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The chef discusses his Miami restaurant's Southern cuisine
No one in their right mind would consider Miami the South, but Northern Florida-raised and Charleston-trained chef Jeff McInnis felt he needed to bring Southern cooking to the continental United States' southernmost state.
The result is Yardbird, and it has recieved a lot of accolades since it opened last year. Most of the meals are served family-style and the bar is also Southern-influenced, with the majority of drinks made with bourbon. McInnis admits that the concept and execution is little different for the area: "It's a simple concept, but it's not your typical Miami concept... We wanted to bring some real good Southern food to Miami and I don't think it's been done too successfully before," he says.
He recommends classics like the fried chicken and feels that the menu is full of "basic, good, solid Southern food."
For more on the restaurant, the Miami produce and McInnis' biscuits check out the video above!
Recipe : Yardbird Fried Chicken from Chef Jeff McInnis
For the chicken brine:
Place the water (not the ice water), sugar, salt, and all spices in a pot and bring to simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Whisk to ensure that spices and sugar have dissolved completely. Remove from heat and combine with ice water to chill. Let chill until at least 40 degrees. Place the cut chicken in a container and pour the cold liquid brine over it. Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours.
For the seasoned flour:
Mix all spices and flour well.
For the frying:
Remove the chicken from the brine and dredge in the seasoned flour.
Place the shortening in a pan (cast iron preferred) and melt slowly. The goal is to have the shortening about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan. Heat the shortening over low heat until it reaches 325 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature.
Place the breasts and thighs in the pan, skin side down. After 8 minutes, flip the pieces over and continuing frying for another 6 minutes.
Remove from pan and let sit on a wire rack or plate lined with paper towels. Stick the thickest pieces with a meat thermometer the chicken must reach 165 degrees. Season lightly with a pinch of sea salt.
Place the wings and drums in the oil making sure to maintain 325 degrees. After 5 minutes, flip the pieces and continuing frying for another 4 minutes.
Remove from pan and let sit on a wire rack or plate lined with paper towels. Stick the thickest pieces with a meat thermometer the chicken must reach 165 degrees. Season lightly with a pinch of sea salt before serving.
Jeff McInnis on Yardbird - Recipes
Photographs courtesy of Fire At Gulf Place
Anything off of the chef’s menu.
It’s a great diner with traditional diner food. They do the diner classics – burgers, shakes, breakfast items, fries, and all-American entrees – very well.
They sell great wine and cheese.
Food at Husk and McCrady’s
Photographs courtesy of Husk and McCrady’s
FIG is a restaurant in Charleston that I really like. Any of the fish entrees and the suckling pig confit are must-orders.
I respect what Sean Brock has done with McCrady’s and Husk. The menu changes daily, but anything with Heritage pork or duck is fantastic.
Cookbooks | Thomas Keller’s Books
All of Thomas Keller’s books, but specifically Under Pressure and Ad Hoc At Home . His emphasis on impeccable technique is inspiring, and I think both books – one focused on the exacting technique of sous vide and the other on relaxed family recipes – show the same kind of versatility that I aspire to have as a chef.
Details of Jeff McInnis’ recommendations for where to eat, drink and shop in Miami, the Florida Keys, the Florida Panhandle and Charleston.
Find | Southern ingredients
Where To Buy Southern Staples
Miami has a number of great farmer’s markets, and they’re the first places I visit to find fresh Southern produce. However, I source some of the ingredients at Yardbird -- like molasses, some grains, and certain produce items -- from farms and suppliers in the Deep South.
We use it in BBQ sauce, on collard greens (braised in straight beer) and in the shrimp and grits.
Stone Crab Claws and Fish from Casablanca Fish Market
Photographs courtesy of Casablanca Fish Market
Fish | Casablanca Fish Market
A fantastic fish market on the Miami River. It’s a great place to get fresh snapper and grouper.
Ethnic | PK Oriental Market
I love it -- I can always find everything from exotic and unique noodles to abalone.
Tacos at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Photograph courtesy of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Where To Take A Visiting Chef
I’d put them on my boat and take them to Garcia’s for fresh fish.
I would also take them to the Standard for their chickpea fries and their vegan lasagna (Living “Lasagna” Terrine).
Chow Down Bar And Grill [NOW CLOSED]
Order the special fish of the day – any of the crudo or whole fish preparations are very fresh and good. The Shrimp Dumplings with Squid Ink are also great with a beer (Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale).
This is my favorite food truck. Order your sandwich on Texas Toast – it’s the best variation.
While this place tends to be busy on the weekends, it’s slightly off the beaten path from the craziness that is South Beach, right near the water. Go simple when ordering – the Bucatini al Guanciale e Pomodoro is my favorite pasta on the menu, featuring sweet tomatoes and rich guanciale.
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We've asked Miami's hottest chefs and bartenders for tips and recipes to make your turkey day the most delicious ever. And we are sharing a few recipes or tips, along with some thoughts from each chef on what the holiday means to them.
A holiday table in the south isn't complete without a heaping dish of macaroni and cheese. This universally loved side pleases the pickiest eaters with its bubbling cheesy goodness.
Yardbird's Jeff McInnis shares a mac and cheese from his family to yours:
"The inspiration behind this dish is my grandma Kathryn, who always made macaroni casserole. I loved the semi-burnt cheese topping that would stick to the dish and on top. At the restaurant, the casserole dish is much smaller, but we still get the same effect. We add some bread crumbs to the crust for texture. Cornbread crumbs work great, too."
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound torchio pasta (Substitute penne, rigatoni or elbow macaroni)
1 ½ cups yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ cups medium cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Grayson cheese, shredded (Substitute Manchego or Swiss)
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups leftover bread crumbs (I like to use the leftover cornbread)
1 large pinch shredded cheddar for topping
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente (about 8 minutes).
Remove and cool pasta immediately in refrigerator on a flat cold sheet pan.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a separate pot, melt the ¼ pound of butter.
Whisk in the flour and keep stirring the mixture for about five minutes constantly.
Make sure mixture is free of lumps and then stir in the milk, onion, bay leaves, mustard and paprika.
Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaves.
Stir in the cheese in batches, being careful not to break the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fold the macaroni into the hot cheese and pour into a 9-inch cast iron casserole dish.
Top with a big pinch of cheese.
For the topping
Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss the herbs, salt and pepper, bread crumbs to coat.
Place a thin layer of the topping over the cheesy mac in the cast iron dish and place in oven.
Bake approximately 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly brown on top.
Remove from oven and serve.
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Restaurant Report: Yardbird in Miami Beach, Fla.
Miami Beach lies about as far south of the Mason-Dixon line as you can get while still in the continental United States. Yet its restaurants generally seem more influenced by New York than the deep South.
Enter Jeff McInnis. “What was missing was the sort of soul-nurturing food I grew up on,” said the young chef, from a shrimping town on the Florida Panhandle. So the former Top Chef finalist teamed up with two local restaurateurs, Chris Romero and John Kunkel, to open the 170-seat Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in what was once a neighborhood grocery store.
The result is a sophisticated space with just enough down-home elements — a Ball-jar chandelier and beer taps festooned with items salvaged from grandmothers’ kitchens — to pay homage to Yardbird’s rural roots.
Many of its recipes come from grandmothers as well. After more than 100 attempts at getting the fried chicken just right, Mr. McInnis finally settled on a process inspired by Mr. Kunkel’s Grandma Llewellyn: brining the bird for 27 hours, dredging it in cayenne-spiced flour and then frying it. The resulting bird, audibly crisp and meltingly tender, comes with Cheddar waffles and hot sauce-spiked Tupelo honey.
Homey touches are all over the menu. Biscuits are baked fresh every half-hour or more bacon is house-cured — an eight-day process repeated several times a week. Blueberry lemon pie arrives in the cast-iron skillet in which it was baked.
Mr. McInnis goes to great pains to keep the menu as locavore as possible. Eggs, poultry, rabbit and alligator (which appears in a sausage) are all locally sourced. A nearby fisherman brings in Florida snapper, swordfish, pompano, wild cobia and spiny lobster. Another purveyor makes weekly deliveries of whole Florida hogs, which Mr. McInnis transforms into headcheese and sausage for the charcuterie plate. Even the olive oil comes from a mill in Carrizo Springs, Tex.
The bar stocks 75 bourbons, including some pricey ones. (A popular cocktail, the Pork Chop, combines bourbon, cider, citrus juice, fresh thyme and a spoonful of Dijon mustard.) Budget-minded drinkers would do well to check out the wine list “Yard Sale,” featuring a rotating selection of reasonably priced bottles.
Yardbird, which gets crowded on weekend nights and during Sunday brunch, clearly has its priorities straight. Over the open kitchen there’s a sign: “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love fried chicken and communists.”
Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth were born and raised in Niceville, Florida and in Perth, Australia respectively. After traveling the world and experimenting with different cultures and cuisines, the pair first worked together at the Miami based restaurant Gigi, where McInnis became Executive Chef in 2010. In 2011, McInnis returned to his true gastronomic roots and opened Yardbird Southern.
Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth were born and raised in Niceville, Florida and in Perth, Australia respectively. After traveling the world and experimenting with different cultures and cuisines, the pair first worked together at the Miami based restaurant Gigi, where McInnis became Executive Chef in 2010. In 2011, McInnis returned to his true gastronomic roots and opened Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach where he and the restaurant received three James Beard nominations for &ldquoBest Chef: South&rdquo and &ldquoBest New Restaurant.&rdquo Booth moved on to Yardbird as well, once again working under the tutelage of McInnis. After almost two years at Yardbird, Janine decided to return to a cuisine very close to her heart, Northeastern Thai, taking the position of Sous Chef on the opening team of Khong River House. Within three months of opening, the restaurant was nominated for a James Beard award &ldquoBest New Restaurant&rdquo in 2013.
In 2014, the culinary duo brought southern hospitality to New York&rsquos East Village with the opening of
Root & Bone a neighborhood restaurant celebrating country comforts, a roots revival of timeless Southern recipes and flavors. Root & Bone has won numerous awards including &ldquoThe Best Dish of 2014&rdquo by Time Out Magazine and the &ldquoBest Fried Chicken in NYC&rdquo by multiple publications. The chefs have both appeared on Bravo&rsquos Emmy Award-winning &ldquoTop Chef,&rdquo putting their personalities and talent front and center on a national stage. Booth was also a 2018 semi-finalist for a James Beard Award of &ldquoRising Star Chef of the Year&rdquo and has been recognized in publications including both Forbes and Zagat&rsquos 30 Under 30 awards. After laying down roots in NYC, the couple decided to expand their culinary brands to the beloved city of Miami where the pair originally met. In 2016, they opened their second restaurant, Sarsaparilla Club, where they served American Dim Sum. In September 2017, they dropped anchor on their third concept, Stiltsville Fish Bar, a Florida fish house in partnership with Grove Bay Hospitality Group in Miami Beach&rsquos Sunset Harbour neighborhood.
In December 2017, the chefs closed Sarsaparilla Club and opened a pop-up of Root & Bone at the Shelborne Hotel in Miami Beach. In March of 2018, the duo launched Roots Coastal Kitchen in Puerto Rico’s Wyndham Grande Resort&mdasha concept celebrating culinary traditions from the coastlines of Puerto Rico and the Atlantic, focusing on elevating the unique regional dishes with innovative techniques and flavor-forward local ingredients. They opened a permanent Miami outpost of Root & Bone in December 2018 located in the heart of South Miami. The chefs continue to expand their culinary footprint with future restaurant openings, slated for Miami and the Midwest.
Most recently, the culinary duo opened another restaurant in South Miami, which pays homage to Italian cuisine, Mi&rsquotalia Kitchen and Bar.
At this new neighborhood locale, the husband and wife team will share their passion for cooking and Italian flavors with their made-from-scratch modern interpretation of Northern and Southern cuisine.
Jeff McInnis on Yardbird - Recipes
Meet the Chefs: Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth
Executive Chef Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, Chef de Cuisine, Root & Bone, NYC
Having made their names in fried chicken at Yardbird in Miami and on Top Chef, it’s no surprise that the duo of Executive Chef Jeff McInnis and Chef de Cuisine Janine Booth have already been rated the best fried chicken in New York City. But there’s a lot more going on at Root & Bone than just fried free-range birds – as the name suggests, Root & Bone has a strong theme of on-the-bone meats and root vegetables, and the kind of “rural American” cuisine that corresponds to it.
One of those on-the-bone meats is an Australian rack of lamb, which the chefs cook with a very modern “sous vide” technique but in a simple preparation with butter and aromatic herbs. It gets finished quickly on the grill for service. “We keep the flavoring simple, letting that pure, natural, pastured lamb flavor shine through.” Says Booth. “We’ve had a number of guests tell us that they usually don’t like lamb, but they love ours. I think it has a lot to do with the mild, sweet flavor of Aussie lamb. We love changing peoples’ perceptions of what lamb can taste like.”
At home, native Aussie Janine loves the “hands-off” simplicity of slow-cooked curries for lamb. “In Australia, we have all these Asian influences from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India, so curries are something we learn from an early age.” She says. “The beauty of it is you get all that flavor from just one pot – get it going with your aromatics, spices and a bit of good lamb, then let it cook while you get on to something else.”
I have to give credit where it's due: One night at the restaurant, my sous chef, CJ, invented this dish with a bag of Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch Doritos he had in his backpack. But I've made it at home many times since. It's pretty common for us to have a few barbecued ribs left on the grill, sitting in sauce, and we always have fried chicken. But you can use pulled pork, roast chicken, or whatever leftovers you have &mdash it's not an exact science. The most important thing is the assembly: The meat-and-cheese party happens on top, so spread the chips evenly on the pan, then spread the toppings evenly so that everyone gets their fair share. And I scatter an extra ring of cheese directly on the pan, around the perimeter, so that it gets nice and hard and crispy.
If it's late and you're hungry, carry the entire pan into the living room and set it on a towel on the coffee table. (Warning from personal experience: Do not put the hot pan on the couch.) Eat with your hands and don't forget to pull off the crispy cheese pieces stuck to the pan.
&bull About bag Doritos, your favorite flavor (11.5-oz size eat the rest while you're waiting)
&bull About 3 cups shredded mixed meat, like pork and chicken
&bull About 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or Muenster or pepper jack, whatever you have)
> Equipment: A large sheet pan (13 x 15 jelly roll)
> Temperature: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
> Place chips on the pan in a somewhat even layer. Working over the top, evenly distribute shredded meat. Top this masterpiece evenly with the cheese, putting a little extra directly on the pan around the perimeter of the nachos.
> Place in hot oven until cheese is melted and nachos are crisply browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle lightly with barbecue sauce. Makes enough for a few friends.
The 10 Dishes That Made My Career: Tory McPhail
At last week’s James Beard Awards, Emeril Lagasse wasn’t the only New Orleanian to strike gold (the Bam Bam Man was named Humanitarian
of the Year). Proving the third nomination’s a charm, Tory McPhail of the legendary turtle soup-serving Commander’s Palace edged out Jeff McInnis of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami, as well as a trio of Nola chefs —Justin Devillier (La Petite Grocery), Alon Shaya (Domenica), and Sue Zemanic (Gautreau’s)—to snag the Best Chef: South title.
“When I got back to the restaurant, there were balloons in the foyer and a cake,” he says.
Now, it’s back to making the likes of wild Burgundy escargot and cold-water sea scallops with creamy bacon vinaigrette at the legendary New Orleans institution where he’s built his reputation.
McPhail’s love for the Garden District restaurant—housed in a quirky turquoise-turreted Victorian that’s been a destination for diners since 1880—is deep-rooted. Armed with a reverence for the local and seasonal, the Ferndale, WA native graduated with a Culinary Science degree from Seattle Community College before heading to the Big Easy, where he landed in the Commander’s kitchen at the ripe age of 19. Despite his inexperience, he whizzed through all the stations under the prowess of executive chef and mentor, the late Jamie Shannon.
The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, came next then London for Michelin-starred L’Escargot and its sister restaurant, Picasso Room, followed by Caribbean-Creole-centric Mongoose Restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands. By 2000, Commander’s welcomed McPhail back to the family—this time as sous chef of the short-lived Las Vegas outpost—before ultimately handing him the keys to the New Orleans kitchen where he first cut his teeth, in 2002.
Eleven years later, McPhail’s authentic Creole creations and upgraded tweaks on classics still enthrall the diners who linger in each of Commander’s Palace’s grand dining rooms. Yet the chef remains ever-humble. At the Beard awards, McPhail’s acceptance speech eloquently paid tribute to the women behind Commander’s—matriarch Ella Brennan, her sister Dottie, and Ella’s daughter Ti and niece Lally, who gracefully run the restaurant with an evenhanded dose of humor and hospitality. “Ladies, this one’s for you,” he said, holding up his medal.
Aside from “the hands down best weekend I’ve ever had in New York,” McPhail says winning has been exhilarating because of the “overwhelming support from everyone—friends, family and the entire New Orleans community. People have been coming into the restaurant not only to dine, but just to congratulate me.”
Here, the soulful McPhail talks about the 10 dishes that helped him evolve into one of New Orleans’ biggest culinary champions, from ones that have appeared on Commander’s Palace’s own menu, to those that leapt out at him from the cookbooks of some of the country’s most influential chefs. Spoiler alert: He’s got a thing for foie gras and Louisiana shrimp.