Chef Q&A

Mac ‘n cheese from Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Zingerman's Roadhouse Mac 'n cheese

For the perfect holiday comfort food, try James Beard award-winning chef Alex Young’s recipe for homemade mac ‘n cheese. While you might not have cheddar cheese on hand from Grafton Village Cheese Company like they do at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Young serves guests this rich pasta dish, but for something special you might want to look around for a locally produced cheddar cheese.

Here’s a few more ideas to add some pizzazz to your mac ‘n cheese: add bits of crisped bacon on top before serving and/or pour the mac ‘n cheese into a casserole dish, sprinkle with another 1 cup of shredded cheese and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is browned.

Recipe

Prep + cook time: 25-35 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb. macaroni
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 lb. grated raw milk cheddar cheese (Zingerman’s uses two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village)
2 tsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and stir well. Cook for about 13 minutes (if using Martelli) or until the pasta is done. Drain it and set it aside.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter for the sauce in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat (be careful not to scorch the butter). Add the onion and bay leaf and saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf. Add the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
  4. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid lumping. When the flour and milk have been completely combined, stir in the cream. Keep the mixture at a gentle simmer (not at a high boil) until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the mustard, cheddar cheese and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes and set aside.
  6. In a heavy bottom skillet, over medium-high heat, get the pan very hot. Add olive oil and, when it begins to smoke, add the cheese sauce and drained cooked noodles. Toss thoroughly and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until you have approximately 15% of the mixture golden brown.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat.
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Chef Q&A: Alex Young of Zingerman’s Roadhouse

Zingerman's Roadhouse Mac 'n cheese

Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, isn’t your typical burger joint. Take the menu—if you look at it online, you can click through ingredients to see exactly where they come from. The chili and cheese fries might be an iconic menu item, but here you’ll find that the cheese is 2-year-old raw milk made at the Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont. And the beef? It’s from Dexter. With an eye towards the best, freshest ingredients possible, Alex Young, a James Beard award-winning chef, has brought all-American food to a new level at this Ann Arbor restaurant.

Here Chef Young answers a few questions about his favorite ingredients and cooking experiences. I’ll be posting his recipe for mac ‘n cheese tomorrow.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

Bread, potatoes, and onions

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

The first meal I learned to make is still my favorite, spaghetti bolognese.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

Milk & cookies in the middle of the night is my worst and a roasted leg of lamb for my birthday is my favorite.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

Setting light to my 18-foot barbecue pit (with the meat on it) 20 minutes before a huge barbecue dinner at the roadhouse.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

Peaches, apples, asparagus, morel mushrooms…but it’s our homegrown beef for me.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Zingerman’s Roadhouse? What menu item should they make sure to try?

Mac & cheese, the burgers, bbq ribs, fried chicken…

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Chef Q&A with Julie Zak

Close up of Cherry Stuffed French Toast

Chef Week continues with a visit to the White Gull Inn, which has been greeting guests since 1896. Located in Fish Creek part of Wisconsin’s Door County, the area draws visitors year round with its rich history, farm-fresh food and plenty to do with Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east.

The Inn, located just down the street from Sunset Park—so named for the gorgeous views of Green Bay in the evenings—does have overnight lodging, but many people are drawn to its doors for one reason: breakfast. In 2010, the Inn won of Good Morning America’s Best Breakfast Challenge with one of their signature dishes.

Julie Zak, the Breakfast Chef and kitchen manager describes the Inn’s cooking philosophy this way: “keep it simple, but use the freshest ingredients possible, emphasize local ingredients in season, don’t be afraid to innovate and experiment, and always put quality and consistency first.” Below, find out more of Zak’s kitchen experiences. And for a taste of one of her favorite recipes, try the White Gull Inn Breakfast Rice Pudding.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

Flour, maple syrup, dried cherries!

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

Although we are well known for our breakfasts, our lunches also have a large following.  As a special at the Inn and at home, I really love making lasagna, made from scratch with my homemade sauce using vegetables from my own garden and real ricotta cheese and Wisconsin mozzarella.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

I love our Eggs Benedict, but limit myself to an order once every two or three months.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

My first time cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for my in-laws, I forgot to take the giblets out of the turkey. Although it was embarrassing, we all laughed. I knew I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to make that mistake.

What do you suggest for first-timers?  What menu item should they make sure to try?

Definitely the Cherry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast. The combination of Door County sour cherries with Wisconsin cream cheese stuffed in egg bread, then grilled and served with maple syrup, is by far our most popular item at our breakfasts and was voted winner of Good Morning America’s Best Breakfast Challenge in 2010. Turkey hash with Dijon gravy would be a great accompaniment.

Don’t forget to enter the hand-crafted oak cutting board giveaway!

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White Gull Inn Breakfast Rice Pudding

White Gull Inn in the wintertime Photo credit: White Gull Inn

A special thanks to Julie Zak, the Breakfast Chef and Kitchen Manager at the White Gull Inn for providing this recipe. The White Gull Inn is located in Fish Creek, part of Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County area.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings


Ingredients

4 cups cooked basmati rice

1 lb. frozen peaches, thawed and coarsely chopped

1 cup pitted, frozen tart cherries, thawed and drained

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup brown sugar, divided

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ cup shredded, sweetened coconut

¼ cup chopped pecans

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1 ½ quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine rice, peaches, cherries, whipping cream and ¼ cup of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into prepared dish.
  3. In a small bowl, mix remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, rolled oats, coconut, pecans and melted butter; sprinkle over rice mixture. Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

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Fagioli Calabrese from Compari’s on the Park

Compari’s on the Park chef, Tony Yaquinto, shared his restaurant’s favorite recipe for fagioli calabrese.

Recipe
Ingredients

2 Tbs julienne fennel
2 Tbs julienne hungarian pepper (hot)
1 Link Hot Italian Sausage (cooked & chopped)
1 Tbs roasted red pepper
pinch chopped fresh garlic
3 Tbs butter beans
1 Cup fresh spinach
1/8 cup chicken stock
1/8 cup white wine (substitute: white grape juice)
2 cups cooked tubetti pasta
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
Directions

  1. Saute fennel, hungarian pepper and italian sausage in canola oil, cook until the veggies are tender.
    Add roasted red peppers, garlic, beans, and spinach, then cook till beans are hot and spinach cooks down.
  2. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and white wine (or white grape juice).
  3. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add pasta, butter, and Parmesan cheese; simmer till creamy.
  4. Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper (or crushed red pepper).
  5. Enjoy this Southern italian favorite with fresh Italian bread with butter.

Keep reading during MKES’s Chef Week, tomorrow I’ll be starting a cool giveaway!

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Chef Q&A with Tony Yaquinto from Compari’s on the Park

It’s Chef Week at MyKidsEatSquid. I’ll be featuring Chef Q&As, along with their favorite recipes all week. Look for a great giveaway coming up Wednesday too!

First up, Tony Yaquinto, head chef at Compari’s on the Park in Plymouth, Michigan. He’s the first chef who has pointed out using a special ingredient I’ve discovered from Mexican cooking, Maggi sauce, which has the depth of soy sauce without being overpowering (I’ll have to post on the miracle of Maggi sauce another time). On to Chef Yaquinto…


What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

I would like to say onion, chicken stock and kosher salt. Onion is the base for great soups and sauces and stocks. I use just standard white onions—a lot of them. Kosher salt is what I use to season all my food. And chicken stock, or even vegetable stock, is good for making sauces or even cooking ingredients in when you want to add flavor.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

Pork tenderloin. Usually when I have family or friends over that’s what I make. It’s inexpensive and easy to prepare. I like to marinate it then grill it. With the marinade I usually put in a little bit of everything—oil, salt, pepper, garlic and I have a spice at home and in the restaurant I use for seasoning called Maggi and I put that in too. I might also rub on brown sugar and mustard to give it a nice crust.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

Once a week I like to have a nice, big breakfast. A couple eggs over easy, bacon or sausage, toast.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

I do a cooking club here at the restaurant once a month. We meet with some guys that live around town. Once we made a cheesecake and one of the guys used salt instead of sugar–it came out a little bit salty. We always joke about it.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Compari’s on the Park? What menu item should they make sure to try?

I would recommend the fagioli calabrese. This dish is very unique, it’s something we came up with a few years ago and just started playing with since. It has butter beans, banana peppers, chicken stock, Italian sausage, white wine, cheese, and noodles. People may not be familiar with it, but 90% of those who try it fall in love with it.

Tomorrow I’ll pass along the recipe for Chef Yaquinto’s fagioli calabrese pictured above.

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Tart cherries 101

You might call Jamie Roster a sour cherry aficionado. In 2005, along with her husband, Nick, she became the owner of The Cherry Stop, “the world’s largest selection of cherry food and gifts” in the heart of Traverse City, Michigan, which happens to supply 80% of the country’s sour cherry supplies.

The Cherry Stop is definitely a hands-on business. Along with picking local cherry processors that select cherries from nearby farms, Jamie comes up with new products to highlight the smooth, tart flavor of the berries. Keep reading to learn more about sour cherries and how you can use them to pump of the flavor of your recipes. After talking to Jamie, I used dried cherries to add a zing to my pico de gallo recipe–my kids loved it. And my husband kept asking, “What did you put in this, I like it.”


For more on cherries, here’s Jamie…

Can you explain the types of tart cherries available?

There are two types: Montmorency, which are the premiere cherries for making cherry pies, and Balaton cherries. Montmorency cherries have a red exterior and yellow flesh. They bruise easily once they’re picked. Balaton cherries have a darker skin and a burgundy color from skin to pit.  The Balaton cherries are larger and hardier than Montmorency but they’re not quite as tart. Balatons were originally from Hungary and through a collaboration with Michigan State, they were introduced here about 20 years ago.

How are tart cherries processed?

We’re not involved in the growing or the processing, but I can explain how it’s done. Typically tart cherries are shaken off the trees. There’s this machine that holds the tree and shakes the trunk so that the cherries fall into a canvas underneath. Then the cherries are placed into water containers on trucks. They’re very fragile, so farmers have to be careful transporting them. But the cherries go right from the tree into the processor or they’re frozen. Tart cherries have to be processed very quickly. They don’t last very long off the tree.

What about the cherry products offered at your store?

Our cherry jams are a staple. And our cherry salsa is incredibly popular: it’s tomato based with a little tart and a little spice. Our old-fashioned cherry butter… But we’re constantly coming up with new product ideas.

How do you create new cherry products?

My husband and I are pretty much hands-on in every aspect of production. It’s either my ideas, or my husband’s. At home, we come up with crazy things and try them out in small batches until we perfect the recipe. That’s how I came up with cherry ginger jam. You have to try it—it’s a phenomenal jam. We also have a new product we’ve called ‘cherry catsup,’ but that’s misleading because it’s very versatile—you can use it for everything from pork chops to ice cream.

What should cooks know about using cherries?

The big thing is not to be afraid of trying out something new—cherries are so versatile, whether it’s for something sweet or savory. Cherries compliment other flavors instead of overwhelming them.

To find just about anything “cherry” from jams to t-shirts, you can visit The Cherry Stop in Traverse City or order their products online. And for those of you looking for a unique Father’s Day present, Jamie mentioned she gets more than one call around June asking if they ship fresh, frozen, tart cherries. The answer? You bet.

Next week I’ll have Jamie’s recipe for Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies available for you to try!

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Q&A with Koeze Company: Cream-Nut Peanut Butter

1.5 million pounds. That’s how much peanut butter, and peanut butter products, we consume here in the U.S. each year. And I couldn’t be happier about it. I heart peanut butter. Seriously, I was one of those kids who had a daily dose of PB sandwiches (forget the jelly!). Since March is National Peanut Month, I couldn’t let the month go by without highlighting an all-natural peanut butter company.

Grand Rapids, Michigan based Koeze has been making peanut butter the same way since 1925. Their Cream-Nut brand, which lists just two ingredients—Virginia peanuts and sea salt—has been featured in a variety of popular publications, from Oprah’s O Magazine to Everyday with Rachael Ray to Esquire.

And just how did a company that was founded in 1910 by Netherlands immigrant, Sibbele Koeze, go on to sell over half a million jars of peanut butter each year? According to Koeze’s Creative Director Martin J. Andree, it’s all about quality ingredients. Along with explaining more about Cream-Nut, Andree gave me a few more insights into one of my favorite things during our recent interview.

What makes Cream-Nut peanut butter so unique?

What draws people to our peanut butter is that it tastes really traditional. It’s wholesome and old-fashioned. Part of that is our company’s story: We’ve been making our peanut butter the same way with the same ingredients that we have been since the 1930s. It’s the kind of food that takes you back. If you compare ours to commercial peanut butters you’ll see that on theirs the second ingredient is molasses or sugar or something like that. The peanut butter tastes sweet, but ours really tastes like peanuts.

Can you tell me more about the peanuts in Cream-Nut?

There are four types of peanuts in the U.S—Runner, Valencia, Spanish and Virginia. We use Virginia in Cream-Nut. With Virginia peanuts the flavor tastes like a handful of fresh roasted peanuts you might get at a baseball game. Even though the name is Virginia, these peanuts are grown throughout the Southeast in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

With our organic peanut butter, Sweet Ella’s, we use organic Spanish peanuts. It’s really tough to get organic peanuts. They grow in more arid places like New Mexico and Texas, dry ground. With the wet, humid environment in the South they have to do more to keep the weeds away. But with the Spanish peanuts, they grow in different areas and taste entirely different. They’re naturally sweet. And to crush them to use in peanut butter—well it’s a little like we’re making hamburger out of a filet.

What’s more popular smooth or creamy?

For us, it’s a 60/40 split in favor of creamy. But even our creamy peanut butter is more chunky. We use vintage WWII machinery to crush the peanuts and because of that process it still has some chunks in it. That’s why we work in small batches. With commercial varieties they put the peanuts in some like a big, high-speed blender so that the peanut butter almost has more of a yogurt consistency. Ours just isn’t like that.

And your personal favorite—smooth or crunchy?

I’m a smooth guy. I like the Sweet Ella’s organic smooth, but I also like the Cream-Nut smooth too, of course.

Check back in Wednesday for Andree’s favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.

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Chef Q&A: Joseph George of Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

Chef Joseph George

Chef Joseph George

I’m still pondering some Thanksgiving tweaks for this year. What about a little pumpkin in the potatoes? I recently spoke with Chef Joseph George, executive chef at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Michigan who shared some foodie insights as well as a recipe or two.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

At home you can always find different types of cheeses like brie, chevre and baby bell which I love eat with rustic breads from local bakeries. I also drink lots of orange juice with eggs, deli meats for sandwiches and cereals.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

My favorite meal to make is braised short ribs. The there are several cooking techniques involved, which I love, from marinating to searing, to braising to proper cooling so the meat stays moist. You can make this dish multidimensional by pairing it up with several different types of sides.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

I have a sweet tooth. When I indulge, I go for the chocolates in life. I enjoy a rich smooth chocolate infused with different flavors in a truffle or a bon bon. It is quite a treat so I love to analyze it, is it smooth, is it flavorful, is it tempered correctly and the list goes on.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

One of my worst cooking mistakes happened when I was 19 trying to force my knife through an onion. The knife was dull, slipped and I cut myself pretty bad.  Needless to say, I am a big advocate of sharp knives from then on out since most injuries occur with dull knives, not sharp ones.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

My favorite is a new one I just discovered this year and that is the honey cream line from Sleeping Bear Farms. It is a richer form of honey that they produce plain, with lemon or cherry. Great product for home and for a professional kitchen.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Grand Traverse Resort & Spa? What menu item should they make sure to try?

When staying at the hotel or a local going out to dine I highly recommend eating breakfast in Sweetwater bistro and ordering my favorite salmon Benedict. For dinner I would go right to the top of the tower in Aerie Restaurant and Lounge to try the Tuna Tartaki appetizer followed by the Maytag Encrusted Filet.

Yield:  6 servings

Spiced Sirloin:
6 Sirloin Steaks
1 c. quatre espice – (equal parts ground: ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, clove)
2 T. bacon fat
Salt

Pat dry all steaks.  Season steaks with salt, rub generously with quatre espice.  In a large sauté pan, sear both sides of steaks in bacon fat until dark brown.  Roast in oven on roasting rack for 10-12 minutes (medium steak), more or less for different temperatures.

Pumpkin Potato Gratin:

1 quart heavy cream
1 16oz. can pumpkin puree
8 peeled Idaho potatoes
1 T. nutmeg mixed with 1 T. cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 pound grated parmesan Reggiano

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a small container, mix pumpkin puree, cream and cinnamon mixture.  On a mandolin, slice potatoes very thin, layer potato, cream mixture, salt and pepper then parmesan.  Continue again until pan is full to the top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through), bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting.

Mushroom Braised Swiss Chard:

8 stalks Swiss chard – julienned
4 pints button mushrooms – sliced
3 peeled shallots – diced
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic cut in half
Salt and pepper
12 oz. white wine
½ pound butter
Juice of 2 lemons

In a medium rondo pan, place mushrooms, shallots, thyme, garlic, wine, butter and lemon cook on medium heat covered for approx. 15 minutes.  The mushrooms should release a good amount of liquid, at this time, add the Swiss chard and simmer for 5-7 minutes covered.  Strain and serve.

Assembly:
Cut potato gratin into squares, place over braised Swiss chard/mushroom mixture.  Slice sirloin next to potatoes, cover again with Swiss chard and more mushrooms.  Garnish with fried onions, shaved Reggiano or fresh vegetables.

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Chef Q&A: Pam Turkin of Just Baked

cupcakes

Photo credit: Pam Turkin

For over a year, Pam Turkin put in long hours through the weekend tweaking and perfecting her recipe for buttercream frosting. “I bet I made 100 batches,” recalls Turkin of her efforts. Along with buttercream, Turkin baked different varieties of cupcakes trying to find the right balance of sweetness, flavor, moistness and that indescribable something that just makes cupcakes so alluring: See Just Baked’s Fat Elvis cupcake for an example☺

During the week, Turkin worked in marketing and advertising often traveling for her job. She’d noticed on her travels little boutique cupcake shops dotting each coast and yet when she got home to Michigan, she couldn’t find a similar shop. “I just got it into my head that a cupcake shop was one thing I wanted to bring Detroit,” says Turkin. To date, she’s brought four retail shops, called Just Baked to Michigan.

Turkin’s first store opened in Livonia in 2009. Other stores followed in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, and soon the first franchise in Canton, just across the street from IKEA. While Turkin admits baking, marketing, planning and everything else involved with running the cupcake shops have eaten away most of her time, her family has been supportive all along the way. Granted, her five kids acted as the official taste-testers in the early days of her business!

So far, Turkin’s keeping mum on her cupcake recipes (darn!), but she passed along a recipe for her pumpkin cookies to share with MKES readers.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Fresh eggs, fresh butter, potato chips

Your favorite meal to make or serve?
I love to cook. My favorite meal to cook is Thanksgiving dinner—the turkey, stuffing, I love the smell of it, the look of it—I love everything about it.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Easy, shortbread. We make our own homemade shortbread to use in a lot of our cupcake bottoms. Many of the cupcakes are layered. We also use crumbled shortbread as a topping for our strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. My employees know to stash a little extra shortbread in the back for me.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
My mother never cooked, but she happens to make one thing really well and that’s brisket. No matter what I do, I either overcook or undercook it. Every time I make it it’s just wrong. I’ve given up.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
I love Faygo sodas. When I think of Detroit I think of Faygo, it’s indicative of Detroit. I had the opportunity to go to the plant—it has to be the best smelling place in the world. It smells just like orange cream soda.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Just Baked? What menu item should they make sure to try?
Our Grumpy cake cupcake is definitely our bestseller. With the holidays coming up, though, I’d have to recommend the pumpkin pie cupcake—it’s my personal favorite. Then there’s the sweet potato pie cupcake that we also only do around this time of year and that’s really good too. *By request Turkin also has gluten free and vegan cupcakes available.

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