Chef’s Blog

We’re Back in Action this Friday the 19th!

We let you know last week we were closing down for a bit for renovations.  It’s been a terrible time filled with sorrow and missing you.  We’re barely able to contain our excitement to start cooking for you again.   Tony and the team have been testing out the new cooking suite and it is every bit as wonderful as we imagined.  We are reopening this Friday, the 19th and can’t wait to see you!!!!

Craigie on Main
Back in Action on Friday, July 19th

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Craigie Will Be Closed July 8th-18th

We know, we’re bummed too, but sometimes the building just needs a little lovin’.  We’ve got some home improvement projects in the works from July 8th to the 18th.  We’re going to miss you guys while we’re gone, but we promise to come back looking and feeling like new.  What we’re really saying is that for ten days, you won’t be able to get your Craigie fix, so you better come in now to tide you over.

Craigie on Main
Closed for Routine Maintenance July 8th-18th
We’ll be back on the 19th!

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Tony’s Cornbread Pain Perdu

When we think of summertime desserts, two things come to mind- fresh fruit & ice cream.  Sure, you could serve just the two together for a simple and straightforward dessert.  Alternatively, you could get fancy with just a smidge extra effort and really impress the crowd.  Below is the recipe for Tony’s Cornbread Pain Perdu.  Insider tip- you can prepare the cornbread a day or two in advance of serving.  Serve it up with some grilled peaches and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a hot summer day!

Cornbread Pain Perdu

Cornbread:
Yield: 1 standard loaf pan
1 1/2 c butter(3 sticks)
1 2/3 c sugar
4 eggs
1 c AP Flour
3/4c Cornmeal
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1c Sour Cream
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Whisk together flour, cornmeal and baking powder.
3. Combine the eggs and vanilla extract.
4. Cream the butter and sugar.
5. Add the eggs two at a time.
6. Alternately add the dry mix and sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry.
7. Pour mixture into a buttered loaf pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a cake-tester comes out clean.

For the soaking liquid
3 cups milk
3 eggs
6 egg yolks
¾ cups vanilla sugar
salt, kosher (to taste)

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients and blend together.
2. Slice the cornbread into ¾ inch slices.
3. Soak in milk-egg mixture
4. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan on medium-low heat
5. Place soaked corn bread slices into the buttered griddle and cook until both sides are browned and hot throughout.
6. Remove and serve warm

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A Few Words on Passover at Craigie on Main from Tony Maws

For the last few years we’ve cooked Passover dinner at Craigie on Main, and this year is no different. We’ll be serving my take—the Craigie take—on this Jewish holiday Tuesday and Wednesday, March 26th and 27th. Before then, I wanted to write a bit about why we’ve come to celebrate this somewhat unconventional restaurant holiday the way that we do.

Of course it starts with my family. Both my parents are Jewish. Neither is very religious, but Judaism has always been important to us.

My father’s family immigrated to the US from Poland in between the World Wars and settled in the Bronx. My grandfather worked as a tailor, and they were dirt poor. (My father used to tell me stories of how he shared a room with his little brother and his grandmother as a kid.) My grandfather died when my dad was still a teenager, and because I grew up in Newton, MA, while the rest of that side of the family stayed in New York, I didn’t see them all that much.

This is why my Jewish traditions come mainly from my mother’s half of the family. I had a very special relationship with her parents, Charlie and Hannah—but when it came to food, it was especially Hannah, who I called Baba Hannah. (Her picture is hanging in the kitchen of Craigie on Main today.)

Charlie’s family had owned a well-known shoe store in downtown Boston while Baba Hannah was a southern Jew, born and bred in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (She certainly talked like it—spouting Yiddish at me with a southern accent.) She was five foot two, but a total terror. She completely ruled the house, and especially the kitchen. She loved her grandchildren like crazy.

Charlie and Hannah lived in Brookline, so we saw them all the time. I watched baseball with my grandfather and cooked with my grandmother. And Baba Hannah cooked. I don’t think she loved cooking for the sake of cooking, but she certainly got joy out of cooking for her family. And I loved to help. I was the kid who was always making his family breakfast. I used to call my parents at work when I was ten years old and say: “I have a chicken in the oven. You’re coming home for dinner in a half hour.”

In Baba Hannah’s kitchen I whipped egg whites for meringue frostings on her lemon sponge cake and helped shape the matzo balls for Passover Seder. I remember the taste of her split pea soup and the smell of her brisket. It was awesome and I still crave them. Nothing Baba Hannah cooked came out of left field. But she made it and it was good and it was a great excuse for our family to come together. It was the best time I had around food.

I was in college when my grandparents passed away. Afterward, there were a couple years when the holidays just didn’t get celebrated. My grandmother had always been in charge of the cooking and the planning and without her, my mom and her brother just didn’t know what to do. We made half-assed attempts for a few years, getting the family together with takeout from Baker’s Best, but the vibe was all wrong. We all felt it. Passover wasn’t what it was supposed to be and I desperately wanted to change this.

Years later, after I had opened the Craigie Street Bistrot and was missing all the Jewish holidays not because we didn’t know what to do but because I was always working, my mom had an idea:

“Tony, why don’t we cook Passover here?”

I laughed. “What the hell are you talking about? We cook pork, Mom. How could I cook Passover?”

“Make it your take on Passover,” she said.

So I started to read: about the holiday, the traditions, and the food that has so much symbolism and sentimentality attached. At its most basic, Passover is the celebration of the ancient Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. You can dive into the religious angle all you want, but for me the message is about remembering and acknowledging both the good and bad of humanity. It’s a celebration of peace and freedom. It’s about the plagues, sure—but Passover can be much more inclusive.

As I read, I realized the diversity in the food of Passover, too—if you start looking at the ways others cook for it around the world. It was liberating.

Passover didn’t have to be the Ashkenazi version of haroseth made from apples and walnuts. There didn’t have to be horseradish, beets, or asparagus. The meal didn’t need to hinge on brisket. I began to think about the Sephardic versions of haroseth, made with dried fruit, nuts, and wine. I read about communities in the Middle East that eat rice during Passover—spiked with tons of dates, almonds, spring garlic and saffron. All of a sudden Passover dinner read like a pretty interesting menu.

And so at Craigie on Main, during Passover, we pay homage to what I grew up with. We also make new interpretations inspired by flavors from places like Morocco, India, and Tunisia. There are matzo balls, of course. (One year I made them with bone marrow, which seemed like a very Craigie thing to do.) We’ve done interpretations of Baba Hannah’s split pea soup. There’ve been haroseth-braised lamb shanks, schmaltz-poached dayboat halibut, braised kobe beef brisket. We make matzo from scratch, using emmer wheat ground for us by Anson Mills.

And everyone is welcome. We have families that whip out their Haggadahs at the table, while others haven’t celebrated the holiday in years, finding it easier to come together at a restaurant than at home. We also have folks who don’t know what to make of the Seder plate we set on each table, and that’s okay. The main thing is that everyone is happy—especially me. Passover always makes for a dynamic night.

Of course it’s important to remember that we aren’t a kosher kitchen, and won’t pretend to be. We won’t serve pork for Passover—but various forms of pig will still be hanging out in the kitchen.

 

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Potato-Celery Root Latkes

1 Do potatoes last. They will turn brown and oxidize.

2 Sweat julienne onions in Schmaltz, cool.

3 Grate peeled celery root through cheese grinder in robot coupe.

4 Buzz matzo crackers or meal in blender till powdered.

5 Mix eggs with whisk.

6 Peel potatoes and grate same as celery root.

7 Squeeze water out of potatoes.

8 Weigh potatoes after water weight is lost.

9 Weigh to find salt percentage.

10 Mix all ingredients together  by hand.

11 Portion to 70g balls.

12 Flatten and crisp latkes on plancha with schmaltz.

13 Lay out on a rack to dry and cool.

14 Do a tester to check for taste/cook and shape.

150g    Celery root 300g    squeezed potatoes( roughly 4 potatoes) 25g      Matzo meal powdered 25g      whole eggs 45g      Schmaltz onions .75g% salt Pepper to taste Set plancha to 400F Directions: 1 Do potatoes last. They will turn brown and oxidize. 2 Sweat julienne onions in Schmaltz, cool. 3 Grate peeled celery [...]

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150g    Celery root

300g    squeezed potatoes( roughly 4 potatoes)

25g      Matzo meal powdered

25g      whole eggs

45g      Schmaltz onions

.75g% salt

Pepper to taste

Set plancha to 400F

Directions:

1 Do potatoes last. They will turn brown and oxidize.

2 Sweat julienne onions in Schmaltz, cool.

3 Grate peeled celery root through cheese grinder in robot coupe.

4 Buzz matzo crackers or meal in blender till powdered.

5 Mix eggs with whisk.

6 Peel potatoes and grate same as celery root.

7 Squeeze water out of potatoes.

8 Weigh potatoes after water weight is lost.

9 Weigh to find salt percentage.

10 Mix all ingredients together  by hand.

11 Portion to 70g balls.

12 Flatten and crisp latkes on plancha with schmaltz.

13 Lay out on a rack to dry and cool.

14 Do a tester to check for taste/cook and shape.

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