Growing up in a landlocked city in a landlocked state (Salt Lake City, Utah), I didn't grow up with an affinity for seafood. I turned my nose up at pretty much everything from shrimp to snapper until I was a teenager, and have only really started choosing seafood over landlubber creatures such as beef or chicken as I've entered my mid-20s.
Recently, the cuisine of two Mississippi chefs proved to me I should give fish more credit. Last week, Mississippi Seafood and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources hosted a five-course dinner at the Fairview Inn. The courses were a collaboration between Chef David Crews, who is the chef instructor at the Mississippi Delta Community College culinary program and earned the title of "King of Seafood" at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, and Gary Hawkins, the executive chef for 1908 Provisions at the Fairview.
As diners nibbled on dishes such as Mississippi Gulf oyster hushpuppies with pickled okra tartar sauce and seafood boudin with whole-grain mustard and picked squash, representatives from the Mississippi DMR and Gulf Coast fisheries talked about the importance of supporting local seafood.
The food was superb, highlighting a wide variety of cooking methods and types of seafood. With balanced, fresh flavors and beautifully constructed plating, the meal could hold its own among the highest level of restaurants nationwide. The chefs shared their recipes with the JFP. Here are my favorites from 1908's Gary Hawkins:
Honey Mustard Glazed Mississippi Red Snapper with Cauliflower Puree and Carrot-Top Pesto
Provided by Chef Gary Hawkins
Honey Mustard Glaze
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
Combine the honey and mustard, add sliced ginger and coriander seeds, season to taste with salt and pepper. Let glaze develop for about an hour. Then strain the seeds and ginger out.
1 bunch organic carrots, tops picked and cleaned
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese or Grano Padano cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients well in a food processor. With machine running slowly, add the olive oil until incorporated.
1 cauliflower bunch, florets trimmed
Salt and white pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons butter
Place cauliflower florets into pan and cover with milk. Simmer until tender but still a bit firm. Do not overcook, or the florets will become too smooth. Drain milk. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Add butter.
Mississippi Gulf Snapper
1 pound Mississippi Gulf snapper, cut into fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil to saute
Sear Mississippi Gulf snapper over medium-high heat in oil that is just starting to smoke. Cook 2-3 minutes, then flip. Finish in oven until done.
by Kathleen M. Mitchell
Another Honor for Emerson
Derek Emerson, executive chef of Walker's Drive-In and Local 463, is a semifinalist in the Best Chef: South category for the 2014 James Beard awards. This is Emerson's fourth nomination in that category—he previously made it to the semifinals in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Emerson, whom Jackson Free Press readers recently voted Best Chef in the annual Best of Jackson awards, has seen multiple awards for both his restaurants.
The only other Mississippi chef nominated is Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford. Bhatt is up for the same category at Emerson. The finalists will be announced March 18. The 2014 James Beard Awards are May 2 and 5 in New York City.
Goodbye to Basil's Belhaven, Hello to Lou's
The Belhaven branch of Basil's, which took on the moniker Basil's 904 last year when it added a pizza menu to its offerings, served its final meals over the weekend. Employees alerted diners last week that the location would soon be closing. The original Basil's location in Fondren plans to expand hours and add a few favorites from the Belhaven site's menu, including pizza.
Another restaurateur, Louis LaRose, is slated to take over the Belhaven space to open a new eatery he plans to call Lou's Full-Serv. The restaurant will be table service, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. "I'd like to say 'southern-plus' on the food," LaRose says about the projected menu. "Slightly eclectic, drawing on lots of influences."
LaRose, a Jackson native who attended culinary school in North Miami, Fla., will take the space March 15 and, after renovating the kitchen and remodeling the space into a vintage industrial vibe, hopes to open late spring or early summer.