So, What Am I Doing Now?…

I guess the main question you all want to know is what am I currently up to? If I were to fill in the blanks of everything I have done in the past 16 months, that would take quite a while. I promise I will tell most of that story, but it’s such a daunting task to undertake, I’m of course procrastinating on the subject.

Teaching again – makes me so happy!

Some of you may remember from my previous blog that I offered up the ability for anyone to take a private cooking class with me.  It was a chance to hopefully reconnect with what got me started cooking in the first place – teaching cooking classes.  I didn’t really promote it much, as my main focus was working in restaurants, but I thought I’d give it a shot in case anyone was willing to give it a shot.

Well, as business models go, “hoping people give it a shot,” is not a surefire way to drum up business.  So it didn’t amount to much.  Just the occasional class at LIFeSTYLE in Bedford, PA.  Though the people who took my classes there really seemed to love my work…

In the past year, after coming back from England, I spent the majority of my time working on opening a new restaurant called Open Kitchen in Falls Church, VA. (More on that later, I promise.) Well, part of what Open Kitchen does is teach cooking classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. (I have an event there tonight in fact…) And while I was working hard to keep the restaurant part of the business running smoothly, it was the classes I was teaching periodically that were really making my day.

Long story short (long story long coming later…) I decided to hang up the “working in restaurants” thing and try out “teaching cooking classes full time” thing instead.  So now I am a full-time culinary instructor!

One of my recent cooking demo creations:
Seared Top Round Roulade with Watercress Salad, Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes and Cabernet Reduction

I teach at many venues including LIFeSTYLE, Open Kitchen, Sur La Table, Fairfax County Adult and Community Education, and a few others.  I also teach private classes and do “instructional dinners” in people’s homes.  (A little something extra for your next dinner party to be sure…)

And all the while, I’m working hard on my cookbook.  Setting my own schedule has freed up a lot of my time to live my life, and enjoy being involved in the culinary world I love so much.  And it gives me a chance to try new recipes and see how people learn to cook – which will only help me in the writing of my cookbook!

So that’s what I do now.  The long drawn out story of how I got here will follow periodically.  Mainly when I can’t think of anything else to say.

But in the meantime, check out my website to learn more about my cooking classes!  They make excellent Christmas gifts! 😉

Chef Matt

Another Thanksgiving, More Cooking

Well, Thanksgiving is an experience I have to get used to as a chef now. Everyone is always asking if I’m cooking for Thanksgiving because it’s sort-of the busman’s holiday if I am, but by the same token, it would be silly for people not to have me cook, right?

The answer is of course I cook for Thanksgiving. It’s yet another chance for me to try out new recipes and experiment with a willing and captive audience.

Who knew you could cook a mouse in so many ways?…

So to fill in this story, allow me to fill in some of the back story. My wife and I split up back in April of 2009, and my current status is that I have a new wonderful girlfriend whose family graciously allowed me to come over on Thanksgiving and cook for them. In addition to this exhibition of hospitality, they also were kind enough to take me to Disney World a few weeks back (my first time there) as their family was taking a trip down there together. All in all, they are a really generous group of folks.

Well, to repay this kindness, I cooked them a meal entirely out of the Delicious Disney cookbook, which my girlfriend, Susan, bought for me while we were there. (Beats getting a pair of Mickey ears, that’s for damn sure!) The menu for last night was as follows:

  • Steamed Mussels with Fennel and White Wine
  • Mushroom Soup served “Cappuccino Style” with Brandied Thyme Cream
  • Maple-Glazed Salmon
  • Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes
  • Fattoush Salad
  • Stilton Cheesecake

It was the Stilton Cheesecake I was most interested in trying.  Heck, it was the reason I bought the cookbook – what a unique concept.  Well, it was delicious indeed, since I’m not a super-sweet dessert person.  But most everyone else said they’d prefer a sweeter cheesecake.  I don’t know, my pumpkin cheesecake is pretty killer, so I think I’ll be going back to that next year.

But what was really interesting was the recipe for mussels.  I have been kicking around a lot of different recipes for mussels in classes I have been teaching as of late, and this one added a few elements that brought them together very well.  I think I might have something close to a final recipe for mussels. And since I’m starting up the blog again, I think I’ll give you all an early Christmas present, and share with you what I have so far.

Steamed Mussels with Fennel, White Wine and Garlic
2 lbs           mussels – scrubbed and debearded
1 Tbsp       olive oil
1/2 ea        head of fennel – sliced (some fronds reserved for garnish)
1 ea             small onion – sliced
2 Tbsp       anise liquor (ouzo, sambucca, e.g.)
1/2 cup     dry white wine
1/2 tsp      salt
3 cloves    garlic – minced
2 Tbsp       diced red bell pepper
2 Tbsp       flat leaf Italian parsley – chopped
2 Tbsp       unsalted butter

-Scrub and debeard the mussels, throwing away any that are broken, or that won’t close when squeezed. Set aside.
-In a large saute pan that has a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and saute the fennel and onions until translucent.
-Deglaze the pan with the anise liquor (no need to flame it) and let cook down for about 30 seconds.
-Add the wine and the salt, bring to a simmer, then immediately add the mussels, and cover the pan to allow the mussels to steam until they are cooked.  This will take about 2-3 minutes, and they are done when almost all the mussels are wide open.
-Remove the mussels from the heat, and toss in the garlic, peppers and parsley. Mix until thoroughly combined.
-Stir in the butter, and melt it into the broth. Return the sauce to the heat, and bring to a simmer once again.  Allow to simmer for 1 minute, and then pour the entire mixture into a large serving bowl. Discard any mussels that won’t open.
-Garnish mussels with reserved fennel fronds and serve with crusty bread to soak up the extra broth.

OK, so there you go! A recipe already!  Didn’t it take me like 7 or 8 posts before I shared anything with you last time? But hey, it’s good to have generous people in your life, right?

Chef Matt

Beginning Again…

Cooking away still…

How should I start over?…

“I’m baaaaack!”

“It’s good to see you all again…”

“Is anybody still trying to read this?…”

All good options, but I guess this is just to say, It’s been a little over a year since I abandoned the original “Deglazed,” and it’s high time I got back into it.

The good news is, I’m still the same guy looking to make a career in the culinary world (4.5 years now and counting!) and I’m happy to tell you all everything that happens as it happens.

More good news: I’ve had lots of interesting things happen over the past year as well, so there’s lots of story to catch you all up on!

A little bad news: I had to switch web hosts since my original hosts were doing a crap job of it, and as a result, I lost all of the previous Deglazed.  Yes, even the “Why I Hate Rachel Ray” post… ;(

But to end with a little more good news: I’m still hard at work on the cookbook!  So keep up your support, and I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date with the progress on that, as well as with my progress in my culinary career!

The next few posts will be catching you all back up to speed with what’s been going on, and then hopefully we’ll be back up to “real time.”

Thanks to all of you who have made the blog so special over the years, and sorry for being away for so long! I’m really looking forward to getting back into chatting with you all again!

Chef Matt

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I’m Ready to Give Again

Sorry, but I really love old propaganda posters…

This is a tad off-topic, so I’ll be brief.

As many of you know, and have enjoyed talking to me about, I graced my left shoulder with a pig tattoo a little over a year ago. It’s a decision that I’ve neither regretted nor second-guessed even once in the time I’ve had it. However, there was one unintended consequence of this action.

I was unable to be a blood donor in the past year having gotten the tattoo. Now, I’m not saying that people should avoid getting tattoos for the sake of remaining in the blood donation pool, but for those of you who have not gotten one in the past year, please call the Red Cross (1-800-GIVE-LIFE) and schedule an appointment.

I’m now eligible again, and yesterday I donated a double unit of platelets, and I plan on going back again in two weeks.

Someone you love, at sometime in their life, will need blood in some form. I wish it weren’t the case, but I guarantee it.

Please be thankful for your good health, and then pass on this blessing to those who are less fortunate. Someday, it might be you who needs this help. And if you’re counting on me to save you, well, I may be off getting another tattoo…

Please give.

Chef Matt

The Gathering Storm… To an Anniversary

This story begins about three weeks ago in my walk-in. One of my pizza chefs asked me if he could have off on Sunday (yesterday). Since he was asking well in advance, and since he had recently been covering for a lot of other people, I told him that was fine. If need be, I would cover for him. (Thunder rumbling in the distance…)

This is gonna be bad…

A few weeks later, as I was reworking the schedule for some of my staff, Chef told me that he was going to be out the upcoming Friday and Saturday for family reasons. Of course he didn’t need my permission, but I knew I would have to work it into the schedule to make sure we covered for him. (First drops of rain beginning to fall…)

I walk in on Saturday morning, and see a note in the chef’s log book that my PM sauté chef would be out on Sunday for family reasons, and one of my sous chefs had agreed to cover for him. (Radio stations interrupting broadcasts with instructions…)

Saturday afternoon comes around, and as we are preparing for the dinner shift, I’m working on my paperwork and order forms in the office. One of the other sous chefs walks in and says “I sending D—- home.” D—- is our evening pantry chef who has been a constant problem child for us. Her work is generally good, but she is always giving us static and attitude in conjunction with her performance. She finally decided that today she would not make a dessert for a customer when we asked her to (seeing as how it’s her job) as she would rather set up her station. This is not an acceptable course of action for her, and while this would mean we would be down two people in the kitchen on a Saturday night, I was ready to handle it. I stopped my paperwork in the middle of my invoices, and worked the pizza station on a Saturday night as we moved the person usually in that position over to pantry. (Locals head for their tornado shelters….)

As a side note to this story: I had never worked pizza on a Saturday before where I was the one making the pizzas and putting them in the oven. I have worked as the guy cooking the pizzas in the over several times, and it is actually fun. But rolling crusts and topping every pie as the orders come flying in – that is a whole new level of tough, and the whole shift is just me barely keeping my head above water. By the time I got out of there, I had put in 14 hours on my feet with no real break. And I had to be back in the next morning at 8AM. (Old man walking by with two giraffes, two hippos, two lions…)

Hmmm… what’s missing from this kitchen?
Oh yeah! All my fucking cooks!

Sunday comes by and as I’m setting up, I take stock of my line for that evening. My pizza cook is out on vacation. My sauté chef is out for family reasons, and my pantry cook is suspended/quit. In a line that usually has 5 people on it for the busy Sunday night rush, I have exactly two people. And I had friends coming in from out of town, and was so tired I was basically dead on my feet.

Let the rain begin to fall!

So how does one get out of this situation? I put one sous chef on sauté, the other on pizza. So now we were down one person. And this is where the magic of the kitchen community shows up. One person leaves one day, the very next day, someone brings in their cousin/niece/friend to fill that position. Our new-commer was ready to work, and proved to be a fast learner as well. We cobbled together her paperwork and threw her on the line as fast as we could, and she did great. Personally, I hung around until about 8 (a mere 12 hour day) to make sure that everything was running smoothly for the dinner rush, and that we were past the first major push. We made it through, and I went home to await the arrival of my friends.

It was an all-encompassing kind of tired I felt as I walked in the door of my house. If I could just be spared a mere 10 minutes to get it back together, I figured I’d be fine. I opened my laptop to maybe see a funny video or something, and a notification popped up before I could do anything else:

July 20th is the anniversary of my first day being a professional chef. It has now been two years since I began working in kitchens.

I chuckled to myself, closed the laptop, put my head down, and slept until my friends arrived.

Chef Matt

A Star is NOT Born…

I have never been much of a morning person. I can get up when I have to, but it is not my finest hour by a long shot. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I accepted when my boss asked me to come in at 5:45am last Thursday. At least the reason was a good one: Holly Morris from our local Fox station was going to be broadcasting live from Rustico!

For those of you not from the DC area, Holly Morris the reporter who goes out “on location” every morning and talks about cool things going on in the DC area with a perkiness and enthusiasm usually reserved for cheer-leading captains and exercise video instructors. This was my chance to meet her in person, and actually be on TV in the process.

Well, of course I would not be the featured presenter. Chef Frank would of course (deservedly) be taking center stage on this broadcast, but as the usual morning chef, I would be there as well to help prep the food we were going to be making on air, and to ensure that everything ran smoothly between segments.

The focus of the show was how we featured a pizza class at Rustico, and so there was a lot of making of pizza dough and special pizzas with “challenge” ingredients. Chef was awesome in front of the cameras – he has had experience in this – and I was there to look like I was just along for the class. Well, I’m sure you want to see how it went, so without further delay, here are the clips:

(Note: The clips have since been removed from the Fox Website. Oh well, should’ve saved them when I had the chance…)

Clip 1
Clip 1 – In this clip my job was to work the pizza crust like a student. Though I had to go slowly since we had 4 minutes, and I had only two crusts in front of me. Otherwise, my job was to STFU.

Clip 2
Clip 2 – In this clip, it was originally planned that I make the (very delicious!) strawberry pizza. Instead, in a last-second change Chef had me work the pizza oven behind him. I was making back-ups of all the pizzas you see there in case something went really wrong (read: dropped on the floor). All went well, so those pizzas I was making ended up feeding the crew.

So this is probably the most time I have ever had on TV. No, it’s true, my life just hasn’t been that newsworthy to date. And even though I didn’t have any lines, I still managed to mess up. Take a look at the beginning of clip 2 again. I did a glance over my shoulder to see if the camera was on me, and I determined it was not, so I took that moment to fix my hair. And it was all caught on TV. The instructor who taught me food safety in culinary school is likely gritting his teeth still.

I was not offered any lucrative TV deals to get my own cooking show as a result of this debut, but the experience did inspire me nonetheless.

Yesterday, I got a haircut.

Chef Matt

New Season, New Chicken

As the seasons change, we have to change how we rethink the menu. I’ve of course mentioned this before. We like to keep the same mix of items on the menu though, we just like to use them in different ways. For example, our grilled tuna salad has now become a light, cool tuna tartare that is perfectly adapted to a summer menu. (Served with diced tomatoes and cucumbers, topped with a pickled corn whipped cream and served with plantain chips, it is awesome!)

Another dish we need to rework for the summer months is our chicken. Last summer, we served a fried chicken that was a breast we cut off a whole chicken, butterflied, stuffed with herbs and butter, rolled up, poached, unwrapped, then breaded and fried to order. It was a fabulous dish, but a ton of work. For the winter, we served a brick chicken that was oven roasted with a wonderfully crispy skin. With summer returning, Chef wanted to bring fried chicken back onto the menu, but in a format that would require less work beforehand.

In case you need to see what my fried chicken looks like again…

Recalling his days at another restaurant, Chef was reminded of a fried chicken he did that soaked overnight in buttermilk. He said the resulting dish when this chicken was fried was remarkable. I was standing on the other side of the room, but at this comment, my ears pricked up. Some of you may remember that I posted a recipe for awesome fried chicken whose secret was a buttermilk brine. I developed it while in culinary school, and it was named “Slap My Momma Fried Chicken” by one of my fellow students.

I went over to Chef and asked him about his chicken recipe – was it a buttermilk brine, or just buttermilk. He said it was just buttermilk, and so I gave him a brief description of my version which involves making a brine. He was a tad skeptical at first, but he didn’t say no, and when it came time to butcher up the first batch of chickens for the new fried chicken, well, that was my job, so I whipped up a batch of my brine and let them soak away in it.

Hmm… having a photo of Pepto Bismol in a post talking about my cooking… maybe not such a good idea.

The thing is, my brine recipe has paprika and cayenne in it for a little flavor, which naturally turns the buttermilk pink. Chef was the one on station for the inaugural night of sending this fried chicken out to the public. He opened the container of brining breasts, and I was sure to watch his face as he did it. Yes, the mild shock he must have felt at opening a case of chicken breasts that appeared to be soaking in Pepto Bismol and crushed garlic was hard for him to hide.

But he went forward with it nonetheless, and the results turned out really great. I should point out that his method for applying the final coating to the chickens differs from mine, and since that’s his recipe, I’m not going to share it here.

The real redemption came the next night though as another sous chef was working the line and he was impressed with what an amazingly tender chicken was coming out of the fryer as a result of this brining. Chef acknowledged that the tenderness was awesome, and he looked at me and said, “You have the recipe for this brine, right?…”

“Of course I do, Chef!” I said with a smile.

Of course, I think he meant I had written it down for them, which I haven’t as of yet. But hey, all they have to do is read my blog, right?…

Chef Matt

One Year at Rustico

Can you believe it my loyal readers? It has been a year since my first day at Rustico. (Actually the anniversary was yesterday, but give me a break, I had to work that day…)

As I mentioned before, when I took this job, it was my third restaurant in one year. I was worried about the implications of how I could possibly be perceived as a “jumper” who could not commit to a restaurant for any serious period of time. In short, while I was gaining experience, I was turning myself into someone who was undesirable as a hire. Thankfully, I’ve now proved to all the naysayers – and to myself – that this is not the case.

And that being said, I’m hardly looking for a new place. Hell, I worked for WWF for 8 years, so it is of course possible for me to stick around in a place I enjoy working. And such is the case for me at Rustico.

I have NEVER understood why Kevin Costner posed like that for this movie poster.

I look back over the past year, and there is so much I have learned. Before this, I was much more in the “Field of Dreams” state of mind with respect to restaurant entrepreneurship: “If you cook it, they will come.” I thought that the only thing that really mattered was the food – if that was good, everything else would fall into place. But after a year of doing the purchasing (and making sure we meet our necessary food cost), employee scheduling, hiring, disciplining and even letting a person or two go, it has taught me that the cooking is hardly the whole story.

But that’s not to say I haven’t learned a ton of new cooking tricks and recipes as well! Brewpops not withstanding, I have learned more about pickling different foods than I ever thought I would need to know. (I swear, these guys would pickle a brick if they could…) From making homemade sausage, to learning how to brew root beer, to butchering whole pigs, to making prefect roulades and terrines, my time in the Rustico kitchen has been a non-stop learning experience for me.

And now, with summertime approaching once again, I’m looking forward to long days and weeks of filling in for my staff as they all get to go on vacation while I stay behind and fill in the gaps. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s rough work running a restaurant. But each day I learn a little more, and am preparing myself that much more for the day when I take the ultimate jump.

So, in honor of one year at Rustico, here are some links to some of my favorite stories of what has happened in the past year:

Here’s hoping the next year will be as good as the last!

Chef Matt

The Long Road to a Perfect Margarita

Cold, lime-flavored, salt-rimmed glass… as God intended.

There is nothing that says “Today is Cinco de Mayo,” to me as much as a nice, ice cold margarita. I prefer them on the rocks – to put that debate to bed early – though I will have one frozen too if that is all that is available. But as for flavor, I am all about the traditional lime. I mean really, what else is supposed to go with tequila but lime?

But until recently, a great margarita was something that was only available for me at Mexican restaurants and upscale bars. And even those were frequently disappointing. I’ve tried to make margaritas myself for several years now, and the road has been one fraught with many terrible attempts and nights that (thankfully) I’ll never remember. But with 9 years of persistence and a blending of so many recipes and techniques that I’ve come across, I have finally created what I consider to be the perfect margarita. So great, that I would even dare to call it a “Matt-arita”.

The first margarita I made was two parts tequila, one part triple sec, one part Rose’s sweetened lime juice and ice put into a cuisinart (I didn’t have a blender then…) blended into a bitter, nasty slush of thick chunks of ice with untempered tequila. It was about the worst thing I had ever created drink-wise, and this is coming from someone who has mixed Rumplemintz with Mr. Pibb

But I was not defeated. I was determined to make my own perfect margarita. So much so that I bought my own giant vat of margarita salt and a set of decorative margarita glasses from a wine festival. Buying items like this when you have no ability to make a decent margarita is optimism in the highest form. Or perhaps it was motivation…

One thing I noticed as I was questing to see how others made margaritas was how other countries seem to use lemons instead of limes with tequila. In Australia – where I did a lot of drinking – it was impossible to purchase a shot of tequila with anything but a lemon wedge. But if you got a margarita, it was made with lime-flavored mix. There is not a large Mexican population in Australia, so we can forgive their lack of understanding on this point. Another country lacking in Mexican immigrants is Ukraine. I was there with a friend, and he said that we just HAD to try this “Mexican” restaurant there. The building was even topped with a glass “dome” shaped like a sombrero. The food was an interesting take on Mexican cuisine, so I had to see their take on a margarita as well. I went to the bar and ordered one, and was sure to watch him make it. Crushed ice, tequila, Cointreau, and the straight juice of a lemon.

Me (left) and my friend Shane in the Kiev Mexican restaurant. I am holding the worst margarita in the world, and I’m not smiling. I’m cringing.

“Oh dear,” I thought to myself as I watched it being made.

“Oh dear GOD!” I said aloud after tasting it.

My earlier attempts at margarita making seemed delicious and professional compared to this foul slush I was trying to swallow. This was the worst margarita in creation. It also taught me a valuable lesson in approaching a margarita: lemon is not a bad flavor with tequila, but limes are vital.

I will save you all from the millions of iterations of margaritas that I went through before arriving at the perfect recipe, but it was the lack of lime flavor that was always killing me. Most of the recipes I encountered had just Rose’s sweetened lime juice in there for all the lime flavor, and this was just not cutting it. Sure, the Rose’s was important for the sugar to help cut the sharpness of the tequila, but it was definitely a background player.

It wasn’t until I added the juice of a lemon to my margarita that I noticed a boost in flavors that really took me in the right direction. And I decided to really boost it up by zesting the lemon as well as adding the lemon juice. One sip, and I knew I was on the right track. It was all a question of balancing flavors from this point on, and of course, it was the lime flavoring that won out in the end.

So without forcing you to wait any longer, here is the recipe for what I consider to be the perfect margarita. Please give one a try. They’re involved and take a little while to make – as do most of my recipes – but I promise you the results are well worth the effort. I make one, thinking that’s all I want, and I usually end up making 2 or 3 more. Yes, they’re that good.

A perfect Matt-arita. In one of my special margarita glasses, rimmed with my optimistic margarita salt.

Matt’s Perfect Margarita
(a.k.a. the “Matt-arita”)

(makes one margarita)

    one lime
    one lemon
    one orange
    1.5 shots Rose’s Sweetened
      Lime Juice
    1 shot Triple Sec
    2 shots Tequila
      (I prefer silver tequila for a
    ice cubes
    Cocktail shaker
    two bowls
    fine mesh strainer
    margarita glass rimmed with
  1. Zest the lime (only the lime – I have tried it with the lemon and/or orange too: not as good…) into one bowl.

  2. Juice the lime, lemon and orange into the bowl. It’s okay to get seeds and pulp in there, they will be strained out later.

  3. Add the Rose’s, Triple Sec and tequila to the bowl.

  4. Give the mixture a stir, and let the mixture steep in the fridge for at least 10 minutes, up to an hour (as if you could wait that long…)

  5. Strain the mixture through the fine mesh strainer into the other bowl (press the solids to get all the flavor out.)

  6. Pour into shaker, add four or five ice cubes.

  7. Shake thoroughly and pour (use shaker’s strainer to keep ice out) into margarita glass.

I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the results – especially with summer’s heat approaching. I can only hope that this recipe goes global – it would be nice to see something like this in other countries some day as well…

Chef Matt

Don’t Fear the Nettles

The fun thing about being a professional chef is the ability to work with ingredients that are not only hard to find, but in many cases are ones I have never heard of. It’s the collaboration with those who are more experienced than me that make my career into a daily learning experience. Sure, I can’t wait for the day to come when I’m the one with all the answers and experience, but in the meantime, I’m of course enjoying the chance to learn everything I can so I’ll be ready.

Pretty soon, every garden in Northern Virginia will look like this…

Springtime is upon us here in DC, and with the return of greenery on the trees and flowers on the azaleas comes a resurgence of fresh vegetables that are once again available. Even in this modern age we are subject to some degree of seasonality with respect to what ingredients we have to surrender in the winter months.

As I squeezed into our management office (read: closet) to begin my daily paperwork a few days back, chef stopped me and told me the latest ingredient he wanted me to hunt down.

“I want some stinging nettles, Matt,” he said.

Since he had not prefaced this as I did for you that this was an ingredient request, this sentence at first seemed a tad odd to me. The somewhat blank look on my face probably conveyed this. But his follow-up statement didn’t help much either.

“I want to make spaetzle.”

The only thought in my mind was, “Well, OK, then go make some…” but I opted for the less recalcitrant position. “Sure chef, I’ll see what I can track down.”

So much more than just a garden nuisance. But really, who’s the first guy who tried to eat this thing?…

A few weeks later (when they became available) I had a bag of stinging nettles in house. The bag was full of serrated dark green leaves and everywhere I looked on the plants, there were tiny needles pointing right back at me. All of them standing strictly at attention in a pose that was screaming, “lawsuit!” in my ears. Still, I had been able to order these through a food purveyor, so I was guessing they were edible, but they sure didn’t look it.

When chef and Andrew arrived later that day, I showed them the bag – thinking that I was going to be laughed at for ordering something so obviously inedible. Instead they got right to work, taking the leaves off the stems (while wearing gloves of course) and then blanching them in boiling water to make them tender – including the pointy barbs.

“Here, give this a try,” Andrew offered me as he held out what could have easily been a piece of cooked spinach. It was nothing short of delicious. Andrew then went on to explain a lot of the different uses for them which was all really quite fascinating. But true to chef’s word, we worked them into a batch of spaetzle that night which was served with a pork chop special. Even with the description of a “stinging nettle spaetzle” accompanying the chops, this dish sold out in almost no time flat.

It’s funny how something so simple can turn into a really interesting learning experience. And I think I learned quite a bit. For example, I learned:

  1. Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are not only delicious, but they can be used in a bunch of ways and are quite nutritious as well.
  2. Just because something both looks and sounds dangerous, doesn’t mean it is inedible (but that is still the way to bet…)
  3. Trusting in the experience of others can lead to some amazing discoveries in the world of food.
  4. Customers are willing to be more adventurous than you may expect when ordering a special off the menu.
and finally:
  1. “Stinging Nettle Spaetzle” is an awesome band name.

Chef Matt