After the Lobster, the Beans

As fun as it is to ring in the New Year with fancy luxury foods, the thing I get most excited about this time of year is working with the hidden gems of Western PA.

January and February are the months these gems shine the brightest, beginning with cassoulet, which features home-grown tarbais beans by Sam and Nettie and brought to Pittsburgh by Bryan Greenawalt, who we visit every Saturday at the East Liberty Farmers market, the one next to Home Depot which is open year-round.

Bryan also brings us black walnuts from the Amish in Somerset, which the pastry team will be using in black walnut cake.  If you’ve ever tried to open a black walnut, then you know that this task is not an easy one. The job of opening black walnuts (and hickory nuts) is done by the elders of this particular Amish community, and the sales of these nuts go to a collective fund for the community’s health care. The nuts also quite interesting–fruity, weird, and delicious. Unlike anything else.

Also from Sam and Nettie via Bryan is the Shaker dried corn. There isn’t much left–we couldn’t help breaking into it in October, instead of waiting until winter. Shaker dried corn is sweet corn that is taken off the cob and left to dehydrate on open dehydrators set upon wooden stoves for about 24 hours.  The result is a caramelized, nutty dried corn which we rehydrate in hot water and cook with cream and butter to make the best-tasting creamed corn you’ve ever tried. Before meeting Sam and Nettie, we tried drying our own Shaker corn in our electric dehydrator, but it wasn’t the same. What Bryan brings us from Sam and Nettie is truly something special.

It was a hard year operationally-speaking in the kitchen with a lot of transition. I almost didn’t preserve tomatoes this year, but Jess insisted. I’m glad she did, because it gives me great comfort to know there is a chest-freezer full of peeled and seeded tomatoes ready to go. In the past, we canned all our tomatoes. This year we froze them. It cut the labor in half. And while frozen bags of tomatoes aren’t quite as lovely an image of mason jars of tomatoes on the shelves, I actually think the flavor of the frozen ones are much more fresh-tasting, probably because they don’t have to spend all that time processing in a water bath. These tomatoes are one of the reasons our cassoulet is so good. Most of what we preserved comes from the same farm as the tarbais beans.

Last but not least is the mincemeat pie. Like the cherry pie we make in June, this one has a cult following here at Legume. Normally we make mince meat in time for Christmas, but this year we fell behind. Our mincemeat is made with our own candied citrus, dried fruit, sugar and chopped beef tongue which is then soaked in brandy and sherry for a month before being baked into a lard-based pie shell. It’s a love it or hate it kind of thing and a clear example why some people really, really love Legume, and some people just don’t get what the fuss is about.

Happy Winter, Trevett

First Cassoulet: Tuesday, January 7th
What makes our cassoulet special? I think it’s the coming together of tomatoes preserved last September, Sam and Nettie’s new-crop Tarbais beans, and our own duck-confit, all stewed together with rich chicken stock, aromatics, and white wine, and topped with Five Points bread crumbs.  It’s a dish that reflects the many relationships Legume has with farmers and artisans here in Wester PA, and we only make it a few weeks of the year.

The first batch will be served on Tuesday, January 7th. Keep your fingers crossed for cold weather.

Chef Csilla Joins the Team; Cassoulet

We’re happy to announce that Chef Csilla Thackray will be joining the Good Faith Restaurant team as Legume’s chef de cuisine starting this February. Csilla has been the executive chef of the Vandal (one of our personal favorites in Pittsburgh) since it opened.

We’ve been without a CDC since this past January.  In announcing this happy news, I feel the need to acknowledge the chefs behind the scenes who have kept things going at Legume this past year, especially Jessica George and Chris Shuplock who sacrificed a lot. I’m really proud of the way they’ve been able to keep quality high, and customers happy during this transitional year without a CDC and with Pie For Breakfast opening.

Keeping the creative spark alive and well in a professional kitchen is its own job, and I’m happy to make room in the fold here for Csilla to do just that. It’s always been very important to Sarah and I that Legume remain a place that is continually growing and evolving, and have a lot of confidence that Csilla’s abilities and talents will help us to this end.

It’s Legume Season
This is really the time of year where we do our best cooking. In the summer, everything is new and fresh and the menu is changing all the time. In the winter, things tend to change less, and we settle into a more established repertoire. We visit the same dishes over and over, year after year–Cassoulet, Beef and Kimchi Soup, Shaker Corn, Blood Orange Salad and others.

These dishes are like old friends, and like old friends, these dishes change from year to year. The same, but a little different. It never ceases to amaze me how much a dish that we’ve been making for ten years can still be evolving. For example, this year we noticed the tarbais are more creamy and easier to cook when they’re a year old. The past four years, we’d been using beans dried only a few months earlier. We continue to make other tweaks too: we discovered we like super-fresh bread crumbs instead of dried, to give the crust a chewy-crunchy texture; we tweaked the Toulouse sausage recipe; the duck confit cure is better than in years past. A lot of thought has gone into the cassoulet over the years.

Cassoulet should reliably be on the menu at least through Valentine’s Day. After that, we sometimes get tired of making it and usually take it off the menu.  It’s sometimes hard to remember that the dishes we feel like retiring for the season have not yet been had be all who want it. For this reason, we’ll keep it going until March, when it will be time to start thinking about Zurek and tropical foods.

Alex, Trevett and Jess tasting Maple Springs Wines and planning the menu

Wine Dinner at Legume:
Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Join winemaker Jef Stebben and the culinary team at Legume as we celebrate Pennsylvania wine! Maple Springs Vineyards in Bechtelsville, PA was founded in 2008 and produced their first vintage from estate grown fruit in 2012. Jef, a graduate of UC Davis, brings years of winemaking experience from working in wineries and consulting in the Pacific Northwest and California. Focused on sustainable farming and winemaking, Maple Springs is setting the bar for Pennsylvania wine and expressing the unique terroir of their vineyard sites. We currently carry their Chardonnay and Pinor Noir by the bottle and we’re excited to share some of their other offerings with you by way of a six course tasting menu. Jef will be on hand to explain his wines and answer your questions.

The price for this six course meal with wine pairings is $125 per person plus tax and gratuity. Please call 412-621-2700 to make a reservation. We look forward to sharing this remarkable PA wine with you!

Jess, Jade, Jason and Devalle being dorks, uh I mean, um cool. 

We’re Still Cool 
Thrillist says Legume is still one of the “Best of the Best” in Pittsburgh, and named Pie For Breakfast one of the best new openings in 2018–quite an honor considering a record-breaking sixty seven thousand restaurants opened in Pittsburgh in 2018.

We are also honored to be considered one of Pittsburgh Quarterly’s “Ten great places to come in from the cold.”  We couldn’t agree more.

Cheap Date Night Returns!

Next Tuesday, January 22nd is the return of Cheap Date Night at Legume! $50 gets you three courses for two people. Since this is a special event, reservations are available by phone or in person only. Please call the restaurant at 412-621-2700 to make reservations. Hope to see you there!

Chef de Cuisine

Chef de Cuisine
Legume is looking for a chef de cuisine (CDC). We have not had one since July. We’ve been piecing it together with a team of dedicated chefs and cooks who have been around here for a long time and are more than capable of maintaining the repertoire that has developed here over the years.

We could certainly carry on like this in perpetuity, and that might not necessarily be a problem. Despite not having a chef de cuisine this fall, I’m happy to report we’ve been hearing a whole lot of “that was one of our best Legume experiences in a long time” kinds of thing lately. Part of this, I think, is because we’ve been pulling out all of the old favorites recently, doing something of a “greatest hits” menu. Another part of it is the strength of the team we have right now and the momentum of eleven and a half years of doing this.

But I’m also keenly aware of the fact that this very momentum is a function of the many years of working proactively to keep things alive and fresh. Even at age eleven and a half–old for a restaurant– it feels too soon to be leaning on our greatest hits. I feel like the energy exists here to explore new avenues of cooking and serving food. I’m not ready for Legume to fall into maintenance mode; I genuinely believe that Legume’s best meals have yet to be served. It is for these reasons that I want to fill the CDC position.

The happiest years of my adult life were the years in which I was functioning as Legume’s chef de cuisine. That was before Legume grew into three restaurants and 50+ employees, and before Sarah and I had 5 kids. It’s hard to explain why those times were so happy, but I think it’s because most of my responsibilities in life had been paired down to one objective: making beautiful food. I don’t think I could do it again, but I’m very grateful to have done it for as long as I did.

I’m still in the kitchen a lot–happily. However, my responsibilities spread me too thin to do the job of the CDC correctly, which is to be fully immersed in the minutia of the day-to-day functioning of the kitchen, to be hyper-aware of everything that is happening in seemingly disparate parts of the kitchen, and distill it all into something that is inspired, ephemeral, beautiful. This can’t be done without total, full-hearted immersion in the kitchen.

Here is what we’re looking for:

First and foremost, the CDC is a leader. They lead with positivity and are skilled at communicating clearly. They are a team builder.

Second, the CDC is a technically proficient culinarian with a minimum of seven (preferably ten) years of professional cooking experience, mostly in fine dining restaurants. Strong classical technique is a must. Generalists like myself  (cooks who spend a few years baking, a few years doing pastry, a few years cutting meat, or other food things not directly related to fine dining) are encouraged, but possession of strong fine dining line skills are imperative.

Third, the CDC must genuinely believe in the mission of Legume, which is, in a nutshell, to make inspired food every single day, while also fostering a work environment that is, as much as we can know, life-affirming and beneficial for all of our workers and our community at large.

Fourth, the CDC is a disciplined cook. I define “disciplined” as having that unteachable inner-drive to attempt to do everything as well as possible every single day.

Fifth, the CDC must be able to merge and collaborate with the amazing team that is already here–and it is an amazing one including a chef who has been here for six years, and two sous chefs who have been here 5+ years, and a kitchen manager coming up on 2 years. In addition to the on-the-ground support of these committed professionals, the CDC will also have the support of a chef/owner (me) who understands well the challenges of the position, and who cares about artistic success as much as the financial. I forgot to mention: the FOH team is amazing too.

Finally, the CDC is a hands-on cook who leads from the guts of the kitchen, not the office. The CDC works side-by-side with their cooks, mentoring and directly  transmitting the skills of professional cooking to the next generation through modeling, nurturing, and teaching.

If interested, email me at trevett@legumebistro.com. If you know someone who might be interested, please forward this email along.

Attention Mincemeat Pie Cult 
This twelfth batch of mincemeat pie, an annual tradition around this time of the year, looks to be a good one. Mincemeat pie will ready starting on Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26th. To make a reservation, please give us a call at 412-621-2700 or click here. Please let us know when you make your reservation that you are coming for mincemeat pie so we can be sure to set one aside. 

First Cassoulet: January 8th
It should be good and cold by the beginning of January, so join us as we bring our cassoulet back. The first cassoulet of the year will be served on Tuesday, January 8th. To make a reservation, please give us a call at 412-621-2700 or click here.