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Mar 23, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘John Currence’

By the Book: Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence

Thursday, October 6th, 2016



Big Bad Breakfast sounded like a fun cookbook, and author John Currence has the credentials to back up his recipes. He won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in 2009, and he is the chef-owner of several restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, including (of course) Big Bad Breakfast.

I chose to make his German pancake. Like its Dutch baby cousin, it’s baked rather than cooked on the stovetop, producing a gloriously puffy breakfast treat that elicits oohs and ahs when it hits the table. Currence’s version fills a simple batter with apples and butter, then pours into an oven-proof skillet atop even more butter, apples and dark brown sugar, creating a sticky caramelized base.

The pancake puffed up as promised, but it took much longer than the recommended 12 to 14 minutes. After nearly 20 minutes, the top still had not browned as I’d hoped, so I helped it along with the broiler. Though it wasn’t quite the voluminous showstopper I’d hoped for, it tasted wonderful when finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a splash of maple syrup. I’d definitely make this again.

Skill level: Moderate. There are some recipes in here that require more time and more obscure ingredients.
Other recipes to try: Sauteed trout, soft scrambled eggs, chanterelle mushrooms, Louisiana crabcake Benedict
The verdict: Check back next week when Big Bad Breakfast takes on the next breakfast challenger.




German Pancake
1 to 2 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup buttermilk
6 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
¼ cup clarified butter or your preferred cooking fat
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Confectioners’ sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, for sprinkling

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• In a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, then stir in half of the apple.
• Warm an 8-inch cast-iron skillet (or nonstick skillet) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the clarified butter, then place the remaining apple slices around the bottom of the skillet and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Pour the batter evenly over the top and slide the skillet into the oven. Bake until the top of the pancake is golden brown, puffy and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, and serve immediately, preferably directly from the pan.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

By the Book: John Currence’s Maryland-style crabcakes and green apple-celery salad

Saturday, July 19th, 2014



John Currence is a Mississippi culinary legend. A lifetime of food appreciation – first in New Orleans, then Europe, then back South – led him to open City Grocery, Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast and Oxford Boure. He was named the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South in 2009 and has received numerous accolades from Southern food organizations. To put it simply, Currence knows his stuff. So when I started reading Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (And Then Some), I was hooked.

Currence is obsessed with technique, something that’s obvious when you see how his book is divided. First comes his manifesto, laying out his rules for quality tools, ingredients and passion for cooking, then chapters dedicated to “Stirring, Shaking & Muddling,” “Pickling & Canning,” “Frying (Pan & Deep),” “Brining & Smoking,” and more. Pages of beautiful dishes, preserves, roasts and more set my mouth watering.




But for all the stunning images and elaborate dishes, the recipe I tried needed another round of editing. My Maryland-style crabcakes required me to whisk egg yolks, cream, spicy mustard and more into a small bowl, then, in a separate bowl, season a full pound of crabmeat with salt and pepper before adding lemon juice and zest… Hold up. I scanned the ingredient list and sure enough, there was no mention of lemon zest.  I was then instructed to refrigerate everything for 30 to 45 minutes – except the recipe skipped the part where I actually added my spice mixture to the crab. Thank goodness for common sense.




While the crab mixture chilled, I worked on the green apple-celery salad (which turned into a green apple-romaine salad since I was unable to find any celery with its leaves still intact that night). This was simple enough, and my knife skills got a great workout while I attempted to uniformly julienne apples.




I also ran into problems during the breading process. One of my first two crudely shaped “hockey pucks” fell apart in the flour, and the survivor met its doom in the egg wash. No one likes a bready crabcake, but just a half-cup of breadcrumbs was not enough for one pound of crab. Currence did say to add more, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the cakes just barely hold together. Another half-cup later, mine finally made it to the final crumb coating intact.




Many of Currence’s dishes reference his list of Basic Recipes at the front of the book. To bread the crabcakes, I needed to consult a separate page for Seasoned Flour (all-purpose flour doctored with spices), another for Egg Wash (eggs beaten with milk, cream and hot sauce) and another for Clarified Butter (I drew the line there. I didn’t have the time to spend another 30 minutes clarifying butter; milk solids never hurt anybody.). By the time I got to the suggested New Orleans-Style Remoulade (see page 106), I threw up my hands, grabbed a jar of my own homemade mayonnaise, beat some Dijon mustard, and declared it close enough.

Despite my struggle with the recipe itself, the result was pretty spectacular. The outside was perfectly crisp and the interior was deliciously spiced with creamy crabmeat. The green apple provided a great textural element and lightened up what would have otherwise been a very heavy meal. Novice cooks may have trouble with this book, but more experienced home cooks can rely on their common sense to create fantastic results.




Maryland-Style Crabcakes with Green Apple-Celery Salad
6 servings

2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. Creole mustard (or grainy French)
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
3 Tbsp. very small dice red bell peppers
3 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 lb. lump blue crabmeat
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs, plus more to coat crabcakes
3 cups Seasoned Flour (Recipe follows.)
3 cups egg wash
¼ cup clarified unsalted butter

• To make the crabcakes: in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, mustard, shallots, red bell peppers and Sriracha. In a separate bowl, season the crabmeat with the salt and pepper and blend to combine well. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and breadcrumbs, cover and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes. This will give the mixture a chance to tighten up and it will be much easier to handle.
• When removed from the refrigerator, the crab mixture should be moist but not runny. If more bread crumbs are needed, add them 1 tablespoon at a time, until the crabcake mix just holds together.
• Scoop the mixtures by the ¼ cup into the seasoned flour (you want 12 crabcakes). Form crudely into small hockey pucks. Knock off excess flour and dip in the egg wash. Turn the cakes in the bread crumbs until fully coated. At this point the cakes can be cooked immediately or returned to the refrigerator, covered, to cool again, or they can be frozen.
• To cook the crabcakes: Heat the clarified butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to shimmer. Carefully place the crabcakes in the pan, decrease the heat to medium-low, and allow the cakes to brown on the bottom side, about 3 minutes. Move them slightly from time to time with a spatula to keep them from sticking. Once browned, carefully flip them over to brown on the second side for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
• Place some apple-celery salad in the center of each place and top with 2 cakes per serving.

Green Apple-Celery Salad
6 servings

4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Champagne vinegar
½ cup whole celery leaves
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. celery seeds
1 cup peeled and julienned green apples

• Mix together the oil, mustard, vinegar, celery leaves, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seeds in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Add the apples and toss together well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Seasoned Flour
Makes 3 cups

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne

• Toss the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic and onion powders and cayenne in a stainless-steel bowl and combine well. Store in an airtight container until needed.

What’s the best crab dish you ever had? Tell us about it below for a chance to win a copy of Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. We’ll email the winner! 

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