Taste Test: Chef's Day Off
We make our living behind the stove.
Day-in, day-out chefs sweat it out in the kitchen, ensuring that others are well-fed and having a great time at the table. So you would think that on their day off chefs would stay far away from the kitchen and the thought of cooking. After all, how many surgeons do you know that operate in their spare time? Give a chef a day out of the kitchen and he (or she) will be thrilled. He’ll happily let someone else cook for him — even if that means grilled cheese sandwiches with a side of potato chips (but only if they're kettle cooked).
But give a chef a week off and you’re bound to find him back in the kitchen after 24 hours. And so goes my story with a week in Watercolor, FL just down the road from my hometown, Pensacola. A big beach house with the entire family, means lots of time to cook and plenty of willing mouths to eat. We've been filling our days by chasing our daughter around the pools or helping her build castles in the sand. Then at nap time we get out on the water on YOLO boards and challenge each other to races around the lake — loser does dishes! (Don't let the angle of this photo fool you, I DO NOT lose paddleboard races)
Then, when the sun is ready to set we get into the kitchen; cooking together is sort of our thing after all. And when a chef gets in the kitchen on his day off, it means he’s cooking the food that HE wants to eat. For me, that means PORK that slowly roasts, all day long (sort of like us in the Florida sun). I like to make a spicy green salsa that is the ultimate taco night multi-tasker. First, I use it as a marinade for slow roasted pork shoulder. Then as a dressing for green cabbage to make the perfect taco topping slaw.
Finally, a bowl of the salsa lands on the table to be generously applied to the finished tacos. To finish off taco night (a.k.a. my favorite night of the week) we make a fresh salsa with locally grown tomatoes and roasted red peppers. Along with a stack of fresh corn tortillas and crumbled queso fresco, dinner is complete. Unless you get thirsty (and we chefs are known to get a little thirsty from time to time). So a big batch of watermelon margaritas made with fresh juice and served in the hollowed watermelon finish the night off just right.
Chef James’s Spicy Green Salsa
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 head garlic, roasted
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 limes
- 1 cup olive oil
- Char the scallions and jalapeno on the grill or under a broiler.
- Combine the cilantro and the roasted garlic, scallions, and jalapenos in a food processor and pulse until well chopped.
- Add the juice of 2 limes and 1 tablespoon zest and stir in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator up to 10 days.