It was 9:30 in the morning on what promised to be a typically hot July day last summer in Denver. Marczyk was already sweating a bit in his white chef’s jacket and black-checked pants, instant-read thermometer hanging from his neck, dusted with flour from eyebrows to black shoes. He had started the dough for the day’s supply of baguettes; customers would begin demanding them for dinner about 4 p.m. The temperature in the kitchen was 77 degrees, a bit warmer than the 72 degrees Paul would have preferred for fermenting his dough, but the back sliding door was opened to accommodate the morning’s shipment of goods and a breeze was damping the heat. There was a long, hot day in the kitchen ahead.
Brothers Peter and Paul Marczyk run Marczyk Fine Foods, a gourmet grocery, delicatessen and, recently, bakery, that has been an institution in Denver’s Capital Hill neighborhood since 2002. The bakery operation, however, was brand-new last summer, so new that Paul himself was the baker. Since then, the operation has blossomed into four full-time bakers and one part-timer. Paul’s 70 hours a week have eased back to something less strenuous, at least in the bakery.
The brothers said in an interview that breadmaking for them grew initially out of a need to supply their popular Capital Hill delicatessen and the timeworn adage that, if you want something done right, you must do it yourself.
“Peter and I are very hands-on people,” Paul said. “I think we like to do things in a certain way to achieve quality.” It turned out, Peter said, that the market was spending a certain amount every week on bread from outside suppliers, “but we were really not getting the quality of product that we desired.” They they began brainstorming. Paul has a background in brewing, so he was familiar with the biological and gastronomic processes of fermentation. Peter and Paul took a few classes in baking, but they didn’t think they’d learned enough. Finally, the two signed up for the King Arthur Flour Company classes in Vermont, classes for professionals. The experience was eye-opening.
“It makes you realize how much time I wasted in school,” Paul said, explaining that the pace in the King Arthur classes was so brisk that there was no opportunity for dawdling. Peter described it as a “master class.”
“It was like being young Jedis and having Yoda hand you the light saber,” Peter said, grinning, adding that students were expected to already have solid kitchen skills.
Paul’s first batch of sticky, fragrant baguette dough was ready to come out of the big floor-standing mixer and transfer to several plastic bins where it would ferment for a few hours. This is how bread made in the French style attains its best flavor, so it’s a step that is not to be skimped upon. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait to making bread; this was the waiting part for the afternoon’s baguettes. But there was no rest for the baker - a batch of pan bread, oatmeal loaves and what the brothers call “Sonnenblumenbrot,” whole-wheat loaves stuffed with sunflower seeds, needed to be put up and baked.
“In all candor,” Peter said, “Paul and I are Polish New Englanders who grew up with an attitude that if you want something done, just go do it.” After the King Arthur classes, that’s precisely what they did. “The decision was made,” Peter said. “We got back Saturday night from class and Monday morning we were making bread.
They’ve been doing it at least five days a week since then.
The Marczyk brothers are dedicated food enthusiasts - they wouldn’t blush at the term “foodie” - and their markets reflect that attitude. Accordingly, their bread ingredients are all organic, locally sourced and they eschew any but the most traditional preservatives. Honey, for example, is what sweetens their whole-wheat pan loaves because, Peter said, it extends the fresh life of the bread. Paul said it’s all about following traditional, proven formulas. He draws on his experience as a brewer for this.
“There are no new beer formulas,” he said. The same is true of bread - both bread and beer have been made by following the same basic guidelines for thousands of years. “Within those broad guidelines, we tweak [the recipes] ourselves and adapt to our equipment.”
Such as it is. Paul and his crew make each loaf by hand; the only machine involved is the big standing mixer, ubiquitous in every bakery. “We’ve tried to apply some modern-ness, some production savvy, to the process,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s not my vision to have a machine bakery.”
It was time for Paul to dust himself with more flour. The baguette dough had been fermenting for three hours and it was ready to be shaped into loaves, proofed and baked. He floured his hands so the sticky dough could be manipulated into the characteristic skinny torpedo shape of a baguette. The loaves were carefully set aside to raise again for an hour before they were slid into the oven.
Even now, the baguette production alone can barely keep up with the demand. Paul started out making 16 baguettes every day, with 10 going to the delicatessen and six out to the market floor. The six were so hastily snapped up, and the unlucky customers who didn’t get one so vociferous in their complaints, that he was forced to increase production.
Now, they’re making 120 baguettes every day and sometimes running out of them in a couple of hours, between supplying the delis in the two stores and putting the rest out for sale.
The baguettes were proofed and carefully scored. They baked for about 30 minutes, then went straight, and hot, into white paper baguette bags stamped with the Marczyk’s “M.” Some of them were dropped into a basket next to the cash registers. It’s even harder to resist a fresh, hot baguette at the market checkout than it is to forgo a candy bar. Peter Marczyk says a baguette is an ephemeral thing.
“You gotta come back and get another one,” he said, smiling.
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The only bad news about the new Jax opening is that the Terminal Bar is finally, completely, erased. R.I.P. juke box with Johnny Cash, and welcome to LoDo beautiful, shiny, delicious Jax! Pete, my sister Mariah, and I went to the grand opening and had really really good food, interesting food, well priced food in a happy setting. The bar now runs the length of the room, and the dishes are bigger than a starter but smaller than a dinner, so you can eat more things. More things like this:
Iceberg lettuce and fresh shrimp
Sturgeon with creamed turnips, maitake mushrooms, and pinot noir fumet. Order a small or large serving.
This was just so damn good. texture, taste, it was all going on!
All your fave seafood in a sauce. Excellent.
The scallop serviche was also amazing. Soft scallops in a bath of grass green fruity olive oil. No picture, too busy eating.
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Thank you Jax!
Loch Duart Scottish salmon, spinach, feta, pine nuts, nutmeg and other spices, rolled in the same dough we use for our pies. Egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
“Listen. I ate that thing, and it was beyond delicious.”
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Good luck giving these delicious things away!
For the breakfast lover, this marmalade is bitter and sweet. We were thinking it would be delicious on a roast duck too.
Honey from near and far. Honey is great for you, and each one is unique. Learn more about those busy bees with Rocky Mt. PBS Great Ingredients. http://www.rmpbs.org/greatingredients/. Try the Tamarisk Honey, it’s the stout of the honey world. Drizzle it over a sharp Italian cheese.
Honey from near and far.
Look at all these olive oils! Do you think someone would love any one of these to cook with our pour over their winter salads? From mild to sharp, bitter to soft, we know Marczyk’s has an olive oil for you.
Ummm, olive oil.
And last but not least, chocolate! We’ll let this picture speak for itself.
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My first experience with Green Chile (caps intentional and used out of reverence) was about 20 years ago. I had moved to Denver from Massachusetts; the only chili I knew was the red kind with lots of overworked finely ground beef and kidney beans. It was my first autumn in the southwest, and I was captivated by this new scent of roasting chilies wafting from the roadside stands with giant signs proclaiming: “Hatch Green Chile War!” Instantly, I was like a dog on point. I could smell chilies being roasted from a mile away. All of a sudden I was pursuing Green Chiles and Green Chile stews of all kinds, and they were everywhere. It was like hearing a new word for the first time. Among my friends there was much discussion and debate; I quickly joined the fray…thick or thin, tomatoes or tomatillos, potatoes, or flour, oregano or cumin, loin or shoulder. How could I have lived twenty-some years without even a hint of such an exquisite and complex thing? Such was the plight of a turtle-necked New Englander. I quickly developed a self-proclaimed sophisticated Green Chile palate, and, being a hands-on guy, I set out to make the perfect Green Chile. What I really learned over the last fifteen or so years is that Green Chile is as individual as driving, sex, or grilling…everyone has an opinion, and if you ask them they’ll tell you that theirs is the best. Here’s my opinion (with variations on the theme).
This so-called master recipe is the basic core of a traditional (my opinion again) southwestern Green Chile Stew sometimes referred to as New Mexico Green Chile Stew, or Pueblo Green Chile Stew. The recipe has as many variations as there are stars in the Taos night sky. I always serve mine with plenty of freshly browned warm tortillas. This is comfort food at its very best.
This recipe serves 6 with great leftovers
The Pork: I use pork shoulder (another name for this is butt) cut into 1 inch cubes. I use shoulder because 1) the price is right, and 2) it has far superior taste to loin cuts when cooked in this method. I use Niman Ranch pork from Marczyk Fine Foods which comes from heirloom breeds of pigs which are raised outdoors: not in confinement conditions. This yields a superior tasting pork (yes it even matters in a stew) and more highly developed connective tissue which lends an unmistakable pleasing texture.
The Green Chilies: I always opt for a milder Chile like Anaheims or Big Jims for this recipe, because the longer you cook the stew the hotter it gets. Plus, you can always add heat with crushed red pepper or cayenne, but you can’t take it away. I have had many Green Chile stews that were simply too hot to enjoy because someone tried to perfect the heat with their choice of Chilies. My opinion is that you should enjoy a slow steady gentle burn in your mouth–which makes you want to eat more.
The Recipe: (remember, this is peasant food, so don’t stress)
- 2 pounds pork shoulder cut into one inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium yellow onions: coarse dice
- 3 cloves finely minced garlic
- 1 pound peeled and diced tomatillos OR the juice of one lime
- 2 pounds flame roasted Green Chilies peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 pound very ripe tomatoes of any color: coarse dice (canned is fine)
- 4 cups pork, chicken, or vegetable stock, or water
- Kosher salt, pepper, and heating agents such as CRP, or cayenne to taste (add toward end)
Classic additional ingredients/variations:
2 pounds cubed potato or 2 tablespoons corn starch blended in ½ cup water or 3 tablespoons AP flour blended in ½ cup water.
Season pork thoroughly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy shallow skillet until it just begins to glisten; add pork in small batches and brown deeply on all sides. The pork must not be crowded-we use a shallow skillet for the same reason-a deep one will steam and not brown the pork. Take your time and complete this step correctly-it makes all the difference. Reserve browned pork and save a bit of the rendered fat for the rest of the recipe. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven gently sweat onions, garlic, and tomatillos in a some of the rendered pork fat (mo’ fat mo’ flavor). Cook until all vegetables are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients including the pork and cook until the pork is fork-tender…usually about 1-2 hours. About 45 minutes before you want to serve the Green Chile Stew add potato or other thickeners if desired also, and season to taste. Serve with warm flour tortillas.
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