By Jennifer Tuttle
SPRINGFIELD — Executive chef Howard Raines has more than 30 years of cooking experience and is responsible for providing the best dining experience for patrons at Simon Kenton Inn & Publick House.
Raines grew up in Enon and began cooking over campfires while on camping trips with the Eagle Scouts. He ventured from campfire cooking to fast food restaurants where managers suggested he turn to fine dining.
As he studied fine dining techniques and recipes at the library and later on the Internet, he continued to cook at local family owned fine-dining restaurants including The Old Mill, O’Briens, Meadows and The Urbana Country Club.
Raines’ first head chef position was in 1987 at the Meadows. Later in 2000, he went to work as executive chef at the Urbana Country Club. While at the country club, he studied culinary arts through continuing education classes at the Culinary Institute of America.
Now 2½ years into the executive chef position at Simon Kenton, he serves the dining room as well, catering special events held at the facility. One hundred percent made-from-scratch meals are planned with the owner and assistant manager. Raines says that there is no cutting corners and not much of anything comes from a can.
Q: What four ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
A: Garlic. High Gluten Bread flour and yeast, because I love to bake bread. Butter, real unsalted.
Q: What’s one of the worst cooking mistakes?
A: People tend to overcook fish.
Q: What do you suggest for first-timers at Simon Kenton? What menu item should they make sure to try?
A: Apricot Honey Mustard Pork Chop or Fish and Chips, along with Theresa’s 7-Layer Cake with Young’s Jersey Dairy Ice Cream.
Q: Famous person you’d love to see eating at the restaurant?
A: Barack Obama. I would serve him a spring salad, mushroom strudel, filet mignon with blue cheese and mushroom madeira sauce and fresh asparagus.
Q: What has made you stay in the area?
A: Family. I really love Springfield, it is a great place to live. My parents and children are in the area. We aren’t far from big cities.
Q When you’re not in the kitchen, what’s your favorite way to enjoy Springfield?
A: Take the grandkids to Splash Zone. It is great that Springfield has it!
2 lbs. fresh mushrooms minced or food processed (I use button mushrooms, but any kind, even a mixture, is fine.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 10-inch or 15-inch frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 ounces melted butter
Fresh thyme, chopped to suit
Shredded Parmesan cheese, to suit
Salad greens (optional)
4 ounces of reserved mushroom liquid
2 ounces red wine
2 ounces balsamic vinegar
16 ounces of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Sweat mushrooms, garlic and thyme until soupy. Remove from heat; place mixture in a mesh strainer over a container to reserve liquid.
Press water from mixture (using small plate or back of large spoon), removing as much moisture as possible.
Divide mushroom mixture between 4 puff rectangles.
Bring puff pastry together and press together; fold ends under.
Flip pastry over on sheet of parchment paper that has been sprayed with pan spray and placed on a jelly-roll pan. Score pastry with sharp knife; brush with melted butter. Finish with dried thyme and shredded Parmesan.
Bake in oven at 425 degrees for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Mix vinaigrette ingredients together. Place in a spritz bottle.
(Note: This recipe provides for extra amount of the vinaigrette. It keeps well in the refrigerator and is an excellent salad dressing.)
Remove strudel from oven and spritz with mushroom vinaigrette.Served on bed of baby salad greens.
SOURCE: Executive chef Howard Raines