Roasted Pumpkin Salsa

Everyone is turnin’ up for Pumpkin! Pumpkin is not only the leading food this time of year, it also has amazing health benefits! If you want a food to fill you up, but not fill-you-out… Pumpkin will be your new fav!

 
You’ll Need:
 
Good quality olive oil
 
1 small sugar pumpkins
 
1 organic heirloom tomato, de-seeded and cut small dice ( optional ) 
 
1/2 cup fresh white or yellow corn
 
1/2 red onion, cut julienne 
 
1 serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
 
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
 
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
 
1 clove garlic, fine dice
 
1 lime, zested and juiced
 
1/2 lemon juiced
 
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
 
Drizzle of maple syrup  
 
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 
Hulled pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds for garnish 
 

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 350′ F Degrees. Carefully cut pumpkins open with a serrated knife. Remove pulp and seeds. Slice into 1/2 inch slices for easy skin removal, reserve seeds in salted water for roasting. 

On baking sheet, lay pumpkins slices, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, flip and season with salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered for about 10-12 minutes depending on size. Poke with a fork to check doneness. Be sure to under cook the pumpkin to hold their shape when diced. Cool quicky to prevent over cooking. When cool, remove skin and cut into dice.

In a small bowl- combine tomato, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lemon, lime zest and juice, cumin and 1-1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Add cooled diced pumpkin. Toss to coat.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper add additional cumin and maple syrup to taste.

Serve with corn tortilla chips.

Butternut Squash and Candy Cap Mushroom Brûlée

Incorporating these two seasonal ingredients into a crème brûlée makes perfect food pairing sense! Not to mention a sophisticated Thanksgiving dessert. Extracting the famous candy caps’ flavor is done by infusing the maple flavored mushrooms in cream. The same recipe method can also be used to flavor seasonal ice creams or custard bases for pie fillings. The natural maple-flavored essence of candy caps paired with sweet butternut squash will be most harmonist and unusual food pairing on your holiday dessert table this year! 

You’ll Need:

1 butternut squash, cut horizontally and seeds removed

3 cups heavy cream

1/2 ounce Dried Candy Cap Mushrooms

6 large egg yolks

2/3 cup candy cap sugar (see recipe below) plus ½ to 1 cup more for caramelizing 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch kosher salt

Here’s How: 

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F Degrees.

Place the butternut squash and ½ cup water in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish — cover and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until soft and tender.

Remove from the oven, and place the squash in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and drain for at least 30 minutes to release any excess moisture, press gently to extract all the liquid. Reserving the liquid for another use. After removing any excess liquid, place the squash scoop the flesh in the bowl of your food processor and purée until smooth. Discard the skin.

Reserve 1 cup of purée and save any remaining squash meat for another recipe.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F Degrees. Arrange eight 6-ounce crème brûlée dishes or ramakins in a large roasting pan. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer while you finish making the custard.

To Make the Custard:

Place the cream and candy cap mushrooms in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil, then turn off heat and allow to rest for about 30 – 60 minutes to infuse flavors.

Strain the infused cream through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan, pressing on the mushrooms to extract all of the flavor.

In the bowl of your standing mixer whisk the yolks, 2/3 cup of the candy cap sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Reheat the strained cream to a gentle boil, then slowly drizzle the hot cream stream into the egg whisking mixture while on low to medium speed paying special attention to carefully introduce the hot cream to the egg mixture a-little-at-a-time until the egg mixture is almost the same temperature as the cream–this technique is called tempering and will prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Once you have tempered the cream into the egg mixture, add the squash purée.

Strain again through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium-size bowl. For an even creamier texture, strain a few times, or through a cheesecloth lined strainer.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins in the roasting pan. place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and pour enough of the simmering water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins allowing them to bake in the water bath for about 20-25 minutes, or until just set. The centers may still appear to be slightly jiggly- that is a perfect indicator it is time to remove from the oven. With tongs and a dishtowl, carefully remove the crème brûlées dishes from the water bath and place on wire racks to cool to room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Makes approximatly 6-8 servings 

Before Serving: 

Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of Candy Cap Sugar evenly on top of cold Crème Brûlée. Brown the tops using a blowtorch or by placing the ramekins under the broiler until the sugar is melted and bubbling. Wait 1 to 2 minutes for the sugar crust to cool and set up before serving.

Success Tips :

The drier the butternut squash purée, the better. Make sure to cook it until it is very tender, then give it the full time to release all of the excess liquid and steam. You can prepeare a couple of days ahead of time and refrigerate the purée until you are ready to use.

Substitutions and Variations:

You can use regular or vanilla-infused sugar in place of the candy cap sugar. Other winter squash varieties, such as acorn or kabocha squash, can be substituted for the butternut. Just be sure to precook the squash until very tender and to purée until smooth. Add a little spice, try a pinch of cardamom or allspice. Too much, however, will overpower the delicate flavor of the candy cap mushrooms.

Infused Candy Cap Sugar:

Infused sugar is one of the easiest things you can make, and as a bonus, it’s delicious, very pretty, and incredibly versatile. An infused sugar can enhance everything from baked goods to cocktails, and you can let your imagination run wild dreaming up a variety of flavor combinations and different ways to use them.

Plan accordingly – it can take up to a week or two to be fully infused after you make the sugar, but it will keep well for up to 3 months in dry storagae.

To make infused sugars, you just start with sugar—cane, beet or coconut sugar! Add the desired herb or spice to the sugar—the drier it is, the less the sugar will clump.

Infused Candy Cap Sugar 

You’ll Need: 

1 cup dried Candy Caps 

2 cups granulated sugar

Here’s How:

In the bowl of your food processor blitz the dry candy caps to a powder. If any moisture is exposed due to the friction, remove the mushrrom powder from bowl onto a parchment lined baking sheet and dry at room temperature. 

Once dry, combine with the sugar, stir well and store air-tight for a minumin of one week for infusion to take place.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Holiday Cheat Sheet- Just in case you’re wondering how much to Shop, Cook and Serve! 

As a professional chef, one of the most frequent question I’m asked is  how much food do you need to feed each guest? So, I decided to build a mini cheat sheet for the upcoming holiday season! Hope this helps!

Every 2.4 pounds of food you donate creates a meal for someone else. 

Cocktails: if you are serving throughout a two-hour cocktail party or dinner with spirits and mixers – One 750 ml. bottle of spirits will serve 17 drinks. Plan on 3 drinks per person if you have a fun crowd!.

Finger food: On an average, guests will eat about 3-4 appetizers each during the first hour and will eat about 3 appetizers each for each subsequent hour. Especially If consuming alcohol. My rule of thumb is  to be prepared to serve : 3-4 pieces per person with alcohol and 2-3 without alcohol. 10-12 pieces will be equivalent to a full holiday meal replacement.

Main Protein: Turkey: 1 1/2 pounds per person.

Gravy: 1/2 cup per person.

Cranberry Compote: 1/4 cup per person.

Stuffing: 1 1/2 cups per person.

Side dishes : 1/2 cup per person for more than one side dish. If serving only one side dish plan on 1 1/2 cups per guest.

Potatoes or sweet potatoes: 5 to 6 ounces per person, which is about about 1 large golden yukon, or small russet potato, or half of a large sweet potato.

Salad: plan for 1/2-1 cup of salad per person unless the majority of your guests are counting calories, then I would increase by 50%.

Bread : estimate 1 1/2 rolls per person 

Pie: 1 pie will feed 8 people if you are serving additional desserts. If not, plan on one pie serving 6 guests .

Whipped topping: 1/4 cup of cream (measured before ) whipping per guest.

After dinner drinks: plan on 1 drink per guest. Depending on who your friends are. 

Wine: A typical wine bottle size is 750 ml that contains 25.4 fluid ounces. The glass size determines how many servings. For example, you’ll get approximately six servings per bottle using a 4-ounce wine glass compared to five servings using a 5-ounce glass.

Sparkling wine: I usually recommend 2 glasses of sparkling wine per guest. There are 6 full glasses of sparkling wine in a standard 750ml bottle.

Coffee: plan on 1 1/2 cups per guest after a meal.

Happy Holiday

The Best Thanksgiving Stuffing I’ve Ever Made! 

Grand Mariner Apricot and Sausage Stuffing. 

This recipe is adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook. One of the first cookbooks I ever purchased. Co-Authors, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso Miller were hot on the gourmet carry-out scene in 1980’s. They really kicked off the “Artisan” food trend!

From that birthed, The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1982. An instant success! This book helped cement America’s interest in quality cooking and helped acquaint cooks with purchasing much-needed  “gourmet” ingredients.

Pioneers, if not legends for their Manhattan, food-to-go and gourmet ingredient boutique ! One of my favs!

You’ll Need:

1 cup diced dried apricots

1 1/2 cups Grand Mariner

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups coarsely chopped celery

1 large onion, chopped small dice

1 lb bulk pork sausage

1 lb herb stuffing mix

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 cups rich chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dry sage

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Here’s How:

Place the apricots and 1 cup of the Grand Marnier in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and set aside

Melt ½ cup of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and saute for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same skillet, cook the sausage, crumbling it with a fork, until it’s no longer pink. Remove from heat and add to the celery & onion mixture.

Add the stuffing mix, apricots with the liquid, the almonds. Stir to combine.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup butter and chicken stock just until the butter melts. Pour over the stuffing mixture and add the remaining 1/2 cup of Grand Marnier. Stir well to moisten the stuffing, adding the thyme, ground sage, salt and pepper to taste.

Bake stuffing in a large buttered casserole at 325’F degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Note: Enough to stuff a 21-24 pound bird with a small extra casserole on the side.

Now, should you stuff the bird is the question!

Happy Holidays

KSCU 103.3 FM Season 2 Episode 7 Charles Duque

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-y8wzr-c6eee5

CHEF GIGI’S GUEST THIS WEEK IS CHARLES DUQUE, MANAGING DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTRE NATIONAL INTERPROFESSIONNEL DE L’ÉCONOMIE LAITIÈRE. USA’S NATIONAL CHEESE BOARD!

Join KSCU’s resident Chef, Gigi Gaggero this Sunday on Sunday Suppers, LIVE Food Talk Radio from 6-7 PM PST / 9-10 EST.  Chef Chats cheese with Charles Duque, Managing Director of the Americas for the CNIEL The centre national interprofessionnel de l’économie laitière, also known as The French Dairy Board.

Charles, an industry veteran with more than 20 years of critical experience and the authority on artisan cheese. He also oversees the French Cheese Board, a retail and event space that champions French cheeses in NYC. Charles is eloquent and confident with infinite knowledge and enthusiasm for the specialty food industry.

Chef Gigi will also discuss the the cheese plate — or board as it’s sometimes called — is the perfect way to end a wonderful meal for cheese lovers around the globe. Did you know that there are over 1,300 different varieties of cheese – just in France? Entertaining can get overwhelming, and then there’s the systematic approach to actually building a cheese board— yes, there really is a method – who knew?
 
Creating a cheese plate that is balanced visually and in terms of flavors and textures is a skill that’s easy to learn and always useful. Duque will also offer tips for creating a cheese board with style according to the master himself, and just in time for the upcoming holiday season!

 

 Don’t miss this informative show!

Hassleback Potato Casserole

Acclaimed food science writer, J. Kenji López-Alt has developed this sort of “mash-up ” ( if you will ) of a classic French gratin, and a beautiful Hassleback potato recipe. The idea is to stand the slices of potato vertically, rather than laying them flat. This ensures each serving receives both a creamy potato serving and a crispy edge in each bite.

This is my adaption.

You’ll Need:

4 to 4 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick slices with a sharp knife of on a mandoline 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves removed for the stem

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 cups finely grated Gruyère cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 bunch chives, chopped for garnish

Here’s How:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400’F degrees. Combine cheeses in a large bowl. Transfer 1/3 of cheese mixture to a separate bowl and set aside for garnish.

Add cream, stock, garlic and thyme to the cheese mixture, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, add white pepper, and red chili flakes– stir to combine.

Add potato slices and toss with your hands until every slice is coated with cream mixture, making sure to separate any slices that are sticking together to get the cream mixture in between them.

Prepare a 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Place on a high sided baking sheet.

Pick up a handful of potatoes, organizing them into a neat deck stack, lay them in the casserole dish with their edges aligned vertically. Continue placing potatoes in the dish, working around the perimeter and into the center until all the potatoes have been added. The potatoes should be very tightly packed. If necessary, slice an additional potato, coat with cream mixture, and add to casserole. It is important the potatoes are very tight.

Pour the excess cheese mixture evenly over the top of the potatoes in the casserole dish until the mixture comes halfway up the sides. You may not need all the excess liquid.

Cover dish tightly with foil– sprayed on the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes longer.

Carefully remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to oven. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp on top, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes,  garnish with chopped chives and serve.

Enjoy!

The Brussel Sprout Files!

Below is a formula sure to make your Brussel sprouts are a success no matter what flavor profile you’re after. Sweet, salty, or tangy!

Brussel sprouts are aggressive in flavor. You either love them or hate them. So many ways to cook them too– from baked chips to chopped salads. At my home we love our sprouts pan-fried with crisp pancetta– caramelized with lots of butter and my homemade infused olive oil, & lots of crispy fried garlic cloves.

Brussel sprouts caramelize naturally. On special occasions we make a few variations. Addition of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of brown sugar with a handful of candied walnuts will make your family roar! Sometimes we like to add crispy bacon, a nice citrus finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and lot of lemon zest– then an good dousing of parmesan cheese. I add a fair amount of fresh cracked black peppercorns!

Here’s How : 

To properly sauté brussels sprouts, you’ll need a fair amount of fat in the skillet. While bacon is a classic pairing, use your families favorite flavor. Ground pork sausage,  Italian sausage, apple sausage, duck fat, or –If you’re a vegetarian, good quality olive oil is perfect. As mentioned, I use pancetta. So delicious and I love the little crispy, crunchy salty nuggets. How much to use is up to you- I personally like a lot of Pancetta floating around in my dish- so I use a least a pound or two ( shhhh) per stock/stem of Brussel sprout! about 40- 50 spouts.

If using something like bacon or sausage, start by browning the meat in a very large skillet  – I use two of my largest skillets, and split the recipe between them. (Brussel sprouts contain lots of water– so, if you over-crowd the Brussel spouts in the pan, they will steam not caramelize. Tragic.)  Always halve the sprouts and trim the root-end clean.

Sauté the pancetta or your choice of fat, over medium-high heat. Render the fat. Once the meat is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon set it aside for later addition. Add the halved brussels sprouts to the fat, shaking the skillet so that as many as possible landing cut side down or use tongs to ensure the sprout is positioned for optimum caramelization. Now, step away from the pan. Resist the urge to move them around. Distribution will prevent them from cooking through and becoming crispy golden brown  and delicious. They need to stay in contact directly with the surface heat. Cook until they have a nice  brown sear on one side, about 8 to 10 minutes. If a knife runs easily through, they are done.

Just before removing from the heat, add in  your favorite seasonings–like chopped garlic, sliced onions, fresh thyme, sprinkling of brown sugar, maple syrup, honey  or lemon juice  with lots of zest. Return the sautéed meat you rendered the fat from and toss to coat nicely. Cook for an additional 1- 2 minutes. If making an addition of candied nuts, now is the time to do so. Toss well and serve. (The candies nuts will remain crunchy if not added to the cooking process.)

Salt and pepper. Serve!

Steaming Method: 

Clean Brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Fill a large stock pot with about 2 inches of flavored stock and water combination– place a metal steamer basket on top. Bring the water to a simmer, add the brussels sprouts to the basket, season with salt and pepper and cover. Steam until the brussels sprouts are bright green and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid from pot and let them cool slightly before removing. I like to shock my sprouts in cool ice water so they retain a bright green color. Then right before serving I dunk in hot boiling water or toss quickly in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper until warmed trough. About two minutes. See my method here for retaining color and nutrition in steamed veggies.

Baking Method:

Halve brussels sprouts (or quarter them, if they are especially large), making sure to hold on to any leaves that fall away (these get the crispest) and toss with plenty of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and scatter them onto a rimmed baking sheet, making use of every inch. Brussels sprouts contain a good bit of water, and if they’re too crowded on the tray, they’ll steam instead of brown. If you need to use two or three sheet pans, do it.

Roast in a hot pre heated 450’F degrees oven, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until the outer leaves have begun to almost char, and the innermost part of the sprout is just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Finish growing by making sure the cut side of the sprint is face down on the baking sheets surface so they get nicely caramelized. While they caramelize well on their own, tossing the sprouts with a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey or light brown sugar will give them a bit of holiday flavor. Remove from oven– add your favor flavors to finish, like lemon zest and fresh thyme, or fresh rosemary, or pine nuts with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese — toss well and return to the oven for an additional five minutes. Remove, set aside to cool. You can even toss with a bit of reduced balsamic reduction –. Whatever flavors you’ve decided on — enjoy– it’s all you!

I’d love to hear about your favorite way to make Brussel sprouts. Leave me a message and tell me how.

Happy Holiday!

Tired of Playing Fowl on Thanksgiving?

You will absolutly fall in love with this Umami stuffed butternut squash so much, it just might persuade you to reconsider poultry this holiday season! Not only is it vegetarian… it’s fancy! 

You’ll Need: 

1 cup fresh pecans, chopped

1- foot long butternut squash

1 Japanese eggplant about 8-10 inches in length

1 zucchini, about 10 inches in length

1 white onion, cleaned and roughly chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, divided

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomato packed in oil, squeezed of excess oil

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

1 bunch fresh thyme, divided

8 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2 eggs

1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine and divided

1 teaspoon ground sage

Kosher salt and white pepper

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 325′ F Degrees. Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400′ F Degrees. Drizzle the baking sheet with good quality olive oil.

While the oven is getting up to temperature, carefully cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the interior, leaving about a 1/2″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit the eggplant halves inside. Discard the stringy guts, reserving all the solid meat filling, and the seeds for roasting.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out and reserve the interior, leaving about a 1/4″ border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit delicious filling inside, which will go inside the butternut squash- follow me?

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out interior for the vegetable, leaving behind a fairly-wide mote down the center to fit the remaining filling.

Place squash halves cut side up, on a prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, be sure to pierce insides of squash and zucchini halves to release steam. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch marks inside of eggplant, being careful not to pierce through the skin. Season all with salt and pepper butter and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey then set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the garlic, shallot, onion, mushrooms, celery, squash, and eggplant filling. Working in batches, if needed, pulse the food processor until finely chopped but not to a paste. Add sundried tomatoes and pulse one final time.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, add the vegetables from the processor, and a few thyme sprigs and the ground sage. Cook until the mixture begins to brown, and almost all the moisture evaporates- about 5-8 minutes. Taste, and adjust season with salt and pepper. 

Remove from the heat to a large bowl and allow the vegetable mixture to significantly cool. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard. Crack in the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, panko, a small handful of chopped parsley, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. 

Using an ice cream or portion control scoop press about 3/4 cup vegetable mixture into each half of the butternut squash until the interior is fully coated using the back of the scoop or spoon press the combination into and up the sides making room for the eggplant to fit. Sprinkle with the toasted pecans and then add the eggplant cut side up and repeat the filling process, including the pecans. Now add the zucchini and repeat to fill with vegetable mixture, continue the nesting process with each halve until you have filled the whole butternut squash with all the vegetable halves layered with stuffing- just like your famous lasagna.

Using kitchen twine. Slip under one squash half, then top with the second squash half, so that the cut sides face each other. Now press together and tightly tie the twine around squash to secure it for the oven. 

Brush the exterior of the stuffed butternut squash with melted butter and maple syrup then season again with salt and pepper. Wrap the squash tightly in aluminum foil and place it in the center of a low-sided baking dish to prevent it from rolling. 

Roast the squash until it is tender to the touch, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. 

Remove foil and let rest at least 10-20 minutes.

Remove twine and place it on a cutting board. Cut into 1″ thick disc with a serrated knife, transferring to serving plates as you go. Spoon warm herbed or salted butter over slices, garnish with more pecans and serve with warm maple syrup.

Happy holiday!

Beautifully Creamy, Delicious… Ugly Soup.

Celeriac.jpg

Celeriac, also called turnip-rooted celery, or knob celery, or celery root– is cultivated for its delicious, edible roots, hypocotyl, and shoots. While this delicious root vegetable has many cooks and urban gardeners disagreeing on what to call it– there is one thing everyone agrees on. Many say, celeriac is the ugliest root vegetable ever. I say, while it’s not only ugly, and confusing…you should still give it a chance. Everyone wants to know if celeriac are celery the same thing , and can they each be used interchangeably in cooking? Are they… Can they?

What Exactly is Celeriac? Is it Celery?

Well… technically no. Not only are celery and celeriac appearances incredibly different– celery and celery root are really only long-lost cousins. Simply related botanically. They both have the taste of celery, although many people find celeriac to be earthier and more intense. Both can be used either cooked or raw, but in either case, their texture is widely different, so they are not interchangeable in most recipes.

Celeriac is very dense, hairy, knobby, and strange to look at. The size of a grapefruit and contains a pale-yellow hue. Like most root vegetables, celeriac is perfect in soups and stews. Makes a perfectly cheesy gratin sharing the spotlight with a somewhat jealous potato.

Left raw, celeriac can be grated into a salad and is most famous for its appearance in the dish, céléri remoulade. A very classic cold salad made almost everywhere in France; containing shredded raw celeriac, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt , pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Some add capers, green apple or chopped dill pickles, called cornichons.

Celeriac is a humble root that doesn’t get enough attention. I am here to ask you to give this ugly root a chance because celeriac makes a beautiful, creamy, deliciously sweet… ugly soup!

Ugly Soup with Truffle Oil 

You’ll Need:

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

4 Tablespoons of unsalted sweet cream butter

1 leek, cleaned thoroughly and chopped in 1/2 in slices up to the green leaves

2 celery ribs, rough chopped

3 large fresh shallots, peeled and diced

2 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 large celeriac roots, peeled and cut in medium dice ( will discolor quickly, place cut pieces in water while waiting to prepare soup)

1 large russet potato, peeled and diced

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 quarts good quality chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream or almond milk. Room temperature.

1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Kosher salt

Truffle oil, for drizzling ( optional ) 

Crispy cooked and crumbled bacon or small diced cooked pancetta for garnish or air fried root vegetable

Here’s How:

In a large 8-10 quart stock pot on medium low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Add the chopped leeks and celery. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes until the leeks begin to soften. Add the shallots and garlic and continue to cook for and additional 2 minutes. Cook only until translucent, do not brown.

Add the celeriac, potato, and a large pinch of the chopped parsley (reserving some for garnish). Add the stock to cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and can be pierced through easily with a knife. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper to your liking.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup with an immersion hand blender or in batches in your standing blender. Process until smooth.

Return soup to the stockpot if using a standing blender. Add fresh thyme. Stir in the crème fraîche or almond milk and stir to combine flavors. Heat gently for an additional 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning for the final time. Do not bring to a boil with the addition of cream of the soup will break so resist the urge to walk away from the pot at this stage.

Serve in warmed soup bowls with a drizzle of truffle oil and additional chopped parsley and your favorite garnish.

Variation : Add crispy bacon or pancetta topping to garnish.

Make-Ahead Feast Worthy Cranberry Pear Compote! 


This recipe has been in my culinary repertoire for over two decades. It’s my absolute favorite! Loose the canned cranberry sauce- trust me on this one.

Just like everything Thanksgiving– it’s better the next day; especially smothered all over your leftover turkey sammy! There is quite a bit of sugar in the recipe because the natural flavor of cranberry is very, very tart so it’s ok to substitute with honey or your favorite sweetener.

Oh, sure to call your order in using discount code : “Chef Gigi” when ordering the wine from RiverStar Vineyards and secure 20% off you entire holiday purchase!

You’ll Need:

2 pounds fresh or frozen whole cranberries 

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, or your choice of alternitive

3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

3 Bosch pears, peeled, cored and chopped in large one inch chunks 

2 wide strips of lemon zest

1 lemon juiced, seeds removed

1 orange zested and juiced

1 bottle RiverStar Vineyards Sauvagnon Blanc

1-2 small cinnamon sticks

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg 

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 large sprig fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper 

Fresh red forest cranberries

Here’s How:

In a medium high-sided saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon zest, wine and spices including salt and pepper. 

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer. Cook until you begin to hear the cranberries begin to pop open. Add the pears cook an additional 8-10 minutes until the pears are soft but still holding shape. Once the cranberries pop the sauce will begin to thicken. Continue to cook until a knife will gently slide through the pears. Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Remove from heat, cool and store air tight in glass jars. Can be made up to a week in advance. 

Makes a great hostess gift when packed in a fancy glass container with a fresh sprig of thyme and orange peel! 


Yields approximately 20 -25 servings