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A Chef’s Life, Episode 7: Muscadine Time

In A Chef’s Life, go inside the life of chef Vivian Howard, who, with her husband Ben Knight, left the big city to open a fine dining restaurant in small-town eastern North Carolina. Each episode follows Howard out of the kitchen and into cornfields, strawberry patches and hog farms as she hunts down the ingredients that inspire her seasonal menus. Using a chef’s modern sensibilities, she explores Southern cuisine, past and present — one ingredient at a time. A celebration of true farm to table food, the series combines the action and drama of a high-pressure business with the joys and stresses of family life.

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Ben, Vivian and the twins pick muscadine grapes at a small local vineyard while learning the history of this native grape. Vivian visits Mike and Gator, her grape suppliers, and makes homemade wine. Back at the restaurant, Vivian makes a pizza with mulled muscadines, and Ben tests this new creation during their first stressful pizza night in the wine shop.

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Vivian’s Cooking Demo

 

Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Mulled Muscadines with Fried Crostini and Creamy Goat Cheese

Mulled-Muscadines-Feat

This mulled muscadine appetizer is the dressed up and ready to make a splash at your holiday party. This recipe appears in the "Muscadine Time" episode of A Chef's Life, featuring chef Vivian Howard.

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Ingredients

  • 1qt. muscadine pulp
  • 3 cups muscadine hulls (purple grapes will produce a more appealing color)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest of 2 lemons (removed with a vegetable peeler)
  • zest of 2 oranges (removed with a vegetable peeler)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • The following ingredients should be tied into a sachet:
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 inch piece of ginger (sliced thin)
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 piece nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds

Directions

  1. Using your fingers, pop the muscadine pulp and juice from the hull. Do this over a bowl to make sure you’re not losing any of that sweet nectar. Reserve 3 cups of the hulls. Place the grape pulp into a medium sauce pan and bring that up to a simmer. After about 5 minutes of simmering, you will see the pulp “nucleas” begin to break down. At that point transfer the pulp and juice to a colander with small holes (we call it a china cap). Push the pulp and juice through, leaving the seeds inside the strainer. Discard the seeds. Return the pulp and juice to the sauce pan. Add the hulls and all the remaining ingredients. Bring this up to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 minutes. Remove the rosemary stem and discard the sachet. Get a good taste of the grapes. If they are too tangy for your palate, add a little honey.
  2. To make the best crostini possible
    Cut nice sourdough, ciabatta or baugette style bread into 1 inch thick slices. In a 10 inch saute pan, heat 1/4 cup grapeseed, sunflower, olive or any non-flavored oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add your slices of bread and fry on either side until beautifully golden brown. Season each side liberally with kosher salt. Top it as fast as you can with some super creamy goat or ricotta cheese and a big ole dollop of mulled muscadines. Eat it like it’s going out of style.

Tips/Techniques

Things I like to pair with muscadines: goat cheese, blue cheese, ricotta, pork, smoked meats of any kind (esp. bacon), poultry, cranberries, peanut butter, warm spices like nutmeg, allspice or cinnamon, honey, lemon or lime curd, buttermilk

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