Christmas. New Years. Some major feasting holidays are upon us. Whether you’re putting the final touches on your holiday tasting menu or finally getting the chance to cook dinner with your family, there’s inspiration aplenty down South in recipes gathered on StarChefs.com’s North Carolina tastings. These dishes all start with classic, seasonal flavors layered with just the right amount of innovation and luxury.
Savory Forager’s Madeline with Bay, Nigella Seeds, Fennel Grass, and Caramelized Onions
Chanterelle and Carolina Moon Risotto with Foie Gras Snow, Golden Raisins, Zucchini, and Chives
Suckling Pig Stuffed with Chili Cornbread, Roasted Chestnuts, Buttermilk, and Crown Pumpkin
Grilled Secreto Ibérico, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Yogurt, and Yogurt-Celery Root Espuma
Frozen “Cotton” Meringue with Gin, Lime, and Brown Sugar
Sweet Potato Soup, Pickled Raisins, Cake Toast Sour Cream, and Pecans
To whet the palate, start with savory Forager’s Madeleines from Chefs Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan at One in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Sure, it’s a small bite, but the amuse bouche packs a wallop of flavor. Floresca and Ryan infuse the batter with fresh laurel and cut back the recipe’s sugar to emphasize the savory flavor. Next they pipe caramelized onion jam, wild onion seeds, and foraged greens into the pastries to make a salty-sweet savarin-like bite. And as Floresca points out, the recipe is adaptable, making it an ideal canvas for the changing seasons.
2013 Carolinas Rising Star Chef Colin Bedford uses his favorite mushrooms to make Chanterelle Risotto, a dish that started out as a canapé at Fearrington House but works just as well as a first course. Bedford uses chanterelle trimmings to create a rich and earthy purée that he folds into a risotto base. To lighten the dish, he froths apple cider into an espuma and folds in pickled apple and raisins. The dish also gets an extra lux boost with hunks Carolina Moon cheese (similar in style to a brie) and foie gras shaved overtop tableside.
Fellow 2013 Rising Star Nathan Allen wraps the entire festive meal into one dish with a Stuffed Suckling Pig. Allen was toying with the idea of serving loin, ribs, and belly in one portion when he landed on suckling pig. He starts by creating a stuffing mixture of crown pumpkin, roasted chestnuts, and cornbread and wraps the meat and skin around it in a perfect present of roasted protein. Because the focus is on prep rather than on active cooking time, this dish makes for easy pick-up in a restaurant setting.
For a side dish, Rising Star Chef Katie Button of Asheville’s Curaté updates a Spanish classic. Inspired by traditional migas, typically a combination of stale bread and whatever else may be laying around in the pantry, Button created a vegetarian version with a little more class than “the kitchen sink.” She sears Brussels sprouts with garlic and cauliflower and tosses them with plumped raisins and bread crumbs. The dish is topped with a celery root purée- yogurt mousse, for a decadent, layered side that’s as hearty as it is airy, creamy, and funky.
After unbuttoning and loosening the belt, it’s time to cleanse the palate. Look no further than Floresca and Ryan’s Frozen Meringue, a playful intermezzo that draws inspiration from a snowball. Meant to be eaten in one bite, the dish is a frozen meringue of lime and vodka that’s incredibly light and refreshing with a punch of crunch. It’s a wonderful way to bridge the gap between savory and dessert courses.
And finally, instead of pumpkin pie, finish the meal with Pastry Chef Daniel Benjamin’s Sweet Potato Soup. “It’s a great option when looking for something sweet, but not too sweet,” says Benjamin, who originally created the soup using pumpkin for a Thanksgiving buffet at The Umstead Hotel eight years ago. His updated version highlights roasted sweet potatoes with pickled raisins for added brightness and a spiced cake, which provides texture and some deeper flavors. A sweet soup is an easy preparation for restaurants and puts an elegant spin on traditional sweet potato casserole.