Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Whet Tuesday

Tom says:
The sidebar to the right provides a general overview of what Seriously Fun Food is at its essence. Aside from our opening date--still tentative as of this writing--the question on everyone's mind seems to be: Yeah, okay, but what's on the menu?

It's Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, but here at the blog, it's Whet Tuesday. As in we're going whet New England's appetite with a select preview of an item off Z's menu. In the weeks leading up to the opening, these previews will continue to pop up here and there on the blog.

Long-time readers know that Z offers reinterpretations of classic fare that has become part of the American dinner table's vernacular. Some of the dishes we'll preview here are ones I've spent my career developing. Others riff on meals I've eaten during my travels. And still others pay homage to the family recipe archives.

Today we're previewing one of Z's starters. Its composition is influenced heavily by growing up in California's Central Valley and the ways in which my mother infused our lives with the area's rich, agricultural bounty. You've all eaten this combination at one time or another, whether you want to admit it or not because, let's be honest: who doesn't love chicken fingers and fries?

Really, if this dish weren't already fun, it wouldn't be on the thousands of menus it is. So how does Z make its Crispy Chicken Seriously Fun?

By going back to my roots.

Where we lived in the Central Valley, nut tree groves defined the landscape and nuts of all kinds were a constant in our house. Anti-junk food to a fault, my mother always pointed us toward a bowl of of them when we wanted a snack (still in their shells of course, as heaven forbid she make it easy for us). It's just my humble opinion, but a house with a nuts will never be a home.

Anyway, nuts, in general, were common for us. Macadamia nuts, specifically, were not. Due to their relative cost in the 70s, it was only around the holidays that these beauties showed up and, as a result, my mother rationed them like so many coins knowing full well I'd eat through the can in an hour if left unsupervised. But it was only when I started work for a Boston-area caterer a few years ago that I learned how versatile macadamias could be and what a fantastic breading they make for chicken.

Then there's my mother's jam. Of all the canning and jamming and preserving my mother does--apples, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.--what she does with apricots can only be described as world class. Preserves this perfect don't respond well to lots of tinkering, but by mixing in a little of this and a little of that, I created a sweet-and-sour fruity goodness of a dipping sauce that you might just want to eat with a spoon.

Okay, so sweet potatoes are native to Central America and not the Central Valley (these tubers can be traced back 10,000 years in Peru but only appeared in the United States around the 16th century), but you can't argue with their taste, texture or nutritional value. Z's sweet potato fries are cut shoestring style which makes them all the better to share with your dining companions...

...or not. You may decide you want to keep them all for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how many people and comments you've had following the opening of Z, but I wanted to say that I'm truly excited. I live a short walk around the corner and I'm thrilled to see a creative/modern restaurant starting up. Good luck, you'll definitely have my business!

Tom & Maureen said...

Thanks 'anonymous' - most folks seem to email us more than comment here on the blog, but everyone's support, good wishes and interest is appreciated more than they know. We hope that once we're open and you do come in, you'll introduce yourself! Best - Tom & Maureen