Eat & Drink

Friday, Dec 28 2012 12:32 AM

Food and Wine: Mountainside dining at The River Steakhouse

Compiled by Kevin McCloskey

On your next visit to Eagle Mountain Casino, which is just outside of Porterville, be sure to take a break from the blackjack tables and slot machines to unwind and feast at The River Steakhouse.

Chef Javier Jimenez and pastry chef Heather Jimenez, who happen to be high school sweethearts, attended ITT Technical Institute's School of Culinary Arts to pursue their mutual passion for food. Together, they joined the Eagle Mountain team in April 2010.

Related Info

Location: 681 S. Tule Road in Porterville
Phone: 800-903-3353, ext. 1816
Reservations recommended

“A lot of our guests are outdoors people, meaning they like to hunt, fish and camp. Venison is a game meat without the “gamey taste.” It also became almost an introductory meat for those who have never tried game meat ... The meat is lean, tender and not a shock to the palate.” — Javier Jimenez

1 whole venison leg filet, sliced into half-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
4 sticks of soft butter
3 shallots, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In large bowl mix butter, shallots, onions, lemon juice, wine and Worcestershire sauce and blend until smooth. Season and grill medallions until desired temperature, and top with one teaspoon of butter mixture. For rare, grill two minutes on each side; for medium-rare, grill three minutes on each side; and for well-done, grill four to five minutes on each side.

“This cheesecake recipe is my favorite for a lot of reasons. It’s really a base recipe, consider it a blank canvas. What I mean by that is you can change the flavors to fit your guests’ tastes or seasons, or to whatever you have on hand. For example, if your guests are chocolate lovers, then add some chocolate and voilá  — chocolate cheesecake. If you have fresh berries, add those in and, you guessed it — berry cheesecake. You are limited to only your imagination.”
 — Heather Jimenez

Makes two cheesecakes

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix everything together. Press the crumbs tightly into two 10-inch cheesecake pans. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Let it cool.

48 ounces cream cheese (use at room temperature)
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs and 2 egg yolks (use at room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients together with the whisk attachment of the mixer until the batter is smooth and creamy. Pour the batter in the cheesecake pans, which will have the graham cracker crust lined on the bottom. Cover bottom of cheesecake pan with large piece of foil, fold foil around edges of pan.
Place cheesecake pan in a large roasting pan to create water bath. Pour boiling water into roasting pan and fill up pan until water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
Cook in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes to let top set. Drop oven temperature to 150 degrees and then cook for 60 minutes. Take them out and let them cool for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for four hours.

Related Photos

Chef Javier Jimenez and pastry chef Heather Jimenez, who happen to be high school sweethearts, joined the Eagle Mountain Casino team in April 2010.

Heather Jimenez is the pastry chef at Eagle Mountain.

Javier Jimenez is a chef at The River Steakhouse at Eagle Mountain Casino.

Berry cheesecake by Eagle Mountain Casino pastry chef Heather Jimenez

Venison Medallions by The River Steakhouse chef Javier Jimenez at Eagle Mountain Casino.

This talented married couple took some time to share a couple of their favorite recipes with Bakersfield Life Magazine, and a little about themselves and their work.

What first got you interested in the culinary arts?

Javier Jimenez: Although I have a formal education in the culinary arts, it was my mother and father, both of whom were excellent chefs, who embedded my first interest in the culinary world. I grew up with both parents being professional chefs in many local restaurant kitchens. It was always a favorite pastime to help in the kitchen, and has now transpired into a career that I love, which gives me the ability to share many family recipes passed from generation to generation.

Heather Jimenez: Since I was about 10, I have always been in the kitchen. I loved helping my mother and grandmother bake, especially during the holidays. They taught me age-old recipes that are still some of my favorites to this day. Coming from a family of bakers, it was no real surprise that this is where I found my passion.

How is cooking for a casino restaurant different than cooking in a restaurant?

JJ: The pace is very different. At a normal restaurant, it's about getting things done. Here, at The River Steakhouse, it's about perfection, persistence and offering that succulent meal that provides more value than you can find anywhere else.

HJ: For the buffet, we make delicious desserts en masse. We make home-style goodies that you would normally see out of your grandma's kitchen. For the steakhouse, we serve more decadent desserts that guests savor. Everything is homemade, from the piecrusts, fruit filling, vanilla flavoring, to the whipped cream. We have definitely become known for having some of the best desserts.

What is your favorite dish to prepare?

JJ: I would have to say that the homemade marinara sauce with spaghetti squash would be my favorite dish to make. It is an old family favorite that has quickly become a favorite for many vegetarians here at The River Steakhouse.

What are the restaurant's most frequently ordered dishes?

JJ: The stuffed mushrooms are an all-time favorite, likely from their consistent taste and good reputation. We hear all the time, "We were told we have to try your famous stuffed mushrooms." The same goes for the steak-wrapped asparagus. For entrees, that would have to be our rib-eye. Again, the value for what you are getting is just incomparable. A steak that size (18 ounces), with that flavor, is very hard to find for the price.

HJ: Our most popular dessert in The River Steakhouse is our crème brulee. It is special due to the time we take to prepare it and, more importantly, for the fresh ingredients. As for the Forest Buffet, our cheesecake is an all-time favorite. We put a lot of time into making our cheesecakes, so they will be just right. Desserts are prepared for both restaurants fresh daily.

What are the challenges in cooking for patrons of a casino, and what are the payoffs?

JJ: Once they try the steakhouse, our guests often find their favorites on the menu, and come back for the same dish. Adding new items to the menu can be difficult. The payoff is that we get to see people more than once and get feedback on what they like or what they would like to see on the menu again. We really listen to our guests to ensure their experience is as positive and personal as possible.

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