Chef Jessica Bright McMullen uses fresh-picked produce and other stellar ingredients in a class for Seven Days of Local Delights
Jessica Bright McMullen is a farmer’s daughter who understands the value of fresh-picked produce and ingredients found close to home. So it’s no wonder that chef Jessica, owner of KitchenAble Cooking School, has been teaching a class on farm-to-table dinners for 10 years as part of Seven Days of Local Delights. The event is a once-a-year tribute to the local farmers and growers in our region, sponsored by the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.
Chef Jessica Bright McMullen demonstrates using fresh ingredients at a farm-to-table class as part of Seven Days of Local Delights. Photo / Tallahassee Table
Eleven people, including myself, watched as Jessica created a meal with most items just picked at the Tallahassee Farmers Market or from other artisans or growers – all within a 100-mile radius of Tallahassee.
“I grew up on a farm,” Jessica said. “I have rural and agricultural roots. I’m actually the first generation of my family on my (father’s side) to not work in agriculture. So, fresh local food isn’t just a trend for me, it’s in my DNA.
“I can’t imagine my life without the richness that farm fresh ingredients bring,” she said. “There is so much more to flavor than what you can find at the grocery store.”
Jessica used scallions grown in her garden for vinaigrette. Photo / Tallahassee Table
We started our meal with a salad made with greens and vegetables Jessica bought from Monticello’s The Good Ground Farm CSA at the Tallahassee Farmers’ Market. For her perky Lemon and Scallion Vinaigrette, Jessica used scallions plucked from her family’s backyard garden.
A crisp, cool salad served with a side of sautéed mushrooms. Photo / Tallahassee Table
There is a delicious difference when you eat a salad that tastes this fresh.
Jessica used an array of mushrooms grown at the Tallahassee urban farm, Play of Sunlight. Photo / Tallahassee Table
The salad was accompanied by sautéed mushrooms from the Tallahassee urban farm, Play of Sunlight, atop artisan bread. The glorious medley included Lion’s Mane, Blue Oyster and chestnut mushrooms.
These oysters came from Cypress Point Oyster Company on the Forgotten Coast. Photo / Tallahassee Table
Among the highlights: Torched oysters with an arugula butter. Jessica chose Little Honies and Otters Choice from the Cypress Point Oyster Company on the Forgotten Coast, surrounded by the St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge.
Jessica’s husband, Chris, torched these oysters for a fine, smoky finish. Photo / Tallahassee Table
The family-owned Apalachee Bay Oyster Farm cultivates these delightful morsels. Jessica carefully baked the oysters “until they start to pop open slightly,” she said. ‘It only takes a few minutes.” Then her husband, Chris McMullen, torched them for a slightly smoky flavor. They were garnished with a topping of arugula, shallots, butter and pepper.
Puff pastry adds a light accompaniment to rolls made with venison. Photo / Tallahassee Table
For another course, Jessica made venison sausage rolls. The venison was a gift from a friend that hunts and the meat was processed by the Johnston’s Meat Market in Monticello. You could substitute something else, like ground beef, pork or chicken.
A dish of roasted vegetables was made with turnips from The Good Ground Farm but you could use any fresh vegetable, simply sauteed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper or a seasoning blend (Jessica makes her own).
A layer of meringue, made with eggs from Orchard Pond Organics, was topped with a kumquat curd. The fruit was from Jessica’s tree. Photo / Tallahassee Table
A fresh fruit pavlova — a meringue dessert — was a refreshing finale. We watched as Jessica, with help from Chris, made the creamy meringue using eggs from Tallahassee’s Orchard Pond Organics, and kumquats from her own garden.
Attending a cooking class or demonstration is one of my favorite experiences and this one from Jessica was a reminder of all the wonderful ingredients we have nearby.
The final event of Seven Days of Local Delights is a lunch on Feb. 10 at Kool Beanz, where Keith Baxter is the chef/owner. Photo / Tallahassee Democrat
Seven Days of Local Delights also included a demonstration on the making of cane syrup at Turkey Hill Farm, shopping at the Tallahassee Farmers’ Market, creating your own charcuterie board at Hummingbird Wine Bar, tomato growing with Native Nurseries, wine and cheese pairing with Sweet Grass Dairy at Poco Vino Wine Bar and Market, raised bed gardening with UF/IFAS, a tour of Legacy Greens and on Feb. 10, a chef’s lunch at Kool Beanz.
The Red Hills Small Farm Alliance was established in 2010 by four women in agriculture — Katie Harris, Louise Devine, Mary Russ and Malini Ram – to help small farms in our region. The Alliance – and Seven Days of Local Delights – is a celebration of our local food and the people who grow it.
For more information:
Visit https://www.redhillsfarmalliance.com/seven-days. For a list of farmers’ markets, please visit https://www.tallahasseetable.com/tallahassees-farmers-markets/
For future classes at KitchenAble, check out https://www.kitchenable.net/