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    IN THE KITCHEN WITH THE POIARKOFF BROTHERS
    The two brothers and Brooklyn-based chefs share some of their favorite childhood memories and recipes.
    January 23, 2014  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    Brothers John and Mike Poiarkoff both credit their culinary passions to sauerkraut and horseradish. Raised in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, amongst a close knit community of Russian Americans, holidays were centered around time-honored food traditions - like preparing barrels full of sauerkraut from their grandfather's basement.

    Despite the labor and harsh smell, they look back at those moments with such fondness and nostalgia - realizing now how formative those experiences were to their eventual.

    While both culinary careers began in the same basement, the brothers have since developed two wildly different cooking approaches. Mike, the Executive Chef at Brooklyn's Vinegar Hill House, eschews any frills or fuss in the kitchen, often downplaying the complexity of his rustic, and seemingly simple food. John, Executive Chef at The Pines in Brooklyn, more readily embraces experimental techniques and precise presentations, offering a fine dining experience, in a humble and casual setting.
    But when they come together in the kitchen, their differing styles are surprisingly complementary, as we learned first-hand from the jointly prepared meal we enjoyed at Mike's home. Inspired by some of their favorite family recipes, fused with inspirations from their combined professional experiences, the Poiarkoff brothers compose a delightful four-course meal, complete with a treviso salad, sweet potatoes with bacon and fennel marmalade, brined pork tenderloin and topped off with a simple recipe for chocolate cake with smoked salt. A hearty and comforting meal, but with all of the subtleties of fine dining, we highly encourage you to make at least one of these recipes a part of your next meal.

    Read more about the Poiarkoff's brothers childhood food experiences, along with the menu jointly conceived by John and Mike. And be sure to check our other interviews with John and Mike at each of their respective restaurants!
  • Where did you guys grow up?

    Mike: It's a town outside of Pittsburgh, called West Aliquippa. It's an old town, built even before the steel mills. Our dad was the fire chief at one point, and then he had a shoe store where all of the old men would come and sit. They hung out with everybody, so he made kraut - everyone had kraut! For Easter, our aunts would bake for the entire town - like fifty pies every year.

    John: Sadly, most of them have passed away. We just have one aunt and she's in her nineties and doesn't do that anymore. But that's where we get our passion for food. It's definitely from our dad's side of the family. The salad we just made is like a version we would always have at Christmas Eve dinner - a salad of endive, orange and raw onion. As a kid, I hated it, but after growing up, I appreciate it a whole lot more.

  • What are some of your fondest food memories from childhood?

    John: Our dad's side of the family is Russian, so we made a lot of horseradish and sauerkraut. It was sort of a family ceremony thing that we did every Christmas and Easter. It's probably one of my earliest memories. We would make them in the basement, where the smell couldn't escape, so we'd be down there just crying and crying, haha!

    Mike: We kept the sauerkraut in these huge, fifty-five gallon barrels and we basically stamped it down with a log. John and I would pick up the log and drop it, which was all we could really do as kids. It was fun. It was one of the few times that the entire family was together.

  • Do you guys generally get along when working together in the kitchen?

    John: Mike actually worked at The Pines for a little bit, and we worked surprisingly well together. We're both chill enough to bounce ideas off of each other without anyone getting offended. We have similar philosophies when it comes to food, but our professional cooking backgrounds are so different that we'll usually have very different approaches.

    Mike: We each have our strengths. I do most of the baking, but John is really good with sauces. We tend to stay out of each other's business for the most part. If we're making one dish together, we'll each handle different components. I'll trust that he'll make the right sauce to go with my bread, or whatever. If we need a second taste, we ask each other. There isn't much contention.

  • As young chefs who spend so much time in the kitchen, how are you able to take a step back and source new inspiration?

    Mike: That is one thing that we really like to do together. We're both working all the time, but lately, we've made more of an effort to go out together. Normally, I'll just eat tacos, Five Guys, or from a Schwarma cart or something, but if we both have the same day off, we'll go out together. We've recently been to Taro, Gramercy Tavern and The Modern, where John used to work - places where we'll leave feeling inspired. But with the two of us together at a restaurant, we'll just tear the meal apart, hahaha!

    John: It's not like we are angry about it - we're just analyzing it. How could the dish be better? What would we do differently?

  • recipe
    Treviso Salad
    A treviso salad, with layers of acid, sweetness and texture, inspired by a recipe enjoyed by the Poiarkoffs every Christmas Eve.
  • “We have similar philosophies when it comes to food, but our professional cooking backgrounds are so different that we'll usually have very different approaches.”
    - John Poiarkoff
  • Ingredients
    3 heads of treviso, chopped (endive or radicchio would work as well)
    1 c chopped cashews
    1 bunch of parsley, leaves picked
    2 c freshly dried cranberries
    Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
    2. Cover a small sheet tray with parchment paper and pour dry cranberries on top.
    3. Bake until mostly dehydrated (about 2 hrs). These can be done at any time and reserved at room temperature.
    satsuma vinaigrette
    Ingredients:
    6 satsuma oranges
    1 lemon
    1/2 c olive oil
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbs honey
    1/2 tsp dijon mustard
    Instructions:
    1. Juice oranges and lemon into a small mixing bowl. Whisk with honey, salt, and mustard.
    2. While whisking, slowly add the oil until smooth.
    pickled onions
    Ingredients:
    1 Red Onion
    2/3 c Apple Cider Vinegar
    1/3 c Water
    1/4 c Sugar
    2 tsp Salt
    Instructions:
    1. Slice onion and reserve.
    2. In a small pot, on low heat, heat vinegar, water, salt and sugar until dissolved.
    3. Add onions to vinegar mixture, turn heat to high, and bring a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
    4. Place in small container and chill in fridge.
  • recipe
    Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Fennel Marmalade
    A sticky and delicious recipe for adding a refined twist to the ever-loved sweet potato.
  • Bacon-fennel Marmalade
    (yields about 2 cups)
    1 c bacon, diced
    1 c fennel, diced
    1/2 c onion, diced
    1/2 c hot chilies, diced
    1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    1/2 c apple cider
    1/2 c maple syrup
    1/4 c cider vinegar
    salt
    Sweet Potatoes
    5 sweet potatoes
    salt
    cooking oil
  • The salad we just made is like a version we would always have at Christmas Eve dinner...As a kid, I hated it, but after growing up, I appreciate it a whole lot more.

  • Bacon-fennel marmalade
    1. Cook the diced bacon over low heat until rendered, but not crispy. Remove from pan and reserve bacon and fat separately.
    2. Leave enough fat in the pan to cover the bottom. Add the fennel, onions, and chilies to the pan, season with a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables soften and most of the water is cooked out of them (~15 min).
    3. Add black pepper, cider, syrup, and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the liquid until it's thick enough to coat the veg (about 20 minutes).
    4. Add the bacon back to pan and simmer over very low heat for 5 more minutes.
    5. Taste the marmalade and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Add more salt or vinegar, if necessary.
  • Sweet Potatoes
    1. Wash the potatoes, and cut into large chunks.
    2. Toss with a little oil to coat, then season with salt.
    3. Roast in a 400F oven until lightly browned on the outside and tender in the middle, about 45 minutes.
    4. Pour the bacon-fennel marmalade atop and serve.
  • recipe
    Roast pork loin
    A simple recipe for a flavorful brine that creates an incredibly moist, tender and delicious cut of meat.
  • Ingredients
    2 fresh pork loins
    2 tbs vegetable oil
    1 qt fresh cranberry beans
    1 qt pork stock
    1 c diced onion
    1 c diced carrot
    1 c diced celery
    1 tb chopped fresh thyme
    1 tb chopped fresh sage
    1 tb salt
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1 tb sherry vinegar
    pork brine
    Ingredients:
    2 qt water
    1/2 c apple cider
    200g salt
    50g sugar
    1 tb allspice
    1 t fennel seed
    1 stick cinnamon
    Instructions:
    1. In a medium sized pot on high heat, bring everything to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer out of pot and chill.
    2. Once cool, submerge pork in brine and let sit for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
    3. Take out and dry thoroughly before cooking.
  • Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place Dutch oven on med/high heat. Once hot, add oil to the pan.
    3. Add dry pork loin (fat side down, if applicable), sear until golden brown on one-half only and remove from pan.
    4. Reduce heat to medium and immediately place onions, celery and carrots into hot pan. Cook, occasionally stirring until vegetables just begin to soften.
    1. Stir in herbs and pepper. Deglaze with pork stock, vinegar, and salt.
    2. Add pork loin back to the center of the pan, seared side up.
    3. Pour cranberry beans around the pork and submerge.
    4. Place in oven and bake, occasionally stirring, for about 20 minutes, or until beans are cooked through and pork is at 140 degrees.
  • recipe
    Chocolate and Smoked Salt Cake
    A quick-and-easy recipe for chocolate cake, with a surprising, but delightful touch - smoked salt.
  • Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degree.
    2. Mix oil, vanilla, eggs, milk, and creme fraiche in standing mixer with whisk attachment. Mix all dries together and add to wet mix. Incorporate boiling water. Let sit for 6 minutes.
    3. Transfer batter into a 9” greased cake pan.
    4. Bake for 28 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack.
  • Ingredients
    2 c flour
    2 c sugar
    3/4 c cocoa powder
    100 g chocolate
    2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp smoked salt
    1 c canola oil
    1 c boiling water
    1 c milk
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 1/2 c creme fraiche
    1 vanilla bean, scraped
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  • “We each have our strengths. I do most of the baking, but John is really good with sauces. We tend to stay out of each other's business for the most part....There isn't much contention.”
    - Mike Poiarkoff
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