Chef’s Corner: Michael Dotson of Martins West

Chef’s Corner: Michael Dotson of Martins West

The peninsula is bursting with fantastic restaurants, most of which are dedicated to using local and fresh ingredients, just like what we carry at our store! Each Chef’s Corner will feature a local restaurant, chef & a recipe in the hopes that you’ll grow to love the chef’s passion for food, and their restaurant, as much as we do! Enjoy — Carmelo Sigona

It was a mutual friend named Natasha who first mentioned Martins West and Chef Michael to me just a few months ago while at a dinner party in San Carlos. I had been describing the purpose of our new Chef’s Corner feature when Natasha told me about the fantastic new restaurant in Redwood City whose chef, Michael Dotson, is very interested in sourcing locally. Having learned more about our feature, Natasha said, “you two have so much in common, you should meet Michael!”

A few days later, Christine Thompson, our marketing manager, and I connected with Chef Michael and made our way down to Martins West. As Martins West is a new restaurant, they opened their doors for business in May 2009, the first question we asked Michael was if he’d been to Sigona’s. “I have been to the store, and if we are short on something that is were we go,” said Michael. “I love that I can get almost anything I need there at a moments notice and know that it is going to be fresh and local. I know I can find things at Sigona’s you don’t always see in some farmers markets – the store is very engaged in what’s in season.”

You should have seen the smiles on our faces!

Chef Michael and me chatting about the abundance of local ingredients we're blessed with in the Bay Area.

Martins West Gastropub, located at in the old Alhambra building at 831 Main Street in downtown Redwood City, is both a pub and a restaurant with Scottish flair. As it says on their site, being called a gastropub means that in addition to an amazing menu, you’ll find variety of local and global beers both on tap and by the bottle, as well as a wine list designed around the casual but refined cuisine.

We didn’t have time to grab a drink during our visit, but I can definitely vouch for the “casual but refined cuisine.” Michael detailed menu items from haggis (yep…real haggis!) to the Farmers Market Vegetable Pie to the Lambs Lettuce Salad made with Belgium endive, forelle pears, and Strathdon blue cheese, topped with an almond-banyuls vinaigrette while telling us about his passion for sourcing locally…a sentiment that is repeated in his bio on the Martins West Web site which starts:

An unwavering reverence for the freshest seasonal ingredients has been the common thread through Michael Dotson’s career…Dotson credits his apprenticeship with Master Chef Norbert Schultz at Brigitte’s in Santa Barbara, CA from 1991 to 1993 for laying the groundwork for his farm-to-table approach to cooking. While working with Shultz, Dotson connected directly with the purveyors of his ingredients for the first time.

Michael detailed menu items from haggis (yep…real haggis!) to the Farmers Market Vegetable Pie to the Lambs Lettuce Salad...all made with locally sourced ingredients.

“You can’t beat fresh, local ingredients,” said Michael. “In fact, I’m waiting for my mushroom guy to come by any day with a delivery of what he’s picked nearby. The quality is incomparable.”

Chef Michael has much experience under his chef’s hat; experience he’s gathered abroad and right in our very own California. Chef Michael has served as the Executive Chef in restaurants near and far, from San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in California, to Italy and France in Europe, and also from the Napa Valley to Manhattan. However, it was in Manhattan when Chef Michael realized the Bay Area had a hold on his heart with its abundant farmers markets.

The move back to San Francisco eventually inspired Chef Michael to start a venture of his own, which led him to a partnership with Moira Beveridge and Derek Smith, two restaurateurs he met as the executive chef at Evvia Esitiatorio in Palo Alto, CA. The three partners then began plans for Martins West, a name and atmosphere inspired by Martin Irons, a family friend of Beveridge’s who owned the original Martins restaurant in Edinburg, Scotland.

Martins West is really a cool place to hang out. It’s has a very warm and friendly feel and the husband and wife team of Derek and Moira really adds something special to the experience; they make it comfortable and fun. In fact, we held our next business meeting at the restaurant because Christine and I didn’t have enough time to try all the amazing-sounding dishes and desserts on the menu! More power to you, haggis lovers!

Carmelo and Chef Michael, who credits his apprenticeship with Master Chef Norbert Schultz at Brigitte’s in Santa Barbara, CA from 1991 to 1993 for laying the groundwork for his farm-to-table approach to cooking.

When my brothers and I went back, we ordered seven of the eight items on the lunch menu…and at $6 a plate, it was extremely reasonable for the three of us! I’m not as familiar with the Scottish style of cooking as I am with, oh let’s say Sicilian, so the entire time I kept repeating how very impressed with the uniqueness and taste, which no doubt was enhanced by the fresh and local ingredients.

On a side note, consider hitting up Martins West for New Year’s Eve or join them for Highland Scotch Tasting & Education on January 27, 2010 (call for more info: 650/366-4366). Until then, try out some of these Scottish-inspired recipes, courtesy of Chef Michael!

Recipes from Chef Michael

“Chicken and Leek Pie”

  • 4 – Airline chicken breasts (skin on), from a heritage or free range chicken
  • 4 thin slices of natural smoked ham
  • Parsley-endive puree – from below
  • 1½ cups leek ribbons
  • 8 oz cream sauce – from below
  • 4 pieces puff pastry cut into 3”x5” rectangles
    • Brush puff pastry with egg wash and cook according to manufactures directions. When cool enough to handle split length wise into 2 rectangles.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper and place a slice of ham between the skin and meat of each chicken breast.

Place breasts skin side down In a large oven safe sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of oil in it over a medium heat; cook for 3-4 minutes. Transfer pan to oven, cook through for about 12-16 minutes.

In a sauce pan warm leeks and cream sauce until hot and season with salt and pepper. When breast is ready, transfer to plate skin side up to rest and get ready to plate.

Divide parsley puree between 4 large plates; place bottom piece of puff pastry on each plate. Place leeks on top of pastry, dividing amongst plates, and then a chicken breast. Spoon remaining sauce around puree, place puff pastry top on chicken and serve.

For Cream Sauce:

  • 1 TBL minced shallot
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 TBL minced ham or bacon
  • 2 TBL butter
  • 3 TBL flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf – tied with 3 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt & fresh pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 good shakes favorite hot sauce

Place first 5 ingredients in a sauce pot and sweat over medium heat until soft but not brown. Add flour and cook 3-4 minutes.

Take pot off heat and slowly whisk in chicken stock; add thyme and bay leaf. Bring to simmer. Add cream, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Then strain through a double mesh strainer and chill if not using right away.

**Sauce can be made a day ahead but must be cooled with plastic wrap in contact with sauce so no skin forms on top of sauce.

For Parsley Puree:

  • 2 shallots, julienned
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 heads endive, sliced ¼ inch thick – do not cut until ready to cook
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup purified water
  • Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar
  • 1 large bunch parsley leaves

Place parsley leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 seconds and then scoop them directly into an ice water bath to shock and chill. Drain and squeeze out excess water.

In a sauce pan, sweat the shallots and garlic in 2 TBL butter until soft, but not brown. Add endive and cook for 2 minutes, then add remaining ingredients and cover with a piece of parchment paper. Cook over low heat until very tender.

Transfer mixture to a baking pan and chill in refrigerator. Once cool, strain the liquid very well, reserving and puree mixture with blanched parsley. Add a little of cooking liquid if needed to puree.

**Can be made a day ahead and stored, chilled.

Spring Lamb and Sweet Pea Pastie

Makes 12-14 appetizer size portions. This is a great springtime treat!

Lay out 2 racks of lamb riblets on sheet pan; brush both sides with 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 tsp. tamarind paste and 3 TBL olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 TBL salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 TBL ground coriander, 1 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. rubbed dry oregano. Massage mix into lamb; let sit over night or at least 8 hours.

Lay riblets in roasting pan add; 3 cups of veal stock, ½ cup minced onion, 2 T tomato paste, ¼ cup of HP sauce, to cover ribs by half.

Seal with foil to braise in 300-degree oven until tender and stock glazes the ribs; about 3-4 hours.

When cool enough to handle, pull meat from bones and shred. Skim fat from any remaining juices, reduce over medium heat and add to meat.

To prep for filling, add 2 cups of shucked and English peas to the braised lamb and mix well.

For Pastry Dough:

  • 35 ounces unbleached flour
  • 12 ounces pork lard
  • 2 TBL grey salt
  • 1 TBL finely chopped rosemary
  • 6 ounces very cold water – more if needed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Cut lard into flour & salt until it resembles bread crumbs; working quickly as to not melt fat. With a cold spoon stir water into flour until it comes together, if it seems a bit dry add more cold water.

Wrap in plastic wrap and rest at least 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 6 inch rounds and place about 3 ounces of meat mixture in center of pastry circle.

Moisten edges with egg using a pastry brush, fold over creating half moons and pinch edges closed.

If not baking straight away refrigerate or freeze if using at a later date.

Before baking, brush the pasties with egg wash and poke vent holes with a fork. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven until brown and toasty.

**Note: dough makes more than is needed for recipe but rounds can be cut and stored in well wrapped in the freezer for up to a month.

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