“We definitely like to dance with flavor over here. We’re known for spice,” says Scott Buchanan, of YCSF Craft. But patrons of this beloved establishment don’t come to Buchanan’s restaurant to be overwhelmed with heat. They come for the flavor, and Buchanan says that’s the ultimate goal. “It’s all about layers for us. We layer so you can taste the flavor attributes of certain chiles without blowing your mouth out with the heat. Habaneros have a great flavor, but very few people actually taste the briny, citrusy notes of the pepper because it’s so hot.” Buchanan carefully assembles his dishes to coax out the flavor of a chile, then pull away the heat before its Scoville units – a measurement of the spice of a pepper – overwhelm the diner.
With that in mind, we asked Buchanan for three spicy recipes that focus more on taste than burn. As usual, he didn’t disappoint, offering YCSF’s quirky takes on, in his words, “multi-regional dishes with parallels to the chiles of that region.” His deconstructed buffalo wing softens the heat of cayenne pepper with a blue cheese panna cotta. The crispy bone marrow paired with togarashi-spiced tuna is an unconventional, Asian-inspired “surf and turf.” And the smoked, quinoa-stuffed relleno offers a Latin- and Mexican-influenced vegetarian option. “We use chiles of all different regions and we’re always looking to find new ones,” he says.
Photos by Shannon Richardson Recipes courtesy of Scott Buchanan, of YCSF Craft
Breading: ½ cup panko bread crumbs ½ cup flour 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper ½ tablespoon onion powder ½ tablespoon granulated garlic Salt and pepper to taste 1 egg ½ cup buttermilk 1 cup sunflower oil
Panna cota: 1 packet gelatin 2 cups heavy cream 2 cups sour cream 6 ounces soft bleu cheese 1 ½ ounces stilton bleu cheese Honey (sweeten mixture to taste) Buffalo sauce
Trim away fat from chicken, then render six "cubes" from the meatiest portion of breast. For breading, mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl, whisk wet ingredients together in another bowl. Dip chicken into dry mixture, then wet mixture, then again in dry mixture. Fry breaded chicken cubes until golden brown and chicken is cooked thoroughly. Drain on paper towel afterward. Using mandolin, shave celery into thin ribbons. Reserve in cold water. For panna cota, bring heavy cream and sour cream to simmer over medium heat. Add cheeses and honey. When mixture is homogenous and creamy, add gelatin. Whisk until fully dissolved. Pour panna cota mix into molds and chill until set. The panna cota will yield more than needed amount for this recipe so you'll have extras. Plate in fun, artful way and serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings
Crispy Bone Marrow with Togarashi Tuna Canoe-cut marrow bone, cleaned and brined
Breading: ½ cup panko bread crumbs ½ cup flour ½ tablespoon smoked paprika ½ tablespoon granulated garlic ½ tablespoon Cajun seasoning Salt and pepper to taste 1 egg 1 cup buttermilk
Extract marrow from bones using a demitasse or other small spoon. Cut into 2-inch pieces. For breading, mix dry ingredients together in bowl and whisk wet ingredients in another bowl. Bread marrow pieces by dipping into dry mixture, then wet mixture, then again in dry mixture. Coat tuna steak evenly and thoroughly with shichi-mi seasoning. Heat skillet until very hot. Place tuna in dry skillet. Dry roast tuna 1 minute per side, cooking to rare. Let rest, then slice. Vacuum seal watermelon, soy, honey, and Mirin in food-saver bag. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Remove watermelon from bag. Reserve marinade. Fry marrow in sunflower oil at 340 degrees for approximately 1 minute, or until crispy. Plate by arranging dollops of strawberry preserves opposite tuna slices. Place crispy bone marrow pieces in dollops of jam. Drizzle marinade over sliced tuna. Arrange watermelon next to tuna.
Makes 2 servings
Smoked Quinoa Relleno 2 poblano peppers
Breading: ½ cup panko bread crumbs ½ cup flour 1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon garlic 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup sunflower oil
Mexican-style sour cream
1 cup quinoa 2 cups vegetable stock ¼ cup soy sauce 1 tablespoon chile paste (Huy Fong)
Char peppers thoroughly; when cool to the touch, peel. Slice down the side of each pepper to make an opening. Mix dry ingredients together in bowl and whisk wet ingredients in another bowl. Bread peppers, inside and out, by dipping into dry mixture, then wet mixture, then again in dry mixture; set aside. Combine vegetable stock, soy and chile paste; bring to boil. Add quinoa and cook until all moisture is absorbed and quinoa is mostly translucent. Drain and set aside. Shallow pan-fry peppers at 350 degrees until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff with quinoa and cheese. Garnish with Mexican sour cream.
Makes 2 servings
Meet the Cook: Scott Buchanan, of YCSF Craft
Scott Buchanan isn’t a formally trained chef, but you wouldn’t know it unless he tells you. He’s an encyclopedia of kitchen knowledge, peppering his conversations with French cooking terminology and references to culinary techniques like the judge of a TV cooking competition. His educational secret? He’s worked everywhere. “I started as a line cook at Harrigan’s back in the day,” he says. That was in Amarillo around 1997, before Harrigan’s shuttered in 2003.
He followed that up with several years in Austin, where he “bounced around some kitchens,” including a stint at the swanky Sullivan’s Steakhouse. He returned to Amarillo in 2007 to manage the kitchen at Basil Doc’s (eventually renamed 575 Pizzeria), rewrite the menu as the chef at Crush Wine Bar & Deli, and then serve as chef at Amarillo’s notorious Sava! “before it imploded,” he says with a laugh.
“I didn’t really know where I was going,” Scott says. “But I decided I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore.” He and his then-fiancé Rin Roberts – the two married in 2015 – considered launching a food truck, but Amarillo’s rigid food-truck regulations “took the fun out of it,” he says. Instead, they decided to sell street-style food out of a drive-thru hut at 10th and Madison. Yellow City Street Food opened in in 2013 and made an immediate splash, offering Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, vegetarian kale tacos, pork belly risotto, and its iconic Animal Fries from a 200-square-foot shack.
Eventually Scott and Rin began dreaming of a larger space where they could properly plate their dishes rather than hand them over to customers eating in vehicles. So last summer, the Buchanans closed the hut and opened YCSF Craft at 2916 Wolflin Ave. The sit-down restaurant serves many of Yellow City’s beloved dishes, offers locally sourced craft beer and other drinks, and is always, always hopping. “The reception has been overwhelming, to say the least,” Buchanan says. “It’s been a learning curve for sure, going from the shack to this place, but overall I think it’s been a smooth transition. It’s a great vibe here. We’re stoked.”
With a constantly changing menu and a regular stream of beer dinners, tastings, and other community events, Buchanan says the YCSF Facebook page (facebook.com/YellowCityStreetFood) is the best place to keep up with what’s happening at the new location.
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.