Fresh, seasonal ingredients can be turned into a gourmet feast, especially on your farmstead. Sometimes, it’s a matter of arranging these ingredients on a plate or whipping them up fresh into an entrée. Take it from Jeremy Critchfield, executive chef at The Historic Stone House Restaurant and Country Inn. While he has plans to grow some of the herbs used by the restaurant on site, for now, he’s focused on knowing where his ingredients come from—a true farmsteadtarian!
"The local, organic Footprints Farm only raised six pigs, and I got two,” Chef Jeremy says. He’s wearing a T-shirt that promotes the restaurant’s weekly "Bikes, Beer and BBQ” event instead of a white chef’s uniform that he wore for decades at some of the leading resorts around the U.S. Now, he’s into the history of the place, the quality of the food and the community where he’s settled down to raise his family. It’s the love for the cuisine he prepares for guests—not money— that drives him to excel in the kitchen. And you can taste it.
When we were traveling through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, we discovered Chef Jeremy and his amazing culinary creations, in which he uses ingredients often found at farms just up the road. There’s nothing pretentious about this place, which first opened in 1822 as a stop for stagecoach travelers. Along with the whitewater rafting, Frank Lloyd Wright homes and plentiful bicycle trails also found in the area, Stone House has become a popular stopping point along the National Pike thanks to Chef Jeremy’s guidance and direction.
A few of his diverse offerings at The Historic Stone House Restaurant include:
Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil. For us farmstead chefs, this is (or should be) a staple appetizer.
Jack Daniel’s Smoked Baby Back Pork Ribs, hot smoked and grilled with a signature barbecue-sauce glaze.
House-rolled gnocchi, sautéed with asparagus, portabello mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, garlic, roasted peppers, basil and olive oil.
Bread pudding, prepared with house made brioche bread, Kentucky bourbon and local eggs.
"It’s more about the place, than me,” Chef Jeremy explains. His menu comes in the form of an old-fashioned newspaper, and he goes out of his way to make sure there’s something for everyone, drawing on his network of connections with fishermen and farmers. Many of his meats are even smoked on site in their smokehouse.
Putting in some effort, however, can produce remarkable culinary creations. The Sweet Potato Crab Cakes, a house signature dish, are one of them. Part of our goal as we travel is to feature regional dishes inspired by the personality of the cook, geography or culinary traditions of the area. In the case of Chef Jeremy, you’ll find all three in one.
"These crab cakes are made with a lot of love and not many bread crumbs,” Chef Jeremy says. The sweet potatoes, molasses and orange juice turn the crab cakes into a feast of flavors that accent the richness of the crabmeat.
Recipe: Sweet Potato Crab Cakes
Courtesy Executive Chef Jeremy Critchfield, The Historic Stone House Restaurant and Inn
Yield: 12 4-ounce cakes
- 1/2 red bell pepper, brunoise (tiny cubes)
- 1/2 rib celery, brunoise
- 1 T. red onion, brunoise
- 12 medium sweet potatoes, small diced and blanched
- 1/2 fresh orange, juiced
- 12 whole eggs
- 1 cup, plus 2 T. mayonnaise
- 3/4 ounce Worchestershire sauce
- 3 dashes Tabasco
- 1/2 ounce molasses
- 2 T. Old Bay Seasoning (You can substitute ground celery seed, salt, pepper and cayenne.)
- 2 pounds lump crab meat
- 2/3 cup dried white bread, without crust, coarsely crumbled
- 1.5 ounces white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 ounce sugar
- pinch salt
- 1/4 T. celery seed, fresh ground
- 1/4 head cabbage, shaved
- 1/4 red bell pepper, slivered
- 1/4 small carrot, slivered
- 1/8 red onion, slivered
Sweat pepper, celery and red onion in butter until just softened, cool. Blanch diced sweet potato.
Mix all ingredients from orange juice to Old Bay Seasoning. Add in crab, gently breaking up clumps, then add pepper mix and sweet potatoes. Mix all gently by hand, careful not to smash mix or break up lump crab meat.
Mold individual cakes with a 4 ounce ladle, packing it gently, but not smashing it in.
Bake to heat through, brown lightly under salamander.
Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Refrigerate for 1 hour prior to serving.
Savoring the good life,
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