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Playing to a packed house: making harmonious meals--not music--in Nashville.

Chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson cook four nights a week behind the angular U-shaped wooden counter that defines the perimeter of their tiny kitchen. Their restaurant, The Catbird Seat, is perched atop The Patterson House cocktail bar in the heart of Nashville's music row. There are twenty catbird seats at the counter plus two six-seater banquettes in the back corners of the petite one-room enterprise. Lights are kept low and there are no windows. The ambience is more akin to a nightclub than an eatery. There is one seating a night with reservations spaced fifteen minutes apart so the chefs may give each new guest their undivided attention. The tasting menu is personalized, changes daily and is scribbled on some graph paper that diners may never see-menus are obsolete when you're seated at the kitchen and the chef serves you dinner.

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The unsual kitchen confines do not restrain creativity or the latent culinary exuberance of the chefs. The charismatic duo interact with patrons like top-notch bartenders and manuever through meals with competence and confidence. It's a risky style and tough combination to capture but Habiger and Anderson have been successful with this fresh format and attracted much attention in Nashville and nationwide. Art Culinaire asked the chefs if they had any aprehensions leading up to The Catbird Seat's opening last year, considering the rarefied and snug nature of their endeavour.

EA: I was nervous. Would people actually care enough to come out and see what we were doing? I think the thing that helped me overcome the apprehension was having our first guests come in and try things they had never eaten before. We could tell by the looks on their faces that something opened in them that they didn't realize was there. It could've been their first taste of sea urchin or pigeon-it's very gratifying and makes it all worth it.

JH: I think The Catbird Seat wouldn't be the ideal situation for most cooks. There's no hiding. Everything you do and say is out there for everyone to see and hear. There's a higher level of honesty in this environment. People can feel our passion and I think it comes off very genuine. They really dig our setup.

HOW HAS YOUR STYLE BEHIND THE COUNTER EVOLVED SINCE OPENING?

EA Initially I wanted to rely on tickets and verbal cues to fire a dish but now we just feel the rhythm of the room and look around to see where people are.

JH: I think we tightened things up a bit. We're tidier and our pace is better.

EA: All we really have to do is be a part of the room and immerse ourselves in it.

WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST INTERESTING INTERACTION WITH A GUEST?

EA Doing shots of moonshine with Al Gore.

JH: Sometimes people have a drink downstairs (at The Patterson House) before they come in. Sometimes people have several drinks. A few probably shouldn't have ordered the pairings up here. One guy knocked his chair over and put a hole in the wall. Then he picked up his chair and yelled "It's okay, I'm a foodier.

WHY NASHVILLE?

JH: Nashville is awesome.

EA: The people here are amazingly supportive. There's a real sense of community and people are eager to see the city grow and for local businesses to thrive.

WHAT ARE THE COMMON THREADS OF YOUR MENUS?

JH: I think the dynamics of our menu is getting better. Since every person is getting everything, we have to make sure there's something for everyone without dumbing things down. Getting people to come a little bit out of their comfort zone is something we strive for, but then we might have something that tastes or looks familiar to bring them back.

DO YOU HAVE A UNIFIED CUISINE? WHERE DO YOU DIFFER AND HOW DO YOU DIVVY UP THE GUESTS/MENUS EACH NIGHT?

EA: We both lean towards a more modern approach to cooking. Also, we both love and respect classic cooking. Some differences would possibly be in our plating styles, but I think even then someone would have to know our food fairly well to distinguish that. Generally, when one of us brings an idea to the table to be discussed, that's usually the person that's picking up the dish-but not always. It's also fun for one of us to use an ingredient or recipe for a while and then have the other use it and take it in a whole different direction. One aspect of a certain dish can spawn a ton of different ideas.

JH: I think we have a similar aesthetic, but having two different people creating dishes keeps things more vibrant. Ultimately, we discuss dishes as we're developing them, sort of bouncing ideas back and forth. In the long run it helps create a better dish.

IS THE KITCHEN AROUND WHICH YOUR GUESTS ARE SEATED THE ONLY KITCHEN? DO YOU HAVE A PREP KITCHEN? SERVERS? BUSBOYS?

EA: We have a couple of people to help: Tom and Mayme. Both are cooks but they each take turns working the line with us [while] the other helps out Jane [Lopez], our beverage director.

JH: Jane pours everything herself. She's incredible at what she does. Many of her pairings are wine, but they could be beer, a manipulated wine, or a house concoction. She also does a badass NA pairing.

EA: We also have one porter in back taking care of all the dishes, silver, glasses.

JH: No servers, no prep kitchen, no prep cooks, no bussers.

HAVE YOU EVER. SURPRISED YOURSELF MOMENT. CREATING A DISH?

EA: Sure.

JH: There was a dish that made sense in my head that I didn't think anyone else would like. I think it was cod that was wrapped in a dehydrated kimchee puree with coconut powder, kiwi, avocado, and watermelon rind. Fish and fruit. I can't explain why I thought it was a good idea but people liked it.

ARE THERE TECHNIQUES IN YOUR REPERTOIRE THAT HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY PLEASING TO GUESTS?

EA; The first few small bites the guest gets, we try to keep them a bit Southern and a bit familiar, so maybe it's putting them a little at ease right off the bat.

JH: People get excited when they see liquid nitrogen, but we try not to use liquid nitrogen during service anymore. We don't want to be "that guy."

AS YOUNG COOKS. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT MOMENT OR PERIOD OF TIME TO GET THROUGH. WHEN YOU WERE JUST SCRAPING BY?

JH: Man, cooking for other people is hard work. It's hard to be unappreciated and yelled at. Staging, you usually end up doing the worst jobs in the kitchen. I remember on a birthday, I was working at a three-star restaurant in England and they gave me a deep hotel pan of snails to clean. It was one of those tasks that seemed like it would never end. Living in a big city on a cook's pay is difficult, too.

EA: I worked at a restaurant in Minneapolis, Auriga, with Chef Doug Flicker. I was new to the city and I knocked on the back door of the restaurant looking for work. Doug answered the door and asked me to come back at 5:00 pm to work, so I did and I ended up getting hired. It started a close friendship that still lasts today. He is one of the few people I know who is there through the good and the bad. The last week the restaurant was open was a very physically and emotionally draining time for me as well as for the other staff. It was a very tight-knit group and it was heartbreaking to see it close down. We were packed every night the last week. I wanted to ask everyone where they were before, when we needed them. Funny how people come out of the woodwork for a funeral. I believe every cook who worked that last week for Doug is a better cook for it. That last night after service all I could do was drink and cry.

WHEN YOU GUYS MET AT ALINEA, DID YOU EVER IMAGINE WORKING TOGETHER LIKE THIS? WHY DOES YOUR PARTNERSHIP WORKS SO WELL?

JH: We met at Alinea but we didn't really work together there. Each station is sort of self-sufficient and Erik was working on the other side of the room. You don't really have a whole lot of time to look up and socialize in that environment. We got a few drinks after work and learned that we knew a lot of the same people. It was in Minneapolis that I think we both realized that we would be a good team. I think we have a similar drive and appreciate similar things.

EA: At Alinea we only had time to have a few beers together but we eventually worked together at Auriga and then at a place called Porter and Frye-then we really started digging deeper into what we could do together as cooks.

BESIDES THE FRESH LOCAI PR. OTHER AND OTHER. FINE FOOD PRODUCTS YOU WORK WITH, YOU AND INSPIRATION IN THINGS LIKE OR.E0S AND INGREDIENTS LIKE WONDER BREAD. WHY ARE THESE A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION?

EA: It's taking something familiar and comfortable and putting a new definition to it. It may look familiar, but it doesn't taste familiar.

JH: Everyone in this country, regardless of their upbringing, has an association with those things.

YOU BOTH GOT YOUR START WASHING DISHES. KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THOSE DISHWASHERS ON THEIR FIRST DAY IN THE KITCHEN?

EA: Don't break the glasses. (Jane will freak out.)

JH: Maybe I would tell them to get out while they still can. I didn't get a job as a dishwasher because I wanted to cook, but I needed a job and had some friends working at the diner in town and thought it would be a way to start saving up for a car. As soon as I started in the dish pit, I would try and get really far ahead so that I could go up to the line and watch the guys make burgers or eggs or whatever and I thought it was super cool.

WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR DINNER LAST NIGHT?

JH: We don't get a chance to have dinner when we're cooking, but we take turns making lunch for each other before service. I think Erik made meatloaf and ramp mash potatoes yesterday.

EA: 1958 Very Old Fitzgerald.

Beef Tartare with Juniper-Kale Emulsion (Serves 6)

For the rosemary oil. Blend rosemary and oil in food processor for 5 minutes Strain through fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth

For the juniper-kale emulsion. Blend egg yolks, garlic and juniper in food processor for 30 seconds Add kale, then with machine running slowly drizzle in oil Add lemon juice Season with salt Pass through fine-mesh sieve.

To serve: Use 2-inch ring mold to plate beef in 1-ounce portions, seasoning with rosemary oil and salt Top with dollops of emulsion Garnish with shallot horseradish, roe, bread and blossoms
For the Kir 20 cocktail:
(Serves 1)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup Huilerie Beaujolaise quince vinegar
4 ounces Marc Hebrart Brut Rose Champagn
Combine honey and water Stir in vinegar Let coot Pour
1/2 ounce honey mixture into champagne flute. Top with Champagne

For the rosemary oil:*
1 cup (about 21/2 Our fresh rosemary leaves, air-dried overnight
1 1/2 cups oropeseed oil

For the juniper-kale emulsion:
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 1/2 teaspoons juniper berries, toasted, ground
2 1/2 tablespoons pureed blanched kale
1 cup canola oil
Juice of 1/4 lemon
Salt

To serve:
6 ounces beef tenderloin, minced

For the garnish:
Thinly sliced shallot
Freshly grated horseradish
Smoked arctic char roe
Grated burnt bread
Chive blossoms

* yields more than needed for plating


Kale and Coconut Soup with Gilled Mackerel (Serves 8)

Riesling dunham cellars columbia columbid bally, WA 2007
For the habanero pickling liquid: *
1/2 Cup habancero chiles
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 sprig thyme
1 small bay leaf

For The kimchee puree:
I cup kimcncie
I tablespoon Korecy1 chili flakes
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce

For The soup:
1 small onion. coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
Canolo oil as needed
3 ounces kale, coarsely chopped
21/2 cups coconul milk
11/2 cups water
2 tablespoons habanero pickling liquid, from above
Salt

To serve:
Eight 2-ounce portions skinless mackerel fillet marked on
both sides on hot grill

For The garnish:
Thinly sliced radish
Edible flowers
Dried red pepper threads **
Thinly sliced block garlic cloves
Spray dried coconut milk powder ***
* yields more than needed for plating
* available from Asian markets
*** available from terraspice.com, (574) 38O-2600


For the habanero pickling liquid: Cut an X into each chile. Bring remaining ingredients to boil, then pour over chiles. Refrigerate 3 days in airtight container.

For the kimchee puree: Puree all ingredients in high-speed blender. Pass through fine-mesh sieve.

For the soup: Sweat onion and garlic in oil until onions are translucent Add kale. When kale has wilted, add coconut milk and water. Gently simmer 20 minutes Puree in high-speed blender.Add pickling liquid and season with salt Strain through fine-mesh sieve Cover and keep warm

To serve: Plate as shown. Garnish with radish, flowers, threads, garlic and powder.

Strawberries with Hay-Infused Yogurt and Kale Nori (Serves 6)

For the yogurt. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast hay 30 minutes. Let cool Wrap securely In cheesecloth Combine yogurt and hay in plastic bag and seal in commercial vacuum sealer. Place bag in another bag and seal again Heat combination oven lo 212 degrees with steam at 100% Steam for 10 hours. Yogurt will break Into curds and whey. Drain, reserving curds and whey separately. Discard hay Puree curd in blender, adjusting consistency with whey as desired Transfer to pastry bag with plain tip and chill in refrigerator.

For the chamomile pudding: Bring water, sugar, chamomile, salt and saffron to boil Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Whisk in agar agar and simmer 3 minutes Strain through fine-mesh sieve and allow to set in refrigerator, about 45 minutes. Transfer to blender and puree Strain through fine-mesh sieve into pastry bag with plain tip Chill in refrigerator.

For the kale "nori" Blanch kale in boiling salted water for 90 seconds. Shock in ice water bath until chilled then drain thoroughly Heat soy sauce with gelatin just enough to dissolve gelatin. Puree kale with soy mixture in high-speed blender. Spread puree as thin as possible on acetate sheet. Dehydrate in 175 degree oven or dehydrator until completely dry, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Break into bite-size pieces and transfer to airtight container.

For the puffed rice. Set up a fine-mesh sieve over a pot Fill another pot with an inch of oil Heat oil until just about to smoke. Add rice to oil When rice puffs, in about 5 seconds, drain through sieve Drain puffed rice on paper towels and season with salt while warm. Let cool completely, then transfer to airtight container. Repeat with remaining rice and oil.

To serve: Plate as shown Garnish with chamomile
For the yogurt
2 handfuls hay
24 ounces Greek-style yogurt

For The chamomile pudding:
2 cups waler
7 1/8 ounces granulated sugar
1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers
Pinch salt
Pinch saffron Threads
3/4 teaspoon powdered agar agar

For the kale "nori"?
3 ounces kale leaves, stems removed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
4/1 cup soy sauce
3 sheets gelatin, bloomed in water, excess squeezed out

For the puffed wild rice:
Canola oil as needed
1/2 cup extra fancy wild rice
Salt

To serve:
30 small strawberries

For The garnish:
Fresh chamomile leaves


Tripel Karmeliet Brouwerij Bosteels Buggenhout Belgium

Kale Ice Cream with Togarashi Meringue (Serves 8)

For the kale mix: Pulse all ingredients in food processor to coarse crumbs. Transfer to airtight container.

For the brown butler crumb: In bowl of mixer filled with paddle, cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg at low speed followed by remaining ingredients. Refrigerate dough 1 hour. Heal oven to 350 degrees. Spread dough on sheet tray to about 1/4-inch thickness. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Pulse in food processor to coarse crumbs. Combine one-quarter of brown butter crumbs with kale mix Transfer remaining crumb and kale-crumb mixture to separate airtight containers.

For the togarashi meringue: Whip egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks. Slowly whisk in powder. Transfer to piping bag with plain tip.

To serve: Plate as shown, caramelizing meringue with torch and sprinkling caramelized side with set gris. Sprinkle ice cream with set gris as well. Garnish with blueberries.
For The Bitter End cocktail: (Serves 1)
1 ounce Cocchi Americano Aperitivo
4 ounces "Dr. L" Riesling Trocken Sekt (Loosen Bros, Mosel Germany)
1 lemon twist

Pour Aperitivo into Champagne flute. Top
with Riesling. Garnish with twist

For the kale ice cream:
9 ounces hale, sterns removed, blanched, drained, juiced
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
7 ounces granulated sugar
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Pinch xanthan gum
Salt

For the blueberry mostarda:
10 ounces fresh blueberries
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon dry mustard
7 ounces granulated sugar
1 teaspoon horseradish or mustard oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Salt

For the kale mix:
1/2 ounce dehydrated kale
1 ounce puffed wild rice (see page 68)
2 ounces freeze-dried blueberries"

For the brown butter crumb:
1/4 cup browned butter, chilled
7 3/4 ounces brown sugar
1 egg
4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon set gris
1/8 teaspoon baking soda teaspoon baking powder

For the togarashi meringue:
7 egg whites
5 1/3 ounces granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons togarashi

For the garnish:
Sel gris
Freeze-dried blueberries*
* available from terraspicacom, (574) 586-2600


For the kale ice cream: Combine kale juice, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla seeds and salt to taste. Blend in xanthan with immersion blender. Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturers instructions. Set aside in freezer.

For the blueberry mosiarda: Combine 5 ounces blueberries with wine, vinegar, mustard seeds, dry mustard and sugar. Simmer until reduced by half Add remaining blueberries. Simmer 2 minutes. Let cool. Stir in oil and Dijon. Refrigerate in airtight container.

Ham Steck with Grilled Kale, Chorizo Cream and Scarlet Runner Beans (Serves 6)

Scotch Ale Meantime Brewing Company London, England
For the brine:
2 1/2 quarts hot water
2 tablespoons sodium nitrate
2 cups salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the ham steak:
Brine, from above
1 pound pork cut from shoulder in 1 piece, skin intact

For the scarlet runner beans:
1 pound dried scarlet runner beans, soaked overnight drained
1 head aortic halved
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 quarts sailed water

For the chorizo cream:
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces dried chorizo, thinly sliced
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

To serve:
3 ounces kale
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional as needed
Scarlet runner beans, from above, drained
1 rib celery, brunoise
Ham, from above
Salt

For the garnish:
Celery brunoise
Lovage
Sel gris


For the brine: Stir together all ingredients until solids dissolve. Chill.

For the ham steak: Brine pork overnight. Drain. In plastic bag, seal pork at highest setting in commercial vacuum sealer. In pot with thermal circulator, heat water to 126 degrees and cook for 60 hours, replenishing water as needed. Chill ham in ice water bath.

For the scarlet runner beans: Heat combination oven to 212 degrees and set stream to 100%. Combine all ingredients in 1/3 hotel pan. Steam in oven until beans are soft, about 1 hour. Keep warm in liquid.

for the chorizo cream: Combine wine and shallots in saucepan and reduce until dry. Add cream, milk and chorizo. Simmer 40 minutes. Transfer to high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. Strain through fine-mesh sieve. Return to pan and reduce to cream-like consistency, Return to blender with bay leaf and xanthan gum and blend 2 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh sieve. Transfer to siphon and charge twice. Keep warm in 140-degree water bath.

To serve: Prepare and heat grill. Toss kale with garlic and oil. Season with salt. Grill until leaves are slightly charred and tender. Remove and discard stems. Tear leaves into bite-size pieces and toss with beans, celery and oil to taste. Grill ham on all sides until just warmed through and lightly browned with little charring. Slice into 6 equal portions. Slice each portion into thirds. Plate as shown, shaking siphon vigorously before dispensing cream Garnish with celery and lovage; sprinkle ham with sel gris.

Beef Short Rib with Kale Ash, Salsify Black Truffle and Prunes (Serves 6)

TB Valpolicella Classico Superiore Corvina Blend Tommaso Bussola Veneto, Italy 2005
For the black trumpet chips:
3 dozen black trumpet mushrooms
Simple syrup as needed
Sea salt

For the kale ash:
12 ounces kale
1/2 teaspoon hickory smoke powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the short rib:
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 whole boneless beef short rib
Kale ash, from above

For the salsify:
6 salsify roots, peeled
2 tablespoons cuttlefish ink

For the truffle sauce:
1 quart veal stock reduced by two-thirds
1 tablespoon black truffle brunoise Salt

For the prune puree:
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Canola oil as needed
1 cup Armagnac
1 pound pitted prunes
Salt

To serve:
Beef short rib, from above
Salsify, from above, warmed in water bath

For the garnish:
Thinly sliced black truffle


For the black trumpet chips: Brush mushrooms with syrup and season with salt. Dehydrate in low oven or dehydrator until completely dry. Let cool. Transfer to airtight container.

For the kale ash: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Roast kale until blackened. Let cool. In food processor, combine kale with remaining ingredients and process to fine powder.

For the short rib: Combine salt and sugar to make cure and sprinkle over rib to coat. Let cure 1 hour. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry. In plastic bag, place rib and seal at highest setting in commercial vacuum sealer. In pot with thermal circulator, heat water to 136 degrees and cook rib for 72 hours, replenishing water as necessary. Chill in ice water bath. Cut into ounce portions, coat in ash and reserve.

For the salsify: In plastic bag, combine salsify and ink and seal at highest setting in commercial vacuum sealer. In pot with thermal circulator, heat water to 176 degrees and cook unti1 tender, about two hours Chill in ice water bath.

For the truffle sauce: Combine hot stock with truffle. Season with salt. Cover and keep warm.

For the prune puree: Sweat shallot in oil five minutes. Add Armagnac and reduce until dry. Add prunes and cover with water. Simmer until reduced by three-quarters. Transfer to high-speed blender. Puree. Season with salt. Keep warm

To serve: Heat oven to 250 degrees. Warm rib portions in oven, about six minutes. Plate as shown. Garnish with truffle.

JOSH HABIGER and ERIK ANDERSON Co-Chefs The Catbird Seat Nashville, Tennessee.
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Title Annotation:Kale Fairies & Fairy Tales
Author:Habiger, Josh; Anderson, Erik
Publication:Art Culinaire
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2012
Words:3924
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