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At Home With Megan and Colby Garrelts of Bluestem

Husband and wife Colby and Megan Garrelts have turned their love of food into a career and the family leisure activity in their Leawood home.

Spring pea soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

4½ cups fresh English peas, shelled, blanched for one minute and chilled (divided)

4 cups vegetable stock, chilled

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)

Sour cream for dollops on soup

Crush the pink peppercorns between two kitchen towels or in a tightly sealed plastic bag with a rolling pin.

In a blender, combine four cups of the peas, the vegetable stock, and parsley. Blend on high speed until the ingredients become a smooth puree. Transfer the soup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days.

When you’re ready to serve, heat the soup over medium heat until it has warmed through (do not boil the soup, which will hasten its discoloration). Season with salt and pepper, to taste. At Bluestem, Garrelts finishes the soup by whisking in a touch of butter for a richer texture and flavor.

Place a dollop of sour cream in the center of each of the four soup bowls. Divide the remaining ½ cup peas among the bowls, arranging them around the sour cream. Sprinkle the crushed pink peppercorns over the top. Pour the warmed soup around the sour cream and peas at the table.

Hanger steak

Serves 4

3 whole hanger steaks (2 pounds), trimmed of fat and cut in half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To cook the steak, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat, then sear the steaks on all sides until they are nicely browned, about two minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to the oven and roast them for 15 minutes for a medium-rare center. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for five minutes.

Cut the steaks across the grain into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices. Divide the meat among four plates, and serve with the chimichurri and roasted potatoes.

Chimichurri

8 cloves garlic, peeled

1 shallot

2 tablespoons capers

¼ cup sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup water

Leaves from 4 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ cup olive oil

Put the garlic, shallot, capers, vinegar, salt, water, and parsley in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil and puree until a thick emulsion forms.

Strawberry cobbler

Serves 4 to 6

3 cups strawberries, hulled

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Juice and zest of 1 orange

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound sugar cookie dough (recipe follows, or use store-bought cookie dough)

¼ cup heavy cream

Cinnamon sugar (2 tablespoons sugar mixed with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon)

Whipped cream for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Butter four 8-ounce ovenproof ramekins or 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries together with the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, orange juice and zest, ginger and cornstarch. You should be able to taste each ingredient.

Mound the fruit mixture into the ramekins or baking dish. The fruit will collapse as it bakes, so heap it so that the fruit domes beyond the top of the baking vessel.

Roll the sugar cookie dough out to a ½-inch thickness. Cut the sugar cookie dough into ½-inch cubes and top the cobbler with as many dough cubes as possible, distributing it evenly over the fruit.

Using a pastry brush, dab the dough with the cream. Sprinkle about ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon sugar over each ramekin, or distribute about 1 tablespoon over the cobbler if using a baking dish.

Bake the cobbler until the cookie dough is golden brown and the fruit begins to bubble, about 20 minutes. Serve the cobblers warm, with whipped cream.

Sugar cookie dough

(Makes 1 pound)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon lime zest

1 large egg

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and lime juice and zest. Scrape down the sides, then beat in the egg.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in thirds, scraping the bowl down between each addition.

Continue mixing until a loose dough forms, about 1 minute.

Shape the dough into a flat disk, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and chill the dough until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

ink

Megan Garrelts stands at her kitchen counter, sprinkling precisely measured amounts of sugar, orange juice, vanilla and cardamom over a big bowl of fresh strawberries. Megan’s 3-year-old daughter, Madi, stands on a stool beside her, stirring the fragrant ingredients together until a summery, floral aroma fills the air.

Megan’s husband, Colby, stands over the stove, dropping hanger steaks into a poker-hot cast iron skillet. The couple’s 6-month-old son, Colin, chews a rattle as he watches all the action from his high chair.

As the searing steaks hiss, Madi hops off her stool and runs off to watch TV.

“I usually shoo her away when there are knives and heat involved,” Colby says.

Food is their life: Seven years ago, the couple opened Bluestem, a Westport restaurant that has since become one of (if not the) top fine dining establishments in Kansas City. The restaurant’s reputation expands outside the city, too: Colby was named one of the country’s best new chefs by Food & Wine in 2005, and he’s been a finalist for the James Beard Awards’ Best Chef: Midwest for five consecutive years.

In November, the Garreltses will publish their first cookbook, “Bluestem: The Cookbook” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, out Nov. 8). They say they’re also cooking up a new restaurant — and hope to open it by year’s end — but are keeping the details a secret.

So how do the Garreltses unwind from thinking about and making food? By making more food.

He cooks and she bakes in the kitchen of their Leawood home, which isn’t exactly fit for top chefs. It’s got off-white laminate countertops, an electric stove and a small island fitted with a built-in grill that doesn’t really work.

They moved to Leawood from Brookside a year ago, mainly to be closer to family. The couple plans to build a deck and landscape the yard before overhauling the kitchen with marble countertops, industrial appliances, a hanging pot rack and a sturdy butcher’s block on the island.

But for now, the kitchen works. It’s open enough to fit the farmhouse-style dining room table where the family eats most meals. The formal dining room around the corner, with its rich burgundy walls and cabinet stocked with china and wine glasses, is perfect for entertaining. So is the living room, with its Bluestem-inspired indigo-and-orange color scheme and chic mirrored accessories.

But this is a home, not a restaurant, and that shows in the food Colby and Megan make.

“Cooking at the restaurant is like a factory where we build a bunch of parts and then put them together at the last minute,” Colby says, adding that he doesn’t cook seven-course meals at home, as he does at Bluestem. He prefers making rustic one-pot meals like osso bucco (Megan’s favorite) or simple dishes made with whatever looks good at the farmers market.

Megan says summer is their favorite time of year. It’s when the Garreltses plant an herb garden and eat perfectly ripe tomatoes with crusty bread and cheese from Green Dirt Farm in Weston. Colby grills over charcoal with a Boulevard Pale Ale in hand, and Megan bakes pies and cobblers with fresh fruit.

Their laid-back Leawood home life is a nice break from Bluestem, the place the Garreltses consider their first home.

“Everyone’s like ‘It’s so vanilla out there (in Leawood),’ ” Megan says, explaining that when you own a bustling restaurant in midtown, “it’s nice to disconnect.”

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