Anne Campion’s approach to coffee is an inspiration to me, and having worked as her pastry chef at Revel some years ago, I have come to appreciate the role coffee can play as a partner at the table. Not just in desserts or as an after-dinner beverage, mind you; the range of Anne’s meticulously sourced and roasted coffee beans work beautifully in the savoury kitchen, and can bring unexpected earthy, floral, and even fruity notes to the table.
The anchor of this dish, the carrots roasted in whole coffee beans, is adapted from a recipe by Daniel Patterson, of Coi restaurant in San Francisco. Coi pairs the carrots with a light sauce made of bright and fresh mandarin orange juice, as a pre-dessert palate cleanser, but these carrots are equally at home with this heavier, more robust sauce. I like to roast carrots in Revel’s Marketplace coffee beans, which is a Nicaraguan single origin, honey-washed caturra bean. In the cup, Marketplace unmistakably expresses blueberries, and in this preparation on the plate, the coffee adds a fruitiness that complements the sweet carrots, in addition to the coffee flavour you would expect. Choosing great carrots is also important to the success of this recipe; I have the great privilege of working with Antony John’s carrots from Soiled Reputation farm. Antony’s carrots are so sweet and perfect, and they are available from his root cellar well into the winter; in fact, winter carrots are even sweeter than the first baby carrots available in high summer (although those are hard to resist!)
Red-eye gravy is a traditional Southern sauce made of Country ham drippings and black coffee. Replacing the ham grease with white miso, a Japanese paste of fermented soybeans, makes for a lighter, vegetarian sauce, which still packs an umami punch. The coffee should be on the stronger side, but not so bracing as a shot of espresso. I like to use Don Rey’s Private Reserve (Continental Roast) from Revel, which is rich, smokey and chocolatey. It is my favourite of all the coffees at Revel, and it is what I drink every morning. Use whatever you’ve got on hand; according to tradition, Red-eye gravy is made with cold, leftover coffee.
This would be a good side dish for a larger meal, or could be a satisfying lunch with a softly poached egg on top (and a slice of crusty bread to mop up the gravy and egg!)
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a more substantial plate
For the carrots
1 lb thin, multicolour carrots from Soiled Reputation. Buy local, buy seasonal, buy organic. If you can get your hands on Antony John’s round Thumbelina carrots, those are exceptional too!
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
¾ lb whole Revel Marketplace coffee beans
For the gravy
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup strong brewed Don Rey’s Private Reserve coffee
1 Tbsp white miso vigorously whisked with 2 Tbsp water to produce a smooth paste
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 handfuls of Soiled Reputation mizuna, wild arugula or another spicy green
1 poached egg per person, if desired
Crusty bread, if desired
Preheat a still oven to 350F
Scrub the carrots well, but do not peel them. Coat them with the vegetable oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread half the coffee beans in a roasting pan just large enough to accommodate all the carrots in a single layer. Lay the carrots over top of the beans, and cover with the remaining half of the coffee beans. Put the pan in the oven, uncovered, and roast until the carrots are perfectly tender. Make sure that the carrots are completely cooked- as they roast, they will express their sweetness, which is a foil to the aromatic coffee beans surrounding and infusing them. The amount of time this takes will depend on the kind of carrots you end up with- the best way to gauge doneness is to pierce a carrot with a skewer or the tip of a knife, and assess its texture.
PS: you probably won’t want to brew your morning coffee with the beans you used to roast the carrots, but you certainly can reuse them a second, and even a third time for the same recipe! Just let them cool, and store them in a cool, dark place (or in the freezer), in an airtight container.
Sweat the diced onion in the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Season very lightly with salt, and quite liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Go slow- it takes longer to properly cook an onion than you might think, and you want to coax sweetness out of the onion. Once the onion is completely soft and golden, you can turn the heat up and let the onion take on some deeper colour. Once the onion is a pleasant light caramel colour, add the flour to the pan, and stir to coat the onion. Stirring constantly, cook out the flour for a minute or two, to avoid a raw, floury taste in your finished sauce. Mind that the flour doesn’t catch and burn. Deglaze the pan with the coffee, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any stuck bits of onion. Whisk in the miso/water mixture. Simmer over medium-high heat until thickened. At this point, you could blend the gravy if the small bits of onion offend you, but I am inclined to leave it as is. Check for seasoning, adding salt or pepper as necessary, and finish with lemon juice to taste.
Warm the cooked carrots in a low oven or in a pan on the stovetop, and once hot, toss with the mizuna off the heat. Drizzle with the hot gravy, and top with a poached egg, if desired. Serve with crusty bread on the side, if you wish!
Recipe by Randi Rudner, from the new book FARM TO TABLE: Celebrating Stratford Chefs School Alumni, Recipes & Perth County Producers.
Written by Andrew Coppolino
Photos by Terry Manzo