Comfort Food, Elevated

Photos by Erik Johnson

Comfort foods will always have their place on Virginia tables. But here’s a menu for a slightly more adventurous dinner, celebrating Virginia’s extraordinary bounty of agricultural wonders that are great on the plate. These dishes can be made with Virginia products like Hayman sweet potatoes from Melfa, bison tenderloin from Madison, micro chard from Powhatan and apples from Winchester, all paired with wines from two dozen vineyards around the state.

Pan-Seared Bison with Cabernet Reduction

6 6 oz. Bison filet mignon

3 Tbsp. Parsley, freshly chopped

to taste Black pepper, coarsely ground

to taste Sea salt

2 Tbsp. Clarified butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Shallots, minced

4 oz. Cabernet Sauvignon

6 oz. Demi-glace (many gourmet markets now sell prepared demi-glace)

1/2 tsp. Thyme, freshly chopped

1 tsp. Butter

Season the bison filets on both sides with parsley, salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the clarified butter. Once heated just below the smoking point, add the filets. Sear on both sides. Remove from the pan and place onto a baking pan in a 375°F oven and continue cooking to desired doneness. In the sauté pan, add the shallots and sauté briefly. Remove pan from heat and add Cabernet Sauvignon, then return to the burner. Gently scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan – this is the good stuff! Reduce the wine until almost dry. Add the demi-glace and bring to a simmer. Stir in the thyme and butter and serve.

Creamy Eastern Shore Haymans

Haymans have such a luscious, sweet flesh and smooth, creamy texture that very little needs to be added to them! These are from Blue Crab Bay Company.

2 lbs. ( 5-6) Hayman potatoes

1 oz. Extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 oz. Half & half, heated

1/4 tsp. Lemon thyme, freshly chopped

1/8 tsp. Grains of Paradise*, ground

to taste Sea salt

Thoroughly wash and dry the Haymans. Then rub exterior of potatoes with the extra-virgin olive oil. Place in a 350˚F oven and roast for approximately 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and, when potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half and remove the meat of the potato. Press through a ricer and combine with the remaining ingredients.

*Grains of Paradise, also known as Melegueta pepper, have a slightly hot and peppery taste with the aroma of cardamom.

Butterscotch Apple Tartlets

6 oz. Butterscotch Schnapps (such as DeKuyper ButterShots)

1/2 cup Light brown sugar

1/8 tsp. Ground cinnamon

4-5 Apples, Golden Delicious and/or Granny Smith (peeled, cored & sliced)

1/4 cup Butter, unsalted

2 tsp. All-purpose flour

pinch Salt

6 Removable-bottom tartlet pans lined with pâté sucrée (sweetened short pastry) or favorite pie crust and blind baked*

6 tsp. Turbinado sugar (1 tsp. for each tartlet)

In a medium saucepan, combine the liqueur, sugar and cinnamon. Place over medium-low heat and gently simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Add the apples, butter, flour and salt, and return to heat until butter melts and flour has dissolved. Remove from heat and divide mixture in prepared tartlet shells. Sprinkle the top of each tartlet with turbinado sugar. Place in a 350˚F oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until apples are tender and tops of tartlets begin to caramelize. Remove from oven and allow them to rest for at least 4 hours, to set before serving. Serve with Ginger Crème Anglaise and fresh mint.

*Blind bake simply means to bake the tart crust before filling it.

Ginger Crème Anglaise

1 pint Half & half

1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 tsp. Gingerroot, peeled and finely minced

4 oz. Sugar

4 Egg yolks

In a saucepan, combine the half & half, vanilla bean (scrape out the contents and include with bean shell in the cream), gingerroot, and half of the sugar, and bring to a gentle boil, then remove from heat. Whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Gradually pour the hot cream into the egg mixture while whisking rapidly. Place the mixture over simmering water and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to get it hotter than 190°F or it will curdle. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and place over an ice bath mixture of ice and water to cool. When chilled, serve with Butterscotch Apple Tartlets.

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