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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For Love of the Elephant Seal
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