GALVESTON — Farm-to-table has become an operating principle for restaurants across the country, and Galveston restaurateurs Jimmy and Kelli McClure are cultivating the concept.
Actually, they’re cultivating more than just a concept: The acreage around their home on the West End of the island has been planted with vegetables that will ultimately end up in their restaurant, Jimmy’s on the Pier, 9001 Seawall Blvd., in Galveston.
“I’ve always enjoyed growing things, and now that we have the space, we’ve planted quite a bit and have added animals as well,” Jimmy McClure said.
The McClures’ flock of chickens was featured on the recent Chicken Shack Strut tour of local chicken coops; they also have nine goats.
“Our farm manager is a veterinary tech, and that really makes a big difference in having healthy animals,” McClure said. “He used to be an egg producer for Whole Foods, so our chickens are doing well. They’re almost doing too well — I have about 100 eggs in the refrigerator right now.”
With the chickens and goats settled in, McClure is adding sheep and rare Ancona ducks to the farm. Their output will show up on the restaurant’s menu in the form of milk, cheese, meat and eggs.
“The sheep and goats we can’t use for milk, we’ll use for meat,” he said.
The same principle will apply to the ducks and the glossy black Australorp chickens. McClure said he expects to be collecting about 30 dozen eggs per week by January, and plans to feature the non-producing drakes as restaurant specials.
“So much of what we have in Galveston restaurants is similar from place to place because the tourists come here wanting seafood,” he said. “It’ll be nice to offer something different like roast duck in the off season.”
While the Australorp chickens and Ancona ducks were both breeds imported from other countries, the McClures picked a breed of sheep that has been living in Texas for centuries.
“They’re called Gulf Coast sheep, and they were brought over by the Spanish in the 1500s,” McClure said.
The Gulf Coast sheep thrive in high humidity and hot weather, and produce rich milk that is used to make butter and cheese.
McClure’s gardening was inspired by the book “The Resilient Gardener,” by Carol Deppe. The book focuses on producing five basic crops — potatoes, corn, squash, beans and eggs.
The McClures plan to raise all five, but also have a wide diversity of other fruits and vegetables.
“We started with tomatoes, because they’re an expensive item and we use a lot of tomatoes in our restaurant,” McClure said. “They’re in salads, on our burgers and on our snapper BLT, so we’re looking forward to having some ripe ones soon.”
With the unseasonably cool spring, some crops are off to a slow start, but McClure said he is expecting a bumper crop of watermelon, butternut squash, corn, chayote squash and scarlet runner beans as the summer progresses.
The McClures also have planted fruit and nut trees.
“Citrus trees produce pretty quickly, and we also have mango and papaya trees. The pecan and walnut trees will take a little longer.”
Eventually, though, patrons at Jimmy’s on the Pier are likely to find these farm-to-fork crops on their plates as well.
Italian Potato Salad
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4-6 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1⁄2-1 teaspoon coarse salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
21⁄2-3 pounds Idaho potatoes
1 small bulb fennel, cored, thinly sliced and chopped, about 1 cup
1⁄2 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1⁄2 cup sliced black olives
Pine nuts or chopped walnuts for garnish
In a food processor, combine the basil, Parmesan, garlic, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Pulse to finely chop. With the processor on, drizzle in the olive oil to make a creamy, bright green sauce.
Or combine all of the above ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside the dressing.
Over high heat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes but do not peel potatoes.
Drop the potatoes into the boiling water and cook, loosely covered, for 6 minutes, until a knife can pierce the potato easily, but cubes are still firm. Drain the potatoes and place them back in the pot.
Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the basil dressing. Add the chopped fennel, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.
Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with pine nuts or chopped walnuts, if desired.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy Idaho Potato Commission)
Duck Chiles Rellenos
2 duck legs and thighs or dark meat chicken or turkey, about 9 ounces each
4 medium poblano peppers
1 teaspoon canola oil
1⁄2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1⁄3 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1⁄4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon raisins, chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Cilantro leaves for garnish
Preheat grill to medium.
Remove the skin from duck legs and thighs by sliding a paring knife under it and making little cuts in the membrane to release the skin from the meat. Discard the skin.
Place the duck and peppers on the grill. Grill the duck, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part without touching bone registers 165 degrees, about 15 minutes.
Grill the peppers, turning occasionally, until blistered on all sides, about 15 minutes total.
When the duck is cool enough to handle, strip the meat off the bones and finely chop. Peel the peppers and cut them open on one side to remove the seeds; leave stems intact if possible. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato and vinegar and cook, stirring, until the tomato starts to break down, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the duck, olives, almonds, raisins and salt. Remove from the heat.
Stuff each pepper with about 1⁄2 cup of the filling and place on a baking sheet. Bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve each relleno with 1 tablespoon sour cream, garnished with cilantro leaves, if desired.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy Eating Well Magazine)
Green Beans with Bacon, Goat Cheese and Cranberries
1⁄4 pound bacon, roughly chopped
11⁄2 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste
2⁄3 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
Toss the green beans with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and transfer to a large platter.
Scatter the bacon, cranberries, goat cheese and parsley over the top and serve.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy Whole Foods Market)