In our last few blog posts, we’ve detailed the fabulously fun media dinner that kicked off the Women of Today x The Vintage Round Top Social Media Marketing Workshop weekend we hosted last month. If you haven’t seen the rundown yet, check out our blog post recap—or read about the event in People magazine!
We’ve shared some cocktail mixing tips from Bar Rescue liquid chef Rob Floyd, clips of Andy Grammer’s intimate acoustic performance, and a behind-the-scenes look at Davy Gray floral designer Valerie Wolf’s creative process. Now we’re sharing our interview with the super-talented Chef Kristen Kish, winner of Top Chef, author of Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques, and owner of Austin, TX restaurant Arlo Grey.
Guests of our media dinner were treated to an incredible meal of salmon crudo, spring salad with beets and haricots verts, fresh pasta, and airy strawberry meringue, all prepared by Kristen and her team.
Read on to learn what inspires Kristen, what she loves about Texas, and what she cooks for her own dinner guests. We’re also sharing a recipe for one of her all-time favorite meals: stuffed cabbage rolls with bacon and creamy cucumbers!
How has Texas influenced your work for Arlo Grey and beyond?
Never in a million years would I have thought I’d end up in Texas. I completely changed and had to learn what seasonal cooking was again; Texas has different produce seasons I wasn’t used to. I love exploring the new farms, cattle, gulf seafood, and generally learning about how things grow from coast to coast. It’s been a lot of fun!
How have you sought to differentiate yourself within Austin’s rich culinary culture?
It shouldn’t take much thought [to be different]. When you give an authentic, true, honest view of yourself, regardless of subject, you will differentiate yourself. It’s when people begin to think about how to be different or haven’t quite figured out a point of view, that’s when ideas become disjointed. I am giving my story through food--my lens and interpretation of detail. I hope that is seen, felt, and tasted.
Where do you turn for culinary inspiration?
Wow, where do I begin!? Everywhere and everyone. From classics to the nostalgia of my childhood. I love a great story in food--show me a great meal through the history of the person cooking it.
What are your go-to dishes for hosting an impromptu gathering?
Whole-herb-and-olive-oil roasted chicken, crunchy bread to soak up all the chicken fat, and homemade fettuccine with a simple butter sauce and beautiful Parmesan cheese.
What’s your all-time fave meal you’ve ever eaten?
It is super hard to pick just one. I’ll say my grandmothers stuffed cabbage rolls and creamy cucumbers with dill. Probably my first-ever favorite homemade meal.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Creamy Cucumbers
1 or 2 large green cabbages, enough for 12 to 15 large leaves
4 cups of your favorite sauerkraut
2 cups tomato juice
5 smoked bacon slices (optional)
1 pound ground pork shoulder (Boston butt)
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon sweet, smoked, or hot paprika (I like a mix)
2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
¹⁄₄ cup grated white onion
1¹⁄₄ cups uncooked white rice
Grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 English cucumber
¹⁄₄ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
If you don’t love sauerkraut, no worries: a beautiful rich tomato sauce is a great alternative. Also, I encourage you to serve the cabbage rolls directly from your baking vessel. So if you’re aesthetically inclined, choose your wares accordingly!
Start the cabbage rolls: You’ll need 12 to 15 nice large leaves to make these rolls. Gently peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage, then steam these over a pot of boiling water until pliable, roughly 15 minutes. Lay them out on a kitchen towel to cool and dry. Chop up the remaining cabbage (up to ½ head) into medium chunks.
Make the stuffing: In a large bowl, mix together with your hands the pork, beef, paprika, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, coriander, black pepper, garlic, onion, and rice, adding a generous sprinkling of salt. Shape a very small patty of the mixture and, in a hot small frying pan lightly coated with oil, cook it for 2 minutes on each side. Taste for salt and adjust your overall mixture accordingly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll up ¼ cup of the stuffing into each steamed cabbage leaf, like you would roll a burrito, and tuck each roll into a deep baking dish, seam-side down. Pour a light layer of the sauerkraut juice and all of the tomato juice over the rolls. Insert small pieces of the cabbage heart(s) in between each roll, then top with the sauerkraut and more of its juices: the overall amount of liquid should come three fourths of the way up the cabbage rolls. I like to add some slices of smoked bacon over the top to add flavor while the dish cooks, but it’s your choice. Cover tightly with a lid or buttered foil, and bake for 2½ to 3 hours, until tender.
In the meantime, make the creamy cucumbers: Slice the cucumber into rounds about the thickness of a nickel. Combine in a nonreactive bowl with the vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature. Drain off the cucumber liquid. Mix the cucumbers with the sour cream, dill, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To serve: Serve family-style right from your cooking vessel, with the creamy cucumbers on the side
If you’re ever in Austin, do yourself a favor and visit Arlo Grey, Kristen’s amazing restaurant in the new Line Hotel. 111 E Cesar Chaves St., Austin, Texas, 78701.