Chef Todd Alan Martin of Hundred North hosted his German-inspired dinner on Thursday, February 22 at Judd & Black Appliance in Mount Vernon. The four-course meal was full of comfort foods from parsnip soup to chocolate cake, each with its own flair and elegance. Martin’s attitude was laid-back, straight-forward, and far from over the top. His philosophy for cooking stemmed from a love of bringing people together around something they all have to do: eat. “It’s the only thing we all need, that we all love,” Martin said as he welcomed his guests. And while he put his passion simply, the meal felt like nothing of necessity and entirely of indulgence.
Martin came to Hundred North after being a musician for years and realizing that he was missing a certain daily drive. Suddenly, food gave him hard work every day, and he loved it. He transplanted to Bellingham in 2017 to lead the Hundred North team as the executive chef. Martin stresses simple, thoughtful cooking and demonstrated dishes he knew each of his guests could complete in their own home.
The first dish of the night, parsnip soup, was a perfect example of Martin’s no-fluff philosophy. The creamy, rich soup is cooked—yes, cooked—in a blender. With plenty of heavy cream and topped with fat chunks of bacon, this dish is a hearty soup perfect for chilly days. Soup can be as easy as dropping ingredients into a blender, turning it on high, and walking away for five to 10 minutes, Martin explained. After a quick strain and some seasoning, the soup is ready. According to Martin, the friction of the blender heats the ingredients enough to actually cook the soup. Who knew?
Parsnip Soup with Bacon and Scallions
- 1 1/2 lbs parsnip peeled and diced to 1″ pieces
- 1/2 small sweet onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 oz apple cider vinegar
- 2 oz heavy cream
- 1 bay leafe
- 1 thyme sprig
- 1 green onion sliced thin
- 1/2 lb bacon cut into 1/4 ” cubes
- Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
- Heat a wide bottomed sauce pan and gently cook the bacon to render fat and achieve some caramelization. Remove bacon from the pan leaving behind the fat and fond. Add the parsnip and onion and sweat on medium heat 5 minutes. Add the garlic for one minute stirring often.
- Add vinegar and cook 1 min. Add stock with the bay leaf and thyme and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend on high speed for 3-5 minutes and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Season with salt and a bit of fresh grated nutmeg. Garnish with a spoonful of cooked bacon and sliced green onions.
Next was a kohlrabi salad with a Caesar-inspired dressing. Martin chopped the kohlrabi into large chunks, essential for grabbing plenty of the flavorful dressing. To Martin, cubing, mincing, and dicing ingredients into perfect, symmetrical shapes is “unnecessary manicuring.” And to accompany the first two dishes, guests enjoyed a sparkling hopped apple shrub. A “shrub” was once enjoyed much like modern day soda-pop in the 1800s before people were able to preserve fruits for long periods of time. With the addition of vinegar, sweet syrup, and carbonated water, the apple juice can stay longer and has a tangy zest.
- 1 lb. or so peeled kohlrabi
Fried Egg Dressing
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little for sautéing
- 2 tablespoons minced white or yellow onion rinsed under cold water
- 6 anchovy filets minced (less if you don’t like them as much as I do)
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp ground toasted caraway seeds
- Approximately 2 oz frozen Camembert cheese (makes it easy to grate)
- Cut the kohlrabi into 1/2 x 1 inch long pieces and set aside.
- In a non-stick skillet, fry the eggs in a little olive oil until fully cooked through
- Place eggs in the refrigerator to cool completely.
- Once cool, place all ingredients in a blender and combine on high speed until emulsified. Set aside. Heat a large cast iron skillet just to smoke point and sauce kohlrabi in olive oil.
- Season with a little kosher salt while cooking, and add the minced anchovies. Toss to distribute.
- to plate, spoon a healthy dose of the fried egg dressing on a large plate. Then spread the cooked kohlrabi evenly over the dressing. Generously coat with bread crumbs, grated Camembert cheese, and a bit of lemon zest.
The third course featured sauerbraten with crispy sauerkraut and a red wine sauce. The German pot roast spent nearly two weeks marinating before guests enjoyed it, and it was worth the wait. Each slice of roast barely needed a knife to enjoy. The carrots that accompanied it were sliced thick enough to avoid getting mushy. For guests interested in recreating the moist meat at home, Martin suggested that the roast be marinated for seven to 14 days before being cooked. The marinade preserves the roast with wine and vinegar, so there is no need to worry about food safety.
Sauerbraten with Carrots, Onions, & Crispy Sauerkraut
- 3 lbs beef chuck roast or tri-tip
- 4 small yellow onions
- 2 large carrots
- 1 qt dry red wine
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 tsp whole allspice
- 2 tsp crushed juniper berries
- 2tsp black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 Tbl unsalted butter
- 1 Tbl cooking oil
- 3 Tbl kosher salt
- Peel and slice two of the onions and place in a blender with the red wine, vinegar, cloves, allspice, juniper berries, peppercorns, and bay leaves, blending on high speed for 3 min or so.
- Place beef in a large enough container to fit all of the marinade and cover tightly. Marinate the beef for 7-14 days. Remove the beef from the marinade, place in clean water for 2 min and pat dry with a clean towel. Strain the marinade and reserve.
- Cut the other two onions into quarters and the carrots into larger 2 inch pieces.
- In a Dutch oven, melt the butter and oil together and brown the beef on all sides. Add the vegetables and as much or all of the marinade to cover the beef in liquid. Add the salt and roast for 3 hours or so at 350 degrees until the meat is tender. Allow to cool a bit in the liquid before removing. Strain liquid one more time and blend in a blender to emulsify and use as gravy immediately.
- Spread drained sauerkraut on parchment or a silicone baking mat and cook at 160 degrees 6-8 hours (overnight works well) until completely dry. Can be stored in a glass jar for two weeks for use as desired.
And to finish the night, Martin created his own version of a crowd-pleasing chocolate cake. Rather than a traditional baked-flour cake, his black forest crepe cake was layers and layers of thin chocolate crepes, each topped with whipped cream. Martin chose to serve a cold-brew coffee, made with Bellingham Coffee Roasters beans, alongside the cake. The bitter coffee provided a flavorful dichotomy for the sweet chocolate cake and closed the night with a caffeinated kick.
Black Forest Crepe Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs whisked together
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 Tbl melted butter
- 3 Tbl sugar
- 1.2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbl powdered sugar
- 6 oz cherry jam preserves
- Sift together dry ingredients into large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and milk all at once and stir together oil just smooth. Do not over work the batter. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
- Heat a non stick pan over medium low heat and lightly coat with melted butter or neutral cooking oil and pour 2 oz of crepe batter into the pan, swirling off heat to ensure an even coating, returning to heat oil just cooked. Gently and quickly flip the crepe, cook for 10 seconds and remove, setting aside on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat until all the crepe batter is gone. Allow crepes to cool completely at room temperature.
- With a hand mixer or countertop mixer, whisk together the whipping cream and sugar until it reaches stiff peaks.
- Layer crepe, a small amount of cherry preserves, and a small amount of whipped cream and so on until complete. Cake cuts best after 1-2 hours of refrigeration or enjoy immediately.