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Eagleford Restaurant offers fine dining; cook shares recipes for holiday

By Jessica Rodrigo
Sept. 26, 2012 at 4:26 a.m.

Executive chef Sam Hess, 32, at the Eagleford Restaurant in Cuero said the menu includes traditional steakhouse fare with overtones of New Orleans. He spent many years cooking in the Big Easy and said his favorite dish is the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp.

PINOT NOIR CRANBERRY SAUCE

• 2 containers chicken stock

• 1 bottle pinot noir

• 1 cup dried cranberries

One day ahead of time cover the cranberries with the wine in a sealed container and refrigerate. The next day combine the chicken stock with half a bottle of the pinot noir and bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and reduce to about 2 cups of liquid. Strain the juice from the cranberries into the sauce and reduce to 1 cup total liquid. Add the reserved cranberries.

TRUFFLE MASHED POTATOES

• 5 Idaho potatoes, peeled and quartered

• 1 1/2 1/2 cups heavy cream or milk

• 1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

• 1 small bottle truffle oil

Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover well. Salt the water at this point. Bring to boil and reduce heat slightly. While the water is boiling, heat the cream until it is just hot. Cook the potatoes until a knife, when inserted, slips out easily. Strain the potatoes and return to the pot, adding the cream and butter. Food mills, hand mixers or potato mashers are all good methods, but if using a food mill, put the butter in with potatoes and add the cream after. Add about 2 oz. of the truffle oil, but be careful, it easily becomes overpowering in a dish. Season to taste.

MELTED LEEKS

• 3 leeks

• 3 Tbsp butter

• 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

• 2 Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

• Splash of white wine

Trim leeks just above where they start to turn green. Cut in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly. Leeks tend to hold on to a lot of dirt, so be sure to rinse in between each layer. Cut crosswise into 1/41/4" pieces. Melt butter over low-medium heat in a sauté pan. Add leeks and season lightly with salt. When they begin to soften, add the wine and continue cooking until they are meltingly soft, about 20 minutes. Do not allow them to brown at any time. Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste.

TURKEY PANE

• 2 turkey breasts

• Flour seasoned with salt and black pepper

• 3 oz. canola oil

• Plastic wrap

Cut the breasts crosswise into 3 oz. portions, about 3 per breast, depending on size. Lay 3 portions at time on a piece of plastic wrap big enough to pound them out. Cover with another piece of plastic. Pound them out gently so that they are 1/41/4"-1/21/2" thick, being careful not to break them apart. Dredge each piece in the seasoned flour, shaking excess off. Heat the oil in the pan to 350 degrees, or until the oil sizzles when a little flour is sprinkled into it. Cook the cutlets until golden brown on each side.

Eagleford Restaurant

ADDRESS: 604 N. Esplanade St., Cuero

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

For more information or reservations: Call 361-524-5033 or visit the website at eaglefordrestaurant.com

Planning for the Eagle Ford Shale didn't happen overnight. Planning for the Eagleford Restaurant didn't either.

About a year ago, David Pipkin, with partner George Bishop, bought a building on Cuero's busy Esplanade Street. They renovated what was formerly known to the locals as The Landmark, to house a upscale restaurant capable of hosting private parties and events. It opened for service in July.

"With all the activity in Cuero, we felt there was a need for a fine dining restaurant," Pipkin, 52, said. "We plan on being here a long time."

Following in the footsteps of DeWitt County's recent development of the Eagle Ford Shale, the owners decided to piggyback off the idea of the area's recent success.

So many landowners in the area are now feeling the boom from the gas and oil industry, he said, and they should be able to enjoy that.

Taking the helm of the kitchen, executive chef Sam Hess explained what he was excited about at the Eagleford.

"It was an irresistible challenge coming up here to cut out a fine dining restaurant where there hasn't really been one before," he said, adding that the nearest restaurant offering a similar style of cuisine might take people out of town, even to Houston or San Antonio.

Since work on the restaurant began earlier this year, Hess, 32, has been looking for purveyors of local seafood and produce. He's found shrimpers in Matagorda "that are as passionate as their catch as we are about our food."

The hard work has paid off in the form of meticulously plated entrees, sauces cooked to please a trained palate and what he hopes is a dining experience unlike any in the area.

Hess describes the cuisine of the Eagleford Restaurant as traditional steakhouse fare with overtones of New Orleans. Having spent a lot of time cooking in the Big Easy, the plates reflect those flavors and styles found in the southern region, including seafood gumbo and his favorite dish on the menu, the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp.

"It reminds me of New Orleans," he said.

Continuing to build on the restaurant's menu, the Eagleford Restaurant added lunch to its repertoire in September. Lunch offers diners a more casual setting with sandwiches, light salads and, what Hess calls "over-the-top burgers."

"I care deeply about each plate that goes out. I want people to leave here satisfied," he said.

With the holidays around the corner, people will be slaving in the kitchen, just as Hess does at the Eagleford, creating meals for friends and gatherings. He shared a few recipes with The Magazine of the Golden Crescent that he says others can re-create at home, as long as they know how to boil water to make mashed potatoes. The Eagleford will also offer a similar, but more complex, rendition during the holidays.

"It's a comforting meal with balanced flavors," he said. "This is an easy, but special alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving plate."

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