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 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.