Atlantic Unbound | November 14, 2002
[From The Pleasures of Slow Food, by Corby Kummer]
The Blue Room
teve Johnson is one of
America's leading chefs in forging alliances with local farms and
urging his fellow chefs to do the same. He's also a cook with the
rare combination of instinctive and careful attention to the foods of
his own town and the places he has visited.
Soon after becoming chef and owner of The Blue Room, his very lively
Cambridge bistro, Johnson started working with local farms, asking
them to plant herbs and vegetables no one else did. He enlisted
fellow cooks to buy the farms' produce, too, so the farmers would see
that this was more than a passing experiment. Economic support and
renovation of heritage crops is just what Slow Food does in its
Presidia; Johnson went his own way, gathering a group of like-minded
young cooks to support farmers who use sustainable techniques.
Calling themselves the Chefs Collaborative, these cooks, from all
over the country, take stands on environmental issues of the
Johnson spends several weeks each year in Costa Rica. His
explorations of local foods there have brought color to his menu. At
The Blue Room he brings to life the traditions of New England cookery
through the use of the farm-raised ingredients he puts into every
Fried Plantains with Chipotle
This appetizer sells out every night at The Blue Room. You'll see why
when you try the easy "ketchup," sweet and spicy and addictive. It's
just as good with grilled and barbecued meats as it is with fried
plantains, with their crisp outsides and soft, slightly sweet flesh.
Serves 4 to 6 as a first course
To make the ketchup: In a blender or food processor, purée the
plum tomatoes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.
One 12-ounce can plum tomatoes, without juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 dried chipotle chilies, seeded and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 to 6 plantains (1 per person)
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more as needed
1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, coriander, and a generous pinch of salt, and sauté
until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar
and cook for 2 more minutes.
2. Add the tomato purée, chipotles, tomato paste, and vinegar. Reduce
the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the
ketchup thickens, about 30 minutes.
3. Purée the cooked ketchup with a mixer or in the food
processor or blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Set aside to cool.
4. Peel and cut the plantains into 1 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat 1
tablespoon of the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium
heat. Fry the plantains in small batches until golden brown on both
sides, about 5 minutes (you may need to add more oil to the pan if it
5. Serve warm, with the chipotle ketchup in a ramekin on the side.
Copyright © 2002 by Corby Kummer. All rights reserved.