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September, 2009

Chef Scott Morrow

By Dennis Linden

To fully experience the satisfying afterglow that comes along with Chef Scott Morrow’s Ancho Chile Braised Short Ribs, this dish should be prepared on a briskly crisp September Sunday afternoon.

Chef Scott Morrow
Enjoy the transformation of your whole house as the 3½ hours of cooking time permeates first the kitchen, and then the rest of the house, with the smell of the simmering veggies and beef. In fact, to get the full aromatic effect of Chef Scott’s recipe, it is highly recommended that after about two hours into the cooking process you should take a short walk in the out of doors for about ten minutes or until your nose gets a little chilly. The meal will truly begin when you reenter a toasty warm home filled with the familiar aroma of meat and potatoes cooking. This is truly a comfort meal.

Scott Morrow, executive Chef at The Grape in Las Vegas, captures the change in weather and fresh ingredients that the fall season brings, with this complete meal of slowly simmered short ribs accompanied by a tasty mash that combines two iconic fall crops, potatoes and pumpkins. The real bonus in this recipe is the gravy that ties the plate together. The ribs are braised for hours in red wine and a few simple vegetables. Once the meat is removed, this chunky braising liquid is blended into a rich gravy that adds a warm heartiness to the entire plate. Pay particular attention to Chef Scott’s wine suggestion for this dish. As one would expect at a venue called The Grape, wine drives the menu at this combination Wine Bar / Bistro / Wine Shop that is tucked away in a quiet mall near the Las Vegas airport. The Grape is all about wine being presented in an unpretentious atmosphere designed to promote a relaxed approach to exploring all the flavors of the vines. The novice as well as the knowledgeable wine lover is made to feel equally at ease enjoying good wines and learning about the foods that support them. Far from the bright lights of The Strip, The Grape is frequented predominantly by local residents who enjoy the quiet appreciation of a good meal paired with the perfect wine and maybe discovering something new along the way.

“Each month we feature wines from a particular region of the world,” explained the chef. “My fun and challenge comes in first studying the traditional cuisines of the region being featured. Once I understand the flavors that a wine grew up with, so to speak, I put a menu together using ingredients that will show off various characteristics of a wine depending upon what it is paired with on a plate. I feel that food and wine are really just one word.” Interestingly, Chef Scott approaches each month’s menu challenge with a learn-by-doing strategy that has continued to be the key to his professional success despite not having a formal culinary education. There is no doubt that Scott is very proud of the fact that he can maintain the very high level of creativity that being the Executive Chef at The Grape demands, but that no amount of formal training can instill or guarantee. The chef feels his way through the monthly menu pairings in a thoughtful, deliberate and balanced manner. “My menus are usually a mix of some popular dishes of the region where the grapes were pressed, as well as some flavor pairings that come out of my own interpretation of what will best enhance the taste of the vintage.”

Of course, each month’s menu is defined not only by the wines that are being featured, but also by what is seasonally available in fresh ingredients. Even if it is Las Vegas, Chef Scott’s location in the middle of the desert does make it especially important to have a diverse and responsive fresh produce supplier. This may sound like a pause for a Melissa’s commercial, but it is a fascinating aspect of every commercial kitchen that our food service staff deals with, be it a wine bar in Vegas, a small café in West Hollywood or a hotel along a Southern California beach. Most of Melissa’s culinary customers spend half their day cooking for today and the other half planning what will be cooked tomorrow.

Chef Scott must always be looking ahead to how the next group of harvests will match with the next set of wines that are scheduled to be featured. The Melissa’s food service staff works closely with the chef to ensure that the transition to each seasonal group of fresh ingredients moves on and off his menus smoothly. There is a lot of dialogue, and sometimes several months of planning, that goes into every serving that comes out of Chef Scott’s kitchen with such calmness and ease. Actually, as the father of a son and four daughters, two of whom are 7-month old twins; The Grape’s kitchen is a place of somewhat quiet sanctuary for Scott. “My kitchen is a relatively calm place, compared to my wonderfully full-of-kids home, and I love being in the midst of both places. It’s the perfect balance for me. When I am at home, it’s all about the kids and family. However, the moment I get in the car to head to my kitchen, I am focused on food and wine. Or rather, wine and food! Besides, with five women at home, my kitchen at The Grape is the only place where I am allowed to be right,” laughed the chef.

Ancho Chile Braised Short Ribs
Ancho Chile Braised Short Ribs
by Chef Scott Morrow
(Serves 4)

Ingredients
2-3 lbs. of 3”x3” short ribs (English cut)
1 lb. organic yellow onion ¼” dice
6 cloves of whole garlic
4 ribs organic celery, peeled and ¼” dice
4 organic carrots, peeled and ¼” dice
4 Melissa’s Ancho Pasilla Chile pods, seeded, quartered
3 large heirlooms tomatoes, quartered.
4 cups red wine (Cabernet works best, even a boxed vintage)
1 Tbsp. olive oil 4 oz. butter
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees. Salt and pepper the ribs. In a very large pot (Dutch oven if available) heat the olive oil to a smoking point. Add ribs and cook on all sides to golden brown and then remove from the pot. Toss in all veggies and sauté until almost translucent. Deglaze with the wine and then add the ribs back in. Pour in the water, add the tomatoes, rosemary and Ancho chiles. Cover and cook in oven for 3 ½ hours. Remove ribs from braising liquid, set aside for plating.

Gravy:
Combine braising liquid with the butter in a blender. Salt and pepper to taste. Special Note: If you have the time, allow the braising liquid to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the rendered fat from the ribs to coagulate. Skim these renderings off, then reheat before blending with the butter. Chilean Celery and Pumpkin Mash By Chef Scott Morrrow

Ingredients:
2 ½ lbs. organic Russet potatoes, peeled
3 organic celery stalks, sliced
1 lb fresh pumpkin meat, skinned, 1/8” diced
8 oz. cold butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:
Wrap the pumpkin and 4 oz. of cubed butter in foil and put in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. While the pumpkin is cooking, put the potatoes and celery in a pot of boiling water for about 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and put softened potatoes and celery in a mixer with the remaining 8 oz. of butter, or whip to mash by hand. Fold in the diced and roasted pumpkin.

Plating:
Garnish Mash with toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Stand two sections of ribs in pool of gravy. Drizzle both ribs and mash with a little more gravy.

Wine:
Pair this dish with Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 From Chile.