Jammin in the kitchen with Fox’s Jon Yanek

Date Published: 
January 24, 2014

Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Fox's chef Jonathan Yanek poses for a photo's inside the kitchen at Fox's Pizza Den in Millville.Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook: Fox's chef Jonathan Yanek poses for a photo's inside the kitchen at Fox's Pizza Den in Millville.A couple years ago, when Jammin Jon’s Island BBQ Restaurant & Sushi Bar in West Fenwick Island closed, I was one disappointed chick. Imagine my delight when I recently received an email from Lisa Welling, manager of Fox’s Pizza Den in Millville, asking me to check out their new chef, Jonathan Yanek, who is none other than Jamming Jon! So, check him out I did.

Even though I enjoy pizza and pasta, I’m so glad that Jonathan is now adding upscale dishes to the menu — items such as blackened mahi-mahi; fresh spinach and watercress salads topped with mandarin oranges, blackberries, red onions and feta cheese, with a white balsamic blackberry vinaigrette; and thin pizza topped with fresh arugula, sliced figs, prosciutto, gorgonzola cheese and a reduced balsamic drizzle. Who knew?

Other new items will be making debuts as news gets out that Jonathan is at the helm, such as shrimp manicotti, clam chowder, pumpkin roll with homemade whipped cream and pan-seared flounder in a white wine and caper sauce.

Jon, who was born and raised in the Newark/Wilmington, Del., area, graduated from the Colorado Institute of the Arts in Denver.

“But every summer my family brought me to Fenwick Island, so it’s no surprise that eight years ago I decided to move here,” he said.

His list of culinary credits is impressive. After Jammin Jon’s closed, he worked for two years as head chef at Mio Fratello’s Italian Restaurant (also in West Fenwick), and prior to that was executive sous chef at the Green Room in Delaware’s Hotel DuPont.

Although he was trained in classical French dishes and sauces, he doesn’t limit his cooking style.

“Everyone in my family loves to cook,” he said. “Our kitchen was where my family gathered to cook, play games and enjoy ‘family night.’ My grandfather was a baker, and that definitely seems to run in the family.”

Jonathan grew up learning how to cook European dishes and has years of experience in Italian restaurant kitchens.

“I’ve been cooking in the industry for over 25 years,” he said. “I love to experiment with new foods, and especially spices. Cooking is definitely my passion. It’s a pleasure for me to come to work, create new dishes, or put a twist on old classics.” And Jon doesn’t just cook in restaurants. He also cooks at home for his four children.

Because he also enjoys teaching others how to cook, look for the announcement of cooking classes with wine-pairings soon to be offered at Fox’s Pizza Den’s Millville location.

Because he is a diabetic, Jon is very health conscious.

“I try to cook with a healthier flair. I also support local farmers. All of my daily specials are created with the freshest available ingredients. I only prepare dishes for our customers that I would serve to my own family,” he said.

Fox’s Pizza Den, located in the Millville Town Center at 200 Atlantic Avenue, is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. To order or for more information, call (302) 539-6900. You can also check out the menu online at www.foxspizzamillville.com.

Here’s one of Jonathan’s European specialties, moussaka.

“This is one of my family recipes, handed down from my grandmother,” he said. “It is a traditional Greek eggplant lasagna recipe. You can also add 1/8-inch thick slices of partially cooked potatoes between each layer for a heartier dish.”

Moussaka with
Béchemel Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients for Moussaka:

? 2 medium eggplants, sliced thinly in 1/8-inch thick slices

? 2 medium yellow onions, chopped

? 3 cloves garlic, minced

? 2 pounds ground lamb

? 1 teaspoon salt

? 1/2 teaspoon pepper

? 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

? 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

? 3/4 cup red wine

? 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

? 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Ingredients for Béchamel Sauce:

? 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

? 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

? 2 cups milk

? 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

? 1/4 teaspoon salt

Method for Moussaka:

Roast eggplant slices in preheated 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent. Add ground lamb and cook until browned. Drain. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and red wine; reduce sauce a bit before adding tomato paste and chopped parsley. Continuing cooking until liquid reduces more and thickens.

Method for Béchamel Sauce:

In a medium-size pan over low heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook on low heat for about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let it turn brown. Whisk in milk. Add nutmeg and salt.

Lightly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch Pyrex baking dish. Place one layer of roasted eggplant on bottom of dish. Sprinkle one-third ground lamb mixture on top of eggplant. Gently spread one-third Béchamel sauce on top of meat. Repeat two more times, using all ingredients, ending with béchamel sauce. Place in 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

I can’t eat the traditional party onion dip made with dehydrated soup mix, because it always leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Jonathan’s homemade French Onion Dip sounds like the perfect alternative to me! Plan ahead. He recommends making this a day in advance of when you plan to serve it, to give flavors a chance to meld.

French Onion Dip

Ingredients:

? 3 tablespoons olive oil

? 2 large onions, diced

? 1-1/2 cups sour cream

? 3/4 cup mayonnaise

? 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

? 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

? 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

? 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

? 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Method for French Onion Dip:

Heat oil in sauté pan and add onions. Cook until the onions are caramelized — a deep golden brown. Put the onions into the refrigerator to cool. When cool, place onions in a mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients, mixing well. It is best to let this set overnight in the refrigerator before serving. Serve with your favorite chips.

Spanakopita is one of my favorite Greek specialties. Jonathan, if you add this to Fox’s menu, I expect an email alerting me. I’ll be there when you open!

Spanakopita

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients:

? 1 large onion, diced

? 5 cloves garlic, chopped

? 2 tablespoons oil

? 4 pounds frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well

? Salt and pepper to taste

? 3 sticks butter, melted

? 1 large package filo dough

? 3 pounds feta cheese or farmer’s cheese

Method for Spanakopita:

In a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in oil until the onions are translucent. Add the well-drained spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until warm. Grease a 9-by-13-by-2-inch Pyrex baking dish. Place one sheet filo dough in the dish and lightly brush with melted butter; repeat this step three more times; then lightly spread with spinach/onion/garlic mixture. Crumble a little cheese on top of the spinach mixture. Press four more pieces of filo dough down with butter between each layer. Repeat this process at least 8 to 10 times until all ingredients are used. End with 4 to 6 pieces of filo dough on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until filo dough is golden brown. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

After eating at Fox’s and enjoying Jonathan’s perfectly blackened mahi-mahi, the salad described in full in this column and his thin pizza, I told Lisa and Jon that I’d be delighted to highlight them in my column. Lisa’s special thank-you was to send me a recipe of her own — Jane’s Blueberry Chess Pie.

“This recipe is near and dear to me,” Lisa said. “It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe, and she gave it to me to carry on. She used to be the baker at the Boathouse restaurant in Bethany Beach, which is now Patsy’s restaurant. Folks would call the restaurant to see if Jane had made her Blueberry Chess Pie. Because Jane has not been up to making the pie these past few years, I’ve taken over making it for her.”

Lisa has friends who have been bugging her for this recipe, so what better way to share it than in today’s column?

Jane’s Blueberry Chess Pie

Preheat oven for 15 minutes to 400 degrees F.

Ingredients:

? 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

? 1/2 cup unsalted butter or regular margarine

? 1/8 teaspoon salt

? 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk

? 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

? 2 tablespoon cornstarch

? 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

? 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

? 1 pint fresh blueberries

? 1 unbaked 10-inch pie shell

Method for Jane’s Blueberry Chess Pie:

Cream together the sugar, butter and pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the blueberries. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes or until center of pie is clear. Cool on rack. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)