- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- EASY ROAST CHICKEN: Photographer Steve E. Miller prepared and photographed a slight modification of Winemaker Ryan Deovlet’s recipe for a quick roast chicken. The easy steps are: Preheat oven to 425 degrees, wash chicken and pat dry, season to taste, separate skin from breasts and back, insert garlic and a bit of butter between skin and meat (it helps get the skin really crispy), place chicken on vertical cooker that’s been filled with a mixture of beer and water, cover top of chicken with bacon, put washed potatoes and onions in base of pan, cook 30 minutes or until bacon is crispy, remove bacon from chicken and set aside, cover chicken with a piece of tin foil and cook for another 45 minutes, remove tin foil to allow the top skin to crisp up and cook for another 15 minutes.
After being out on the job all day the last thing I want to do is go home and prepare a complicated meal. That’s leaves me two choices: take-out or make a salad or sandwich. It’s usually the latter considering how picky I am about food. For instance, I regularly shop at Costco but their premade (overly-salted) foods don’t appeal, no matter how lazy I feel.
After a recent day out and about, I had planned a Costco stop so I picked up some very appealing ahi steaks. Once home, I doused the tuna with a splash each of EVOO, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar (always unseasoned), freshly-ground coriander, sea salt, and black pepper, then let it marinate while I made a side salad.
Another no-brainer: simply Johnson Farms tender heirloom lettuces and thinly sliced red onions, SLO Grown tomatoes, and a Haas avocado dressed with Boar’s Head Dijon with horseradish (my fave) and about a 50/50 mix of rice vinegar and EVOO. Next I seared the ahi on my Cuisinart “Griddler” medium rare, while toasting whole wheat hamburger buns. I slapped mayo on the buns, sliced the tuna and served it burger style with salad on the side. We popped open a Sinor-LaVallee pinot noir from Rincon Vineyard, which is sublime with tuna (or salmon or filet mignon) no matter how it’s cooked. That easy dinner sated my giant appetite far better than the last hamburger I enjoyed in a nice restaurant (I never eat fast food burgers).
The experience motivated this column: I asked several local chefs what they do when they crave a tasty meal but feel too tired to tackle a complicated meal. I appreciated their enthusiasm; all of them including vintners I know who love to cook quickly responded with their delicious, home-cooked fast food “recipe.” I asked for the formula not the measurements, leaving it up to readers to choose their favorite condiments, bread or cheese, to try these delicious dishes.
At Lido in Dolphin Bay Resort, the choice of many locals celebrating special occasions, the menus are as upscale as the venue with a few affordably-priced comfort foods. Lido’s executive chefs Jacob Moss and Maegen Loring both provided delicious simple treats they cook at home.
Moss’s dish was appealingly easy: “After a long day at work my late-night favorite meal is breakfast. I buy farm fresh eggs from the SLO Farmers Market, cook them over-medium or scrambled, with two thick-cut bacon slices, and toast some Farb’s whole wheat bread. It may sound strange but it tastes great with a Firestone DBA.” I totally get it; I think ginger cookies taste great with cold beer.
Loring explained, “Most of us (chefs) eat pretty simply at home.” Ironically her fast dish is my typical lunch when I’m home alone, except I prefer TJ’s salsa especial. “Here is my go-to after work. I smear corn tortillas with sriracha, place good Cheddar on each and broil until the edges are crispy and center is bubbly. I add some thinly shredded cabbage, red onions, and cilantro, and finish with a squeeze of lime. I love to have this with a good, floral, fruity, and crisp white like Clesi malvasia.”
Chef Brian Collins at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, an Arroyo Grandian, prefers baker Robert Oswaks’ levain-like bread which will soon be available in his new bakery in that tiny town, Bob’s Well Bread. “When I bring home a loaf of that fresh, killer bread, I make a sandwich with Farmers Market vegetables, a slice of Rinconada Dairy cheese, and some salami or prosciutto, spread with my homemade aioli and Dijon mustard. The next day I use it for a panzanella salad with heirloom tomatoes. On the second day cooking the bread livens it back up for making amazing panini. I love it with Figueroa Mountain Hoppy Poppy pale ale or Hurricane Deck IPA.”
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- OM NOM NOM: Remove chicken from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes or so, and finally serve chicken with potatoes and bacon crumbles.
Vintner Brian Talley, Talley Vineyards, loves to cook, which I know from experience. “With leftover grilled chicken or pork, I cut the meat into small pieces, brown it in a skillet seasoned with salt, garlic powder, and cumin. Add chile verde sauce to make a green chili or paprika and red chile powder to made a red chili, and thin it with a little chicken stock or water. Serve it with tortillas and don’t forget a side salad of Talley Farm’s Fresh Harvest vegetables. We enjoy this wine with our Bishop’s Peak chardonnay or on tap rosé, or Sierra Nevada pale ale.”
Winemaker Ryan Deovlet, Deovlet Wines, said he has an easy solution for cooking dinner so he can focus on more important things. “The quickest meal for me is roasting chicken with some fingerling potatoes and letting the oven do the work. And I throw together a side salad. My go-to wine would be something from Barrel 27.”
Mike Sinor, Sinor-LaVallee, stops at Guadalajara Market in Grover Beach for his quick meal. “When we’re in need of good food fast I buy ranchero meats, it’s just a humble strip steak. On the propane barbecue it cooks in about four minutes on each side with some Susie Q’s seasoning and chimichurri sauce. I keep chimichurri sauce in the ice box all the time,” he chuckled. “I can’t get enough of it. The added bonus: Guadalajara Market always has fresh, warm corn tortillas. My go-to wine with this meal is Claiborne and Churchill malbec.”
Cass House chef Jensen Lorenzen and team regularly eat one particular superfood. “I have a great fast food I learned about in a unique way. Eating a whole foods diet is the only way I’m able to keep up with the demands of the kitchen lifestyle,” he elaborated. “I was climbing in Peru and fell ill at 12K feet, I could barely breathe or keep food down. The Peruvian porters, on the other hand, carried heavy gear and were literally running up and down the Incan stairs. In addition to their rigorous daily workout, they all swore by the same base diet, quinoa, sprouted or simply steamed exactly like rice. The easiest way to keep this superfood ready to eat is by keeping a jar of sprouted quinoa refrigerated. Mix it with high quality olive oil, sea salt, and lemon juice. I like mine with avocado, green onion, and cilantro.”
Winemaker Stillman Brown, always concise, said: “I stop at Taco Temple.”
Who needs fast food when you can eat this well at home?
Contact Cuisine Columnist Kathy Marcks Hardesty at email@example.com.