As a little kid, seeing an entire lamb roasting on a spit in the backyard—head and all—was no big deal to Ethyl & Tank’s Stephan Madias. “It was a bit of a crude way to be introduced to the whole animal, but it gave me a deep appreciation for meat,” the 23-year-old chef admitted.
That crackling lamb was the centerpiece of his Greek family’s traditional Easter celebration. “My entire family can cook, it’s part of our culture,” said Madias. “We always hung out in the kitchen, friends and family, it was the place to be.” From the amazement at that rotating lamb to his gig as executive chef at Ethyl & Tank, Madias hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for the kitchen. “Food is beautiful—there’s beauty in how five or six ingredients can come together to make the best food of your entire life.”
As a burgeoning food fanatic, Madias remembers going out to eat with his family. “We’d go a couple times a month and just sit there and talk about the food,” he said. “Well, we’d pick it apart, talk about what was wrong, right down to the salt. We’d get mad if someone ordered the same dish because then there was one less thing to taste.”
His father’s lamb survived such scrutiny, a masterpiece of rosemary, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. “Six ingredients and fire,” he smiled. When Madias speaks of his family and his parents, the big, dark-haired guy with huge football forearms goes all sweet and soft. “They have inspired me so much,” he said. “Their journey to get over to America, overcome all the difficulties, and start a family…their journey gives me the strength to move forward.”
It might seem counterintuitive to talk about fresh ingredients and the beauty of food on an OSU campus known for 24-hour pizza and wing specials, but Madias is energized by the location. “Students don’t have to have frozen fries, frozen chicken tenders,” he said. “I want to open people’s eyes and present affordable, differently presented dishes. They don’t always have to go to Subway or Chipotle.”
Madias earned his kitchen cred while working at The Crest Gastropub. “I worked hard and learned so much,” he said. “The company is on the front lines of farm-to-table; I also learned a lot from Chef Jeff and Chef Julian [from The Market Italian Village],” he said. “We are like a big family, and it reminds me of home.”
Starting as the king of the kitchen less than a year ago, Madias’s joy was equaled by his panic.
“I was 100 percent nervous—so nervous,” he smiled. “But the support from everyone took me further…I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I love being hands-on and in the thick of things; the different mixes of people in the kitchen that come together and work as a team, and to be the leader is awesome and such a humbling experience.”
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
½ lb. unsalted butter
15 sage leaves
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
2 lbs sweet
2 eggs, separated, yolks only
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup flour for work surface
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork a couple times, place in a pan (sweet potatoes sometimes leak while roasted and you don’t want that smoky mess), and roast until tender, check after an hour, but it may take as long as an hour and a half. Scoop flesh from potato skin (careful, they will be hot!) and place in a medium-sized bowl. Mash thoroughly and let cool. Add salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Add egg yolks and stir together until the mixture is uniform.
Add the flour, a half-cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Flour your surface, place dough on the surface, and divide into six sections. Roll out each section into a rope of about one inch around. Cut each rope into one-inch pieces. Roll each piece over the tines of a fork, pressing your thumb into the center gently (the ridges aren’t just decorative, they are there to help keep sauce on the gnocchi).
Place the gnocchi on a sheet tray to rest while you put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Once boiling, add the gnocchi and cook until tender—about five to six minutes. Drain the water from the gnocchi, gently, as to not break any of the pieces.
While the gnocchi is cooking, make the sauce. Place butter in a heavy-bottomed pan until it bubbles. When the butter turns brown, add the sage leaves, salt, and pepper.
Stir until the sage leaves crisp up, and immediately remove pan from the stove.
To plate: Using a shallow bowl that has been warmed in a low heat in an oven, place gnocchi on the plate and spoon the butter sauce over them, adding a couple crisp sage leaves on the top for garnish. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Ethyl and Tank is located at 19 E 13th Ave. Find the Facebook page for specials and events.