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What's Cooking? - Posted July 28, 2017 9:27 a.m.
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

Peppered With Flavor

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“I absolutely love them,” says Chad Lardie of Embers Steak House. He’s talking about peppers, which is why so many dishes on the Embers menu include the spicy ingredient. “I’ve found that there are certain peppers I really like and certain peppers I don’t really like, but if you combine them you get different heat levels. The combination of peppers is exciting.” And the resulting heat almost always intensifies the flavor. “That’s the reason you see things like cayenne pepper added to chocolate” at the grocery store, he explains.

For this issue, Lardie suggests three recipes that illustrate that concept. The beautiful colors of the pepper medley with a manchego goat cheese spread offers “a very nice sweet-heat mix,” he says. The watermelon goat cheese salad with Serrano peppers and mint offers a delectable combination of fresh flavors. And the white chocolate mousse with green chile pistachio topping offers a unique twist on a familiar dessert. “I love doing desserts with peppers,” he says. “The peppers bring out the flavor of the chocolate but usually the mousse will kill some of the heat. You don’t really get that peppery heat but you get a more intense sweetness.”


Watermelon Salad
Heat level: Medium

4 cups watermelon, diced (seedless is best)
2 Serrano chilis
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh mint
Pinch sea salt

Thinly slice peppers and add to bowl with salt and watermelon; mix together. Place watermelon mix into serving dish. Sprinkle goat cheese over top of watermelon; add mint and serve.

Makes 3 to 4 servings


Cheese Spread with Pepper Relish
Heat level: Medium/hot

Pepper Relish:
3 jalapeño peppers
1 roasted red pepper
1 small can green chiles
3 hot yellow peppers
3 habanero peppers
6 small sweet peppers
1 can Sprite
1 small can pineapple juice

Cheese Spread:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup blue cheese
1 cup smoked Gouda
½ cup goat cheese
1 cup manchego
1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Add cheeses, garlic and liquid smoke to bowl of stand mixer. Mix on high and roll mixture into log shape in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight. For pepper relish, slice all peppers thinly; add to pot with Sprite and pineapple juice. Cook on medium heat until all liquid is absorbed. Place peppers in refrigerator to cool. Cut a 1- to 2-inch slice of cheese log and place on serving platter. Top with pepper mix. Serve with crackers or pretzel chips.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


White Chocolate Mousse
Heat level: Mild

8 ounces white chocolate, cut into small chunks
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup green chiles, rinsed and dried (the drier the better)
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped

Melt white chocolate and let cool. Add cream cheese, heavy cream, white chocolate and powdered sugar to bowl of stand mixer. Mix until it begins to thicken, 2 or 3 minutes on high.
Fold in three-quarters of pistachios and green chilies. For best results, keep refrigerated for 24 hours before serving. Top mousse with remaining pistachios and serve with cookies.

Makes 4 to 6 servings



Meet the Cook: Chad Lardie of Embers Steak House


After graduating from Texas Tech’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management program, Chad Lardie worked for more than a decade managing Johnny Carino’s restaurants. When local favorite David’s Steakhouse closed its doors in 2010 – opening up a well-known location in the Wolflin area – Lardie jumped at the opportunity to create a restaurant of his own. He introduced Embers Steak House in early 2011, and delicious steaks, seafood, and burgers have been sizzling on its charcoal and hickory-wood grill ever since.

“We’ve created a really great base of regular customers and are always bringing new customers in,” he says. “Because it started as a known location, some people may have confused us with David’s at the beginning. They saw we were doing something a little bit different, but familiar enough that they really enjoyed it.”

Lardie says a focus on high-quality ingredients and unique cuts of meat is what sets Embers apart. He describes his restaurant as more closely aligned with a New York or Chicago-style steakhouse than a traditional southern one, which might serve chicken-fried steak or ribs alongside rib-eyes. “All of our steaks are hand-cut, and we offer a variety of steaks that people may not always see,” he says, including several dishes using lean, flavorful buffalo.

Peppers also play a spicy role at Embers, from the mango habanero sauce that accompanies the sea bass to the pineapple-jalapeño cheesecake on the dessert menu. But patrons have to go off-menu to encounter one of the most unforgettable tastes at Lardie’s restaurant: a secret sauce known only to a few regulars (until now). “It’s a mayonnaise-based barbecue sauce called ‘Red Hell’ and has habaneros, chipotles, red peppers, and ghost chilis,” he says. The ghost chili is known as one of the hottest peppers in the world. Though some die-hard Embers customers love the Red Hell, Lardie says the combination has proved a little too much for his tastes. “I like hot, but it’s too hot for me. I can’t handle it.”

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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