Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chris Conroy: Chef of the Future

The storm proved the victor. We all had plans. Thank the many gods for the space heater our small profit could afford. The staff was restless and the rain sounded like the beaches of Normandy, 1944. When we lost power I announced a plan to eat Hector first. No one will know. This idea was quickly rejected. Credit to the staff. There was food in the fridge and the rain was supposed to stop soon after midnight. The fear was temporary, we concluded. Bad parties last longer than this. What can we do with what we got? After several suggestions the best idea prevailed. Conroy was the winner and Tire Swing Press’s future chef. His combination of dead plants and ground up animals resulted in a hearty delight. So tasty the entire staff spent all night on the cement floor recalling other meals that maybe came close. In the morning I demanded the recipe, or else Conroy’s resignation. He provided. If you’re ever stuck in Epcot Center or a Whole Foods over night, give this meal your best. You will survive and be a better person because of it. That night it was dark and the rain was heavy on the aluminum awning above the exit, sounded like unwanted guests. Don’t be discouraged. I was and that was wrong. Way wrong. Now, I can say that was good. – BW

Dinner by Chris Conroy

Recipe: Ziti with sautéed Italian sausage, organic red-bell pepper and broccoli in a spicy garlic white wine broth.

The Ingredients:

* 1 Italian Sausage, leftover (I used sweet, I already ate the spicy ones, but you can use either; if they've been chillin' in sauce--or gravy--I recommend first rinsing off the sauce--or gravy--and then slicing into little discs)

* 1/4 red bell pepper (chopped into large squares, picture a scrabble piece and then double it, perfect)

* Broccoli (use leftover or steam some fresh)

* 1 or 2 Garlic cloves (diced or smashed and then slivered)

* Ziti (fill a cereal bowl with dry pasta and you're good for 1, probably end up with leftovers)

* Herb-ox chicken bouillon (little bit, careful here, not too salty, we have 'salted' whipped butter to come)

* Water (depends on how you work the broth & balance the salt)

* Chopped parsley (a handful)

* Cracked black pepper (few twists)

* Parmesan Cheese (lots)

* EVOO (little bit)

* Whipped Salted Butter (little bit)

* Red pepper flakes (optional but come on)

* White wine (optional but come on)

The Game Plan:

While waiting for your ziti water to boil, heat evoo and whipped butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add chopped garlic and cook for about a minute and then add the red bell pepper squares and sausage. Sautee the garlic, peppers and sausage for a few minutes and then add in the red pepper flakes and some cracked black pepper. Turn the heat up to high—stirring & scraping all ingredients with a fork to prevent burning—and then hit the hot skillet with some white wine, about a ½ cup. In the couple of minutes it takes the alcohol to burn off, add your ziti to the salted boiling water and stir. Now take your leftover broccoli and nuke for about 30 seconds, just to get the chill out, and set to the side. Turn the heat back to medium on your cast-iron skillet, stir ingredients again with fork, toss in parsley, and then ladle into the skillet some of the hot boiling ziti water and then add in some Herb-ox chicken bouillon. Stir again and taste your broth—add more water if too salty and more bouillon if not salty enough—cover and lower heat. By now your ziti should be al dente so drain and return to a cold water-rinsed pot and toss in broccoli. Blast ziti and broccoli with some more evoo, shred lots of parmesan over it and ladle in your spicy garlic white wine broth with sautéed Italian sausage and organic red-bell pepper, mix, and then plate. Add more cracked black pepper, red pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.

Drink: 2006 Bleasdale Langhorne Crossing (52% cab, 27% malbec, 15% shiraz, 6% petit verdot. Cost: $10)

Non-Alcoholic: 3/4 of tall mug with Canada Dry Seltzer with a 1/4 of Boylan's Black Cherry Soda

Dessert: 2 Mini Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Entertainment: Carver's 'Cathedral' or Spielberg’s JAWS or Van Morrison's 'Enlightenment' or simply the moon, in any form--full, thumbnail, half, cloud scratched--staring back at you and yours.

Conroy's fiction has been published in several online and print publications, including Whetstone, Word Riot, Ward6 Review, Zingmagazine and The Hell Gate Review. Check out an excerpt from a fiction in progress--Quercus Alba--in the inaugural print issue of The Wanderlust Review, Feb 2010. Or drop him a line at

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