In just over 18 months, Asheville’s tapas restaurant, Cúrate, has become the hottest ticket in town, and its Executive Chef and co-owner, Katie Button, a blazing culinary superstar. She shared one of her favorite, easy, late-night meals, eggs fried in deep olive oil, served over sautéed baby kale and spinach, in our just-published January 2013 issue.
In addition to the Q&A that ran in the magazine, we wanted to know more about how this Carolina-born former medical research student shot to the top of the freshman chefs’ class, and how she became such a fan of Spanish food.
What was your first food job? Helping my mother prepare for catering events as a little girl.
Name a great Southern chef who inspires you. My grandmother. When she and my grandfather retired, they stumbled on Conway, South Carolina, and build a home for themselves on a dirt road. I was born there. My grandmother had this amazing vegetable garden. I would help pick the vegetables then watch her cook while I banged pots and pans around. She’s one of a line of women chefs in my family, and it’s why I love cooking–it’s in my blood.
How did you end up in Spain? I met my husband, Felix, while working at Café Atlantico/Minibar in DC. Felix suggested we travel to Spain to live for a while. It was truly inspiring. I remember one Sunday in Madrid where we spent the whole day wandering through markets, and stopping at tapas bars for a manzanilla (sherry) and a bite to eat. It was such a perfect day.
You did an apprenticeship at Spain’s legendary elBulli (now closed). How did you score such a coveted spot? I did a 4-month stage as a server there, desperately trying to prove myself so they’d invite me for a full season in the kitchen. I earned my way in by demonstrating a great work ethic, drive, and passion to learn.
Once you decided on Asheville as a place to open your restaurant, how did you choose what the style would be? We didn’t know it would be a tapas spot until we got here and started thinking about the vibe and environment we wanted to add to the town. We found a perfect old building built in 1927 that we totally renovated–it was a wonderful and challenging experience.
Was it difficult convincing local diners to eat tapas? It hasn’t been difficult at all–Asheville is full of people who are passionate about food and who love to dine out. The community has really supported us, and we really appreciate that!
What’s your go-to meal when you get home from work?
Sautéed Greens with Olive Oil-Fried Eggs
Makes 2 servings
Hands-on time 20 min.; Total time 30 min., not including eggs.
Serve with crusty bread.
2 cups butternut squash cubes (1 small squash)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 medium-size onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 (5-oz.) packages mixed baby braising greens
1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 Olive Oil-Fried Eggs
1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss squash with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Bake 20 minutes or until squash is soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, sauté onion in remaining 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Add greens, next 2 ingredients, and squash, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, 2 minutes or just until greens begin to wilt. Sprinkle with goat cheese, and top with Olive Oil-Fried Eggs.
Note: We tested with Organic Girl I Heart Baby Kale for mixed baby greens.
Olive Oil-Fried Eggs
Hands-on time 5 min., Total time 5 min.
The key here is to fry the eggs fast (listen for the sizzle) and baste the yolks with the hot oil until they’re opaque. The eggs come out crunchy on the outside, and soft in the middle.
Pour olive oil to depth of 1/3 inch into a small nonstick skillet (about 1 cup oil for a 6-inch skillet). Heat oil over medium-high just until it begins to smoke. Reduce heat to medium. Break 1 egg into a ramekin or small bowl. Holding dish as close to surface as possible, carefully slip egg into oil. (Oil may splatter.) Spoon oil over egg for about 30 seconds or until white is cooked and crispy on edges. Remove egg from oil using a slotted spoon, dabbing with paper towels to absorb oil; transfer egg to a plate. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Repeat with desired number of eggs.