Faces in the Crowd: MJ Adams
From the Big Apple to the Black Hills, Chef and Author MJ Adams is starting out 2020 with a new cookbook that includes her passion for local foods and culinary art.
MJ Adams attended junior high, high school and college in Wyoming then moved to New York City. She took a job at Woman’s Day Specials Magazine, writing magazine articles. She volunteered at James Beard House at night, where she did cookbook interviews with well-known chefs like Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. That experience inspired her to attend culinary school. She then worked in numerous restaurants in New York for more than a decade, building her culinary skills.
She decided to move back to the Midwest and open up the The Corn Exchange. After a devastating fire took it in 1997, she started it up again, offering locals a casual, fine dining experience.
Adams says, “For 15 years, you know, I ran the Corn Exchange, and my goal was to say that you didn’t have to go to New York City to have a great restaurant, you could actually be here in Rapid City, SD and I feel that that was definitely achieved.”
She worked with local producers, farmers and ranchers to offer specialty yet affordable foods. After much success she accomplished what she set out to do, she then sold the bistro and went on to pursue other dreams, like hosting to a South Dakota Public Television series called ‘Savor Dakota’, exploring the culinary landscape in the state.
In the back of her mind MJ always wanted to do a cookbook, and for the last few years has been working on the book, and now her dream has finally came true.
“It’s just kind of like my culinary journey, which I feel is very unique you know, living in New York and meeting a lot of really great people and working under a lot of great chefs is, I think is unique – exposing myself to things and coming back here and sharing with my customers,” says Adams.
MJ was excited for The Corn Exchange Cookbook to be reviewed by a New York Times food critic, Florence Fabricant.
MJsays, “[The review was] very good. They said it was a homey book, which it is, as opposed to all the cook books now that are big and glossy. But she (Florence) said it’s a cookbook that you can read over and over again, things that relate to what you want to cook at your house and also really great tips on how to cook. And you can learn how to make soup, so for me it was really a dream come true to be recognized by them.”
The book is available in Rapid City at Mitzi’s Books and Someone’s in the Kitchen and at Queen City Bakery in Sioux Falls. You can check out more about MJ at her website.
The recipe MJ was making in the news video:
SMOKED TROUT PANCAKE WITH CUCUMBER RAITA
Remember pancakes from when you were young? Well, forget them: Pancakes have just grown up. My food has many layers; I’ve traveled a lot so I put those flavors together. I wanted to highlight South Dakota trout. I called the Game, Fish & Parks Department and found out there were five people raising trout in the Black Hills. I connected with the last person on the list, Mike Clark of Clark Trout Farms, and worked with him for eight years. I would smoke the trout in-house. The pancake and the raita together make this a most tasty nibble.
2 small cucumbers (2 cups diced)
1⁄4 cup crème fraîche
1⁄4 cup sour cream
11⁄2 tablespoons grated horseradish, or more to taste
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
1⁄2 cup canned white corn (you can use fresh, but be sure and cook it first)
1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 to 2 teaspoons clarified butter or ghee
2 cups of smoked trout (or smoked salmon)
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced (boil lightly, with a hint of orange still showing in the yolk)
In a bowl and toss with the scallions and corn. Gently fold the egg, buttermilk, olive oil, and butter into the dry ingredients. If the batter seems a little too stiff, add more buttermilk. You do not want to overmix, which will result in a stiff batter.
THIS RECIPE MAKES about 10 31⁄2-inch pancakes. The batter keeps for two days.
HEAT A GRIDDLE or large skillet over medium-low heat. Place clarified butter or ghee into skillet, moving the pan so the skillet bottom is covered, and heat until butter foams. When the foam subsides, ladle batter onto griddle, about 4 ounces per pancake. Adjust heat and add more butter as necessary. Flip pancakes when bubbles rise to the surface and the bottoms brown, 2 to 4 minutes.
YOU CAN MAKE all the pancakes, then assemble the whole batch. I like eating the pancakes within a few minutes after making. They are best when slightly warm, with a slight crunch on top from cooking in the butter.
TO ASSEMBLE: PLACE 2 tablespoons of smoked trout in the middle of each pancake. Top with 1 large tablespoon of
Raita and on top of this place a slice of hardboiled egg. Drizzle a whisper of good olive oil over everything. You could also substitute smoked salmon for the trout, layering the salmon on top of the pancake.