A seasonal shift is an exciting change for any chef—a new menu awaits! We asked two local culinarians—Ian Boden of The Shack in Staunton and Caleb Warr of Tavola—to tell us what they’re most excited about adding to the offerings this fall and winter, respectively.
The Shack (Staunton)
Ham fat confit pumpkin with fresh herbs
“I feel like people get stuck in a rut with pumpkin. They go to the classics—pumpkin pie, purées, etc., which tend to be overly sweet and have so much spice in them you can’t taste the pumpkin. I like to push pumpkin more to the savory side. How can I put pumpkin in a different context and let people taste pumpkin in a different way? This dish is pretty easy to turn into a vegetable-centric dish. For an upcoming event, I am serving it with cured egg yolk and fresh herbs, but you could add a poached or fried egg and make it super lush. Or it could be a side dish for Thanksgiving.
“In preparing and presenting the dish, you don’t want to be scared of the fat. The fat itself gives the flavor, so keep the pumpkin well-coated in it as you cook it. And you want to finish the plated dish with a little bit of the fat (not soaking in it, but a nice drizzle).”
Pancetta-wrapped scallop sausage with smoked branzino collar and onion tops, served on a fennel and bay aioli
“It’s a dish in which all the ingredients are in peak season during late autumn and early winter months. A traditional version of this technique is commonly seen where I am from, Southern Louisiana.
I learned to perfect the technique while working at The Rock Barn, and think it will present well with classic Italian pantry items. The exciting part for us comes from the fact that we will be utilizing trim that would otherwise be thrown out by most, and turning it into a delicious few bites to be enjoyed with some of [Tavola bar manager] Christian Johnston’s winter cocktails.”
Want to try Bodens’s recipe at your own dinner table? Here’s how.—C.W.
Ham fat confit pumpkin
1 medium pumpkin (delicata, butternut or acorn are good options)
1 qt. lard
2 cups Edwards ham scraps
1 head garlic (halved)
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
In a large sauce pot, put the lard and ham scraps on medium low heat. Do not fry the ham, but allow it to slowly render. There should be little to no movement in the fat. When the ham bits become shriveled and crispy, remove them from the heat.
Slice the pumpkin into large 1″-thick chunks, removing the seeds and skin if necessary. Lay flat in a baking dish and sprinkle with kosher salt. Add the remaining ingredients and cover with the ham and lard. Cover with aluminum foil and put into an oven set to 300 degrees. Cook until tender but not falling apart (approximately 45 minutes to an hour). Allow to cool slightly before serving. Does not need to be piping hot—room temperature is perfect.