Harvest recipes from the farmers’ market

Mike Phillips, executive chef at the Craftsman restaurant, found some autumn gems — like this Asian pumpkin — at the Midtown Farmers’ Market.

Photo by Jeremy Stratton

Craftsman Chef Mike Phillips creates a meal from Midtown’s harvest offerings

With the summer winding down and the harvest approaching, we at The Bridge took Mike Phillips, head chef at the Craftsman restaurant, shopping at the Midtown Farmers’ Market, where he found the inspiration — and most of the ingredients — for two October recipes, two of which you can find at the bottom of this article.

Phillips arrived at market — in the parking lot at Lake Street and 22nd Avenue South, across from the Midtown YWCA — on a sunny Saturday morning wearing his Birchwood biking gear. Before buying, Phillips patiently made the rounds to see what looked appealing. He recalled many a morning doing the same thing as designated chef on a bike trip around the Provence region of France, where he cooked for a cycling group as they went from town to town. In Provence, the markets had more cheese and fish and had huge spice tables, he said, but Midtown has the same spirit. “We are catching up,” he said. “This is an event.”

Phillips settled first on a $4 Asian pumpkin, a squat version of its American cousin. “I’ve never seen this variety,” he said. “I think we are going to make soup out of that.”

Phillips, who has done cooking demonstrations at the market, said he prefers to spread his buys among different venders. “You are supporting them; they are supporting you,” he said. The purchases came quickly: beef shank and stew meat, leeks and sweet potatoes, garlic, the pumpkin, and finally, a bag of Harrelson apples for a baked dessert.
The cost of the ingredients (covered by The Bridge) was $45, and Phillips returned to The Craftsman to cook up a three-course meal that would serve six people: “Market Stew,” following a first course of Brussells sprouts with cured ham, and with Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin for dessert. (A few ingredients were not bought at the market.)

Phillips works by eyeball, not measuring spoons — a shake of salt here and a plop of sauce there. (The recipe amounts are his approximates, so if you cook this yourself, wing it a bit.) As Phillips swished a butter-sugar concoction in a skillet, he explained how he got started on his 20-year cooking career. As a Russian major at Hamline University playing in a rock ’n’ roll band, “I needed a job to support my music habit,” he said, smiling.

Phillips stepped outside the back door to pluck a handful of sage from the Craftsman’s rain garden and added it to the Market Stew before sliding it in the oven. Instead of a lid, he uses a circular piece of parchment paper, cutting a small hole in the center. “It keeps the heat in but lets the steam out,” he said.

Three hours later, the Asian pumpkin had melted into the thick sauce of the stew, while the potatoes and carrots remained a chunky complement to the tender stew beef. Not long after, Phillips emerged from the kitchen with a hot pan of baked apples and pears, which he turned upside-down and served with caramel ice cream.

Phillips seemed pleased with the outcome, and our party of six (which paid for drinks, service, and then some, by the way) agreed it was excellent, but we’ll let you try the stew and pie recipes for yourself — the harvest vegetables and other ingredients should be available at the Midtown and other area farmers’ markets through the coming month.

The Midtown Farmers’ Market runs Tuesdays, 3:30–7:30 p.m. through Oct. 23 and Saturdays, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. through Oct. 27. Visit their website at www.Midtownfarmersmarket.org. You can also try the Craftsman’s regional New American cuisine at 4300 E. Lake St. Call 612-722-0175 or visit www.craftsmanrestaurant.com for more information.

Here are two of Phillips’ recipes:

Market Stew

Serves 6

4 lbs. beef cross-cut shanks and/or stew meat
1–5 lb. pumpkin (a thick-flesh variety works best)
1 lb. onion or leeks
1 lb. carrot
3 stalks celery
1 head garlic
1 lb. sweet potatoes
2 lbs. new potatoes
2 qt. beef stock
2 cups red wine
3 tbsp. tomato paste
herbs (such as thyme, sage, rosemary) to taste

Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut into large 1” by 1–2” chunks. Cut the carrot, onion, celery and potatoes into similar-sized chunks. Slice the bottom end off the garlic. Season the meat and sear it in a large braising pan. When the meat is browned on all sides, remove it and add the vegetables. Let the vegetables brown and pick up some of the meat’s carmelization from the pan. Add the meat and the red wine. Let the wine reduce by half and add the stock and tomato paste. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Skim off any fat. Cover the pan with lid ajar, or for a chef’s approach, cover with a round piece of parchment paper with a small hole cut in the middle. (This keeps the stew moist but lets it reduce.) Cook in a 350-degree oven for three hours, or until the meat pulls off the bone easily. Serve, leaving the garlic in the pan.

Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin

3 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and cut into inch-thick slices
3 lbs. pears, similarly prepared
8 oz. butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
one 12” pie crust

Melt butter in a cast-iron, 10-inch pan. Add sugar and cook over medium heat. As the sugar browns, swirl the mixture so you have a uniform color. Remove from heat when browned. Add alternate pieces of apple and pear. (Watch for splattering butter.) Add fruit in rings and stack the rings in conical fashion. Dust the fruit with sugar and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter. Place in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the butter and sugar on top start to caramelize. Remove the pan and place your favorite piecrust over the top, tucking the sides to seal in the fruit and juices. Make four or five incisions in the crust and return to oven. The tart will be done when the crust is golden brown. Pull from oven and cool to warm. Invert the tart on a plate and serve immediately, with ice cream if you like.

last revised: October 11, 2007