april trout feat
photograph by Erin Reitz

Traditionally, winter in the Appalachians comes to an end when wild greens begin poking up from the ground. Foraged vegetation like ramps, dandelion, and wild garlic not only provide a welcome burst of vitamins after a winter diet of cured meats and dried beans, but they provide a bitterness that perfectly balances the rich flavors of the end of winter. This dandelion bacon jam is wonderful on toast or trout. Even without the bacon, the bitterness from the greens combined with the sorghum’s sweetness and vinegar’s sour can make a vegetarian staple in any taco or quesadilla.

– Chef Jay Pierce

Recipe yields 2 servings.

Black-eyed pea ragout
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked in 2 cups water for 1-4 hours
1½ cups yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 ounce wild mushrooms, dried and soaked in 2 cups water for 1-4 hours
1 tablespoon green garlic or ramps
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Drain the peas and mushrooms after soaking. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan, then add onions. When onions are golden, add remaining ingredients. Simmer until beans are tender.

Dandelion bacon jam
1 package Heritage Farms hardwood smoked bacon, julienned
2 ounces dandelion greens, julienned
¼ cup sorghum
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup Granny Smith apples, diced

Render bacon in a small saucepan. When bacon is half-cooked, add onions. When onions are golden, add apples, sorghum, vinegar, and thyme. As the liquid begins to form dime-sized bubbles, stir in dandelion greens and turn off heat. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before serving.

North Carolina trout:
8 ounces North Carolina mountain trout (boneless butterfly)
1 ounce grape seed oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Add grape seed oil to a hot skillet. Season trout with salt and pepper. When oil starts to smoke, add trout to skillet, flesh side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip fish and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate with a slotted fish spatula.

About Southern Season

southern season imageSouthern Season was founded in 1975 in an 800-square-foot space in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our original focus was on roasting coffee but we soon became known for the breadth and quality of our gourmet food, wine, cheese, and cookware. We outgrew the original space and moved to a larger location nearby in the early 1980s, and then to our current 60,000-square-foot flagship location in 2003.

In 1992, we fulfilled our dream of opening a restaurant. Weathervane reflected our vision for Southern cuisine and commitment to service and hospitality. The 2003 move allowed for a larger patio and added more spaces, a mezzanine level and garden settings for receptions, parties, and meetings. Today, Weathervane is an integral partner of the distinctive marketplace that has become a Chapel Hill tradition.

To fully serve the gourmet lifestyle of our customers, we opened our first cooking school in 2003. Today, with schools in Chapel Hill and Charleston’s Mount Pleasant community, and another to follow this summer in Atlanta, we offer over hundreds of classes annually on a wide range of culinary subjects for cooks of all levels.

For years, customers asked when the company was expanding to other markets. First up was the Charleston area in 2013. In 2015, we launched a new concept and opened our smaller Taste of Southern Season store in Raleigh. A second Taste store will open in July in Asheville’s Biltmore Village, followed by a full-service store in Atlanta in August. Other Taste stores scheduled to open before Christmas 2016 include Wilmington and Southern Pines; Charlottesville, Va,; downtown Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

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Jay Pierce is the Executive Chef of The Marshall FreeHouse in Greensboro, NC, making good use of more than twenty five years in kitchens from coast to coast. Jay took the helm of the UK-inspired gastropub after returning to Greensboro from Charlotte, where he was the Executive Chef at ROCKSALT, focusing on sustainable seafood. He has spent over seven years with Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants and an additional eight years exploring the underappreciated foodways of the North Carolina Piedmont, as the executive chef for Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary. His celebration of the area’s traditions and farmers brought its recipes and pantry local acclaim, enlivening menus with many locally-sourced ingredients. He has always found ways to tell the stories behind the food, as a contributor to Our State’s website, columnist for 1808 magazine and with essays published in Local Palate, Edible Piedmont, Savor NC, and Beer Connoisseur, as well as on CNN’s Eatocracy blog and as a guest blogger for The Local Palate magazine and A Chef’s Life. In March 2015, UNC Press published Jay’s first book, Shrimp, as part of the Savor the South collection.