MMM...MMM...MONTGOMERY: ALABAMA’S CAPITAL FOOD SCENE. Pork jowl bacon and sweet cornbread. Buttermilk brined and fried free range chicken breast. Fried trout po’boy. Oakview Farms grits. Banana fosters bread pudding. Creative variations of classic Southern foods are always on the menu at Central, the inspired Montgomery, Alabama, restaurant overseen by Executive Chef Leonardo Maurelli III. Central, situated in the Alleyway Entertainment District of Downtown Montgomery, features wood-fired dishes prepared with fresh gulf seafood, local meats, greens and other seasonal ingredients.
Maurelli, a native of the Republic of Panama, immigrated to Alabama in the early 1990s. While attending Auburn University, Maurelli honed his skills under the tutelage of many award-winning and world-traveled chefs. The recipient of many awards and designations, including the 2011 Chef of the Year award by the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance, Maurelli oversees a complex operation that serves lunch five days a week and dinner six nights a week, allowing him ample opportunity to blend his experiences and create new dishes. Maurelli said, “I am blessed to have three major cultures influence my cooking style. I come from a large Panamanian and Italian family but was raised in South Alabama. All three of these cultures are rich in food and have an unbridled passion for it. I am lucky enough to be in a complete urban setting and still have a working farm right down from my restaurant.”
E.A.T. SOUTH MEANS EAT LOCAL AND FRESH. Maurelli turns for his produce to E.A.T. South, a non-profit operator of demonstration farms, part of whose mission is to provide individuals and restaurants access to fresh, locally grown foods. E.A.T., whose acronym stands for “Eat, Act, Transform,” runs an all-natural farm in the heart of Downtown Montgomery. There, it grows, harvests and sells a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs, putting into day-to-day practice its philosophy that food should be grown in close proximity to where it’s consumed. Maurelli, an avid supporter of local farmers, cheese makers, beer makers and artisans, partners with the E.A.T. South Farm, buying its freshest ingredients for use in Central’s kitchen. Maurelli said: “The relationship between EAT South Farms and Central is key for me. I cook with the seasons and am very minimalistic when it comes to my food. I enjoy and focus on using my ingredients at the high of the season, when they are best, and hence don’t have to fuss too much over them. I allow them to truly shine. In order to cook simple food, you have to have solid foundations, solid knowledge and an understanding of ingredients. A dish is often better served not by what you piled on top of it, but what you left out of it. Rustic does not mean lack of foundation or skill, it means a conscious way of cooking simple.”
CENTRAL PARTICULARS: Central is located in a repurposed 1890s grocery warehouse at 129 Coosa St. Montgomery. Original heart of pine, harvested in the late 1800’s for the warehouse’s tongue and groove floor, make up the riddling rack wine wall. Original giant pine beams form the tabletops, while the warehouse’s brick is exposed throughout. For information call (334) 517-1155 or visit http://www.central129coosa.com. Chef Leonardo Maurelli III can be followed on Facebook: ChefLeoOfCentral and Instagram: ChefLeo3.
AND REMEMBER: “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.’” — Lisa. St. Aubin de Teran.
Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine& Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at email@example.com. More of her stories may be found at http://ifwtwa.org/author/susan-cohn.
Chef Leonardo Maurelli III Greenhouse Flatbread Central Restaurant Montgomery, Alabama.
Warm water 3/4 cup
Active yeast 1 tbsp or 1 packet
Sugar 1 tsp
Flour 2 1/4 cup
Olive oil 1 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Smoked paprika 1/4 tsp
Cayenne 1/8 tsp
In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, olive oil and spices. Combine. Mix water, yeast and sugar in medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes until dissolved. Add yeast and water mixture to flour to form dough. Knead by hand for 5 minutes or in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment for approximately 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth in appearance when stretched into a ball. Cover and let rise in bowl for approximately 1 hour or until approximately double in size. Preheat oven to 475, do this while dough waits. Remove dough and lightly flour the outside. Roll dough out, sprinkle flour on surface, it can be an oval or round, it’s your choice. Poke around the flattened dough with a fork to prevent pockets, bake until golden crisp and remove and let rest.
4 oz heirloom tomatoes- various kinds from Extreme Hydroponics in Auburn Alabama
4 oz arugula - EAT South Farm
2 oz swiss chard - EAT South Farm
2 oz Sorrel Leaves - EAT South Farm
1 oz or so of picked EAT South Herbs - mint, parsley, rosemary, oregano, chives
2 oz Parmigiano reggiano
1 oz Central’s 129 Coosa honey
1 oz truffle infused olive oil
2 oz prosciutto, sliced thin
3 oz Olive oil
1 oz balsamic vinegar
1 oz elderflower cordial
Sea salt and cracked pepper
In a large mixing bowl, add arugula, all greens and picked herbs. Coat greens with extra virgin olive oil and lightly toss in balsamic vinegar and elderflower cordial then season with salt and pepper. On a warm grill, heat up flatbread and allow to develop some char from flames on both sides, cover with parmigiano and prosciutto and allow to melt. Remove from heat. Drizzle honey and truffle infused oil over flatbread and layer tomatoes over the flatbread as well. Place the herbs and greens salad over the flatbread and serve.