Column: Duluth Grill reveals culinary secretsIt was just a matter of time before the Duluth Grill would give in to its customers’ endless requests to publish its secrets of the kitchen.
By: Arlene Coco, For the Budgeteer News
It was just a matter of time before the Duluth Grill would give in to its customers’ endless requests to publish its secrets of the kitchen.
Being a friend of the Hanson family for many years, I have always called them the “hardest working family in Duluth.” The book finally illustrates the passion for work and striving to be the best that I knew all along.
It’s written by local food writer Robert Lillegard, who has a distinctive and humorous writing style that lands him articles in the New York Times and other national publications. He did a magnificent job of putting all the information into a format that’s easy to follow, and a fun read, even if you don’t cook. The work of photographer Rolf Hagberg makes the book a feast for the eyes. It includes stunning photos, all taken at the restaurant, of the people who cook, serve, and eat. Most of the stories are told to Lillegard by Tom Hanson, whose steady vision of sustainability and preparing glorious food for his customers comes through throughout the book.
The book not only divulges signature recipes, something rare in the industry — it pays homage to the unsung-hero local producers who supply food products to the Duluth Grill. There’s also a section with glossy photos dedicated to the urban farm and rooftop garden, the first in this area, run by farm manager François Medion.
The recipes were tested for their adaptability to the home kitchen by area home cooks. They don’t require special equipment or exotic ingredients that can’t be found locally. Included are recipes for staples such as peanut butter, ketchup and mustard, which can be mastered at home with mostly pantry ingredients. The list of recipes also helpfully identifies the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes.
The chapter on condiments and sauces alone is worth the price of the book. Easy to assemble, each one is made in a food processor and is high on the flavor meter. The signature Huny-Rika sauce, a sweet, smoky mayonnaise-based sauce, is my personal favorite. There’s even a simple, yet luscious, recipe for caramel and chocolate sauce for dessert lovers.
The heart of the book features all the top-seller breakfast dishes that attract hungry diners by the thousands. The Red Flannel Hash is a staple side dish and is made with diced sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, peppers and onions. Also noteworthy are the Scotch Eggs, the Breakfast Sausage, and Mediterranean Omelet.
The soups and stews recipes are mouthwatering, with most on the current menu. The famous Hobo Soup recipe is revealed, and encourages the cook to use whatever vegetables are in season. It’s made with local bison and has a savory tomato base. There’s also a tasty wild rice soup recipe, and throughout the book are tips and tricks passed along by the restaurant cooks who prepare the dishes daily. Don’t miss the recipe for lamb shank, which is tender to the bone, or the one for the classic north woods favorite, the pasty. In “Big Hearty Entrées,” you’ll find recipes for Jaima Hanson’s lasagna, tempeh burrito mix, and of course the Food Network favorite, the bison pot roast.
With 110 recipes included in the book, you’re sure to find one of your favorite dishes that you can reproduce at home, just like the pros at the Duluth Grill.
It’s telling that on the jacket cover, Russ Parsons, a famous food writer from the Los Angeles Times, says “It’s one thing to go all locavore when you’re in California; it’s another thing entirely when you’re on the shore of Lake Superior, which freezes solid in the winter. In its own way, though, Duluth Grill may even be more important, demonstrating that this kind of idealism isn’t just for urban sophisticates willing to pay $25 for appetizers.”
The cookbook is available at the restaurant at 118 S. 27th Ave. West, its website (www.duluthgrill.com/cookbook), The Bookstore at Fitger's, The Blue Heron, Duluth Kitchen Company and the Frost River Trading Company.
Arlene Coco lives and works in the Twin Ports. She owns Prairie Kitchen
Specialty Foods and considers herself a food evangelist.