Matt Jennings is a New Englander through and through. His childhood was filled with Red Sox games, making pot pie from scratch and fishing on the North Shore. But it was a summer job at a local grocery store that may have had the greatest influence -- the cafe next door gave him first taste of working in a professional kitchen.
Last year, he opened Townsman in Boston where he serves up what he calls "modern farmhouse cuisine." He's received four James Beard award nominations for Best Chef: Northeast. Food and Wine declared him one of the "40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under," and Esquire magazine just named Townsman one of the best new restaurants in the country.
Here are some of Jennings' signature dishes: cider brined fried chicken, "ugly potatoes" with chorizo crema, butter lettuce and roasted beet salad with grilled avocado and crispy garlic, black barley salad with feta and soft herbs, pickled green plums and green garlic, blood orange shandy, grilled banana bread with crème fraiche ice cream.
Cider Brined Fried Chicken
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablepsoon dried mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
½ teaspoon Korean chili flake (gochugaru)
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup apple cider
1 large egg
One whole chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into 10 pieces, or 3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on
breasts, legs, drumsticks, and/or wings
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups vegetable shortening
Maple/miso dipping sauce (see recipe below)
1. Combine the paprika, black pepper, mustard, garlic powder, dried thyme, ground bay leaf and Korean chili in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.
2. Whisk the buttermilk, cider, egg, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss and turn to coat. Transfer the contents of the bowl to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight, flipping the bag occasionally to redistribute the contents and coat the chicken evenly.
3. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and the remaining spice mixture in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the marinade from the zipper-lock bag and work it into the flour with your fingertips. Remove one piece of chicken from the bag, allowing excess buttermilk and cider mixture to drip off, drop the chicken into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. Continue adding chicken pieces to the flour mixture one at a time until they are all in the bowl. Toss the chicken until every piece is thoroughly coated, pressing with your hands to get the flour to adhere in a thick layer.
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the shortening or oil to 425°F in a 12-inch straight-sided cast-iron chicken fryer or a large wok over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature, being careful not to let the fat get any hotter.
5. One piece at a time, transfer the coated chicken to a fine-mesh strainer and shake to remove excess flour. Transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Once all the chicken pieces are coated, place skin side down in the pan. The temperature should drop to 300°F; adjust the heat to maintain the temperature at 300°F for the duration of the cooking. Fry the chicken until it's a deep golden brown on the first side, about 6 minutes; do not move the chicken or start checking for doneness until it has fried for at least 3 minutes, or you may knock off the coating. Care- fully flip the chicken pieces with tongs and cook until the second side is golden brown, about 4 minutes longer.
6. Transfer the chicken to a clean wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 150°F and the legs register 165°F, 5 to 10 minutes; remove the chicken pieces to a second rack or a paper-towel-lined plate as they reach their final temperature. Season with salt and serve--or, for extra-crunchy fried chicken, go to step 7.
7. Place the plate of cooked chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight. When ready to serve, reheat the oil to 400°F. Add the chicken pieces and cook, flipping them once halfway through cooking, until completely crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet to drain, then serve immediately.
Maple/miso dipping sauce
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 large pasteurized egg yolk
1 small garlic clove
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1. Combine white miso paste, lemon juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, sugar, egg yolk, and garlic clove in a blender. Blend until combined.
2. Combine olive oil and canola oil in a 1-cup glass measure. With blender on, slowly drizzle oil mixture into blender; process for 2 minutes. Serve with fried chicken.
"Ugly Potatoes" with Chorizo Crema
4 pounds small red bliss or "new" potatoes
1 cup vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sliced chives
Chorizo crema, as necessary! (recipe below)
½ cup finely sliced, elongated scallion "threads" for garnish
1. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Season heavily with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are completely tender, about 10 minutes after a boil is achieved (poke a potato with a sharp knife or cake tester to test for doneness).Drain them in a colander set in the sink and let rest for 10 minutes to dry and cool slightly.
2. Working one potato at a time, place potato on cutting board and smash firmly with the bottom of a heavy skillet to a thickness of about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer to a large plate or tray as you work. Make sure not to squish them so much that they are unrecognizable.
3. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add as many potatoes as will fit in a single layer. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until bottom side is deep golden brown, about 6 minutes. Carefully flip with a thin metal spatula and cook until second side is golden brown and crisp, about five minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to drain.
4. Continue cooking potatoes in batches, adding more oil or fat as necessary, until all potatoes are cooked. Potatoes can then be left aside until ready to serve.
5. To serve, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F. Spread potatoes over to large rimmed baking sheets. Transfer to oven and cook until heated through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, toss to distribute, transfer to a serving platter, and serve immediately with below crema! Garnish with finely sliced, elongated scallions.
1 medium dry cured chorizo sausage (approximately ½ pound)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Heavy cream (as necessary)
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
1. Remove the outer casing and rough chop the chorizo into ½ inch rounds. Spread out onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F, until slightly crispy and beginning to leak their bright red oil onto the pan. Don't worry- this is ok. Roast until just barely browned and slightly crispy.
2. Place the chorizo into a blender. Add remaining ingredients, except heavy cream. Puree at a high speed to fully incorporate. Add a splash of heavy cream if the mixture seems too thick to move around in the blender. Try not to make it too thin, however. Dunk in the crispy potatoes!
Butter Lettuce & Roasted Beet Salad With Grilled Avocado & Crispy Garlic
Do the day ahead: Roast beets
4 large or 8 medium beets, about 1½ to 2 pounds
1. Heat oven to 400. Wash beets well. Put them in roasting pan or heavy skillet, and cover with foil.
2. Cook, undisturbed, for at least 45 minutes (it could take much longer for big ones), until a thin-bladed knife pierces one with little resistance. They may cook at different rates; remove each when it is done. Store, refrigerated, for a couple of days before using; their jackets will slip off easily.
1½ cups peeled plump garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups canola oil
1. Set a coarse strainer over a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic slices with the canola oil and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, about 15 minutes. Drain the garlic in the strainer, shaking off any of the excess cooking oil.
Spread the garlic chips on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and let them cool. Reserve the strained garlic oil for another use.
Make the Green Goddess dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil (drained, chopped)
1 chopped garlic clove
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a processor, purée the first 8 ingredients until smooth. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and chill.
Day of: Plate the salad
2 heads butter or Boston bibb lettuce
2 avocados, halved and pit removed
1 tablespoon blended oil
4 tablespoons of the green goddess dressing
3 each, roasted beets from above, skins removed and cut into large dice
Fried garlic from above
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgn olive oil
8-10 breakfast radishes, finely shaved on a mandolin
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1. Remove the root from two heads of fresh butter or (Boston) lettuce. Hand tear the larger leaves, and leave the smaller leaves intact. The leaves should be the size of a golf ball or a little larger.
2. Toss the avocados (still in their skins) in the blended oil and then set on a hot grill, to mark and char the open, cut side. Rotate as necessary to create hash marks. Remove from grill and set aside to cool, once charred. Once cooled, create slices of the avocados by inserting small knife and cutting them while still in the skins. Set aside and discard skins.
3. Gently toss the lettuce with the green goddess dressing in a large non-reactive bowl. Over a small, fine mesh strainer- so as not to allow seeds to get into salad bowl- squeeze the ½ lemon. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil as well. Make sure lettuce is well dressed.
4. Gently fold in roasted beets, chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Plate dressed lettuces on 6 to 8 individual salad plates, finish by sprinkling with the radish slices and crumbled, fried garlic, as well as avocado slices.
Black Barley Salad With Feta & Soft Herbs
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup black barley
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeño chile, seeds and ribs removed
2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
1 tablespoon za'atar spice
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup diced feta cheese
1 cup finely diced cucumber
1 red onion, diced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped purple basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Rinse the pearl barley and black barley in two separate strainers under cold running water for 5 minutes. Pat dry and keep separate. Fill two separate pots with 1 quart salted water. Add the black barley to one and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the pearl barley to the other and cook for 45 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Strain each and set aside.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and jalapeño and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and za'atar and cook until the spinach has wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Combine the remaining olive oil, the pearl barley, black barley, spinach mixture, tomatoes, scallions, lime juice, parsley, feta, cucumber, onion, vinegar, olives, basil and mint in a large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Pickled Green Plums & Green Garlic
Do the day (or month) ahead: Pickle the plums
Four 1-pint canning jars with lids and rings
2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 ½ cups honey
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 1/2 pounds firm-but-ripe green plums, pitted and cut into eight wedges each
4 star anise pods
One 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken into 4 pieces
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1. Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the canning jars, lids and rings along with a set of tongs and a ladle and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes to sterilize. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Set a metal rack in another large pot. Fill the pot with water, cover and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine both vinegars with the honey and salt and bring to a boil to dissolve. Using the sterilized tongs, remove the jars from the hot water and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet.
3. Pack the plums, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and fennel seeds into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Ladle the hot brine over the plums, stopping 1/2 inch from the top. Using the tongs, screw the lids and rings on the jars securely but not too tightly.
4. Using canning tongs, lower the jars onto the rack in the boiling water, making sure they are covered by 1 inch of water. Boil over high heat for 20 minutes. Using the canning tongs, transfer the jars to a rack to cool until the lids seal (they will be concave); refrigerate any jars that do not seal. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
Green Garlic Purée
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium green garlic stalks, green and white parts separated, thinly sliced
1 bunch (about 3 ounces) ramps, green and whites separated, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup packed spinach
1 cup picked fennel fronds, held in ice water
1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the green garlic whites and ramp whites, and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. If the pan looks dry, add a tablespoon of water. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Build an ice bath. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the spinach for 20 seconds, then remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath. Repeat the process with the green garlic and ramp greens, cooking each for 30 seconds before transferring to the ice bath. Drain the greens and squeeze dry.
3. In a blender, combine the cooked whites and greens with ¼ cup water. Blend on high speed until smooth. Continue to thin out with water if necessary. Season the mixture with salt.
4. Serve the purée underneath the pickled green plums. Garnish with the drained fennel fronds.
Blood Orange Shandy
9 blood Oranges
6 -12 oz bottle of your favorite wheat beer (I'm using Troegs Dream Weaver - the open fermentation process makes for a fuller flavor and mouthfeel.)
4.5 oz Honey syrup* [1 part honey to 2 parts water]
1 sprig basil
1. Half all the blood oranges and lay them on the grill meat down. Leave until a nice char appears. Juice the oranges using a reamer, squeezer, or your hands (should yield approximately 1 cup of juice).
2. Mix the juice with honey syrup and basil. Most effective way is by using a blender, but cocktail shaker with ice, or simply muddling will work too.
3. The Blood Orange-ade you have created should be about 12 ounces. This is enough to add 2 ounces to each of those delicious beers you have.
Grilled Banana Bread With Crème Fraiche Ice Cream
Make ahead: Crème Fraiche Ice Cream
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 containers (8 ounces each) creme fraiche
1/4 cup glucose
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 pinch of salt
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; remove from heat. Refrigerate for at
least 1 hour or until chilled.
In a large bowl, whisk together creme fraiche, glucose, vanilla seed scrapings (reserving the bean for another use), and salt. Slowly add chilled syrup; stir to combine. Freeze in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions.
Make the Banana Bread
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 each, whole eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 ½ cups melted butter
1 ½ cups banana
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside.
2. Reduce (caramelize) bananas in a medium sized pot until thick and caramelized in color.
3. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in one bowl. In another bowl, combine bananas, melted butter and 'cream' in sugar until combined. Slowly add eggs and vanilla.
4. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, alternatively add dried ingredients and buttermilk until cohesively combined. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
Slice ½ thick pieces of the bread, gently grill over medium flame. Garnish with scoop of the ice cream.