BY SANDRA S. SORIA
Here’s a Naturally guarantee: You can walk into the village of Serenbe all stressed out and honked off at everyone, and before you can say, “Is that a real llama?” you’re way chill. Part of that instant exhale is due to the charm of the Inn at Serenbe, surrounded by stately old barns and acres of pastures. But much of it is owed to the innate nourishment you get from the place—thanks to fresh air and sincerely warm people. And then there’s the food itself.
The eating at Serenbe is good. Real good. In their Farmhouse restaurant— and at The Hill and the Blue Eyed Daisy eateries located nearby in the greater Serenbe community of private residences intermingled with charming commercial zones—much of the fare is grown in the property’s gardens and on their 25-acre organic farm.
The food is such an integral part of the Serenbe experience, the folks who run the place figured out a way to bottle it. You can take home some spicy pickled okra, for instance, or dilly beans or some red onion jam. And for that grab-and-go option, you have Chef-in-Residence Matt Adolfi and
his younger brother, Paddy, to thank. Together, they head up the Serenbe Foods program.
We were wowed by their pickling skills, so our friends at Serenbe invited us into the kitchen to see these two well-heeled chefs in action. The brothers were formally trained at the New England Culinary Institute. Matt came to Georgia when he was invited to work for famed Atlanta chef Anne Quatrano at the lauded Bacchanalia. As the story goes, he was wooed over to Serenbe after participating in a benefit there, when he fell in love with the community, its food philosophy, and the Serenbe founders’ daughter, Garnie Nygren (she’s now his wife). When Paddy, five years his junior, graduated from the Institute, Matt invited his brother to join him.
But the brothers’ real training started in the basement of their Cazenovia, New York family home. “We pickled as kids,” says Paddy, who is also chef at The Hill. “Our parents had a garden—their thing was pickled hot peppers. Every fall, we would be down there for days, making like 200 jars full—among other things. We always liked pickled anything, it’s good, easy to make, and the jars can sit on the shelf forever.” Matt chimes in: “Yea, we would crush on Triscuits, cheddar cheese, and those peppers.”
These two definitely do-si-do around the kitchen like they’ve been doing it most of their lives. Their movements seem choreographed (no one is stepping on anyone’s toes here) and their lines well rehearsed (with their words layered over each other’s in a way that seems like just one person is talking). They’re no doubt on their best behavior with an audience, so all this brotherly closeness in the kitchen does beg the question: Do the knives ever come out in a bad way? “Not yet,” Matt says, smiling, “but it does get a little hairy sometimes.”
Seriously, these guys are as sweet as pie (which they also make). Their hearts are obviously in the kitchen, where they cook for the love of the process as well as its nurturing aspects. The latter, it seems, was also mixed in to their childhood pickling experience. “People would come over to our house,” Matt says, “and our parents wouldn’t let them leave without taking a couple of jars.”
We asked the Adolfi brothers to share a couple of their favorite recipes. You can also go to serenbe.com to shop for shelf-stable goodies from their food program. That is, if you can’t make it down to Georgia for a visit— and a chill.
SMOKED ONION JAM
□ 2 tablespoons olive oil
□ 4 red onions
□ 1 cup red wine vinegar
□ 1 cup sugar
□ 1 sprig fresh rosemary
□ 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
□ 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
► Halve the onions and place cut side down on the grill. Be sure the flame is very low before adding wood chips.
► Cover and let smoke for about 10 minutes, just to impart the smoke flavor and not allow them to cook too much.
► Thinly slice the smoked onions and add them to a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the olive oil over medium heat.
► Add the vinegar, sugar, rosemary sprig, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has reached a jam-like consistency with deep color.
► Discard the rosemary and allow the jam to cool before using, or cover and refrigerate.
HALF SOUR PICKLES
YIELD: 4 QUARTS
□ 8 cups water
□ 1⁄4 cup pickling salt
□ 1 gallon small pickling cucumbers
□ 6 garlic cloves, smashed with the back of a knife
□ 6 dill heads or sprigs of fresh dill □ 2 tablespoons dill seed □ 4 small fresh or dried hot peppers
□ 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
□ 1 tablespoon tellicherry black peppercorns
□ 12 fresh bay leaves
► Combine water and pickling salt in a pickle crock or ceramic container with a lid and stir well to dissolve the salt.
► Wash cucumbers and remove blossom ends.
► Add cucumbers to the salted water, mixing in the garlic, dill, hot peppers, coriander seeds and peppercorns with the cucumbers.
► Stir gently to distribute the spices evenly. Cover with a weight (we like to wrap a plate in plastic wrap and place it over the pickles) to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine. Store the covered crock at 68 degrees F.
► Check the crock every day to remove any scum that forms on the top. We find that pickles should be “half-sour” in about 3 days, but taste them for your own preference. If they’re not sour enough just let them go another day or two.
PICKLED GEORGIA WHITE SHRIMP
YIELDS: 12 1⁄2 PINT JARS
FOR THE PICKLING LIQUID:
□ 2 cups distilled white vinegar
□ 2 cups sugar
□ 2 cups water
□ 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seed
□ 2 teaspoons toasted coriander seed
□ 2 teaspoons toasted mustard seed
□ 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
□ 2 fresh bay leaves
□ 15-20 dried pequin chilis
□ Salt to taste (possibly a little more than you might usually enjoy)
► In a pot, combine all the ingredients over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
► Let sit for at least an hour. allowing the aromatics to steep.
► Strain, discarding the aromatics, and let cool.
POACHING THE SHRIMP:
□ 1 gallon court-bouillon (make your own using a preferred recipe or use purchased fish bouillon)
□ 2 pounds Georgia white shrimp, peeled and deveined
□ Ice bath for shocking
► Bring the court-bouillon toa simmer and add half the shrimp.
► Once the court-bouillon comes back to a simmer (about 1-3 minutes), remove the shrimp and place in ice water to stop the cooking process.
► Repeat with the other half of the shrimp.
ASSEMBLING THE FINAL JAR:
□ 2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced, reserve the fronds for garnish
□ 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
□ 2 lemons, thinly sliced and seeds removed
□ 12 fresh bay leaves
□ 20 dried pequin chili peppers
□ 1 teaspoon toasted coriander seeds
□ 2 pounds Georgia white shrimp, lightly poached
► On serving day, layer the fennel, shrimp, sweet onions, lemon slices, bay leaves, pequin chilis, coriander seeds, and fennel fronds inside each jar.
► Pour the pickling liquid into each jar, cover, and refrigerate or ice down right away.
► Let the completed jars sit for a couple of hours to let the brine infuse, but not more than 8 hours. Discard the used court-bouillon or use it to make a great lightly flavored shellfish broth.