
1 brisket (3 to 4 pounds)
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 2 oranges
1-inch piece ginger
1-2 teaspoons Jule's Gourmet Jerk
2 carrots large diced
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 cup water or beer
- Season the brisket well with salt and pepper and sear over high heat for about 3 minutes per side in a cast iron pan to color well. Remove from pan and drain briefly.
- Place all remaining ingredients into a slow cooker and set heat to low. Place the brisket on top of ingredients and place lid on cooker. Cook on low for 9 hours.
- Remove meat from cooker. Slice the meat thinly, against the grain, and then place the liquid into a blender to make the sauce. Check the seasoning of the sauce and then pour the sauce over the sliced meat and keep in a warm pan or in the slow cooker until ready to serve. Serve with coconut rice or on sandwiches.
2 cups long grain rice (basmati)
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1 small onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger, grated
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 bunch scallions
- In a medium sauce pot, sweat the onion and minced ginger in 1T olive oil until fragrant and then add rice and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper. Add the drained kidney beans. Cover and place on a low heat and cook for 20 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir in the sliced scallions and check the seasoning.
Serves 4 to 6 people
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons yeast
3 cups flour
5 oz butter
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 pound milk chocolate
zest from 2 oranges
Oil for frying
Combine milk, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl and let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, covered. Whisk in the flour and allow this to sit for 30 to 40 minutes, covered. The starter will rise and double in volume
- Put the starter into the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook and add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes and then add the eggs one at a time to form dough.
- Increase the speed to medium and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Allow this to mix on medium high for 12 minutes until a smooth and shiny ball has formed. Lightly cover with oil and leave covered in a bowl for a couple hours at room temperature to rise.
- Punch the dough down and lightly flour a work surface to roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
- Cut out 1 1/2 inch circles of dough and place on a clean sheet tray. If not using right away, these may be stored in the refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to cook, place a 1/2 oz. piece of chocolate in the middle of 8 circles and lightly brush the edges of the circles with water. Top each circle with another dough circle and lightly press together.
- Fry at 350 degrees, turning beignets while cooking until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Allow to cool slightly and dust with orange sugar.
- Dehydrate the orange zest in dehydrator or in an oven with a pilot light on.
- Pulverize in a spice or coffee grinder and mix with equal amount of sugar.