Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jonathan's Bluegrass Table: Cornmeal Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce

When I was in San Francisco last November for the Foodbuzz event the people I met, especially those from California, seemed intrigued by the fact that I was from Kentucky. No offense meant to you if you are from California, of course. However, it was immediately apparent to me that Kentucky seemed a strange and far off place to those I encountered.

During that food conference last year the common question was:

How are things in Kentucky?

Obviously, with the given atmosphere “things” was used to refer to food. People seemed somewhat surprised when I told them about our multiple local producers of incredible products like cheese and honey, or the rolling farm land owned by inspiring families who use the same practices as Polyface Farm featured in Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food, Inc. I typically went on to talk about the gourmet restaurants housed in historic buildings with chefs who are regularly in the running for the honor of the James Beard award in the Southeast region.

The more we talked, the more my pride grew. Yes, we have some fabulous food and chefs in Kentucky. While I enjoyed our conversations, I’ve recently acquired a cookbook that will leave no need for further discussions. The next food event I attend outside of Kentucky I think I will take it with me. When someone asks me, “How are things in Kentucky?” my answer will be:

This is how things are in Kentucky.



Jonathan Lundy is the chef owner of the historic restaurant in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, Jonathan at Gratz Park. In his new cookbook, Jonathan’s Bluegrass Table: Redefining Kentucky Cuisine, he combines the flavors and ingredients he grew up around in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region with the flair that only a creative, highly skilled and well-traveled chef can master. Many of the recipes for the foods featured at the restaurant come to life in his cookbook.

Chef Lundy has strong ties to Kentucky which comes through in his art. His family invented Calumet baking powder which was later sold to become Calumet Farm with a record history for Derby and Triple Crown winners. If you don’t know much about horse racing, perhaps this additional fact about Chef Lundy’s history will be of interest - his first kitchen job was as an apprentice to Emeril Lagasse. Jonathan was a 2010 James Beard Southeast chef of the year nominee.

This collection of recipes is more than a cookbook; it is a food memoir of growing up in Kentucky. Chef Lundy uses local ingredients such as sorghum, bourbon, country ham and grits to create old fashioned favorites with an upscale, gourmet twist. It is Kentucky food as it has never been done before. It is history for the modern food lover.

Many of the recipes utilize fairly simple ingredients with straight forward steps. One recipe will encompass several others as sauces, toppings and other additions are included in separate recipes. This makes it easy to quickly find them when you take Chef Lundy’s advice and use the book as a base to get creative in your own cooking.

The book is full of stunning photography by Lee Thomas. Not only will you see gorgeous food photos, but photos of all things Kentucky – horses, stone fences, farms and family.

It was difficult to decide what I wanted to make from the cookbook, but it is likely no surprise to you that I went straight for the brunch section. This led me to Cornmeal Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce. This is the most unique waffle recipe I have tried and to be honest with you, as I mixed the batter I began to worry that it would be too thin. However, once on the iron it puffed up beautifully.



I let them cook longer than other waffles I’ve made, closer to 6 minutes than 4. This created a beautifully crunchy crust. Once they are topped with the Bananas Foster Sauce you realize you have the best balance between breakfast and dessert ever created.

Cornmeal Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce and Toasted Pecans
Reprinted with permission from Jonathan Lundy

½ cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar (I used mascavo)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup milk
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
Bananas Foster Sauce (below)
½ cup toasted pecans

Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
In another large mixing bowl, mix the vanilla, buttermilk, milk, vegetable oil and egg yolks together.
Whip egg whites to a soft peak.
Mix all ingredients together.
Store in a refrigerator. May be made up to 2 hours before cooking.
Follow waffle machine directions.
Top off waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce and toasted pecans.
Serves 6

Bananas Foster Sauce

1 stick butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup banana liqueur
6 bananas, sliced ½ inch thick
½ cup dark rum

Add melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium-sized sauté pan. Place pan on low heat and simmer until sugar has dissolved.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.
Ladle 3-4 ounces on each portion of cornmeal waffles.
Yields about 4 cups – Serves 6





If you want to experience Kentucky cooking the book is available from the Jonathan at Gratz Park website, Butler Books or your local bookstore.

If you happen to be around the area you can meet Jonathan during his guest chef appearances at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky on June 18th and on the Old Kentucky Dinner Train on July 10th for special dinners and book signings. He will also host the opening night of the James Beard – Alltech World Equestrian Games dinners on September 25, 2010, an amazing world-wide equestrian and food event taking place in our area.

Below is a sampling of some of the other wonderful recipes you will find in Jonathan’s Bluegrass Table.
All photos below are the work of Lee Thomas and reprinted with permission from Jonathan Lundy.

Potato-Spun Shrimp


Pimento Cheese Grit Fries


Shrimp and Grits


Flaming Butterscotch-Bourbon Crème Brûlée





Disclosure: The review copy of this cookbook was sent to me free of charge. I was not under any obligation to write about it and I did not receive any compensation for doing so. Nothing influenced the opinions written here other than my love for local foods.

15 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

Wow, these waffles do sound amazing! Especially wonderful with the bananas foster sauce, yum!

My McDonald Meal said...

Hey Lori- What a great write up of the cookbook. And- your pictures are looking so good!

Randy Newnham said...

As a person who worked with Jonathan (I was his dishwasher at another restaurant), I can tell you that this man is a culinary genius. Go, Jonathan!

lee p thomas said...

Chef Jonathan forwarded your link, Lori. You wrote a lovely review, and your California forward set the stage. Jonathan is a fabulous chef and cunningly creative. I was honored when he asked me to contribute to his book project, and I thank you for the compliments. Yes, we have plenty to be proud of in Kentucky. Best regards, lee p thomas, photographer.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

Here's a big high-five to Kentucky! Who knew?

Cinnamon-Girl said...

I am loving the sound of these crispy waffles! Especially with the delicious sauce. The book looks like a real winner.

Amy (super healthy kids) said...

We'll definitely try those waffles, although our bananas never seem to last long enough for me to use them in recipes. I guess I'll have to hide them!

kat said...

I get the same reaction about living in MN yet I find we eat more locally & seasonably here than we ever did in San Francisco.

OysterCulture said...

Having been to the great state of KY, I know well all the wonderful food you talk of, but I have to say this recipe is pure inspiration. I know what I'm making for Sunday brunch on Fathers Day!

Tangled Noodle said...

Breakfast and dessert in one? Sold! Since my last post was also bluegrass-inspired (Kentucky bourbon), I would love to check out this book and learn more about the local cuisine. For those who believe that the US gastro-epicenters are only on the coasts, it's time to visit KY and MN to experience culinary creativity.

oaklandcoaster said...

Kudos to a local restaurant that is anti-fake food. I'm a native KY foodie who's spent the past 23 years in the San Francisco area. I love the food scene there- I love most everything there... but other reasons led me to return to KY.

I've had a bumpy road adjusting to the lack of fresh, real, affordable "fast" food here.

I am a very good cook and also value the use of "real" ingredients.

Thanks for making note of being from KY on the photo caption for Tastespotting.

When I am able to, I must come try your restaurant, as I will these waffles-

Danielle said...

I was thrilled to see a KY reference on Tastespotting. So often we tend to get lost in the shuffle, as you stated. While I do very much enjoy traveling to other larger cities for their "fancier" restaurants, there are still several right here at home that can compete and/or stand their own.

You mentioned a local farm with the same practices as Polyface, what is it? Is it Elmwood?

Lori said...

5 Star - The waffles are great alone, but the sauce sends it over the top! :)

Melissa - Thanks! I'm trying, but still feel like they have to do with luck much of the time. Ha, ha! Maybe one day I can contribute it more to skill. :)

Randy - Thanks for taking the time to comment. It sounds like we are truly lucky to have him in the area.

Lee - Thanks for stopping by to comment. I felt honored as well to review the cookbook. The photography is wonderful. You do great work.

Michelle - I plan to keep spreading the word!

Reeni - The crunchy crust makes these much better than many recipes I've tried.

Amy - We are exactly the opposite. It seems like one day they are green and the next almost bad. It really makes us miss the naners form Brazil.

kat - That's interesting. You all certainly make MN stand out regarding food for me.

OysterCulture - Hope you like them! I have no doubt they will be a hit.

TN - I knew you'd like the waffles. :) Agreed. We have to keep spreading the world and I need to make it to MN!

oaklandcoaster - I'm glad I could help expose you more to some great food here. We were away for 3 years and I have to say I'm thrilled with the changes since we've been back. I'm not sure if my interests and searches have changed or if things are more available. Either way it is great! I hope you will go to Jonathan's and experience this cuisine in person!

Danielle - After yours and Oakland's comment I see I need to list KY in my Tastespottig comments more often. :) Most of the ingredients I feature are from around here. I'm happy to find another KY food blogger. We love to travel too and food is a highlight, but it's great to have wonderful cuisine here too.

The farm is Pike Valley. Sorry, I usually link to it. www.PikeValleyFarm.com Jonathan actually serves some of their meat on his menu, I believe. They are a great family with amazing food. St. Asaph in Stanford uses similar practices and I have purchased from them as well. I've heard great things about Elmwood but haven't researched or purchased there myself. The Bluegrass region is actually full of a ton of natural farmers!

Maria said...

Love the waffles. I want to try them. We try to eat local as much as possible. It is so important!

Danielle said...

Thanks, Lori, for your prompt reply. I haven't heard of either of the farms you mentioned so I'm anxious to look them both up.

I made these waffles this weekend and boy were you right about the thin batter! Mine actually stuck to my Belgium waffle maker but the taste was still delicious. I didn't get a chance to make the sauce but I did top them with bananas. Thanks again for posting the recipe.