While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, snacks and more.
Since June, chef Jimmy Voss has overseen the menu at West End Grill & Pub, where he has consulted since its inception. Recently, he brought on a number of favorite dishes from his time cooking at the late, great Duff’s in the neighborhood. The chef famously served as the Grateful Dead’s chef from 1986 to 1995. WEGAP is currently offering dine-in and online ordering via westendgrillandpub.com for curbside carryout. A catering menu is also available.
What’s your favorite ingredient to work with and why? Do you have a secret weapon spice or ingredient? Ras el hanout is a haunting Moroccan spice mix that I love to use in our winter comfort North African chickpea stew. The flavor is excellent with lamb stew and couscous. Without being too spicy, I love those comfort flavors on a chilly night. Adding a little to a zucchini soup brings it home. More and more spice shops are starting to carry it.
Think the big five Cs for Moroccan curry spice mix: cumin, coriander, cardamom, clove and cinnamon (not in standard Indian curry). Then, add paprika, peppercorn and nutmeg. From simple to exotic, add fennel, saffron and rose petals.
What were your favorite on-the-go meals to prepare for the Grateful Dead while you were on tour with them and why? These guys spent half their lives on the road. What they needed and wanted was grandma to feed them old school! The first time I did meatloaf for them, they loved it. I would cook a full Thanksgiving dinner in the summer. Comfort food like lasagna and PB&J were always a hit. Of course, wherever we were on tour, I would find the freshest local cuisine to prepare such as lobster, salmon and scallops. I have a funny story of Mickey Hart eating stone crabs and having to use one of his drum sticks to crack them open.
What tips or advice can you offer home cooks based on the most important lessons you've learned throughout your culinary career? My motto has always been: “Be kind, it rolls downhill!” That can be said for the home chef or the professional chef. Your mood can set the tone for the entire day with your family or your co-workers. Just be kind and don't be afraid to try new methods or ingredients – something new is always waiting to be born! Do not give up the ship! Learn from your mistakes and try it again. Once a recipe is yours, own it.
Can you share a recipe for a drink, snack or meal idea that incorporates some of the ideas you've discussed? Yes, my sweet potato cornbread pudding was an accident serving dinner to the Grateful Dead. I did not have enough and it was too late, so I improvised. You can make this at home for Thanksgiving this year and it will be a huge hit. You make your regular turkey dressing with all your fix-ins, then fold in your sweet potato mash with three eggs, some heavy cream, and bake in the oven at 375°F until brown and bubbly. Like I said, something new is always waiting to be born!