In the Kitchen With Dallas’ Top Chefs
Running a restaurant is an around-the-clock job. But here’s what happens when these top toques go home.
Executive chef and partner, The Mercury
Despite his hectic schedule, Chris Ward loves to entertain. His parents often come to Dallas from Shreveport (where Ward grew up), and close friends Phyllis and Rick Hamilton love to stop by for a bite and a chat with Ward and his girlfriend, Rebecca Jackson. He does quite a bit of cooking outdoors; he loves using the rotisserie or cooking steaks on the grill with his daughters—Jamie, 10, and Raleigh, 15. The younger is the picky eater, but she does like a good steak, cooked medium-rare, with a tomato, onion, and Roquefort salad. Big sis Raleigh is a foodie like her dad. She’ll eat just about anything but celery, and her favorite item on the menu at The Mercury is the Dover sole. Another family member you’ll always see during dinnertime? Norman the basset hound, who dutifully follows Ward around the kitchen. Says Jackson of Norman: “He really is Chris’ best friend.” Even though Ward pulls out all the stops during the holidays—sous vide turkey, “special corn” (Jamie’s favorite), Brussels sprouts, cornbread stuffing, caramelized rice pudding, broccoli casserole—he also enjoys the simple things in life. He confesses that barbecue chips are his “Achilles heel,” and he loves a good burger from Wingfield’s or Hole in the Wall.
WARD’S KITCHEN SECRETS
Advice for those cooking at home: “No matter what you cook, let it rest. You don’t want the juices running on the plate.” Tools you need now: “Even chefs don’t have sharp knives. I’d say a Kitchen Aid [food processor], but even I don’t have one.” Can’t live without: Silpat, Japanese mandolin, and a spoon. “I don’t use tongs or pitchforks when I cook. I use a spoon for everything.” Fridge finds: tortillas, homemade ice cream or sorbet, applewood-smoked bacon, gourmet chicken, Heineken, and Taco Bell sauce. “I can really drink it,” he says.
Chris Ward’s Turkey Brine
1 18-pound turkey
1 1/4 cups kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 lemons, cut in half
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh thyme
12 leaves fresh sage
2 tablespoons mustard seed
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 gallons boiling water
1 1/2 pounds butter, for basting
For the brine: Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a 5-gallon heat-proof container, large enough to hold the turkey. Pour the boiling water over the brine ingredients and allow the mixture to cool at room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
For the turkey: Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse under cold water. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours or until an internal temperature of 155° to 160° is reached. Baste every 30 minutes with 1 1/2 pounds of melted butter. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Chef and co-owner, Smoke
“Everything I do is pretty rustic and old-school,” says Tim Byres, as he pulls wild honeycomb out of the package and sets it artfully on a plate. He’s referring to his style of cooking at Smoke, the new restaurant at the Belmont Hotel that he opened with business partners Chris Zielke and Christopher Jeffers of Bolsa. But take a look around his place at the China Alley Lofts in downtown Dallas, and you’ll see that idea applies to his lifestyle, too. An antique copper scale hangs from the ceiling above the rustic pine table and hutch he uses as a pot rack, kitchen island, and hat storage; framed album covers from Elton John, the Doors, the Rolling Stones, and the Smiths adorn the exposed brick walls; and his cupboards are filled with flea market finds, such as kitschy metal camping bowls, which he collects. At Smoke he uses ingredients such as farm-fresh eggs and all-natural meats, which he cures and smokes on site. So it’s fitting that the centerpiece of breakfast with his two sons—Liam, 13, and Finnley, 10—is a beautiful, bone-in country ham smoked for 20 hours. Jammed inside homemade cheese biscuits and dressed with watercress, it’s just the thing to start every day right.
BYRES’ KITCHEN SECRETS
Fridge finds: milk, eggs, and frozen Milky Ways. Tool talk: a good, seasoned cast-iron pan (the bigger the better), a medium mesh Tami, and a small sausage fork. Party philosophy: “I like the idea of self-service and general ease, such as a lush and full buffet. Take a big table and orchestrate the design with a ‘pot luck’ look. I use what is available and always try to make sure it looks like it makes sense. I highly suggest setting a stage that will not stress you or your friends out.”
Tim Byres’ Cheese Biscuits
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons lard
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated
Preheat oven to 400°. Sift together top three dry ingredients. Combine rest of ingredients and roll dough to 1/2 inch. Cut with cookie cutter and bake for eight to 10 minutes. Serve with shaved smokehouse ham, watercress, and fresh honeycomb. Note: Artisanal bone-in country smokehouse ham (18–20 pounds) available at Smoke for $120.