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$20 dinner with Robert Phalen 

One Eared Stag's roguish chef shows his improvisational chops

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Black grouper soup

Ingredients
• 2 cuts of grouper throat
• 1/4 onion, chopped
• Bay leaves
• 2 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1/2 cup romaine, thinly sliced
• 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
• Optional: bread crumbs, trout roe
• Salt to taste

Directions: Combine grouper throat, onion, bay leaves, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a pot with enough water to cover, at least 4 cups. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for at least an hour.

Strain broth, reserving grouper and broth liquid. Discard remaining broth ingredients. Flake grouper meat from the bones.

In two separate bowls, divide grouper meat, Thai chilis, sliced romaine, and add, if available, a spoonful of roe or bread crumbs for flavor. Pour a cup or so of broth over ingredients.

Tofu confit

Ingredients
• 1 pound tofu, quartered
• 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
• 1/2 pound pork fat
• 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
• 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Bay leaves, bruised
• Sprigs of thyme
• Lemon zest, to taste

Directions: While pork fat renders over medium-low heat in a small pot, marinate quartered tofu in oil olive, bay leaves, Thai chilis, garlic, sliced onions, thyme and lemon zest.

Once fat is fully rendered (reserve a couple tablespoons for the beef liver recipe), add tofu and marinade to pot. Cover but be careful to keep the heat low enough to not fry the tofu. Cook for as long as you're willing to wait, ideally a few hours.

Remove tofu and let cool. Cut tofu quarters into 1/4-inch slices. Serve with a generous amount of lemon zest, onion slices, a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil.

Beef liver with caramelized onions


Ingredients
• 1 pound beef liver
• 2 slices bacon, cut in half
• 1 apple, peeled, cored and quartered
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
• 1/4 tablespoon brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons rendered pork fat
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Splash of balsamic vinegar
• Chili flakes, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
• Salt, to taste
• Thyme, to taste

Directions: Marinate beef liver at room temperature with olive oil, chili flakes, a generous amount of black pepper, thyme sprigs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add rendered fat from confit and onions. Once onions are translucent, add brown sugar, stirring constantly. Deglaze with a splash of balsamic vinegar and remove from heat to cool pan. Keep over low heat while cooking liver, occasionally adding water if onions appear dry.

In a skillet, cook bacon over low heat until done but still chewy. Remove bacon, keeping fat in pan, and add quartered apple, cooking until brown. Set aside.

Remove liver from marinade and toss in flour that has been generously salted and peppered. Add liver to a skillet with butter over medium-high heat until a crust has been seared on either side, a few minutes on each side. Once both sides have been seared, remove pan to oven and finish for three minutes.

Let liver sit for a few minutes before slicing and serve with onions, apples and bacon.

Creamed lettuce

Ingredients
• 1 head of romaine, roughly chopped
• 1 8-ounce container heavy cream
• Onion scraps, thinly sliced
• 1 Thai chili, whole
• 2 tablespoons pork fat, rendered

Directions: In a pan over medium heat, sweat onion scraps in bacon fat. Remove from heat for a minute, add whole container of cream and chili. Cook over low heat for a minute or two and then add lettuce, cooking slowly until lettuce is fully wilted and cream is thick.

Pineapple soup

Ingredients
• 1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into long chunks (reserve the peel)
• 1 cup Greek yogurt
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 large pinch powdered sugar
• Lime zest, to taste
• Splash of vanilla extract
• Ice

Directions: In a buttered pan over medium heat, cook a few reserved large chunks of pineapple until soft and browned, at least five minutes.

Combine yogurt, lime zest and powdered sugar in a bowl, whipping until fully combined.

Put remaining pineapple (including peels), sugar, vanilla and some ice in a blender. Blend until fully smooth. Force through a strainer, removing any trace of peels.

In a shallow bowl, combine browned pineapple, yogurt and pour over blended pineapple.

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