Chef Tom – A Little on the Side: Not Just For Thanksgiving Anymore

Editor’s Note – Submitted before American Thanksgiving, Chef’s column offers up some recipes that are perfect for the cold winter months ahead as well as the traditional holiday meal. Swerve these anytime the need arises for comforting additions to your dinner that also bring with them fine reminders of family gatherings and good times. Thank you.

My favorite Thanksgiving side dish has always been the stuffing. Especially the crispy bits. Savory, carb-y, fatty…you know, all the good stuff. One of my go-to flavor enhancers that I figured out way back in the mid-seventies when I was just starting out on my culinary career, is caramelized onions.

My job at the time was to make three giant pots of vegetarian soup, so putting a deep caramel onto the onions by slow cooking in butter gave a much-needed umami bottom note. We’d never heard of the word umami back then.

Anyways, this is a recipe that ticks all the boxes, IMO. I even enhanced it some by giving the mushrooms a nice sear. All that wonderful brown stuff in the pan and on the veggies is called fond and that’s where a lot of the rich flavor comes from. Even when toasting the bread cubes, let them sit in the oven for an extra five minutes until they turn an impressive brown – that sweet spot between light golden and too dark.

As far as I’m concerned, the more Caramelization the better

French Onion Stuffing

French Onion Stuffing

6 to 8 servings

Golden caramelized onions and mushrooms are the building blocks of this stuffing inspired by French onion soup. The onions take some time to cook, but the meltingly tender result brings rich sweetness to the dish. Mushrooms are first seared, then added for their texture. The chicken bone broth reinforces the stuffing with more depth. An initial steam helps soften the big mound of raw onions to make caramelizing them easier and faster. The onions can be cooked the day before (through Step 3) and refrigerated, then rewarmed before using.

Ingredients:
1 (1-pound) country bread loaf, cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped celery (from about 4 ribs)

5 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces whole white mushrooms, finely chopped (1¼ cups)

 Salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus 1 thyme sprig

4 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (16 packed cups)

¼ cup dry white wine

3 cups chicken bone broth

3 large eggs, beaten

 Chopped chives, for garnish

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until very dry and light golden, about 15 minutes, then add another 5-10 minutes until bread is a lovely and darker brown. Remove bread and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter.

Meanwhile, in a large pot with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds. Remove veggies and set aside. Increase the heat under the pot to med-high. Add another tablespoon of oil.

Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring only occasionally, until mushrooms are nicely seared (browned), tender, and mixture is dry, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme leaves and celery/garlic mixture and transfer to a large bowl.

In the same pot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low. Add onions and thyme sprig, season with salt and pepper, and stir to evenly coat in the oil and butter. Cover and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until onions soften and begin to darken. After 30-45 minutes the onions should be dark brown and caramelized. Reserve 1 cup of the onions in a small bowl.

Add wine to pot and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld; discard the thyme sprig. Remove from the heat.

Add eggs to the mushroom mixture in the large bowl and mix well. Add the bread, then pour in the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and gently toss until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the reserved onions and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Cover tightly with foil and bake until stuffing is hot throughout, 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until crisp in spots, about 15 minutes longer. Garnish with chives and serve warm.

This just in. Untried, but comes highly recommended from a trusted fellow chef. She calls it her go-to show-stopper for Thanksgiving. The recipe is from a San Francisco iconic restaurant called Zuni Café. You don’t get to be an icon here unless your food is consistently outstanding. Judy Rogers was a pioneer chef and started her café in 1979, so over 40 years is pretty darn consistent.

Don’t be daunted by the number of steps. It’s pretty straight forward.

My chef friend Maggie says this is a cross between stuffing and bread pudding. Sounds good to me.

Panade

Chard and Onion Panade

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 pound Swiss chard (thick ribs removed), cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons

10 ounces day-old chewy peasant-style bread cut into rough 1-inch cubes

4 cups chicken bone broth

6 ounces Gruyère, coarsely grated

Salt

Directions:

Place the onions in a deep 4-quart saucepan and drizzle and toss with oil to coat, about 1/4 cup. Set over medium-high heat and, shimmying the pan occasionally, cook until the bottom layer of onions is slightly golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir and repeat.

Once the second layer of onions has colored, reduce the heat to low and stir in the garlic and a few pinches of salt. Stew, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a pale amber color and tender but not mushy, another 20 minutes or so. If at any point the onions look as if they may dry out, cover them to trap some of the moisture in the pan. Taste for salt. You should get about 2 1/4 cups cooked onions.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (or as low as 250 degrees, if it suits your schedule to stretch the cooking time from about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes; the slower the bake, the more unctuous and mellow the results).

Wilt prepared chard in batches: Place a few handfuls of leaves in a 3-quart saute pan or a 10-to 12-inch skillet with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkling of water (if you’ve just washed the chard, it may have enough on the leaves), and a few pinches of salt. Set the pan over medium heat until the water begins to steam, then reduce the heat and stir and fold leaves until they are just wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Leaves should be uniformly bright green, the white veins pliable (the veins will blacken later if they are not heated through). Taste. The chard may be slightly metallic-tasting at this point, but make sure it’s salted to your taste. Set aside.

Toss and massage the cubed bread with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a generous 1/4 cup of the stock and a few pinches of salt, to taste.

Choose a flameproof, 3-quart souffle dish or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Assemble the panade in layers, starting with a generous smear of onions, followed by a loose mosaic of bread cubes, a second layer of onions, a wrinkled blanket of chard, and a handful of the cheese. Repeat, starting with bread, the onions and so on, until the dish is brimming. Aim for 2 to 3 layers of each component, then make sure the top layer displays a little of everything. Irregularity in the layers makes the final product more interesting and lovely. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil.

Bring the remaining 3 3/4 cups stock to a simmer and taste for salt. Add stock slowly, in doses, around the edge of the dish. For a very juicy, soft panade, best served on its own, like a soup or risotto, add stock nearly to the rim; for a firm but succulent panade, nice as a side dish, fill to about 1 inch below the rim. Wait a minute for stock to be absorbed, then add more to return to the desired depth. The panade may rise a little as the bread swells.

Set panade over low heat and bring to a simmer; look for bubbles around the edges (heating it here saves at least 30 minutes of oven time; it also means every panade you bake starts at the same temperature, so you can better predict total cooking times). Cover the top of the panade with parchment paper, then very loosely wrap the top and sides with foil. Place a separate sheet of foil under the panade or on the rack below it, to catch drips.

Bake until the panade is piping hot and bubbly. It will rise a little, lifting the foil with it. The top should be pale golden in the center and slightly darker on the edges. This usually takes about 1 1/2 hours, but varies according to shape and material of baking dish and oven. (You can hold the panade for another hour or so; just reduce the temperature to 275 degrees until 20 minutes before serving.)

Uncover panade, raise temperature to 375 degrees, and leave until golden brown on top, 10 to 20 minutes. (If you aren’t quite ready when your panade is, re-tent the surface with parchment and foil and reduce the heat to 275 degrees. You can hold it another half hour this way without it overbrowning or drying out.) Slide a knife down the side of the dish and check the consistency of the panade. Beneath the crust, it should be very satiny and it should ooze liquid as you press against it with the blade of the knife. If it seems dry, add a few tablespoons simmering chicken stock and bake for 10 minutes longer.

Roasted Fennel Soup

Roasted Fennel Soup with Cranberries and Hazelnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges

1 1/2 large yellow onions, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges

2 large sprigs rosemary

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

5 cups chicken bone broth

1/8 cup roughly chopped dried cranberries

1/8 cup roughly chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts

Directions:
Heat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, combine fennel, onions, rosemary and oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Toss together to evenly coat vegetables. Transfer to baking sheets. Roast vegetables, stirring once and rotating pans halfway through, until golden and tender, about 40 minutes.

Discard rosemary and transfer vegetables to a large pot; add stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook soup until flavors meld, about 35 minutes.

Using a food processor or blender, carefully purée soup in batches until smooth. Return soup to pot and gently heat until warmed through; season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cranberries, hazelnuts and a drizzle of oil.

ON THAT NOTE

Appropriate for this holiday. Some magic and soul celebrating our Indigenous People family.

From the Tiny Desk website:

For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they’ve come to love. To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, we’ve asked Code Switch fellow Sam Yellowhorse Kesler to curate his favorite Tiny Desks from Native American musicians.

Conversations about Indigenous people are usually in the past tense: Who were they? What were their lives like? Discussions of Indigenous music forms are often the same way, thought of in an antiquated notion of drums and flutes. But Native musicians today are engaging with genre, unsurprisingly, the same way any other artists might be — in exciting and vibrant and incredibly diverse ways.

Indigenous performers at the Tiny Desk have exemplified this perfectly, even in an admittedly small sample size. They’ve brought genres from folk to rock to hip-hop, and sounds and languages from all across Turtle Island. The only commonality between them: absolutely none of them alone could possibly represent the breadth and beauty of Indigenous art.

I hope that many more will follow. As Nicholas Galanin of Ya Tseen says, “It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Month every month. Don’t you forget!”

TINY DESK CONCERTS


Raye Zaragoza: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


Lido Pimienta: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert


Mumu Fresh Feat. Black Thought & DJ Dummy: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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