Class Act

by | Oct 29, 2018 | Latest Stories

Photo courtesy Penn State University

Thanks to Chef Stéphane and our surrounding farms, the best meal in town may be on campus

O n a Tuesday night in October a Penn State student walked purposefully toward one of the food stations in RediferProvisions Magazine local plate Dining Commons and placed an order for roasted lamb with a garlic and fresh herb au jus—to go, please.

 And while the student would probably walk to a dorm less than 500 yards away to eat it, the real feat was that Penn State sourced every ingredient in that meal from a farm or producer less than 200 miles away. The Penn State Meats Laboratory provided the lamb. Students grew the accompanying acorn squash at the Student Farm at Penn State.  A classically trained French chef oversaw the meal. It cost $9.99, just $4 more than the mac and cheese and fries served at the next station.

None of this information factored into this particular student’s dinner choice. The fact that he ended up in line for the locally sourced meal came down to one factor: “Something smelled good over here.”

Chef Stéphane Gawlowicz was happy to feed him—and possibly introduce the student to something different. Local Food Night, an event open to everyone in the community, happens once a semester at Redifer. Lamb isn’t a college dining-hall staple. Neither is the Pennsylvania Duck Cooked Two Ways that was featured in last year’s local meal. Yet students aren’t balking. The response is “always positive,” says Gawlowicz, managing chef of Redifer Commons.

The purpose of these meals is to teach students to ask the “right questions” about their food, he says. Where does it come from? What exactly am I eating? How has it been processed? Is it healthy? In season?

“Once one of these question is asked, others will follow, and hopefully contribute to their well-being.”

These meals are also an opportunity for Gawlowicz to showcase what can be done with the freshest ingredients available. The Local Night, which also included a vegetarian plate, featured two different kinds of squash: roasted acorn squash sweetened with grenadine syrup and spaghetti squash gratin with salt, pepper, parsley and mozzarella cheese. (See recipe below.)

Gawlowicz, a chef who grew up in Paris and operated his own restaurants in France, once sourced his meals from the fertile Loire Valley. Cooking and eating local wasn’t something that had to be taught—peak season was simply the season. Lamb lettuce salad and eel soup were as accessible as the sea air and you ate them because the best ingredients were right outside your door.

“The Atlantic shore being few miles away, the fish and seafood were still alive when delivered in the morning,” he recalled. “My fingers were getting snapped many times when the scallops closed their armored shell to defend themselves when they probably knew the fatal ending of their out-of-water-life.”

“An accumulation of opportunities” led this chef to central Pennsylvania, where he has recalibrated his definition of local. The morning before the Local Meal he received a box from the student farm that included green and yellow zucchinis, multi-colored sweet peppers, habaneros, garlic, sage, basil, rosemary and salad greens. He was waiting for a delivery from the Penn State Mushroom Spawn Lab. Come winter, his local goods will narrow to root veggies, potatoes, sauerkraut and, new this year, a spring mix from the student farm’s hydroponics production system.

Feeding hordes of college students with a range of tastes and experiences is a long way from fine dining in France, but Gawlowicz relishes his role. On the night of the Local Food dinner he assured a gluten-free diner that she could eat the meal. He patiently listed the ingredients and encouraged her to try the lamb and squash. She said she was waiting for her friend and she’d consider.

It’s possible she ended up eating from the salad bar. But on that particular evening, Gawlowicz turned the dining hall into a living classroom, and an opportunity for that student to ponder a plate filled with something different.

Taste Chef Stephane’s cooking at our Farm Fete event Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Bellefonte Art Museum. Tickets available here.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

An average spaghetti squash yields 6 to 8 servings if served with other items.

 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed and cleaned

1

Lay the two flat sides down on a lightly greased sheet pan, bake in oven, 370F, for about 40 mins, until tender.

2

Mix the seeds with a drop of vegetable oil, add some salt, toast in the oven for 20 minutes, occasionally tossing them so they color them evenly.

3

When the squash is cooked, shred the flesh with a fork in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and/or other spices. Mix in some chopped basil.

4

Lay the seasoned shredded squash in a lightly greased pan. “Top with shredded, good pungent cheese, such as Swiss, Cheddar, Asiago or even with slices of Camembert, Brie, Reblochon, and why not Goat Cheese? Pick up the one depending on your mood!”

5

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until the gratin is well colored and hot in the middle.

6

Sprinkle with crushed toasted seeds.

7

Let rest 10 min, portion, and enjoy!

Ingredients

 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed and cleaned

Directions

1

Lay the two flat sides down on a lightly greased sheet pan, bake in oven, 370F, for about 40 mins, until tender.

2

Mix the seeds with a drop of vegetable oil, add some salt, toast in the oven for 20 minutes, occasionally tossing them so they color them evenly.

3

When the squash is cooked, shred the flesh with a fork in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and/or other spices. Mix in some chopped basil.

4

Lay the seasoned shredded squash in a lightly greased pan. “Top with shredded, good pungent cheese, such as Swiss, Cheddar, Asiago or even with slices of Camembert, Brie, Reblochon, and why not Goat Cheese? Pick up the one depending on your mood!”

5

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, until the gratin is well colored and hot in the middle.

6

Sprinkle with crushed toasted seeds.

7

Let rest 10 min, portion, and enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Farm Fête

A pairing of local food and art in partnership with the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County and the Farmland Preservation Artists featuring a French-inspired five-course dinner by Chef Stéphane Gawlowicz Saturday, November 10 5 - 8 p.m. at the Bellefonte Art...