We try recipes from new cookbook of hot Miami chef Michael Schwartz

The success of the meal you cook is decided before you start cooking.

Michael Schwartz, the chef of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, preaches the value of shopping thoughtfully for your ingredients, then preparing them simply to let them shine. That mantra has won him a James Beard award as the best chef in the South and turned his unpretentious Design District spot into a destination restaurant. And he has used his soapbox to showcase South Florida farms and the ingredients they provide him.

His new cookbook, Michael's Genuine Food, takes that a step further, giving up his secret: Find where food is growing near you, and eat that.

Schwartz's restaurant is one that I go to whenever I am in Miami, so I was excited about the book. The book came out soon after my most recent visit, and many of the dishes we had that night are included. So I decided the best way to review the book would be to cook from it. I picked four dishes to compare to the recent dinner: Chili Chicken Wings, Crispy Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly, Roasted Double-Yolk Eggs, and Milk Chocolate Cremoso With Espresso Parfait. There was a fifth dish — crispy hominy — that I was adamant to re-create, too. But more on that later.

I tried to follow the ethos, shopping at St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market. I picked up duck eggs and

cheese for the egg dish, a cucumber for the side that went with the wings, and all the herbs I'd need. A trip to an Asian market landed me the pork belly and the ingredients for the kimchi that serves as its base. I couldn't find organic chicken wings, so I went with conventional from Publix.

Here's how everything came out:

Roasted Double-Yolk Eggs: Michael's gets double-yolk eggs from a South Florida farmer, but in the recipe he suggests using a whole egg and a second yolk. I found duck eggs at the Dancing Goat stall at the market and decided to give them a try. The yolk was larger than that of a standard egg, and there wasn't as much white, proportionally, so I just used two eggs in each small ramekin for the individually portioned dish. Also, the recipe calls for tangy Asiago, but when we had the dish recently, it had smooth-melting Gruyere. I took that as license to use whatever cheese I like, and I like nutty fontina. This dish was a breeze to put together, little more than cracking eggs and grating cheese. And it was true to the restaurant version.

Chili Chicken Wings With Creamy Cucumbers: The farm-raised organic wings the restaurant serves are big and meaty. My conventionally raised supermarket wings were scrawny. But the sauce was an excellent replication of the restaurant's. The recipe calls for the ground sesame paste tahini, which lends a peanut butter quality to the sweet and spicy sauce. The sauce evokes a really good kung pao. I don't know if that's the intent, but it works.

Crispy Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly: This recipe included a kimchi base that I couldn't find at stores here, so I adapted the recipe. The dish at the restaurant is fantastic. This dish is not the same but was also quite good. Maybe it's just hard to mess up pork belly.

Some people are afraid of pork belly because of the fat. The reality is, if you eat bacon, you eat pork belly because they typically come from the same part of the pig. You can get pork belly at Asian markets. I buy it at places like Cho Lon Oriental Market (5944 34th St. N, St. Petersburg), Dong A Market (8730 49th St., Pinellas Park) and Oceanic Supermarket (1609 N Tampa St., Tampa). A pork belly is usually 2 1/2 to 3 pounds and costs less than $3 per pound.

Instead of the kimchi base, I made a dressing with similar flavors: ginger, sugar, hot chilies and fish sauce. That turned the kimchi in Schwartz's recipe into more of a slaw.

Preparing pork belly takes time, but most of it is inactive. There are two hours of marinating, more than two hours of baking, and cooling off overnight. But its range of textures makes it worth the effort, and the sweet-spicy glaze adds a lot of interest.

Milk Chocolate Cremoso With Espresso Parfait: This is one of the restaurant's signature desserts: a super-thick curl of chocolate mousse dressed with an unlikely combination of coarse, crunchy sea salt, fruity olive oil and a piece of sourdough toast. I was eager to know how to replicate this. When I first read the recipe, my reaction was, "Well, where is the rest of it?" It looked too simple. The cremoso was almost embarrassingly easy, with four ingredients and about five minutes of active cooking time. And it was the real, chocolatey deal. The parfait was easy, too, but I'm not convinced that hasn't been oversimplified for the book. It was frozen whipped cream flavored with espresso. It was fine as a condiment, but seemed less complex than the restaurant version. But back to the cremoso: If it seems like a reach to dress your chocolate with olive oil and salt, then pair it with a piece of sourdough, let this stand as assurance that it's worth trying. Think of it as a deconstructed chocolate croissant.

And now, about that crispy hominy.

It's from the "snacks" part of the menu, and tastes like a homemade version of corn nuts. We get it every time.

Hominy, or supersized kernels of corn, is usually dried and ground to become the main ingredient in corn tortillas and grits. Dried hominy is available in some supermarkets and any Mexican grocery store.

I like the dish so much, I once tried to make it on my own. How hard could it be? I got a can of hominy, drained it and fried it.

That didn't come close to working and ended up a big mess. My next trip to Miami, I sat at the kitchen bar and told a sous chef about my failure. He asked how I did it so he could correct me. He stopped me when I told him the part about the can.

"There's your problem."

So when I got a copy of the book, I already had a bag of mail-order dried heirloom hominy in my pantry in anticipation. I flipped through, only to find no recipe for it. I took to Twitter and told the restaurant about the emotional investment I had in getting that recipe.

"@chefmschwartz had to keep something!!" tweeted @MFGD_MIA, Jackie Sayet, Schwartz's brand manager.

More tweets followed, and Sayet e-mailed me the recipe.

My first attempt worked much better than my original effort. I fried them longer than the prescribed 4 to 5 minutes because I didn't feel the color had changed enough. They started browning at about 8 minutes, and I tossed them with the seasoning.

They were crunchy at that point, a good step beyond "crispy." And within a few minutes, they were hard. Still edible, but a workout for the jaw.

But now that I have the recipe, I plan to keep trying until I get it right.

Jim Webster can be reached at jwebster@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8746.

>>moderate

Crispy Hominy With Chili and Lime

1 pound dried hominy (posole), picked through and rinsed (see note)

1 onion, halved

1 head garlic, halved crosswise

2 bay leaves

3 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon sugar

Corn oil, for deep frying

Lime wedges, for serving

Cover the dried hominy with water and soak in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 24; they will swell to double their original size. Drain and rinse.

In a large pot, cover the hominy in water and add the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours over medium heat until the kernels are tender and completely split. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt to the water, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the hominy and discard the water, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cool the hominy and dry thoroughly.

In a small bowl, mix together the spices and sugar.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the hominy into the hot oil, in batches. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the kernels begin to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oil and toss with remaining teaspoon of salt and spice mix. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes 8 servings.

Note: Hominy is corn that has been hulled with the bran and germ removed. Grits are ground hominy. Canned hominy is often used for soups. Dried hominy can

be harder to find, but it is available in the Hispanic-food section of some supermarkets, any Mexican grocery or online at ranchogordo.com.

Source: Michael Schwartz, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

>>easy

Roasted Double-Yolk Eggs

4 large slices crusty sourdough bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 tablespoons chunky tomato sauce

4 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

4 teaspoons heavy cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

4 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

Small head of frisee or pea shoots for garnish

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Put bread on a baking pan, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of four 6-ounce ramekins. Divide the tomato sauce among the ramekins, crack an egg and egg yolk into each. Add a teaspoon of cream to each ramekin and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chives and add a layer of cheese to cover the top. Put the ramekins on a baking pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. Put the bread in the oven at the same time. Bake the bread until crisp, about 5 minutes. Bake the eggs until the cheese is melted and the contents of the ramekin have just a little jiggle when you shake it, about 8 minutes.

Top the toast with the frisee or shoots, and serve with the egg.

Serves 4

Source: Michael's Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat by Michael Schwartz and JoAnn Cianciulli (Clarkson Potter, 2011)

>>moderate

Chili Chicken Wings With Creamy Cucumbers

Wing sauce:

1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (available in Asian section of supermarket)

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

For creamy cucumbers:

1 English cucumber, halved, seeds removed, sliced thin

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground

For the chicken wings:

2 pounds chicken wings, preferably free-range, cut into flats and drumettes, tips discarded

Canola oil, for frying

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the wing sauce, combine the chili sauce, tahini, vinegar,

soy, garlic and ginger in a blender and puree until smooth, about 10 seconds. Sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week.

To make the cucumbers, toss the cucumber slices in a bowl with salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Rinse, squeeze dry and pat with paper towel. Return to bowl and add yogurt, cream, garlic, mint and lemon and toss. Season with pepper. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

Pat chicken wings dry with paper towel. In a deep pot or electric fryer, heat 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees. Carefully add the wings to the oil, frying in batches so the pot is not overcrowded. Fry until they are crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer hot wings into a large bowl and add enough sauce to toss and coat the wings. Serve creamy cucumbers on the side.

Alternative cooking method: Instead of frying, the wings can be baked. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Toss wings with 2 tablespoons canola

oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the wings on a baking pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping them about halfway through the cooking.

Serves 4.

Source: Michael's Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat by Michael Schwartz and JoAnn Cianciulli (Clarkson Potter, 2011)

>>difficult

Crispy Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly

"Kimchi" dressing:

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons lime juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

Asian slaw:

1 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 small carrot, shredded

1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1/2 cup "Kimchi" dressing

1 teaspoon salt

Pork belly:

1 pork belly (about 3 pounds), skin removed

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons "Kimchi" dressing

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup flour, for dredging

Vegetable oil, for frying

Salted roasted peanuts, chopped

To make dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl until well combined and set aside. You will use this for the slaw and the pork belly marinade.

To make slaw, in a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients and toss. Can be served as a fresh slaw immediately, or can be left in the refrigerator for a few hours, which will cause the cabbage to wilt a bit and be more like kimchi.

To prepare the pork belly, trim some of the fat off top side of pork. Rub each side of the pork belly with salt, then put it in a closable bag with 1/4 cup of dressing. Marinate for 2 hours in refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rinse pork and put in a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 2 1/2 hours. Remove pork and transfer to a platter, cool, then refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.

For the glaze, combine 2 tablespoons of dressing and honey in bowl. Heat 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a deep pot. Cut pork into eight equal pieces, roughly square. Spread flour on a plate and coat all sides of the pork. Slip 3 pieces at a time into the hot oil. Fry until pork is crisp and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove pork to a platter lined with paper towels to drain.

Repeat with the remaining pork pieces.

To serve, put about 1 cup of slaw on a plate. Prop a piece of pork beside the slaw. Drizzle glaze on top and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Serves 8.

Source: Adapted from Michael's Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat by Michael Schwartz and JoAnn Cianciulli (Clarkson Potter, 2011)

>>easy

Milk Chocolate Cremoso

With Espresso Parfait

For the cremoso:

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 large egg yolks

10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

For the parfait:

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons strong-brewed espresso, cooled

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish:

6 thin slices of bread, preferably sourdough, toasted

1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

Coarse sea salt

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

To make the cremoso, heat the cream in a saucepan with the sugar until hot to the touch. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the hot cream. Scrape the mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until slightly thickened, 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

To make the parfait, beat the cream with the confectioners' sugar, espresso and vanilla until firm. Spoon the cream into six small ramekins and freeze.

To serve, spoon the cremoso onto plates, drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts and a pinch of sea salt. Serve the espresso parfait and toast on the side.

Serves 6.

Note: The cremoso can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; the espresso parfait can be frozen for up to 1 week.

Source: Michael's Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat by Michael Schwartz and JoAnn Cianciulli (Clarkson Potter, 2011)

We try recipes from new cookbook of hot Miami chef Michael Schwartz 03/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 6:50am]

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