A Celebrity Chef in My Kitchen and an Open Fire on the Range

Food Network chef Rahm Fama recently spent a weekend in Cambria. During his visit, the chef lit an open fire on my pricey Jade range. Fortunately, a 911 call wasn’t necessary. Let me explain.

Chef Rahm with Angela Payton preps for cooking the meal

Chef Rahm with Angela Payton preps for cooking the meal

For the past two Septembers, Chef Rahm—host of Meat & Potatoes and also the author of a cookbook slated for 2014 publication, Man on the Range—has donated his time to help Friends of the Elephant Seal raise funds for their educational mission. During the September 2012 fundraiser, ten people won a silent auction bid for “A Private Chef’s Dinner” that featured Chef Fama and Lone Madrone wines. Cambria/Templeton residents Chuck and Renet Clark donated the use of their Templeton hilltop home for the event.

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Chefs Dakota Weiss and Chef Rahm with Robin Kuzma

from left, Chef Dakota Weiss, Chef Rahm and Robin Kuzma at Soupabration 2011 with a Zero Waste station at left

The chef is one of my “kids,” in that he spent much of his youth in my home and was best friends with my daughter who has also grown into her celebrity chef toque, Chef Dakota Weiss, a Top Chef alumnus. To me, even though he’s made it big time, the chef remains “Rahm”—a skinny 12-year-old sitting at my kitchen table and engaged in a foot fight with either one of my daughters with me demanding the three of them to “Cool it!” (“But, Mom,” Rahm would protest, “Dakota started it.”)

Now Rahm is a grown-up with all the grown-up responsibilities. While his talent and personality has put him in the lights, he remains a kind and generous soul. So after he closed shop at his day job (Executive Chef for US Foods), he drove up Highway 1 from Long Beach to my Cambria kitchen and prepped a 5-course meal, plus appetizers for the ten lucky silent auction bidders and the Clarks.

The Meal

Scalloped ceviche shots & Lone Madrone wine

Scalloped ceviche shots & Lone Madrone wine

Appetizers included scalloped ceviche shots paired with Lone Madrone’s Chenin Blanc followed by the first course—a smoked trout salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado and spring greens mix with burnt honey apricot dressing. Points West White, a white wine blend, paired perfectly with this dish.

A cream of pear and ginger soup filled in the second course, trailed by course three, which featured panko-gnocchi fritters that topped a masala-spiced tea braised pork belly. This was my fave, especially paired with their Points West Red.

Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre

After this much rich food, the 12 diners still cleaned their plates and left room for the final two dishes. Usually a fourth course featuring beef is the bite that blasted the belly. But this time Rahm’s steak au poivre with a greens gremolata, drizzled with bourbon cream sauce on a potato and parsnip puree, topped with fried root vegetables received a near-standing ovation by the diners. Lone Madrone’s Amanda Johnson poured their Tannat, a beefy red born to pair with this course. How good was this? Ten of the 12 servings came back without a crumb left to lick.

Finally, dessert: a cinnamon salted caramel apple bread pudding with hard apple cider and a vanilla cream was served and paired with Bristol’s Hard Cider.

Smoked Trout Salad

Smoked Trout Salad

Kudos go to Rahm’s personal assistant Angela Payton who worked with both the chef and the winery to match and pair a magnificent meal. Robin Kuzma accompanied Rahm and helped prep and serve the evening’s meal. Also, Opolo Vineyards provided sparkling wine that kick-started this foodie fiesta. Debbie Paver at Charter Oak Style Meats provided the pork belly and the Angus beef steaks, all sustainably raised and antibiotic- and growth hormone-free.

Smoking trout in a Dutch oven on the stovetop

Smoking trout in a Dutch oven on the stovetop

Let’s get back to that fire on my range. The smoked trout in the salad course arrived in my kitchen fresh and rare. Rahm transformed the fillets into a savory hickory smoked fish that I learned I too can smoke right on top of my Jade range. It doesn’t require fancy equipment, just my inexpensive cast iron Dutch oven and a stainless steel basket.

The bulk of Rahm’s cookbook Man on the Range will demonstrate how to get the most from old-fashioned cast iron pots and skillets right on your own range. Follow the directions below to try this at home.

Stove-top Trout Smoking

  • Put flame to hickory chips.
  • Build a “camp fire” in a cast iron Dutch oven.
  • Achieve sufficient flame to begin smoking.
  • Place fresh trout in a stainless steel basket.
  • Cover with cast iron lid to create smoke.
  • Smoke until fish is no longer opaque.
Chef Rahm Fama
Chef Rahm Fama with Angela Payton
setting hickory chips alight
putting flame to a hickory chip
cast iron camp fire
creating a Dutch oven camp fire
flame for smoking
a sufficient amount of flame for smoking
trout smoking
fresh trout set over flame in a stainless steel basket
lid ends flame
deprive the flame of oxygen for smoke
Smoked Trout Salad
Smoked Trout Salad
Chef Rahm Fama
prepping gnocchi
Chef Rahm Fama
cooking Charter Oaks pork belly on the cast iron griddle
ceviche shots with wine
Scalloped ceviche shots with Lone Madrone wines
Steak au Poivre
Steak au Poivre
Chuck Clark opens sparkling wine
Chuck Clark opens the bubbles
Chuck Clark opens sparkling wine
Chefs Dakota Weiss and Rahm Fama at Soupabration 2011

For Love of the Elephant Seal

Central Coast visitors can observe Northern Elephant Seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery, just north of Hearst Castle. During the months of January and February the rookery is quite busy with the birth of thousands of elephant seal pups, nursing mothers, and adult males at the helm of their harem of 20-40 females (plus their pups). Breeding is another part of this winter season. About four-weeks after a female gives birth, she will be bred by her alpha-bull. For more information about elephant seal viewing visit www.elephantseal.org or call 805/924-1628.
Large Male Northern Elephant Seal (M. angustirostris) at Arroyo Laguna

Large Male Northern Elephant Seal (M. angustirostris)

Charmaine Coimbra is a docent for Friends of the Elephant Seal. She also writes and edits a few blogs, including Charmaine’s Muse Pallet and Neptune 911. A former reporter and freelance writer, she retains her membership in the Society of Environmental Journalists. Charmaine says she has retired and is content to live in Cambria with her husband and a bossy cat. But we doubt her claim to retirement as she seems to be involved with several local nonprofits donating her time to events and fundraisers.

seal photo by “Mike” Michael L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com

Large Male Elephant Seal

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