Around the Table – September 20, 2019

THE BEST SHRIMP TACOS

To quote Forest Gump (which I could for hours), “shrimpin’ is tough!” We are lucky enough to live in an area where fresh and local shrimp is just down the street. Next time you’re in Old Town, don’t be afraid to pick up a just caught, hyperlocal Carolina White at the Bluffton Oyster Factory. Now you’re one step closer to making the best shrimp tacos.
 
Think of a delicious spice loaded shrimp tucked in between layers of flavor. It’s almost hard to talk about these tacos, that’s how much I love them. But here it goes…
 
LETS GET STARTED
This is a simple recipe but it calls for some specific items:
 
  • Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning – hot and spicy. But please, don’t let the hot and spicy scare you away! Although there is some heat, this paste is savory and will be used as a marinade base which you will then pair with other ingredients to give it the perfect balance. Okay, I’m getting carried away already.
  • Shrimp – hyperlocal Carolina Shrimp, to be exact.
  • A pack of 8 – 10” bamboo skewers (these are in your pantry, right?)

 

 

THE RECIPE

Marinating the Shrimp
  • 1Lb Fresh, large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1T Jerk paste
  • 1T Olive oil
  • 1T Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Next…
  • Prepare the shrimp and the marinade and combine for 1 hour in the refrigerator
  • Thread onto 2 – 3 sturdy bamboo skewers and grill
 
The Aioli
  • 2T Dukes mayonnaise
  • 1T Jerk paste
  • 1T Sriracha
  • 1T Juice of one lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Next…
  • Whisk together thoroughly
  • Season & taste
  • Refrigerate for an hour

 

 

TIPS

  • Prepare your taco garnishes
  • Simmer yellow rice or vegetarian refried beans
  • Grill your shrimp skewers with a cocktail of choice 

FINAL TOUCHES

I realize taco garnishes can be very personal. Here at Colleton we subscribe to the following:
  • Thinly sliced green cabbage, splashed with a little olive oil and salt
  • Finely sliced red radish (you’re in luck – they are beautiful right now)
  • Six-inch white corn tortillas, served warm (of course).

Enjoy the cooler weather and support the local shrimper!
 
—Chef Robert

 

Around The Table – September 12, 2019

GUIDE TO SELECTING AND STORING PRODUCE
We’ve all been there, opening the fridge to find your fruits and vegetables have spoiled is not only frustrating, it’s like tossing your food budget into the compost pile. Learning how to select and store fresh produce will help you increase shelf life, so you can enjoy them longer.
 
There are no real secret tips when selecting fresh produce. Peel back the corn husk, pick the yellowest lemon, and with a satiny yellow skin and a rosy blush, it looks like the perfect peach, but how will they taste once you get them home? Choosing fresh and flavorful produce can sometimes be your greatest challenge in the supermarket. But, maybe we can help.
 
SELECTING GUIDELINES
Sure, everyone has tips and tricks for picking the right melon or apple, but there are few general guidelines to follow to ensure you get the freshest produce possible.
 
FOLLOW THE SEASONS
Probably one of the most important tips for finding great-tasting produce is to buy in season, when possible. Here’s a guide to when certain fruits and veggies are at their peak:
  • Summer – apricots, blueberries, cherries, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, hot peppers, melon, okra, peaches, plums, sweet corn, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Fall – apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, grapes, kale, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, winter squash, yams
  • Winter – beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus fruits, daikon radishes, onions, rutabagas, turnips, winter squash
  • Spring – asparagus, blackberries, green onions, leeks, lettuces, new potatoes, peas, red radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, watercress

KNOW YOUR VENDOR

With modern farming, processing and delivery, many vendors can put produce out for sale within a day or two after it’s picked. Ask the produce manager or vendor for delivery days or when the food was harvested so you can get to your favorite produce before quality declines. We all have our favorite trusted stores, so there’s nothing wrong with getting to know the people who work there. Ask them produce questions after all they are trained to help! 

BE A PRODUCE SNOB

If it doesn’t look and smell great, don’t buy it. Use your senses. Contrary to some consumer practices, thumping or shaking a melon does not indicate ripeness. Instead, feel or touch a product. In general, produce that’s too soft is too ripe; if it’s too hard, it’s not ripe enough. Try the sniff test, too. With certain fruits, like peaches and melons, a strong scent means they’re ripening nicely. Don’t just take produce because it’s there. Take the time to find the BEST available produce.

BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED

This one is simple. When we cook, we generally prepare more than we need. The best guideline we can provide is to buy in smaller amounts. You’ll have less to cook with, but also less waste. Avoid sales for the sake of the sale. This way you’re not cooking with tired produce, or tossing out the expired.

USE IT UP

After you’ve become close acquaintances with your produce manager or vendor, you’ve touched and sniffed all the produce at the supermarket, don’t forget to cook what you bought. Eat the fresh produce when it’s fresh!

WASHING & DRYING

Okay, it’s time to eat, finally. Even if the produce seems clean, always wash under it cool running water and shake dry – especially the herbs! Always spin – rinse lettuces. Even if the package claims to be tripled rinsed, it can’t hurt to rinse again. 

STORING TIPS

You bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, stash them in the refrigerator and then wonder what happened to make them shrivel, rot or go limp a few days later. Much of the time, the culprit is the way you’re storing them.
 
There are few things I hold in higher regard than how to care and properly store produce. At work, the chefs and cooks know I’m adamant about proper storage. To me it’s the key to great taste and quality – and it protects costs.
 
  • Protect produce from the cold – use paper towels to line the plastic disposable food containers after rinsing and wrap loosely to protect foods from the refrigerator temperature. Use the produce drawers, they sometimes have humidity controls
  • Fruits & Vegetables don’t play well together and should be stored in different locations
  • Don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them make them more likely to spoil

COLLETON RIVER PRODUCE

At Colleton we have strict purchasing specifications and when it comes time to chose the produce, we abide by every guideline. We touch, smell, squeeze, weigh, check the skin & leaves and examine the color of every single piece of produce that comes in the door.
 
In fact, produce is hand selected for Colleton River. We work with prodigious local vendors who know our preferences. We also visit the warehouse to inspect the quality of the produce. All in all, we know that choosing the right produce is important. 
 
Keep it fresh, take care and enjoy!
-Chef Robert

Around the Table – August 29, 2019

A TOUCH OF REGIONAL RECIPE HISTORY

There is a difference of opinion as to what exactly the Lowcountry encompasses. The term is most frequently used to describe the coastal area of South Carolina to the Savannah River at the Georgia state line. But there is one belief I think we can all agree on, the Lowcountry enjoys a very diverse and rich culinary history. From the commencement of time, the Lowcountry locals had to make do with what was around them, and with over hundreds of thousands acres of wetlands, marshes, and lakes, it’s easy to understand the Lowcountry philosophy, “If you got it, you cook it.” Still to this day, the philosophy remains true.

WE ARE STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
There was, and maybe still is, a strong sense of rivalry between the cities and people of Charleston and Savannah. They rivaled for hospitability, social graces, and which city was founded first. We, the true Lowcountry, can lay claim to them both, and enjoy the resources, the lifestyles and the histories of the Holy and Hostess cities. One of the most valuable assets of being ‘caught in the middle’ is that we get the opportunity to enjoy the cuisine both cities offer. The costal locations of both Charleston and Savannah provide a soul food inspiration, with foods as rich in history and they are in flavor, and although the Holy and Hostess City have grown and evolved in recent years, classic southern Lowcountry foods like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup remain staples of the food scene.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE LOWCOUNTRY

  • Seasonality: There’s a focus on good, locally used ingredients, and luckily for the Lowcountry that means using what we already have. For centuries local cooks have turned to the water for culinary inspiration. Crab, shrimp, fish, and oysters form the basis of any traditional menu. Rice, grits and the produce of the coastal plain also play an instrumental role in the Lowcountry cooking. Cooks and chefs here have always been focused on good quality, and seasonal ingredients.
  • Condiments: Because of the climate in the Lowcountry, canning evolved as a ways to preserve the bounty of produce. It’s still true to this day, most dining venues provide some type of condiment at every table.
  • Seafood Culture: It is strong and continues to flourish with the popularity of recreational offshore fishing. For convenience, and certainly for flavor, grilling seafood is the preferred cooking method for fish in the Lowcountry.
  • Comfort Food: Like most southern cuisine, Lowcountry food is comfort food, best eaten at home and centered around large, one-pot meals.

WHAT LOWCOUNTRY CUISINE MEANS AT COLLETON RIVER

Reflecting on the history and tradition of the Lowcountry allows our team to focus on:
 
  • Variety and quality of the season’s ingredients
  • Traditional cooking methods, keeps us true to our roots as cooks
  • The world’s best seafood and the abundance we enjoy
  • Unique products found right here in our backyard (or marsh)
  • Making your dining experience in the Lowcountry memorable and fun
Everyday I consider myself fortunate to be a lifetime student of the cooking and hospitality of the Lowcountry.
 
—Chef Robert

Around the Table – August 21, 2019

What It Means to Be A Club Member

I certainly don’t have to tell you what it means to be a Club member. Some of you have been members longer than …well, let’s just agree it’s been a long time. I can, however, give perspective on what it means to be a Club Culinary Team.
 
The world of private clubs has long been associated with drinks and food. This should not be terribly surprising given the simple fact that more people eat than swing a golf club and tennis racket. Providing a popular member amenity such as club dining, we frequently discuss being a service team, or a team in service. We discuss the types of service we provide, and how we can refine it. We exchange ideas on how to make the dining experience more enjoyable for you. Lastly, we discuss how our services are different from other restaurants and dining establishments, and what makes us better.
 
YOU HAVE OPTIONS
There’s no denying that dining in the Lowcountry is a culinary excursion on its own. I, of course, have a few favorites. But, when it comes to celebrating, entertaining friends, or just enjoying a casual night with your loved ones, we want to be your first consideration when it comes time to dining.
 
As a Club Culinary Team we’re prepared for your culinary requests, and we will welcome and manage those request to the best of our abilities. This includes the understanding that your request may change as your requirements and preferences evolve.
ITS PERSONAL
Our industry is seemingly one of the most susceptible to changing trends. If you are still obsessing over Quinoa when the rest of the world has moved onto cauliflower pizza, we want to know. Tell us your preferences, as well as your likes and dislikes. Whether it’s dietary, lifestyle, or you just don’t like anchovies, the more we know about you, the better we can serve you.
ACCESS TO QUALITY
Below you will find services we provide to you as Colleton River Club members:
 
  • In-home catering opportunities
  • Catering carry-out options (order a party dish and pick up on the way!)
  • Order pre-cut steaks, meats, and fish items, cut to your specifications!
  • Last, but certainly not least, the finest quality steaks available from our Nebraska Beef Program.
Feel free to get personal with the Club Culinary Team at Colleton! We may be reached through the Nicklaus Front Desk! We’ll be expecting your call.
 
—Chef Robert

Around the Table – August 14, 2019

Summer Salads – Dressed to Kill

Salad can be a nice plate of leaves and vegetables, but lately they are becoming so much more. During the heat of the summer, salad becomes more important and more frequent, especially at my place. Because the grill is running more, it allows me to get creative with my salads. One or two nights a week I am grilling vegetables that will be used on my summer salads, vegetables such as; roasted corn, lengths of zucchini, long green onions, tomatoes brushed with olive oil and lightly charred, seasoned carefully and dusted with chopped herbs.
 
The grilled vegetables really livens the taste and texture of the typical summer salad of greens. Salads are meant to be flavorful, refreshing, interesting and nutritious. However, there is one last ingredient that turns a simple summer salad into a bowl of creativity, a pure mouthwatering dish, and is probably the most important component to me: the dressing.
DRESSING IS EVERYTHING
A summer salad only deserves the best dressing. I’ll be the first to admit there are some great dressings out there, but for me it’s all about homemade.
 
Great, but simple ingredients are a must. Your access to wonderful, flavorful, unique ingredients is limitless. This is where I don’t skimp; when I’m buying red wine vinegar or olive oil- quality doesn’t have to mean fancy. I also stress the balance of richness, spiciness, sour & sweet when blending dressing and tasting. And don’t forget, seasoning is a must! I prefer, and obviously enjoy fresh herbs but don’t ignore dried oregano- there’s always a home for the spice in a robust red wine vinaigrette.
 
Homemade dressings are so easy to make and infinitely better tasting and better for you. I hope you’re making dressings at home. If you are and could use (or want) some further inspiration, here are a few great summertime examples to try!
 
Bonus, both recipes work as a dressing or quick marinade!
 
THE FAMOUS LEMON-THYME
Ingredients
  • 1 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Thyme, stemmed & finely minced
  • 1 tbsp White Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tb Minced Shallot
  • 3 cups Light salad oil, canola or light olive oil
  • Salt & pepper for taste
Directions
  • Mince shallot & fresh thyme
  • Combine all, except oil
  • Incorporate oil by whisking to create an emulsion
  • Taste, season, taste again

SHERRY ORANGE VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients
  • 2 Oranges, peeled, segmented, squeezed, reserve
  • 2 tb Dijon mustard
  • 2 tb Honey
  • 3 oz Sherry Vinegar
  • 6 oz Olive Oil or oil of choice
 
Directions
  • Select the best oranges of the season
  • Carefully peel with a knife, leave whole
  • Segment with a sharp paring knife into your mixing bowl
  • Squeeze the juice from the membrane over the orange segments
  • Add the mustard, honey & vinegar
  • Incorporate oil by whisking to create an emulsion
  • Taste, season, taste again
Regarding our dressings here at Colleton, every drop is house made, with only the best ingredients available. We don’t use stabilizers or flavorings in the production of these recipes, just fresh and simple ingredients.
 
Enjoy your craft!
 
 
—Chef Robert
 

Around the Table – 90th American Culinary Federation Convention

Greetings from the 2019 American Culinary Federation’s National Convention!
The ACF events are convention conferences featuring educations and networking for culinary students, cooks, industry professionals, vendors, educators, and the worlds chefs. The ACF hosts more than 1,000 chefs and culinary professionals for five days of hands-on workshops, national and international competitions, live demonstrations, and educational seminars on the latest industry trends.
 
This conference truly includes the Who’s Who of the culinary industry, and allows us to gather to learn, share, taste, celebrate, and did I mention taste? The 2019 ACF marks the 90th year, which adds even more excitement!
A few of my favorite events from the conference so far:
 
  • Informative session on the fundamentals of Dashi, which became the intricacies of Dashi by the end of the presentation. Chef Ivan Orkin not only demonstrated the preparation of Dashi, he shared his philosophy on the cooking broth’s various applications in Japanese and Western Cuisines.
 
  •  During the afternoon Tradeshows, attendees spent hours of excitement watching regional student teams vie for their chance to become the ACF National Student Team Champions!
 
  • Chefs Rico Torres and Diego Galicia, co-owners of Mixtli in San Antonio, TX who were recognized by Food & Wine Magazine in 2017 as “Best New Chefs” opened Monday morning with their inspirations on the use of chilis of Mexico, and continued expressing their passion for the history and place in Mexican cooking and culture.
 
  •  I had the opportunity to hear famed Chef and TV personality Pierre White describe challenging the odds to be the youngest chef to acquire three Michelin stars in England for his groundbreaking restaurant. Chef White has trained notable chefs such as Gordan Ramsay, Curtis Stone and Shannon Bennett.

Pictured: Chef White and Chef Wysong

Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the contemporary cold food salon. As I hope you notice, this is very distinct work that demonstrates the highest art form and skills.

I look forward to the remaining days of the conference. To say it has been an inspiring time to be here in Orlando among so many colleagues and friends is an understatement!
 
 
I’ll see you all very soon!
 
—Chef Robert
Read more about Chef Robert’s Convention Experience ACF National Convention 2019 Summary

Around the Table – July 31, 2019

Summer Enrichments

I recently heard that the four seasons in the south can be defined as Allergy, Summer, Hurricane and Football. I think we all can agree we are very much into summer. While the definitions of these seem self-explanatory, I want to describe to you what the summer season means to me.
 
Summer itself arrives stealthily, but then instantly the heat is upon us. The heat provides me with the time and opportunity to take a step back, establish, reflect and look toward the future. I want to share with you a few things we are working on in the Culinary Department during the summer.
 
PERSONAL FOCUS
It’s no secret the goal of a culinary team is to provide high-quality food and excellent service to our members. This goal can only be achieved with the cooperation, support, and creativity of the entire team.
 
We continue to acclimate Chef Anthony to our team and methods, and the service team remains focusing on training and knowledge while we continue to improve creativity by involving the team on all levels. Take a football team for example, each player on the team has a different role and each player offers a unique skill- but all have the same goal of winning the game. The same applies for a our industry. Individual creativity of our team contributes to the team’s success, which in return, makes the dining experience more enjoyable for you.
 
PRODUCT FOCUS
The Ingredients of Summer
There are tons of fresh produce available this time of year. Peachessweet corn and blueberries are summertime staples, but venture out this summer and try produce like figs, okra or tomatillos.
 
New Flavors
We’re begging you to be adventurous! It’s easy to stick to a basic meal of a hamburger and french fries. However, branching out and trying different foods is not only delicious, but it is also good for you! Trying new flavors could be more nutritious, or dare we say it, you could even discover a new favorite!
 
New Options
We know you love the Steve Salad, but try new things! We’re pleased to be offering more seafood. Besides, seafood is not only great for your health, it’s versatile and….delicious!
 
PROCESS FOCUS
  • Food Consistencies – this is an on-going effort in every kitchen. We know the importance of consistencies, rather it be the appearance, flavor, or all of the above
  • Keeping the Menus Up-to-Date – if it’s not selling – it’s gone!
  • Making it Lighter – a lighter approach to the day-to-day cooking principals. The heat of summer often steals the body’s hunger and leaves you wanting more foods like salads and seafood. So, when the summer heat is against you, we’re here for you!
  • Lightening the Buffets – especially after 18 holes in a southern heat wave! Am I right?!

As I mentioned above, I like to take the summer not only to prepare and look ahead, but to reflect. What better way to reflect than to provide you with a 4th of July food recap. Prepare to be amazed…or shocked. You be the judge!
 
Conservatively, in rounded numbers, this is just some of what you enjoyed:
 
  • 200 pounds of shrimp
  • 360 hamburgers
  • 320 hot dogs
  • 160 bratwursts
  • 150 pounds of pork shoulder
  • 200 pounds of beef brisket
  • 150 pounds of pork ribs
  • A panel truck full of fresh produce
  • 500 cupcakes
  • 360 cookies
On that note, enjoy your summer, eat light and stay cool!
-Chef Robert

Around the Table – Trading Places, New Faces – In the Kitchens

Pictured above left to right: Executive Chef Chef Robert Wysong, Brian Freeman, Garde Manager Chef, and Chris Weil, Sauté Chef.

If you noticed the new staff announcements last week, I’m happy to report that “Trading Places and New Faces” also applies to our culinary team, and the timing could not be better. The softer summer season allows us time to dream up new ideas, hone our training and bring a renewed focus to our programs. Here’s what you can expect from the culinary staff as we transition through the summer:  

WHAT IS DIFFERENT

Several new members have joined the team, and that’s very exciting! We look forward to you meeting our new crew members and enjoying what they bring “to the table,” so to speak!

Veronica Dempsey
Veronica leads the preparation of employee dining as the Team Meal Chef, feeding 120 staffers daily throughout the week.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jill Hurley
Jill has joined us from the Ford Plantation, and will devote her efforts as Line Chef to Sunday Brunch, baking and banquet, and event preparations.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anthony Guiliano
Anthony will assist in management and oversee the Club’s a la carte dining services as Chef de Cuisine.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WHAT WILL CHANGE
Enhanced Creativity
With more team interaction comes better collaboration on all levels.
Refreshed Perspective
Our experiences dictate what we bring to the table and “new blood” pushes us forward.
New Ideas
Exciting viewpoints and the exchange of information is the key to our growth.

WHAT REMAINS THE SAME

Commitment to Quality
The only choice for Colleton: Hand-selected Nebraska Beef, local seafood delivered daily, and specific local, seasonal produce.
Commitment to Service
While transitioning, our commitment to your dining experience is our priority.
Commitment to Consistency
At all levels, all the time.

David Hills, Chef – Rotisseur

In short, there is much work to do. But as a team we are reinvigorated and truly excited to provide the very best service to theColleton River Club membership.
We will continue to bring you the outstanding culinary experiences that you’ve come to expect from the kitchen—and we hope to keep surprising you along the way. Have a wonderful week!
—Chef Robert

 

Around the Table – June 19, 2019

Summertime Revisited

When I think about summer, I’m reminded of classic summer picnic foods. Growing up in the 1970s in the suburbs of DC, summer meals were just basic. Occasionally we would go out, but mostly we stayed at home for dinner. (Six o’clock sharp!) Daylight lasted far longer after dinner, which meant more time to play, and more time for the folks on the back porch to talk late into the night. I’m sure it really isn’t that much different now but thinking about summertime dinners always brings back memories of simpler times, the sound of crickets as a backdrop to the evening and the vague smell of summer just hanging in the air somehow.
 
My favorite summer foods now are the same ones that I loved then—corn on the cob, chilled watermelon, fried chicken and, if we were lucky, steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning. There was no butter, no cocktail or lemon—but maybe the opportunity for a swig from an unattended National Bohemian or Pabst Blue Ribbon if nobody was looking!
 
These days I’m thinking about how to infuse those summertime favorites with new life, creating lighter profiles and layering unexpected flavors, but still in keeping with all the best of childhood recollections. While you savor summer, I hope you’ll try and love these updated classics just as much as I do!
 
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Cube a very ripe watermelon (about 4 C.) and 1/2 C. feta cheese. Add 1 T. packed fresh mint leaves, sliced, a bit of thinly sliced jalapeño(about half of a small one), a squeeze of fresh lime, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and a pinch of coarse kosher salt. Toss together lightly to combine.
 
 
Summer Grilled Corn
Grill corn in the husk until charred. Peel and cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Meanwhile, grill a red bell pepper until charred. Dice and combine with the corn kernels. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and finish with a sprinkle of a little chopped cilantro or basil.
 
Crispy Szechuan “Hot” Chicken
Marinate four boneless, skinless chicken breasts for several hours in a mixture of 4 oz. honey, 12 oz. buttermilk, 1 oz. salt and 1 oz. crushed Szechuan peppercorn.
 
Remove chicken from marinade. Set chicken aside and add the marinade to a medium saucepan. Simmer mixture over low heat until just combined, about 10 minutes.
 
Meanwhile, dust chicken in 6 T. flour seasoned with 1 T. salt and 1/2 T. pepper. Shallow fry in 6 T. of canola or corn oil until done & crispy (about 5-6 minutes per side); drain on paper towels.
 
Brush the crispy chicken with the sauce or toss together for a deeper, more robust coating.
                                           
 
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to keep an ice-cold beer nearby (don’t take your eye off it, now!) and enjoy the best of summer. Cheers!
 
-Chef Robert
 
 
 
 
 
NAME THAT COCKTAIL CONTEST RESULTS
After tabulating votes for our 16 entries, the winning name
for the Fourth of July specialty cocktail is…
 
Yankee Doodle Dickel Dandy
 
The winning entry was submited by Sandy Wooster, who will receive
two free drink coupons to enjoy this delicious summer concoction.
Congratulations, Mrs. Wooster!

Around the Table – June 12, 2019

The Simplicity of Thai Cuisine
I often wonder where I would be if I hadn’t been lucky enough to experience Thai food. The first time was many years ago in a tiny storefront restaurant with my older brother, a former US Navy man. It actually changed my life.
 
I often look back on that experience fondly, recalling the freshness of the cooking, the simplicity of preparation and, of course, the uniqueness of the sauces—Wow! The dark nuance of basil, vegetables, the spiced layers of the red curry duck, the subtleties of great pad Thai…I could literally drink those sauces. Fortunately, there were even better things to drink, including the Singha beer and Thai iced coffee!
 
How had I missed this my entire life? From that moment on, wherever we lived, I made it my mission to find the best Thai restaurant and immediately make myself a regular. Mostly good and sometimes great, I made a strong case for frequenting those favorite haunts as much as possible. Selfish, but true!
 
The traditional taste of great Thai lies in the perfect balance of the four key tastes recognized by the human tongue: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. This balance is evident in some of the most recognizable dishes such as Pad Thai, Thai Green Curry Vegetables, and Basil Duck. Heat from fresh chili peppers (aka Thai bird pepper and Thai hot)—often recommended by the wait staff and frequently grown by the chefs and restaurateurs themselves—serve as the spark that keeps the dishes and condiments interesting.
 
Thai cooking is distinct for its combinations of aromatic spices and ingredients: The Thai basil, ginger, chili pepper, mint and lemongrass; the garlic, the fish sauce, coconut milk and, of course, the curry pastes. Combined correctly, these individual actors can produce something simply mystifying, yet its aroma beckons as though your palette always knew this taste experience was out there somewhere but was just waiting for a proper introduction.
 
Rice is a huge staple of Thai cuisine, accompanying almost any dish prepared with a sauce. Such complex dishes pair beautifully with fragrant Jasmine rice, simply, perfectly steamed and dished from a tin-plated vessel, as they do with thin rice-flour noodles, another popular foil for dancing Thai flavors.
 
It’s difficult to overstate the important role fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs play in so many Thai preparations. Interesting combinations of sprouts, eggplants, beans, various peppers, squashes, tomatoes, broccoli and all kinds of onions; melons, pineapple, coconut, mangoes and papayas, to name a few. All of these contribute to the healthful, lighter qualities associated with Thai cuisine.
 
Here is a fail-safe recipe I hope you’ll try at home. The ingredients are pictured above. You can get everything at Publix, with the exception of perhaps the palm sugar, which you can get at any Asian market. If you do make it, please take a picture, send it to us at shelleyk@colletonriverclub.com and we will publish it in a future edition of Around the Table! -Chef Robert