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Volume 41 Issue 21 • Sept 29-Nov 20, 2011
now in our 41th season

The Chef/Uncles

by Jenn Farmer - chef and food fanatic

For years I have known “Uncle Noel” and “Uncle Neil.”  In fact, Noel has become my adopted brother; we have been friends for well over a decade- met years ago in Reno, Nevada of all places.  Uncle Neil and I have only can only go back about six or seven years, but what eventful years!  You may know them as Chef Neil Patrick Hudson and Chef Noel Middleton, but to me they are the “Uncles.”  Each has worked at several of Nantucket’s many great local restaurants (we truly are blessed with great food on this island).  They have cooked for numerous special events together and were a great team at Town and Queequegs, which have become two of my favorite restaurants.  I am enormously excited to report that they are working together again, and cooking up some serious food, of course.  Congratulations Executive Chef Neil Patrick Hudson and Executive Sous Chef Noel Middleton!  Bartlett’s Farm is exceedingly fortunate to have you!

Bartlett’s Farm Beet Salad
Chef Neil Patrick Hudson

  • 3 medium sized Bartlett’s farm yellow beets trimmed
  • 3 medium sized Bartlett’s red beets trimmed
  • 4 cups of Bartlett’s farm mixed greens
  • One quarter pound fine goat’s cheese
  • One quarter cup white balsamic vinegar
  • Three quarters of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • One and one half tablespoons of Bartlett’s farm organic mint finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place beets in a pot with enough cold water to cover.  Bring them to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer beats until fork tender. Strain and cool the beets then peel them and quarter them.  Wisk vinegar and olive oil together and add salt & pepper to taste. Toss beets, mint and greens with small amounts of vinaigrette to taste, top with crumbled goat’s cheese.  Serve immediately

I think they get along so well because they have such vastly different backgrounds:  Noel is from Los Angeles, CA. and Neil hails from Toronto, Canada.  And there is a variety of characters who associate with these two (yep I am one of those “characters”).  My son is an honorary member of the crew — he likes to think he rounds out the New England faction by being a Nantucket native.  Talk about a diverse group or more accurately a motley crew.  Often when people see them coming they either say “oh, yay” or “oh no.”  Either way it will be interesting.  Through weddings, deaths, various jobs, and lots of hockey games they have remained friends.  Not to mention they remained my friends (trust me that is not always an easy feat!).  

The best part of having friends like Noel and Neil is not just their talent for cooking delicious food, or for creating great conversation, it is that I can always rely on them.   I hope they feel the same about me.  They both extended acts of such kindness and support to me through some tough times—I couldn’t have made it without them (Thank you).  More importantly, my son adores them.  They were at the hospital soon after he arrived and have been by his side since.  I count myself lucky to have them. 

Recently the three of us were enjoying a couple drinks at Kitty Murtagh’s and talking about my boy.  They are eagerly awaiting the day when they can teach him guy stuff.  Like how to ride a motorcycle, how to box, how to play hockey, and how to look cool when drinking a beer.  All the fun stuff, that Mom is just not hip enough to tell him about and Dad might get in trouble for teaching him.  I think it is great, since they get the dubious task of being there to get him into OR out of trouble (kiddo if you ever get arrested, call the” Uncles,” not Momma).  I like it that way.  Parents are not perfect; I know I will make mistakes.  Now I have the peace of mind that he will not only tell his therapist about how his Mother screwed him up, but the “Uncles” will probably be on the list too!   I just remind them they have to keep him very safe first, and then, well, don’t tell me the stuff that I do not need to know.

My child had no Idea yet, but he is slated to work in the restaurant industry at some point in his life.  With such talented close friends and family, it is a given.  Not only do both his parents cook for a living, but nearly all of our friends are in the food industry.   Chef Middleton actually has informed me of his plan to introduce him to prep and dishwashing when he becomes a teen.  In fact my son was raised in kitchens.  Though he is only four, he has expedited tickets, washed dishes, peeled vegetables, and even slept in restaurant kitchens.  When he was a fussy baby, only months old, we would take him to see Chef Middleton at his work and the noise would often soothe him or put him to sleep.  Sometimes I would help a friend of mine during lunch, and I would bring the baby along.  It was only for a short time, but he loved it.  The child would get upset if he could not see what was cooking.   Many chefs around town know my kid by name; some even know his favorite food and start making it before we order.  Although I love cooking, I am kind of hoping he picks a far more lucrative career in the end.  Kitchens are full of passion, addiction, and hard work, it is very difficult to get a job with benefits or great pay.   But if he does become a chef, he’ll have plenty of support.

Thank you again Uncle Neil and Uncle Noel. 

Moroccan Vegetable Soup
Chef Noel Middleton

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, (about 8 ounces), chopped
  • 2 parsnips(about 8 ounces), chopped
  • 1 wedge of pumpkin (about 8 ounces)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Garnish

  • 1 and one half tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and cilantro mixed
  • Generous pinch of paprika

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and fry the onion for about 3 minutes, until softened, stirring constantly.  Add the carrots and parsnips, stir well, cover and cook over low heat for another 5 minutes.

Peel and remove the pith from the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.  Stir into the pan.  Cover and cook for 5 additional minutes.  Add the stock and seasonings and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer very gently for 35-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Let the soup cool slightly, and them puree in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding a little water if necessary. 
For the garnish, heat oil in a small pan and gently fry the garlic and herbs for one minute.  Add the paprika and stir well.  Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the soup into four bowls and spoon a little garnish on top, the diner should carefully stir the garnish into the soup before eating.  Serves 4.

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