Some events are unforgettable. Then there are those rare events that are unforgettable and delicious – CMT's Artists of the Year celebration happened to be one of them. This past Tuesday, Slashfood attended CMT's taping of the Artists of the Year TV special (airs tonight, 8 p.m. EST) honoring Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band for their successes over the past year (see our red carpet coverage). To make this night a true over-the-top affair, three James Beard Award winning chefs flew in from Miami, Washington D.C. and Mississippi to create a three-course meal that honored local spirits and fare, and showed continued support for Gulf seafood.
While we were surrounded by plenty of impressive music and movie stars, we only had eyes for Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 (opening spring 2011), Chef John Currence of City Grocery and Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.
Chef John Currence along with his Sous Chef Carl Heath Johnson created the first course: a Sweet Onion and Fennel Butter Poached Gulf Shrimp with a Maque Choux Corn Pudding Tart and Spicy Red Pepper Coulis (click here for the recipe).
Chef RJ Cooper along with Sous Chef Harper McClure presented the second course, which consisted of Smoked Pork Belly with Heirloom Beans, Rye-Organic Gastrique, and Chestnut Emulsion (click here for the recipe).
Chef Michael Schwartz served the final course of Maker's Mark Barrel Smoked Grass-Fed Beef Brisket, slow roasted and grilled, served with Pumpkin Panade, Dandelion Greens and Aged Goat Cheese (click here for the recipe).
After hanging out with them on Tuesday while they cooked, it was crystal clear this was old hat for them -- they've done these kinds of events many times. I think I was more nervous about the dinner then they were -- over 200 people would be attending, yet they hardly broke a sweat. What I didn't expect was the dynamic among the three chefs -- they had never worked together before, but their camaraderie was unmistakable and they played off each other very well. Each chef had their own dish and style, but I often caught them peeking over to see what the other chefs were doing, especially at RJ Cooper's molecular magic.
The night went off without a hitch. The shrimp were crisp and crunchy, "just the way they should be," said Chef John Currence. The pork belly melted in our mouths and the room was in a frenzy over the smoked brisket, which was unlike anything we've ever tasted. Chef Schwartz used three different methods to give it its incredible texture and flavor: He brined it in a brown sugar solution and rubbed it with cumin, sage and salt and smoked it overnight -- the key step that made it really stand out.
Not to be forgotten were the wines served with dinner from Heitz Cellars and Ken Wright Cellars.
CMT Artists of the Year premieres tonight, December 3 at 8 p.m. ET.
For the canapé recipes the chefs served at the cocktail hour, click here.
For more behind-the-scenes photos, visit Slashfood's Facebook page.