This is a delectable serving of San Antonio and New Orleans from one of the Alamo City’s best restaurants.
Sylvia and chef Steven McHugh opened Cured in the 109-year-old former administrative offices of the Pearl Brewery in 2013. “The name is the perfect way to confirm my incredible feat of conquering cancer,” he says. “Also, it shares my ultimate passion in cured meats. Luckily for me, no one else took the name.”
More than simply a chic charcuterie joint with an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, the restaurant is a grateful embrace of a second chance, reflecting the chef’s new lease on life and his creative take on food.
It’s also downright charming.
The eclectic space is filled with a smorgasbord of contemporary, reclaimed, recycled, and original elements. It was important to him to reuse items from the original building, he says, but on two conditions: “One, it had to make sense to our overall design. And two, it had to once again have purpose, not just sit and look pretty.”
To demonstrate, he leads me into a vault behind the U-shaped bar in the restaurant’s center. When he took over the building, the fireproof structure that once held Pearl Brewery’s business files was disguised beneath several layers of paint. During renovation, McHugh had the decades-old paint painstakingly removed, layer by layer. What emerged was ornate gold leaf on black paint and the Pearl Brewery’s triple X mark, which was part of its logo since the 1890s. The vault now houses a stock of wine and beer, much of the latter from Texas.
The open framework of roof beams caps a back dining room, which is separated from the main space by an exposed brick wall. The original trusses, marked with delivery writing more than a century old, are still visible. Cured, like McHugh, isn’t interested in concealment: There is no pretense of refinery. Sure, some things seem fancy — evidenced by the care and the quality — but none of it is simply for show.
Here, fluffy masa-cloaked oysters buoyed by tapioca pearls, rounds of broccoli custards flanking pan-seared Texas quail, and platters of patiently cured wursts pay worthy tribute to the numerous culinary gifts that surround us. It is a welcome lesson in gratitude — for the land, its bounty, a skillful chef, and a life well-fed. Now about those oysters and pearls.
Fried Oysters And Pearls
1½ cups tapioca
1 hard-boiled egg, slightly undercooked(boiled about 9 – 10 minutes)
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
4 anchovies, chopped
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
Hot sauce, to taste
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil; pour in tapioca. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to keep pearls from burning on the bottom. Once pearls are tender, scoop out with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Using a food processor, blend all remaining ingredients until smooth. Fold into the tapioca pearls.
1½ cups masa flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pint fresh oysters, shucked
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 gallon peanut oil
Mix the dry ingredients together. Using a 2-gallon pot, heat the oil to 360 degrees (check the oil temperature with a candy thermometer). Toss the oysters in the egg white, and then dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture. Fry the oysters one at a time until golden brown. Place oysters on a plate lined with a paper towel and season with salt.
Place a spoonful of the “pearls” on each plate and top with a fried oyster.
For more information on Cured or to make reservations, visit the restaurant’s website.
From the October 2014 issue.