by Devon Leger and Frank Solivan
2014 has GOT to be Frank Solivan’s year. The bluegrass mandolinist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader (of Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen) is up now for a Grammy for this year’s album, Cold Spell, and just pulled down a win at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for Instrumental Group of the Year. Yeah, there’s no denying every person in the Dirty Kitchen band is a mad picker. Guitarist Chris Luquette, new to the band this year, is a breakout star, rightfully garnering awards and lighting up stages with his humble, yet pyrotechnic picking. Banjo picker Mike Munford is one of the best in the business and acknowledged as such. Danny Booth was one of Alaska’s hottest bluegrass exports before Frank snapped him up. And through it all, Solivan rocks as a bandleader. His affable personality, shiny pate, soaring vocals, and lightning fast mandolin skills put him front and center in the group, and–god forgive me here come the cooking analogies–he’s clearly the head chef on the new album. Cold Spell, released via Compass Records, is a complex, virtuosic tour-de-force and rare in that all the viruotosity doesn’t overshadow its listenability. Like any great chef, Solivan is a master at mixing very different ingredients. When your opening track runs almost six minutes long and blends 80s power ballad influences (in a very good way) with bluegrass songwriting, you need the hand of a master craftsman to guide the ship. I wouldn’t trust many other people to cut an album like this, but Solivan’s goal here is clearly to delight and surprise the listener with unexpected sounds and directions. I get the feeling that if you were to listen to this album in the room with him, he’d have that same, happy chef’s smile he must get when his dinner guests rave about his cooking. Take a trip with a master chef with Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s new album and you don’t even have to leave your home!
As a special bonus, we asked Frank to contribute a recipe, since he actually IS a master chef, to KITHFOLK and he was kind enough to oblige. Check out his recipe here for Mexican-style ox-tail soup. Nom nom nom…
Frank’s Guide to South of the Border Oxtail Soup
Inspired by two of my favorite Mexican soups, Pazole and Caldo De Res. The star of this soup is the oxtail. It adds a considerable amount of beefy goodness to the broth and the unctuous, velvety mouth feel is from the breakdown of connective tissue. The tender, flavorful meat is contrast by the freshness and crisp textures of the garnishes. The lime becomes the catalyst for flavor and the heat of the chile brings it on home!
Just ask your local butcher for some fresh, medium to large oxtail sections and have fun using this guide. I suggest a Modelo Especial while cooking and keep one cold to have when it’s served. Who knows, I may even have one in between.
8-10 fresh oxtail medium to large sized sections
2 medium yellow onions chopped
3 carrots chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped
2 medium zucchini large pieces
5-10 cloves of garlic chopped
1 1/2 pounds of fresh or canned hominy! 1 small can of red chile sauce
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 Mexican beer
salt and pepper
large two finger pinch of ground cumin
large two finger pinch of chile powder
large two finger pinch of dried Mexican oregano! 2bay leaves
chopped jalapeño or serano chiles
fresh squeezed lime juice!
Liberally salt and pepper oxtail. Add olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed pot on medium high heat and brown all sides of the oxtail sections. After the meat is browned, remove it all from the pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, hominy, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, cumin and deglaze with Mexican beer and chile sauce. Return the oxtail back into the pot. Cover ingredients under 1/2 inch of hot water and simmer with lid on medium heat for about 3.5 hrs, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add zucchini when meat starts to become tender around 3 hrs. Only when the meat is tender add the zucchini. Done when meat is falling off the bone (around 3.5 to 4 hrs). Salt to taste.
In a large bowl add meat from 2-3 oxtail, a couple of pieces of zucchini and broth. Top with shaved cabbage, radish, chiles, cilantro, scallion, avocado and squeeze a wedge of lime all over. Dig in with a large spoon!
Purchase Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen's New Album HERE