Brandon Fuller's Spring Menu

By Layne Lynch 
Photography by Jody Horton

Inconspicuously hidden on the corner of West Sixth and Blanco Streets, Café Josie has long been one of Austin’s secret dining gems—serving flavorful, worldly cuisine since 1997. But if new co-owner and executive chef Brandon Fuller has anything to do with it, all that anonymity will soon be stripped away. “We’re shifting towards a more local, organic, seasonal approach to food,” says Fuller. “I’ve already changed up about eighty-five percent of the menu. The responses to the changes we’ve initiated have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.” 



The kudos shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. Hailing from first-class kitchens like Uchi, Wink, Parkside and Olive & June, Fuller has working with seasonal, local ingredients down to an art. But the chef’s initial exposure to farm-fresh food began long before his enviable circuit around the Austin dining scene. “My mom did a great job of taking me to the farmers market every weekend when I was growing up in Dallas,” he says. “She’d buy local ingredients and make Southern dishes like taco salad, sausage rolls and steamed proteins and vegetables. When my dad introduced me to sushi at eight years old, though, that’s when my whole view on food changed. I remember the texture, the flavor and how creative a dish like raw fish seemed to me at that time.” 

Though he relished feasting on international fare and hosting friends over home-cooked meals, Fuller never seriously considered working in a professional kitchen until he became a bored IT employee. “I spent two years staring at a computer screen after graduating from Texas A&M University and realized I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” he says. “I appreciated food enough to give it a fair shot, and I’m glad I never looked back.” 

Brandon-Fuller---Taylor-candles
Throughout his culinary career, Fuller always envisioned one day owning and operating his own restaurant. Thus, when his friend Cody Taylor, general manager of Café Josie, approached him about buying into the restaurant, Fuller simply couldn’t resist. He left his sous-chef job at Olive & June and took over the reins at Café Josie last October. “I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to [co-]own a restaurant that already commands such respect,” he says. 

For Café Josie’s revamped spring menu, Fuller has used seasonal treasures from places like Springdale Farm, Boggy Creek Farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Windy Hill Organics, Texas Quail Farms and Wateroak Farms. “I want to maintain my creative, playful way of cooking while making well-made, fresh, approachable food,” Fuller says. “I think spring is the perfect season for Café Josie to really start pushing the envelope.”



CHILLED TURNIP SOUP WITH TURNIP GREEN-PESTO AND POPPY-SEED CRISP

Brandon-Fuller---turnip-soup

Serves 4

Turnips have a natural sweetness, and the poppy-seed crisp gives the soup a nice texture. Some people don’t like turnips because they’ve only tried them canned, but turnips are incredible when fresh from the garden.

For the soup:
2 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. turnips, diced
½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 c. vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the pesto:
¼ lb. turnip greens
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Pine nuts (optional)
Lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the poppy-seed crisp:
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
¼ c. butter, melted
Poppy seeds
Pinch of salt

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil, and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the turnips and potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the turnips and potatoes are tender. Transfer the soup contents to a blender and puree until completely smooth. Refrigerate to chill the soup completely and adjust the consistency with more stock or water. Add salt and black pepper.

Make the pesto. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the greens in the water for 10 seconds then transfer to an ice-water bath to cool. Place the greens into a clean towel and wring them to extract as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop the greens then add to a food processor or blender with the grated garlic and enough oil to get it moving. Add cheese and nuts, if using. Process to a paste, then season with lemon juice and salt and black pepper.

Make the crisp. Whisk together the flour and egg whites until smooth. Drizzle the melted butter into the flour and egg white mixture while whisking. Allow the batter to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the batter thinly and evenly onto a nonstick baking sheet. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and salt. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To serve, ladle the soup into chilled bowls, drizzle pesto over the top and finish with a chunk of the poppy-seed crisp.

 


BLUE CRAB CREPES WITH CARROT-GINGER COULIS AND CUCUMBER SALAD

Brandon-Fuller---crab-cakes

Serves 4

I wanted to do a play on crab cakes in this dish. I juiced the carrot and ginger together and reduced them down a bit to add a bright color and clean flavor. The cucumber salad with basil and cilantro adds a nice finishing touch to the crepes.

For the crepes:
¾ c. coconut milk
2 large eggs
½ c. all-purpose flour, packed
1 t. salt
1 T. butter
1½ t. yellow curry powder

For the filling:
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 Thai chilies, thinly sliced
¼ c. mascarpone
1 t. salt
8 oz. cooked crabmeat
For the coulis:
2 medium carrots, juiced
½-in. piece of ginger, juiced
1 t. sugar
½ t. salt

For the salad:
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 T. rice vinegar
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
Thai basil leaves, torn
Cilantro leaves

In a bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients to combine. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the curry powder and toast until fragrant—approximately 2 minutes. Pour the melted butter and curry powder into the batter mixture and whisk to combine.

Cook the crepes in a 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. For each crepe, pour enough batter into the skillet to coat the bottom, swirling the pan as the batter is poured to produce a thin, even crepe. (This recipe makes 8 crepes.) Cook on one side until the crepe releases from the pan, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more. Set the crepes aside to cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling except the crabmeat and mix well. Fold in the crabmeat. Fill one half of each crepe with approximately 2 tablespoons of the crab mixture then fold the other side over, to make a half-moon shape.

Combine the coulis ingredients in a saucepan and reduce until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and marinate for 20 minutes.

Reheat the crepes in a small amount of butter in a nonstick skillet until they are crispy and the crab mixture is heated through. Spoon some of the coulis onto a plate, place a crepe over the sauce and top with some of the cucumber salad.

 


BALSAMIC-GLAZED GOAT RIBS WITH BROWN-BUTTER POTATO SALAD
AND CHICORIES

Brandon-Fuller---goat-ribs

Serves 4

I used Windy Hill goat products to do a riff on barbecued ribs and traditional potato salad. To change things up a bit, I added aged balsamic vinegar from Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars along with a brown-butter sauce. The chicories add a nice counterbalance to the balsamic flavor.

For the ribs:
2 lb. goat ribs
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ c. aged balsamic vinegar

For the potato salad:
1 lb. russet potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
2 T. butter
1 t. lemon juice, plus more to taste
½ c. homemade aioli or store-bought mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh baby chicories, to garnish
Shaved radish, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 275°. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, then sear them in a skillet or on a grill. Place into a roasting pan with a small amount of water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 2 to 4 hours, until meltingly tender. Remove from the oven. Pour off the juice collected in the pan into a saucepan and reduce to ¼ cup. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pot and reduce to a glaze consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs—reserving any extra glaze to sauce the plate.

Add the potatoes to a saucepan and cover with cold, salted water. Bring the potatoes to a simmer and cook until tender—approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove them from the water and allow to cool to room temperature. Brown the butter in a skillet and add the lemon juice to help stop cooking. Cool slightly, then whisk the brown butter into the aioli or mayonnaise—being careful not to break the emulsion. Fold the potatoes into the aioli and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Chill completely in the refrigerator.

To serve, reheat the ribs in the glaze, if necessary. Place the potato salad on a plate and scatter the chicories around it. Lean the ribs over the potato salad—spooning extra glaze over the top. Garnish with shaved radish.

 

MESQUITE-GRILLED QUAIL WITH
BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY,
COCONUT RICE AND PARSNIP CHIPS

Brandon-Fuller---quail

Serves 4

I got the quail from Texas Quail Farms in Lockhart and topped it off with a sweet-and-sour glaze. A lot of people think butternut squash is only a fall vegetable, but it actually has a long growing season in Texas that extends into the spring. The coconut rice really soaks up the curry, and the lime wedges, fresh basil and cilantro garnishes give the dish a great brightness.

For the quail:
4 semi-boneless quail
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the curry:
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, thinly sliced
2 T. coconut oil
2 t. yellow curry powder
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and seeded and diced
1  14-oz. can coconut milk
Water (if needed)
2 t. brown sugar
Thai basil leaves, torn
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cilantro leaves and lime wedges, to garnish

For the rice:
1½ c. jasmine rice
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
½ c. water
1 t. salt
¼ c. unsweetened coconut flakes

For the chips:
2 c. neutral-flavored oil
1 parsnip, peeled
Salt, to taste

Preheat a grill to 350°. Season the quail with salt and black pepper and grill them, turning once, until just pink in the middle—approximately 4 minutes per side. Alternatively, cook the quail on the stove top by searing them over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes per side, or roast them in the oven at 450° for approximately 10 minutes.

Make the curry. In a medium saucepan, sweat the shallot, garlic and Thai chili in the coconut oil until the shallots are translucent—approximately 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook until fragrant—approximately 2 minutes. Add the butternut squash and stir to coat. Add the coconut milk and water (if needed) to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender—about 20 to 25 minutes. Finish the curry with the brown sugar, torn Thai basil leaves, lime juice and salt and black pepper.

Rinse the rice in strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. Combine with the remaining ingredients for the rice in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook over low heat until done—approximately 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and fluff with a fork.

Make the parsnip chips. Heat the oil in a pot on the stove top to 300°. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the parsnip into thin strips. Drop the strips into the oil and cook until golden brown and very few bubbles form. Remove from the oil and season with salt.

To serve, spoon some of the rice onto a plate and ladle some of the curry over the top. Cut the quail into quarters and place on top of the curry. Garnish with the parsnip chips and additional Thai basil leaves, cilantro and lime wedges.

CHOCOLATE BEET CAKE WITH
STRAWBERRIES AND GOAT-YOGURT CRÈME FRAÎCHE

Brandon-Fuller---beet-cake

Serves 4 

The beets add a nice earthiness and moistness to the cake. I use Wateroak Farms goat yogurt and mix it with cream in a yogurt maker to create a tangy crème fraîche. The strawberries add a subtle sweetness to the cake, and I love how all of the ingredients play off of each other.

For the cake:
1 lb. beets
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ c. all-purpose flour
½ t. baking soda
¾ c. sugar
1 large egg
6 T. neutral-flavored oil
1 t. vanilla extract
Strawberries and fresh mint,
   to garnish

For the crème fraîche:
1 c. goat yogurt
2 c. heavy cream

For the sauce:
½ c. strawberries
¼ c. reserved beet puree
Lemon juice
Sugar


Wrap the beets individually in foil and roast in a 350° oven until tender—approximately 2 hours. Leave the oven on. Let the beets cool then peel, cut into chunks, place in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Reserve ½ cup of the beet puree for the cake and ¼ cup for the sauce, and save the rest for another use. Microwave the chocolate in 30-second increments—stirring between each one—until melted. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a bowl. In a standing mixer, whisk the sugar, egg and oil on medium-high for approximately 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, add the vanilla extract, then the dry ingredients, then the chocolate and finally the ½ cup of beet puree. Pour into a 9-inch square baking pan greased with butter or oil and bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean—approximately 20 minutes. Let cool and cut into desired shapes.

For the crème fraîche , mix the yogurt and cream together, cover and let sit out overnight in a warm place. Refrigerate to thicken.

Make the sauce. In a blender or food processor, puree the strawberries with the beet puree. Season to taste with lemon juice and sugar. Adjust the consistency with water, if needed.

To serve, spoon the strawberry-beet sauce onto a plate. Place a slice of cake on the sauce and drizzle with the crème fraîche. Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint.