Cast Iron 101 w/ Vinson Petrillo

There are few chefs that I’ve come across in my life that are as versatile, innovative, creative and driven as Vinson Petrillo. I work with many food industry professionals and few of them can compare with how passionate he is. His level of devotion and sense of responsibility to his team and the restaurant are unparalleled (and on top of it all-he makes some of the BEST food this city has to offer). He has worked in New York, Brooklyn, Nantucket and now Charleston. His previous experience working under and with some of the nations top notch chefs in Michelin rated restaurants helped to develop a strong foundation and assisted in preparing  him for his current position where he is blazing trails in the CHS food scene as Executive Chef at Zero Restaurant + Bar. I fully expect that he will someday bring home a James Beard Award (his ability to select the highest and best quality ingredients, unwillingness to settle for mediocrity, creative intuition, instinct and motivation…are all the elements necessary  to make something that is: RARE & SPECIAL). That’s what he does over and over again.

 

He’s one of the few people I know that wants to: real deal cook on his days off-and enjoys it. I am grateful for his friendship and inspired by his cooking at work and on the home front. His dedication to his lovely family is also remarkable (whom I feel fortunate to have become close with and enjoy our delicious Sunday Suppers with). One of my favorite things is when Vin fires up the grill in the backyard and begins throwing ingredients in the cast iron and the entire place smells like food heaven and I busily try to scribble down notes. I know first hand he uses cast iron on a regular basis and I knew he would bring a delicious, decadent and approachable dish for readers to enjoy and be able to replicate. I know you’ll love this one!

 

Chef Vinson Petrillo’s Tips, Suggestions and Advice 

Q-What was your first piece of cast iron cookware? Where did you get it from and how did you decided on that piece?
VP: My first piece of cast iron was a Lodge from my local hardware store. 
Q-Who taught you to cook with cast iron?
VP: The first chef to teach me how to cook with cast iron was David Daniels from Toppers at the Wauwinet in Nantucket- It was the hardest meat station I ever worked !
Q. What are the benefits that you enjoy with cast iron cooking?
VP: The constant even heat, just wiping out the pan and being able to cook something else right away, the beautiful crust it leaves on meat.
Q-What are some of the difficulties that you (have experienced or currently) experience with CIC?
VP: It’s always great when your cook puts it through the dishwasher. If they are not seasoned properly they can rust and become a big project to refinish. 
Q-Do you think there are any misconceptions that people commonly have about CIC?
VP: Probably the same I thought as a kid- I thought they were just for camping.
What are 3 tips that people should remember…
VP: 1-Don’t put it through the dishwasher. 2-Use oil and coarse salt to clean. 3-Store in your oven or a very dry place.
 

Mussels Meunier Cooked Over Coals in Cast Iron

(w/ Melted Leeks, Fennel, Fresh Citrus, Garlic Baguette)

Serves 6
Prep 30 Min
Cook Time 10 Min
Special Equipment – Large Cast Iron Pan , Hot Wood Coals, Grill or fire pit

For the Mussels
3 lbs PEI Mussels

Remove the beards and soak in cold salted water for 1 hour with a pinch of red chili flakes to purge any sand from the mussels. Rinse the mussels in cold water, dry and keep refrigerated until ready to cook.

For the Meunier

½ lb unsalted butter
3 cups dry white wine
2 fresh lemons, zested then juiced
1 bunch of thyme tied together with a string
4 large cloves garlic sliced thin
2 medium shallots julienned
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves julienned
Salt to taste

For The Leeks and Fennel

1 Lrg leek or 3 baby leeks- greens removed leaving only the whites, sliced length wise and cut into thin ½ moons
3 Baby Fennel, Sliced thin on the mandolin, reserve the very tops in ice water to serve raw and fresh over the mussels.

For The Citrus

1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange

Cut tops and bottoms from all citrus so that the citrus can sit flat and even on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife slice the peel and white from each citrus showing each segment of the fruit with no white attached. Remove each segment from the fruit making sure to remove the thin membrane and seeds between each. Reserve the juices storing the fruit in the liquid till ready for use.

For the Garlic Baguette

1 fresh French baguette sliced on a bias into 2” thick slices
3 garlic cloves
3 anchovy filets (great quality)
Good quality spicy olive oil

For The Preparation 

Light a grill or fire pit with lots of wood coals, once coals are white set the large cast iron pan directly on the coals (if they are not even use a metal rod or rake to even them out) leave cast iron on the coals for 6 minutes. You will need all of your ingredients outside with you as you will have no time to run back inside-make sure you have tongs, a heat resistant towel, paper towels to wipe your hands, and 2 platters, one for the bread and one for the Mussels which should be more like a large bowl because there is a good amount of liquid. First toast your baguette slices making the outside dark and crispy and the inside just warm and soft, once toasted remove from cast iron and grate the fresh garlic over the bread with a microplane and then gently smear the anchovies like butter over the slices and generously top with olive oil and sea salt. Wipe out the pan and heat again for 6 more minutes. Now that the pan is extremely hot over the coals add in your mussels and immediately add the thyme, garlic, shallots and butter. The pan should start rapidly steaming keeping the garlic and thyme from burning and opening the mussels to release their natural juices. Remove each mussel as soon as it opens until they are all perfectly cooked. Discard any mussels that did not open. Remove the thyme from the pan, add the white wine, leeks and fennel until reduced by ½ and leeks are tender. Season the mussels with the citrus juice, zest and fresh parsley. Add the citrus segments at the last second and pour everything over the mussels. Serve immediately with the warm bread and some white wine or rose.