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Chef interview: Carl Redding of Redding’s

When Elijah Bass tried to chase his grandson, Carl, out of the family kitchen in Gordon, Alabama, to toughen him up by assigning him, his brothers and his cousins outdoor chores, little could he imagine that Carl would become a US Marine and a baker. Nor probably did his grandmother, Amy Ruth Moore Bass, imagine that her summer sous-chef, visiting from New York, would in 1999 become proprietor of a Harlem Institution named in her honor and now is proprietor of this Atlantic City restaurant, Redding’s. Redding’s has 250 seats and features moderately-priced traditional and updated Southern food ranging from Fried Chicken and Waffles to BBQ Pigs Feet to Fresh Fried or Steamed Fish to Grilled Steaks and myriad side dishes like his 5-Green Stew. As with Amy Ruth’s, Redding’s features appetizers and entrees named for Rev. Sharpton (chicken and waffles), Harry Carson, the football Hall of Fame member (grilled rib-eye steak and waffles), and local religious and civic leaders. We had the opportunity recently to ask Carl, who is also a lifelong New York Giants fan, a few questions about Redding’s and his own culinary expertise:

Mikey’s Kitchen: You are a prime example of someone who has a passion and pursues a dream. What advice would you give a young chef who had a similar ambition but was just starting out?

Carl Redding: The advice that I would give to my young contemporary would be to pursue your dream through education and through experience. I didn’t attend a college or university for culinary and arts. However, I did pursue it by way of the United States Marine Corps. I probably learned more in the military than by way of a college. As a young boy I garnered as much experience in the kitchen because my Granddad would always tell me that if I wanted to work in someone’s kitchen, I would have to have a certain level of experience. Experience plus the knowledge will give you most certain success in anyone’s kitchen.

MK: What prompted you to name the waffles after celebrities?

CR: I name dishes after people so that there is a connect with my restaurant and the community. I also do this to honor those folks who normally do not get an opportunity to be honored.

MK: I’m curious about a couple of menu items–in particular the chicken and catfish rolls, and also the soul-violi. Can you talk about what those actually are and how they are made?

CR: The fried chicken and catfish rolls are made similar to an egg roll. The filling inside each of them, of course, contains the fried chicken or the catfish. It also contains rice and vegetables. The soulvioli is a ravioli which is made out of sweet potato or collard green pasta. There are 3 fillings each for the sweet potato and the collard green pastas. (editor’s note: YUM!)

MK: If you could choose one meal to eat by one chef, who would it be and what would it be?

CR: The Chef that would prepare that special dish for me is Mario Batali and that dish would be the Dover sole with chestnuts, watercress, black truffles & trumpets. I love his preparation of this dish because of the simplicity in making it, and its beautiful, bold, and complex flavors and textures.

MK: What are some short term and long term aspirations you have with the new Redding’s?

CR: I don’t have any short term aspirations for my restaurant. My long term aspirations are to position Redding’s as the #1 family-style Southern Cuisine restaurant in America. My aspiration is for people of all colors and ethnicities to bring their families and functions to Redding’s Restaurant.

MK: What went wrong with the Giants this year and what do you think needs to be changed for 2011?

CR: What went wrong this year for the Giants is that only two players on the team patronize Redding’s Restaurant. Those players are Aaron Ross and Ahmad Bradshaw. The change needed for the 2011 season is for the Giants to adopt Redding’s Restaurant as their restaurant of choice. I will guarantee you that they will win every home game after eating “Authentic Southern Cuisine” at Redding’s!!!

Carl was also kind enough to share a recipe with us from Redding’s that you can try at home:

Lasagna with Meat Sauce
Meat Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

For Ricotta filling:
2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole milk

For assembling lasagne:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Equipment: a 13- by 9-inch baking pan (3 inches deep)

Preparation
Make Sauce:
Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Make ricotta filling:
Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup milk; set aside. Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it’s not necessary to pat noodles dry). Spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup meat sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining meat sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

For more information on Redding’s, please visit www.reddingsrestaurant.com and for information on Redding’s Super Bowl bash, please click here.

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