Chef Sara Bradley loves combining her Southern roots and Jewish heritage at her restaurant freight house, in Paducah, Kentucky. The Top Chef season 16 runner up has earned a loyal and enthusiastic clientele at freight house, where she serves fresh, local in-season ingredients with the goal of providing western Kentucky’s most unique dining experience.
Some of Bradley’s High Holy Day favorites feature traditional Rosh Hashanah ingredients like pomegranates, beets and carrots; or make-ahead items for breaking the fast after Yom Kippur. Sara has six different matzo ball soup recipes in her repertoire and prepared one for the Top Chef finale.
Bradley’s relatives emigrated from Prussia around 1930, joining many other Eastern Europeans in settling in southern cities. Her Jewish mother and grandmother influenced her culinary approach — cooking good food without lots of unnecessary ingredients and wasting as little as possible. She utilizes Eastern European and Middle Eastern spices, which give her Southern dishes an interesting twist. She also teaches about Jewish cooking at area synagogues, feeling strongly that the heritage of recipes passed down orally need to be captured before they are lost.
Here are a few recipes offered by Bradley. All recipes are courtesy Sara Bradley, chef/proprietor of freight house in Paducah, Kentucky.
freight house Winter Matzo Ball Soup
For the Soup:
3-4 pound whole fryer chicken
4 quarts water or stock, may need more to cover chicken
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 star anise
2 sprigs of each: thyme, sage, bay leaf, rosemary
2 orange carrots, cut into 1” discs
1 yellow onion peeled and cut into eighths
2 celery stalks, cut into 1” pieces
8 shitake mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
4-5 stems black kale or collard greens, washed and sliced into 1/2” ribbons
For the Matzo Balls:
2 cups matzo meal
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 + 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
6 whole eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz (liquid)
2-4 ounces club soda
Rinse your chicken. Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add salt, anise and fresh herbs. Let simmer on medium heat until the leg pulls away from the bird.
Let the chicken cool in liquid until able to handle. Strain your liquid and reserve. Pick the meat from the bones and reserve. Do not add your chicken back to the stock yet.
In a large pot, add stock, cut carrots, onion, celery and mushrooms. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
While stock simmers, make your matzo balls.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the matzo meal, spices, dill, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and melted schmaltz or vegetable oil. Using a fork, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Just before they are incorporated, add the soda water. Do not over mix. Let matzo mix rest in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn the heat up on the stock and vegetable mixture. You want it to be boiling when you drop your matzo balls into the liquid. Roll the matzo mix into golf ball size pieces. Drop them into the boiling liquid.
Cover the pot and let simmer on high for 10-15 minutes. Add reserved chicken and greens to soup. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt to your liking. Enjoy!
Carrot and Lemon Soup
Makes 8 servings
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
4 large carrots, sliced thin
1 inch of ginger
3 garlic cloves, no butts, smashed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 Meyer lemon, sliced thin
1 cup white wine
1 quart water
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-2 cups vegetable oil (or any mildly flavored oil)
Water as needed
Sweat onion, ginger, garlic and carrots in oil until onions are translucent. Then add the Meyer lemon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze with white wine, cook 3 minutes then add water and cook until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes.
In a high-speed blender, blend the vegetables in small batches with the cooking liquid and orange marmalade, honey, chili flakes and salt. Add oil in to help blend and add water to adjust thickness.
Pass through a fine mesh strainer.
This can be made days ahead. Check the seasoning before serving hot or cold.
At freight house, we serve it warm with butter poached crawfish tails, puffed dirty rice, pickled vegetables and a creole cream.
Pickled Farm Eggs with Roasted Beets
For the Eggs:
1 dozen fresh local eggs
1 large bull blood beet cut in half (or any red variety)
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
10 ounces + 2 ounces Ale8One soda (or other ginger soda)
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
For the Toppings:
1 large watermelon radish or other radish (diced small)
2 to 3 baby pickles (can use cornichons) (sliced thin)
1 roasted beet (diced small)
5 to 6 mint leaves (torn)
1 teaspoon high-quality salt
Start by preparing the beets — this can be done few days in advance. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the beet halves, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, 10 oz Ale8, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, and olive oil in a baking dish. Wrap tight with foil and roast for 60 to 90 minutes or until the beets are tender when pricked with a knife. Once beets are cooked, remove and separate from juice, but do not get rid of either — you will need both. Place the juice and beets in fridge to cool.
While beets are roasting, prepare your eggs. You will want to hard boil your eggs. At freight house, we always say to do it just like you mother taught you —everyone does it differently. Most importantly, all eggs end up hard boiled.
Cool and peel the eggs. Leaving them whole, place them in a medium sized bowl. Cover them with the cooled beet juice, an additional 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and 2 oz Ale8. Let sit for between 2 to 6 hours, flipping every hour.
To serve, drain from the pickling liquid and cut in half. Sprinkle on all the listed toppings and enjoy.
freight house Avocado and Radish Salad
If you want a beautiful, colorful starter, but not the same old leafy salad that you usually make, this alternative is easy and incredibly flavorful. You could also make it for a healthy-ish snack or a SUPER light lunch.
1/2 cup green onion dressing
1 small red onion sliced very thin
1/2 each pomegranate, seeds removed
1 teaspoon red chili flake
4 red radishes, sliced very thin
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds toasted at 350 for 8-10 minutes
Tortilla chips to garnish (optional)
Start by preparing all the vegetables and other ingredients except for the avocado and lime.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed. Gently peel away the skin. In a bowl, toss the avocados in the green onion dressing and season with salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down on plate to serve. Be sure to spoon any additional dressing left in the bowl on the avocado.
Cut the lime in half and squeeze over the avocados. Sprinkle onions, pomegranates, red chili flakes, shaved radish, and pumpkin seeds over top. Season with salt and pepper.