The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2015

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Page 95 of 140

april 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  95 A t the Oyster & Wine Bar at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, New Jersey, you'll find dishes that you'd expect to find. There are oysters from West Point, Washburn and Cape May. There are cured sardines with salsa verde, and live scallops with guanciale. There's beef tartare crostino with oyster crema. There's roasted branzino with lacinato kale. And yet, somewhat unexpectedly, in the middle of the menu, there's a chicken dish: Sicilian-style roast chicken with Sardinian fregola and celery root. It's an "odd man out" of a dish—a culinary journey to the outer islands of Italy, in the midst of an oyster bar. It's also, according to Chef Kevin Sippel, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, proving you can never go wrong serving a perfectly turned roast chicken. Merrill Shindler: Have you lost your Sicilian accent over the years? Kevin Sippel: I didn't grow up in Sicily. I didn't grow up in Italy. I'm from Buffalo, New York—actually from Niagara Falls. I grew up eating chicken wings and beef on weck sandwiches. So, where did your passion for Italian dishes comes from? My father is a construction worker. My mother is a schoolteacher. But my grandfather was from Sicily. He had a restaurant. He inspired me to get into restaurants. You cooked Italian food for him? I got a job at a little Irish bar in the neighborhood. I was a dishwasher. But my grandfather pushed me to see what life was like Over There. I saved my money and went to cooking school in Lyon. I learned from Bocuse. It was my first time out of the country. But you didn't make Sicilian chicken with Bocuse . . . I came back and got a job at La Caravelle in New York. I was the garde-manger. But I always wanted to get back to the food of my grandfather. I was Executive Chef at L'Impero and Alto with Chris Cannon. I went off to Italian Wine Merchants—and when Chris opened Jockey Hollow, he asked me to join him. So, where did the chicken come in? The dining room is where people come to dine. The oyster bar is more casual—people come to eat. And the chicken seemed like a perfect fit. It's a dish my grandfather used to make for us growing up. I never forgot the taste. What makes it Sicilian? It's made with oranges and other citrus—that's very Sicilian. We use Calabrian chiles, the real thing. The Moors conquered Sicily and Sardinia, and they introduced the citrus flavors, the sweet flavors of North Africa. Where do your chickens come from? They're raised by the Amish in Pennsylvania. The chickens are organic, free-range, humanely treated. They're halal as well; Middle Eastern chefs from New York City get their chicken from them, along with goats. The quality is extremely high. Fregola is a wonderful thing, but rarely found on American menus. It's essentially couscous, but with more texture . . . It's got a wonderful flavor, very rich. It absorbs everything that's added to it. We boil it in chicken stock. We add preserved tomatoes we can during the summer. We have a partnership with Ralston Farms in Mendham, New Jersey, to get our produce. What they grow has so much life to it. Do you have to explain celery root to diners? It is a little unusual. We have a pasta dish we make with celery root puréed with braised snails. A lot of customers are too timid to try it. But that's not true of the chicken. We sell a lot of it. It's one of our top dishes—and it's a top dish all year-round, no matter what the weather. Chicken is always a comfort dish. AT JOCKEY HOLLOW BAR & KITCHEN IN MORRISTOWN, NJ, CHEF KEVIN SIPPEL'S SICILIAN-STYLE ROAST CHICKEN IS FOR PEOPLE WHO COME TO EAT Chef Kevin Sippel in the kitchen. PHOTO: DANIEL KRIEGER

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