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Mike Eldred is a star of the stage and in the kitchen
Vicki Stout, For Williamson; 12:34 a.m. CDT April 6, 2014
(Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)
Though cooking is a passion of his, when Mike Eldred steps on the stage at Schermerhorn Symphony Center May 3-4 to star as Jean Valjean in the epic "Les Miserables," it will be on an empty stomach.
"I just don't eat before a performance," says the internationally recognized tenor who has the lead role in Studio Tenn's upcoming production.
No stranger to the stage at the Schermerhorn or to the role of Valjean, Eldred is a consummate recording and performing artist. He played the same role on Broadway a few years ago and also last summer in Aspen, Colo.
"Cooking is my second passion," says the Nashville resident who grew up in upstate New York and in Texas. "The only thing I enjoy more is music."
Both passions date back to his childhood. He was harmonizing with music on the radio at the age of 4. His dad is a classic baritone and a tuba player and his mother loved cooking.
Eldred, who at 21 landed in Nashville with a record deal after two years of touring with a contemporary Christian band (one he abandoned college for), has cooked all his adult life.
"My partner, Tom Patterson, and I have been in a gourmet dinner club here for 22 years," he said as he prepared sea bass in his Green Hills home. "I love cooking; in fact, when I'm not touring, I cook dinner most every night."
Shelves in his kitchen are host to a range of cookbooks; his favorites are French.
"I am drawn to classic French cuisine," he said. "We try to eat healthier these days, so I don't do a lot of Italian pastas or a lot of sauces. I like to use fresh ingredients and prepare more simple fare."
His penchant for French cooking was all the more inspired by visits to France.
"On a stay in Provence, I tried to think of any way possible to move there permanently," he said. "It was a fantastic experience, and we had one of the best meals of my life out in the middle of nowhere at a small restaurant there."
He brings his love of French culture front and center with his role in "Les Miserables," a play based on Victor Hugo's book by the same name. The French Revolution is the epic's backdrop.
With a score of memorable pieces, perhaps the pinnacle, and certainly his favorite, is "Bring Him Home." Eldred often performs symphony pops concerts here and across the country.
"Even though the program is totally different, whether I'm doing the music of John Denver, who inspired me as a kid to be a tenor, or the music of Cole Porter, I often get audience requests for "Bring Him Home," Eldred said.
In addition to musical theater and performances with symphonies, he also is a studio singer; he's worked with lots of Nashville greats, from Garth Brooks to Amy Grant and Faith Hill.
He says he's very much looking forward to Williamson County-based Studio Tenn's production of his all-time favorite show and role.
"This will be my first time to work with the company. I have been impressed with every show of theirs I've seen, and, of course, the acoustics don't get much better than the Schermerhorn."
And while he doesn't eat before his performances, he has cooked afterward for gatherings of 40 to 100 when touring, or in Montana, where he and Patterson have a second home.
No word yet if he's planning such an event around his May 3-4 performances.
"The show is heavily sold already," he says. "We have friends calling, trying to get good seats."
Lamb Chops Champvallon (Daniel Boulud)
Braised lamb chops, onions and potatoes perfumed with thyme make a classic, soul-satisfying cold-weather dish. This recipe was created by one of King Louis XIV's mistresses to gain his favor. You can prepare this regal version up to 3 hours in advance then reheat it slowly 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Serves 4
12 lamb chops, ½ inch thick, trimmed of all fat
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon oil, for cooking
4 tablespoons sweet butter (2 tablespoons if melted)
2 large onions, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs parsley, leaves only, minced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a thick copper pot about 4 inches deep and 14 inches in diameter, or a large roasting pan that fits all the chops. Salt and pepper the chops, heat the oil in the pan over high heat and brown on both sides for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chops and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, the onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves to the same roasting pan and sweat for 8 to 10 minutes (making sure onions do not color).
Put the potatoes in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, onions, garlic, and herbs. Mix well.
Brush the inside of the pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Spread half of the potato/onion mixture evenly on the bottom of it, about ¼-inch thick and include 1 bay leaf and a thyme sprig. Press down on the top layer with a spatula. Pour in the chicken stock until it reaches the top layer of potatoes. Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the inside of the pan to use as a lid. Brush it with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and place it butter side down, covering the entire surface of the potatoes.
Bake for about 75 to 90 minutes. The top layer should be light brown and the inside moist, with 1/3 of the chicken stock left. Discard the parchment, bay leaves and thyme.
Sprinkle the dish with parsley, and serve from the pan.
Mediterranean roasted sea bass
4 8-ounce Chilean sea bass filets
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons oil reserved from above
Kalamata olives (chopped)
Dry white wine
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Remove pin bones from sea bass. In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat tomato oil over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, garlic, thyme, olives and capers and stir briefly. Add wine and clam juice and boil until reduced to glaze.
Season fish. Spoon glaze liquid over filets. Add to skillet and place skillet in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness.
Serve on warm plates.
Spinach salad with Gorgonzola croutons and bacon twists
4 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola
1 tablespoon unsalted softened butter
4 ½-inch thick slices of country bread (sourdough)
8 slices of bacon
1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with ¼ teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh spinach, stems discarded and leaves washed, spun dry
½ red onion, sliced thin into rings
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a cutting board, mash the Gorgonzola and butter together with fork. Spread half of mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Cut into 1-inch slices and arrange (cheese side up) on baking sheet. Twist each slice bacon into a tight spiral on the rack of a broiler pan, pressing the ends of each twist onto pan. Twists will unravel a bit as they bake. Bake croutons in the middle of oven for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden and the bacon is crisp. Transfer bacon to towels to drain.
Make the dressing in a blender with garlic paste, vinegar, honey, mayonnaise and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over the salad.
Catch the show
"Les Miserables" serves as the grand finale to Studio Tenn's fourth season. To purchase tickets, visit www.nashvillesymphony.org or for information on Studio Tenn visit www.studiotenn.com
"Mike Eldred gives a soul-piercing performance...."
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Lisa DuBois, Variety Magazine
"Mike Eldred is great... He's a true tenor, very dramatic, and he's got the high notes."
Steven Reineke, Conductor - New York Pops/National Symphony Orchestra/Houston Symphony/Toronto Symphony Orchestra
"The voices are stellar. Mike Eldred (as the Husband) soars in what may be the shows loveliest, most personal song."
THE CIVIL WAR
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
"...singer Mike Eldred wowed the audience with the soaring ballad, "Bright November Morning," from Mr. Reid's football opera, Different Fields."
IN CONCERT WITH THE CINCINNATI POPS
Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
"....Mike Eldred stepped in to sing the part of Quasimodo in "Esmerelda," nearly stealing the show with his powerful voice."
DENNIS DEYOUNG IN CONCERT
Brian Q. Newcomb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Listening to his soothing tenor embrace one is reminded that talent, personality, training and experience can combine to create a truly unique and amazing sound.”
THE VERY BEST OF JOHN DENVER WITH THE NASHVILLE SYMPHONY
Evans Donnell, ArtNowNashville
"His amazing voice – a high-flying, full-bodied tenor, intensely romantic, alternately wrenching and joyful – was so compelling that you forgot you were in a theater, forgot everything but the sound pouring out of his throat."
THE CIVIL WAR
Kevin Nance, The Tennessean
“Eldred introduced himself with Jeff Steinberg's Winter Medley comprising "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "Winter Wonderland" and "Let It Snow." He phrased like a jazz singer, sliding the rhythms around within and across bar lines. He's good at this. The tunes, set over a smooth swing groove in the orchestra, sounded neither square nor contrived. He made them sophisticated. That pegged Eldred as a post-Sinatra swing guy, but he's more than that. He showed off a well-trained tenor in rendering "O Holy Night" on the cusp of classical style, and he crooned "I'll Be Home for Christmas" with touching intimacy.”
MILWAUKEE HOLIDAY POPS
Tom Strini, Striniwrites Milwaukee
"Mike Eldred is flawless as Jean Valjean, a Frenchman imprisoned for stealing bread. His solos, including "Who Am I" and "Bring Him Home," are thrilling. He also is impressive physically as he hauls actor Brad Greer as Marius on his back around the sewers."
Kathy Lauer-Williams, The Morning Call - Pennsylvania
"...heaven-blessed with Mike Eldred's saintly, vocally thrilling Jean Valjean,"
George Hatza, Life@ReadingEagle.com - Pennsylvania