Cooking Class: Bacon & Eggs Risotto at The Porch at Schenley
Cooking Class visits the kitchens of area restaurants, whose chefs share their popular recipes.
When helping develop the concept behind The Porch at Schenley, executive chef Kevin Hermann was keen on classic and unpretentious.
“Coming from a trattoria, I wanted every detail to feel like home… Comforting and relaxed and with a family feeling,” says Hermann, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, who has been with the Oakland bistro since its 2011 launch. Prior to that, he was at Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and the Pittsburgh Golf Club.
The name, The Porch, was a natural, he says, because of its nostalgic connotation and because the eatery's outdoor seating is at the gateway to Schenley Plaza's expansive green space. Street traffic seems far away.
“The deck is insanely popular,” Hermann says of the partially covered and heated veranda with its massive stone fireplace. “When you're out here, you forget for a time that you're in Oakland.”
Hermann's menu is home-style but with Mediterranean flair, as in the smoked meatball sandwich with roasted tomato sauce and ricotta cheese on ciabatta, and the chorizo pizza with garlic and arugula pesto. It also reflects what he calls a Mediterranean approach to cooking.
“It's a style that focuses on seasonality,” he says, “using ingredients that are fresh that day and local when you can get them.”
Locally foraged mushrooms are used in the braised lamb shank. Weatherbury Farm in Avella provides organic whole-wheat flour for the brunch-menu pancakes. Several cheeses come from Emerald Valley Artisans of Scenery Hill.
Besides patronizing area agricultural producers, Hermann tends the restaurant's roof-top garden, which is designed to yield an array of herbs, as well as onions and heirloom tomatoes, and an apiary that supplies the kitchen with honey used to make butters and jams. They accompany menu staples such as the cast-iron cornbread and farm bread.
The luncheon menu features salads, such as field greens with salmon pastrami, and rare-seared tuna, as well as pizzas, sandwiches and burgers. Dinner items include salads and soups; deep-fried smoked wings, corn-fritter lettuce wraps, and other small plates; and entrees ranging from the wagyu beef burger with barbecued short ribs to the farm-stand veggie burger. There's also rotisserie chicken, pork chops and prime rib.
The restaurant seats 225, indoors and out, and the bar accommodates 40. A dozen locally crafted beers are on tap, and local spirits are featured, some in retro-inspired cocktails, such as the rosemary gin fizz, whiskey sour, and grapefruit and sage vodka gimlet.
“A lot of people order small bites, like our Emerald Valley ricotta chiesi or pub fries, if they've come to have cocktails,” Hermann says.
Brunch is popular, too, with classics such as quiche du jour, eggs Benedict and smoked salmon on the menu.
Deborah Weisberg is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Bacon & Eggs Risotto
Occasionally, for brunch at The Porch at Schenley, executive chef Kevin Hermann will offer bacon and eggs risotto. The dish also makes for a nice light dinner, he says, and is ideal for buffet-style parties because it holds heat.
Hermann recommends using the arborio variety of rice because of its high starch content and its hardy structure when cooked.
“Adding the stock slowly, a little at a time, helps ensure the risotto will have a creamy finish,” he says.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
2 ounces plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup Spanish onion, small-diced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 quarts plus 1 cup vegetable stock
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
4 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare the risotto: In a medium pot, add 2 ounces of the extra-virgin olive oil and the bacon. Cook until the bacon begins to brown slightly on the edges, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add the onions and garlic and stir, cooking for about 4 minutes until onions become translucent.
Add the rice and turn down the heat to low. Continuously stir the rice mixture for about 5 minutes and then add the white wine, stirring the entire time. Reduce the wine until almost dry.
Begin to add the vegetable stock in 2-cup increments. Allow the stock to cook into the rice fully before adding more. This process should take roughly 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Turn off the heat.
Add the parsley, butter and parmesan cheese, stirring to incorporate. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
To prepare the eggs: In a nonstick egg pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and 1 egg. Cook for 2 minutes and then turn over using a spatula and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Repeat these steps for each egg.
To assemble: Divide the risotto evenly onto four plates and place 1 fried egg on top of each mound of risotto.
Makes 4 servings.