By WENDY LEIGH
Special to The Record
Who knew a cozy, century-old inn tucked amongst old-growth evergreens is hiding one of Whidbey Island’s most innovative chefs? Weaving his kitchen-magic inside Captain Whidbey Inn, executive chef Sean Prater creates a culinary blend of past and present while sourcing food and spirits from across the island. Fortunately, Prater agreed to share some Thanksgiving recipe secrets with us all, making holiday dining at home a little bit easier and a whole lot tastier.
From his gastronomy perch on the shores on Penn Cove in Coupeville, Prater takes us behind the menu in the Restaurant at Captain Whidbey, cracking open an intricate recipe for Sage-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and an accompanying Cranberry Coulis puree. He also explains two holiday-worthy cocktails: an earthy, warm java cocktail cheekily christened the “Chai-rish Coffee,” and a “Barrel-Aged Paper Seaplane” created with house-made vermouth from his Captain Whidbey repertoire.
Along with the actual recipe, Chef Sean unveils the chemistry of how the ingredients work together and gives detailed instructions, including intricacies such as how to caramelize cranberries and “chiffonade” fresh sage.
Here, from the chef’s mouth to yours, is how to create these meal-changers and slide them into your own Thanksgiving celebration.
Recipes shared by Sean Prater, executive chef Captain Whidbey
Sage-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
On our menu at Captain Whidbey, we have Sage-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. This is my take on something that I might bring to the Turkey Day table with my family. Brussels sprouts are delicious when cooked properly, despite many not daring to give them the time of day, and no bacon is required! (Not to say it wouldn’t enhance the dish!) This should serve about eight friends.
We source our “cabbage babies” from Fulla Farm. Slice a pound of them in half, toss them first in olive oil, then with equal parts sugar, salt, and rubbed sage. Then we roast them in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes. The sugar aids in the caramelization process. Longer is fine, if they need it, but don’t let them get too dark.
To balance out the dish, we look to my favorite winter squash, the delicata. Sourced from Slow & Steady Farm, this squash is special in that you don’t need to peel it. Simply cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds (wash, season, and roast these if you want to be a hardcore seed-to-flower eater), chop the squash into half rings, season similar to the Brussels, and roast for 10 minutes. Admittedly, not the best squash if it’s overcooked, so keep an eye on it.
The Brussels dish will be missing acid, so we’re going to add it in the form of a smooth cranberry coulis, or puree. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil and one cup of cranberries. Saute the cranberries until they begin to caramelize; some may even pop. No problem. At this point, deglaze your pan with a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Throw in a half teaspoon of fresh-picked thyme leaves, half a teaspoon each of cracked black pepper and salt, and a full tablespoon of brown sugar. Finally, add a half cup of cranberry juice. Other juices like apple or cider are fine as well. Citrus juices not recommended. Add the sauteed cranberries and its liquid to a blender, and blend on high for one minute. This sauce can be poured out onto a platter with a slight lip, as it is your base for the Brussels and squash.
The last thing you’ll want to do for this dish is to chiffonade (five leaves stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced) fresh sage and toss this with your Brussels and squash. Neatly pile this over the cranberry coulis.
I like to add a little crunch to this dish by toasting a handful of hazelnuts, pecans or perhaps you might have some roasted squash seeds lying about…any will do. Enjoy!
In-house Cocktails at Captain Whidbey
Chai-rish Coffee: Our cocktails for this season will be about meeting the blustery day head on! One of the new drinks to come to the menu is the Chai-rish coffee, a play on traditional Irish coffee. Ours is made with Mukilteo Roasters Penn Cove Blend topped with our house Chai-rish crème. Westland Distillery Whiskey is mixed with malt powder, garam masala, black tea, cream and brown sugar.
Barrel-Aged Paper Seaplane: Westland whiskey can also be found in our Barrel-Aged Paper Seaplane, made with house-made ‘Vermillion Vermouth’ and Montenegro. The vermouth is ever-changing as the year progresses, and this time of year we get less shoots and more roots into the vermouth. Nootka rose petals are traded for rose hips, and when the grand fir tips loose their tender green, we trade them for the berries of our dwarf junipers. The vermouth uses pinot noir as its base. The oxidized wine is complex and takes about a week to make.
Thanks to Chef Sean for sharing insider tips for our Whidbey holiday celebrations. By all means, make the Brussels sprouts and cranberry coulis at home for your Thanksgiving dinner – but the creative cocktails are probably best experienced at the hands of the creator. Fortunately, the Restaurant at Captain Whidbey is launching a special holiday bar on Dec. 1, decked out with fun themes and a holiday cocktail menu.
The restaurant and bar open daily 4-9 p.m., at 2072 Captain Whidbey Inn Road in Coupeville. Telephone contact is 360-678-4097, and reservations are available from OpenTable, linked from the Captain Whidbey website.