Meatless Mondays: Vegan Cooking at Mohawk Bend + A Recipe for Mole Pizza

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Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 6:24 AM

click to enlarge Summer root salad - FACEBOOK/MOHAWK BEND
Since he took over the kitchen at Mohawk Bend last December, Erick Simmons has thrown out a few tools from his traditional chef's tool box. "I have no butter in my inventory. I haven't used it here for the last six months. If you told me that before I arrived last year, I would have thought you're crazy."

In fact, one of Simmons' first orders of business was to get rid of 15 pounds of butter that had been languishing unused in the kitchen. Olive oil became the preferred oil instead; vegetable oil for the fryer. Chicken and beef stock were swapped for vegetable-based stock, beer for wine.

"At the restaurant, you can say, 'Can I have a short rib with no short rib?' My braised short rib dish is done with olive oil. All the purées, all the vegetables -- everything is vegan. I don't put meat on there until the last minute," he says. "All the little things in the kitchen are geared to be vegan."

Cheese was another point of consideration. Simmons intended for all of the salads to be vegan-friendly. At the end of the salad menu, there are a few cheeses like feta and goat cheese that can be added for a small charge.

Pizzas required a different tack. "Cashew cheese is made in-house, using a short list of ingredients like raw cashew, garlic, and water. When we put that cashew cheese on our pizza, it spreads and browns nicely," Simmons explains. "It mimics milk cheese better than what we've bought."

The executive chef takes full advantage of the resources, including Golden Road beers on draft. "I ask what's the goal of the food. Do I envision it as more robust or lighter? What ingredients am I pairing it with?"

"With a risotto, I use a bright, citrus-y beer. Instead of deglazing with white wine, I used beer. It gives it a whole different dimension. That's part of how I'm trying to make pub fare, just by the cooking method itself. My style right now is more beer-forward cuisine."

Simmons is used to cooking at a grand scale. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, then working at Water Grill (under both Michael Cimarusti and David LeFevre), Bradley Ogden in Vegas and mk in Chicago.

The experiences prepared him for the challenges waiting at Mohawk Bend, which has an ongoing seasonal "Meatless Monday" dinner series. "The last six months have been some of the busiest services I've had."

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