One Pot, Lots of Flavor at Estia’s Little Kitchen

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Chef Colin Ambrose of Estia's Little Kitchen with his a one-pot dish at the restaurant on June 28, 2018. Michael Heller photo

Estia’s Little Kitchen has long been a favorite breakfast and lunch stop just outside of Sag Harbor Village, but also has a dedicated following for its dinner service, which just got a lot more flavorful with the introduction of the Mono-Pot, a trio of hearty, one-pot dishes that owner Colin Ambrose launched this summer.

The Mono-Pot, coined by the chef himself for its singular nature, was inspired by his latest project, the American Rivers Tour — a venture that has brought him to rivers throughout the United States where he has fished and cooked riverside with other chefs, winemakers and fishermen. The result is a website, americanriverstour.com, where Ambrose shares stories from the road, videos and recipes, as well as resources for those inspired to make their own journey to places like the Snake River and Henry’s Fork in Idaho, or the Chippewa River in Wisconsin.

“The idea of one-pot cooking was brought to the forefront for me on my trips,” Ambrose said from the kitchen of the Little Kitchen as he was preparing for busy Fourth of July weekend crowds. “I had been cooking over fire and creating these different meals for small groups of people, so this was the style of cooking I did over the last year in a variety of ways.”

When he came across the Imusa cast aluminum pots at a restaurant supply store in Connecticut, Ambrose decided to test the vessel out for Estia’s popular paella entrée. It was successful, and Ambrose’s mind travelled back to the Deschutes River in Oregon where he had recently cooked for winemaker Jesse Lange of Lange Family Vineyard while on a Pacific Northwest American Rivers Tour excursion. Ambrose created chili chicken rellenos fireside for Lange and thought the Imusa pot would be a good vessel for that savory entrée. “And it worked out great,” said Ambrose. “And then I tried the cioppino verde, and it was perfect for that too.”

The cippino verde has clams, porgy, flounder and shrimp, steamed with a mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery, sofrito, Estia’s tomatillo jalapeno salsa, a little Chardonnay and Marilee Foster’s Romano beans, finished with a little butter. The resulting broth has a deep, spicy flavor.

Chicken chili rellenos with Lange pinot noir at Estia’s Little Kitchen. Kathryn G. Menu photo

The rellenos are steamed on top of rice that carries a nutty, slightly crunchy texture at the bottom of the pan, similar to what one would find in a traditional paella. The peppers are blanched and stuffed with a mixture of roasted chicken tossed with a couple eggs, chipotle chili adobo, salt, pepper, jack cheese and feta cheese, before being steamed in the pot. The rellenos are steamed in a pot with mirepoix, garlic, chicken stock and a saffron broth that has been simmering with rice for just a few minutes before the pepper is added to the pot and steamed for about 15 minutes. It’s a nourishing dish, with complex flavor — the saltiness of the feta shining through.

For those who know Ambrose, they appreciate his recipes are inspired not just by flavor, but also by what is available in the pantry of the Little Kitchen. The cioppino’s tomatillo jalapeno salsa spends mornings and afternoons on the restaurant’s huevos rancheros, and feta cheese is featured in several dishes at the Little Kitchen.

“We want to move everything in our pantry,” said Ambrose. “It allows us to maintain high food quality.”

The one-pot dishes are also an ideal way to grow the menu at Estia without being able to grow the size of the tiny kitchen.

“And I think people like the fact that with these dishes you are getting a whole meal,” said Ambrose. “They are filling dishes, and it seems like the restaurant world is putting less and less food on the plate. We found a way here to cook this food in a way that fortifies it … It’s a meal in a pot for someone who wants to come in and dig into a hot, fully-flavored meal.”

Estia’s Little Kitchen is located at 1615 Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Turnpike in Sag Harbor. For more information, including a video of Ambrose making rellenos riverside, visit estias.com or americanriverstour.com.

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