FEASTING: Chef Angie Mar of The Beatrice Inn

Angie-Mar

Feasting is our new column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.

There are few things we love more than a badass female chef, especially when she favors simplicity, seasonality and holds game meats in high esteem. So when Angie Mar invited us to have dinner at The Beatrice Inn where she’s currently executive chef, we gladly popped into the West Village spot to sample some of her best fall offerings. To say we left stuffed was an understatement. Between the venison tartare she butchered herself, the milk braised pork shoulder inspired by her childhood and the 12 or so courses in between, it was one of the best and heartiest meals we had all year.

Chef Angie came to our table throughout dinner to talk about each dish, the changing season and her field trip that evening to Pat LaFrieda’s warehouse, but we were hungry for more. Check out our interview with the Seattle native below, and impress your friends with her recipe for Venison & Lamb Pie with Bone Marrow. Is your mouth watering yet?

You probably get asked this a lot, but when did you first realize you wanted to be a chef? Was it something you fell into or did you plan it all along?

Food has always been a huge part of my family, but it’s something I never thought I wanted to do growing up. I actually had a whole other life and career before this in the corporate world, but it wasn’t rewarding enough for me and I lacked passion for what I was doing. I took some time off and travelled to East Africa and Spain. I ate, bought art off the street and did a lot of soul searching.

When I was in Spain, I realized all my really great experiences started around one dinner table or another. I have vivid memories of life changing meals and dishes I’ve eaten, how they made me feel, what I thought at the time and, in some cases, I even remember what I was wearing! It became really clear I wanted to provide those types of experiences for other people. I came back to the States, moved to New York with two suitcases and $250 in my bank account and enrolled in culinary school. I never really had a plan for life, but when I found the thing I was most passionate about, it all just kind of came together for me.

Before moving to The Beatrice Inn, you worked for great NYC restaurants like April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig and Brooklyn favorites Marlow & Sons, Diner and Reynard. What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned working for them?

Is it too easy to say “Yes, Chef” was the most valuable lesson? I’ve been really fortunate to have worked for some very talented chefs. And the lessons I learned from my time with them are things I try to implement in my own kitchen today. Having integrity and passion, focus and dedication and, of course, tasting your food!

Andrew Tarlow’s seasonal, farm-to-table mentality taught me to think outside the box. His kitchens are very much like the Wild West – anything goes. From Marlow & Sons running solely off induction burners to Reynard where it’s all open fire cooking, my time there took me out of my comfort zone, and that’s where I really earned my kitchen chops. I experienced flavors I’d never thought of before and food that really spoke to me. Cooking that way gave me the freedom and confidence to throw convention to the wind. There is a sort of fun whimsy about the food that comes out of his kitchens, it’s very special.

I view my time at The Pig as not so much learning how to cook, but it gave me a tremendous commitment to quality and a dedication to perfection I didn’t know existed before. It also taught me how to run a Michelin star kitchen, to which I still apply that mentality today.

I think the take-away for me as a cook was to always evolve, to continue to absorb information and always be inspired. As a chef, I’ve learned to inspire my own cooks by getting them involved in menu planning and tastings to encourage their growth and imagination. Anyone can learn how to cook, but to be able to foster passion and inspiration is tremendously rewarding.

You recently butchered a whole deer to be served a few different ways at the restaurant. Was the art of butchering always an interest or just something that’s come along with the job through the years?

I’ve always been intrigued with whole animal and nose to tail cooking. I love the odd bits, offal, game meats and the like. I think it started when I was a kid because I’d want to eat all the “weird parts” just to shock and offend people. Butchering originally was something I wanted to learn in order to have a better understanding of the meats I was cooking. But I very much fell in love with the routine, precision and science behind it.

At Reynard, we had a whole animal butchering program. I’d finish working a shift on the line then change aprons, grab a board and hang out in the butcher room the entire night. I learned how to break down beef and pork, lamb and fowl, the fundamentals of charcuterie and how to properly cook a burger. It’s actually far more technical than it looks. I was so frustrated the first day I was learning to cook them, I cried because I couldn’t hit any correct temperatures to save my life.

I recently took my crew to my dear friend Pat LaFrieda’s warehouse. I wanted them to see where our meat comes from and meet the gentlemen who butcher it. I could have stood there all night and watched his crew work. They’re incredible at what they do.

These days, I’m always looking forward to Monday mornings. It’s the one time during the week when the kitchen is empty. I love receiving our deliveries, standing in front of a board with a knife in my hand and cutting the meat for service. Next to being at home with coffee and my view of the park, it’s my ideal morning.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder

When we ate at The Beatrice Inn, you cooked a wonderful pork dish you originally made for your family. Could you tell us the story behind it and some of the other influences from your past to which you still refer?

It’s funny, people always come into my restaurant to eat the Dry Aged Burger. Then they have the Milk Braised Pork Shoulder, and they don’t know what hit them. That dish is the thing on my menu I’m most attached to. It’s my insides.

My family always had Sunday supper, and my dad would cook these really delicious lamb chops. Being that my mother is from Taipei but spent significant time in England, and my dad grew up in the States, food was always a mixed bag of east meets west. But everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, had a side of jasmine rice, even when Mom would make Sheppard’s Pie.

I was probably 15 or 16 and I wanted to cook for my family, but I was a broke teenager working at the mall. Back then, pork shoulder was about $1 a pound, and it was literally all I could afford. I bought it and made a stew with some leftover white wine my parents had and some milk and Campbell’s chicken broth. I’m fairly certain I threw some garlic and onion in there for good measure. I popped some jasmine in the rice cooker, served the stew in the pot I cooked it in and that was my first contribution to Sunday supper. While it’s since then evolved into something way more refined, it still has the same meaning it did back then. When I eat that dish, I’m home.

Fall is one of our favorite times of year for food. How are you working this season’s best ingredients into your recipes? Is there a fall recipe you could share with The Manual readers?

Fall is my favorite season for food as well. I’m at the market four times a week, early in the morning, hand picking the produce that comes through our kitchen and getting inspired. Right now, I’m really feeling game meats like venison, squab and boar because there’s just something very primal about them I can’t help but be drawn to. I love combining masculine and feminine elements in my cooking, so for our fall menu, we’ll be working with big flavors, robust meats, fortified wines and delicate fruits and herbs to balance them.

My recipe for Venison & Lamb Pie with Bone Marrow for me exudes the best of this season’s ingredients. At the restaurant in the fall and winter, I make these pies every Thursday and Friday night, always with different meats, sometimes white wine, sometimes red wine, just whatever I’m feeling that week. I use beef fat in my crust in lieu of butter which I think is a very important component. For me, that addition adds a level of luxury and sexiness that butter just can’t compete with. If you aren’t keen on venison or lamb, you could substitute either or both with pork shoulder or beef chuck and it would be equally delicious.

Venison & Lamb Pie with Bone Marrow

Venison & Lamb Pie with Bone Marrow

Servings: 6
Prep time: 0:30
Total time: 3:00

Ingredients

For the Filling:
• 1lb venison shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
• 1lb lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
• 2c peeled white pearl onions
• 1c of cut baby carrots
• 1 bottle of dry white wine such as a Chardonnay
• Beef or chicken stock to cover
• Kosher salt to taste
• 1 bunch of thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 head garlic, cut in half through the equator
• 6 beef marrow bones, cut to 3 inches*
• Olive oil
• 5Tbsp All Purpose flour

*Any good butcher or at your grocery store counter should be able to cut the marrow for you to these specs within minutes.

**TIP: If you’d like to interchange the meats, this recipe works very well with beef chuck or pork shoulder.

For the Crust:
• 2c all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
• 1¼ c ground beef fat, kept cold
• 1tsp kosher salt
• 1tsp baking powder
• ⅓c ice water, or a few tablespoons more if needed

Directions

For the Filling:
In a large pot or casserole, heat oil over medium high heat. Season the meat generously with salt. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan, sear to a golden brown on all sides, removing the pieces as they are done.

Once you’ve seared all the meat, add everything back to the pot. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat the meat. Add the entire bottle of wine to the pot. Add stock to cover. Wrap thyme, garlic and bay leaf in cheesecloth, and add to the braise. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 2 – 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally. The meat is done when tender and juicy. Remove cheesecloth bundle.

Once the meat has reached your desired tenderness, uncover pot and turn heat to high. Reduce sauce until it’s thick and coats the back of a spoon. Check for seasoning and adjust.

While your braise cooks, sauté onions and carrots, separately, until golden brown and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add to the meat mixture, just before assembling the pies.

DO AHEAD:
I love braised meat. At the restaurant, I actually prefer braises that have sat for a day or two. It gives them a chance to mature. If you want to make this ahead, you can make the filling up to three days prior to serving and assemble the pies the day of.

Make Dough:
Place fat and dry ingredients in a food processor, pulse to combine. While the motor is constantly running, slowly drizzle ice water in until the dry ingredients come together to form one fairly sticky mass.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Knead, adding a little flour at a time, until the dough turns silky to the touch. About 20 turns or so.

Divide the dough into six balls and set aside.

*DO AHEAD: at the restaurant, I like to make the dough and portion it. It can be kept in the fridge, covered with a damp cloth for up to a day. When you are ready to assemble the pies, just roll them to your desired shape and start building.

Assemble and Cook the Pies:
Preheat oven to 375°F. In individual, ovenproof dishes, place a piece of bone marrow. Surround the bone with filling.

Roll out the dough so it has about a 1 inch hangover from the baking dish and ¼ inch thickness. When you drape the dough over the filling and bone, create a hole in the dough so the bone will protrude through. Fold excess dough under and crimp edges to prevent from shrinking during baking.

Brush each crust with egg wash, and bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown and the filling is bubbly and heated through.

Serve with a lovely side of duck fat potatoes or a leafy, bitter green salad dressed simply in lemon and olive oil.

Photo credits:
Pies – Ryan John Lee
Pork Shoulder – Rodin Banica