Fresh and Friendly at Michael’s on 7th

Chef Michael Lander likes to keep his favorite farmers on speed dial

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Michael Lander’s education in cooking began with family in his childhood kitchen. Photography by Kim Bottalico
Michael Lander’s education in cooking began with family in his childhood kitchen. Photography by Kim Bottalico

Chef Michael Lander is well known on the Vero Beach food scene. For 12 years, he was executive chef at The Moorings, and since 2019 he has been the chef and owner of Michael’s on 7th. With an ever-changing menu and a focus on farm-fresh food, the restaurant is a reflection of Lander’s life in culinary arts.

His interest began with learning from his family, as is the case with many chefs, he notes. “My granny Lillian and her housekeeper Mamie were great Southern cooks.” As a young adult, he began working at restaurants—fast food at first, but then at a restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead district. There he worked under a Swiss chef for whom culinary arts
was a family tradition. “I saw that he had excellent knowledge, and I was interested in knowing more.” The chef recognized that curiosity and provided valuable hands-on training.

Eventually, Lander moved to Florida and became the executive chef at a club in Boca Raton. One of the club members was Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. Recall that when Lander was young, he had worked at fast food restaurants; as a matter of fact, his first job involving cooking was at a Wendy’s, a fact that greatly amused Thomas when he found out. Lander remembers that during cocktail parties at the club, Thomas enjoyed telling his friends, “This guy began his career with me.”

At Michael’s on 7th, the menu includes breakfast. “A good way to start a breakfast menu is with a great egg,” Lander says. “Our menu is based on things I like to eat for breakfast or things I enjoyed when my mom would make me breakfast.” A popular lunch item is an order of “crab puppies”— hush puppies with crab meat folded in.

Lander also enjoys collaborating with Schacht Groves for Farm to Table dinners. “I like having my farmer friends on speed dial; they are as passionate about what they do as I am, and it’s a good combination.” These dinners are served al fresco at Schacht Groves, “in an idyllic Florida setting—cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the groves, and dinner by the lake.” It’s characteristic of what Lander enjoys about his work as a chef. “I love exploring new ideas and being creative with the great products we have locally.”

Crab Puppies. Photography by Kim Bottalico
Crab Puppies. Photography by Kim Bottalico

Crab Puppies

Serves 6-8

This is a distinctive—and very popular—item on the Michael’s on 7th menu.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. cornmeal
  • 8 oz. flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 8 oz. minced onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 16 oz. milk
  • 1 lb. crab meat

In one bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Fold in picked-over crab meat and let rest/rise for at least a half-hour.

Preheat frying oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a spoon to control portion size, slowly lower each scoop into hot oil and cook until an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit is achieved, turning over puppies as needed to ensure even cooking.

Using a spider, remove from oil to a clean pan with towel. Season with salt and pepper and serve with remoulade.

Remoulade

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. whole-grain mustard
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chives, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. tarragon, chopped

Place everything into the food processor and blend well.

Birdie Hogan Braised Brisket. Photography by Kim Bottalico
Birdie Hogan Braised Brisket. Photography by Kim Bottalico

Birdie Hogan Braised Brisket

Serves 8

Lander says: “This recipe was shared with me by a friend and has become a favorite. Thanks, Kathy H.”

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-pound) Birdie Hogan beef brisket
  • 1 tbsp. course ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups strong black coffee
  • 2 cups white wine

Season the brisket aggressively with salt and pepper. Lightly flour brisket and pat off excess flour.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat; add brisket to butter and brown on both sides. Transfer to a roasting pan.

Whisk together coffee, wine, and ketchup; pour over brisket. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3–4 hours or until tender, basting occasionally with pan juices. Let brisket cool in braising jus overnight.

Remove brisket, reserving jus. Using a sharp knife, slice brisket across grain into thin slices. Return sliced brisket to roasting pan and pour strained jus over brisket. Cover pan with aluminum foil and warm in oven until hot. Enjoy!

Schacht Groves Orange Meringue Tart. Photography by Kim Bottalico
Schacht Groves Orange Meringue Tart. Photography by Kim Bottalico

Schact Groves Orange Meringue Tart

Makes on 8-inch pie 

This dessert is a feature of Lander’s “Farm to Table” dinners at Schacht Groves. It makes great use of ingredients that are truly fresh and truly Floridian!

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh Schacht Groves orange juice
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 1 store-bought pie/tart shell

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and orange juice. Stir constantly until thickened and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks; temper the yolks by slowly adding the filling mixture, whisking constantly until all the filling has been added to the egg yolks. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium/low heat until thickened, 3–4 minutes.

Remove from heat and add orange zest and butter piece by piece until incorporated. Pour into prebaked shell and set aside.

For the Meringue:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar

In a mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, alternating between granulated and powdered, until combined. Continue to whip meringue until medium peaks form. Pipe the meringue onto tart in a decorative manner.

Bake on center rack to brown meringue, 8–10 minutes.

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