EAGLE COUNTY — At summer barbecues it’s often the meat that plays varsity — rows of steaks or hamburgers and hot dogs replete with blackened lines neatly lining the fragrant grill — while the side dishes might be better suited for the JV team. Meat is good (unless you’re a vegetarian, then you would likely feel differently), don’t get us wrong, but the side dishes you serve up are just as key to a memorable meal, if not more so.
The usual suspects — coleslaw and potato salad — are classic, of course, but maybe it’s time to branch out. Thankfully a few local chefs were willing to share their recipes for some stellar side dishes I sampled Memorial Day weekend, the kick off to barbecue season.
On Friday night, FEAST! Vail hosted the Small Plates, Big Valley Flavors event at The Sebastian hotel. The first small plate my mother (my date for the evening) and I sampled was Kelly Liken’s ode to spring — a “Baby Vegetable Salad” with salt-roasted turnips, pickled carrots, artichokes, petite lettuces and green goddess dressing. It’s an item on the menu at the restaurant now, and will likely stay there until at least the middle of June.
“Our version of the Green Goddess has people trying to subtly lick their plates in the dining room, which we take as a compliment,” said Sarah John, the development coordinator at Restaurant Kelly Liken.
Liken has attended plenty of tasting events herself and knows it’s nice to give your palate a break from the rich, decadent and often meat-centric plates often found at food events such as the one Friday night.
“it’s nice to have a bite that is lighter, with some bright fresh flavors to give your palate a break,” John said. “We choose to leave out the anchovies, which are often in Green Goddess, so it could be vegetarian. We also love the salt roasted turnips! Salt roasting them is a great way to bring out the natural flavors and sweetness of this beautiful vegetable. Turnips grow so well around here but sometimes people don’t know many ways to prepare them, so they get left out of beginner gardens. Perhaps this dish will earn turnips some more local garden space.”
Liken was kind enough to share the recipes for the Green Goddess dressing and the salt-roasted turnips.
“These put with salad greens and roasted baby carrots would be a great dish,” John said.
Beans with kick
At Brews, Blues & BBQ on Saturday, it was the spicy Chinese long bean salad served beneath a few meaty char siu pork ribs that really stole the show. The dish, courtesy of Golden Eagle Inn, had just the right amount of kick and ended up being the best bite of the day for my husband and me.
Executive Chef Bryan Doi was kind enough to share the recipe for the long bean salad, but making this dish will likely mean a trip to an Asian grocery store in Denver or elsewhere to procure some of the key ingredients — namely Chinese chili flakes (the same kind you use to make Kimchi, Doi said) and long beans, though you can substitute them with haricot verts (French green beans).
“I like long beans, I thought they were different,” Doi said. “I use part of this dressing for some of my other dishes, but not as spicy. I definitely added some spice to it for this dish.”
There’s a great international grocery store in Denver on Alameda Avenue called Pacific Ocean International Supermarket (2200 West Alameda Avenue, #2B). If walking the aisles makes you hungry, you can always check out the dim sum joint in the same complex, called Super Star Asian Cuisine.