Welcome to Chef Placement Services Blog – The Pass! A place for us to express our own Chefiness! I’m Sarah; a chef, a new mom (to a 6 month old baby boy, Zane), and I love eating, cooking, crafting, spending time with my family, and eating…oh wait…I already mentioned eating. My love for food began when I was young. My grandma taught me how to cook for my family of five, when I was 8 years old. In addition to that, she was always making big family dinners on Sunday’s and my relationship to food and family was the start, and was also the foundation of my food career.
I am excited to create wonderful food, keeping in line with the ideals of our staff of chefs, sharing these creations/thoughts/concepts, with the internet world- and in my particular case…more people than just my husband and my foodie friends.
When I cook for others, I always like to make sure that the recipes are original, approachable, affordable, but also seasonal and delectable. We want them to be usable throughout many outlets – restaurants, private chefs, home cooks, and more. We are in Illinois, and the weather here is unpredictable. It was late in September, but it was over 90+ degrees outside, and I needed to plan for a dish that was perfect for a chilly, Fall evening. When it is so hot outside it is hard to think of anything other than grilling at first. But here in the Midwest, I knew that the 90 degree heat wasn’t going to last much longer, and that Fall weather was coming! To me, October is the beginning of braising season! Braising season is one of my favorites; it is just so warm and comforting – low and slow – and that is how Fall and October speak to me. The days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer, and food is getting richer. But even though I was braising, I still wanted to grill and pickle! The farmer’s markets are just amazing this time of year! End of Summer veggies, and the beginning of fall produce – greens, squashes, root vegetables, but still lots of tomatoes and fruits. Fall is my favorite, and especially October – if you haven’t already guessed that!
Without further adieu, let’s get to it — Pork Butt is Not Just For BBQ! Pork butt is readily available, but I wanted to use it in a way that people usually don’t think about – I didn’t want to smoke it, or BBQ it, or shred it. I wanted the dish to feel like fall, but still be composed when plated. This dish could be served in lots of ways – family style, plated, heck, it could even be deconstructed and put on a sandwich, if you wanted to! I wanted it to hint at late Summer but scream early Fall – warm and comforting but not too heavy.
For the pork, I purchased a bone-in butt from our local butcher. It was nearly a 5# butt, and I got 8 really nice sized portions out of it, which was my initial goal. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of leftovers to share with coworkers the next day! For this particular application, I tied the portions, so that they held together throughout the searing and braising process. I envisioned them staying together on the plate until you dug your fork into them and smeared the pork around in the squash puree. It worked out marvelously! They were fork tender, but still had a great crust and a really nice, balanced flavor. I wanted to do a tea braise, to add a little depth, but also be light and compliment the smoky, sweet, and tangy flavors that were used in the squash puree and “charred chard.” I got some Darjeeling Tea in bulk from our local Co-op, as well as the spices – peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander. I like to use whole spices when I can, and this was the perfect dish for that – especially with the pickle brine and the sachet in the braise.
For the braise, I first seared the pork, making sure not to overcrowd my pan so it got a nice golden brown caramelization. I used my enameled cast iron pan so I could take it straight from stove top to oven. It has a tight fitting lid, and holds heat exceptionally well. It gets heavy when the braise is in there, but it is totally worth it! Great for your biceps; just think of the calories you burn lifting it into and out of the oven!
After I have the pork seared and set aside, what better way to deglaze the pan than using the tomato water from the grilled mirepoix. When I set the veggies aside in a bowl, the tomato juice came out, and it was the perfect for deglazing – it was lightly tomato flavored and pulled all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Perfect! I threw in all the veggies at once, then added the smashed garlic cloves and the sachet of tea/parsley/peppercorn. I then added the meat bundles and poured the chicken stock until they were submerged in the braising liquid. Put the lid on, and right into the oven. It easily weighed 10 pounds, woah! It was in the oven at 250° for 3-3.5 hours. Perfect for our first Fall-like October day! The windows were open and the oven was going all afternoon. My favorite.
When I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, my first stop was to my friend Shea and the organic farm that she works for. I went to the market knowing that I wanted squash – acorn, butternut, I didn’t care which one, really. And I asked Shea what her favorite squash was for the week – she said, “Delicata, they are so sweet right now. Sold! I will take 3!” And at $2/squash, it was a deal!
Delicata squash is native to Northern and Central America, and is just as delicious and versatile as other more familiar squashes. It is slightly more mild, and less sweet than butternut. The flesh is creamy when roasted, steamed, sauteed, or even microwaved. It is not quite as high in beta-carotene, but is still a good source of fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. You can also toast the seeds and eat them as well, but I didn’t take that extra step… Next time!
After cutting the beautiful Delicata squash in half, and removing the seeds, I drizzled them with EVOO and seasoned with salt and pepper. I had previously lined a sheet pan with parchment paper and covered it in fresh thyme sprigs. I placed the squash flesh side down, and roasted it at 350* for 35-40 minutes. The smell of the thyme permeated the kitchen and blended with the braising liquid on the stove, and it was aaaammmazing! I tasted some right after it cooled slightly, because I could hardly wait! I love roasted squash! The thyme essence was there, but lightly. (An afterthought I had to add more thyme flavor; I could have heated the chicken stock with more thyme and added that for the puree. Or, I could have “marinated” it in some thyme as well. Coulda, woulda, shoulda… But, it was delicious either way!) It complemented the sweetness in the Delicata very nicely, and I knew there was a chance that it would be covered up by the tang of the goat cheese – but either way it was going to be wonderful!
A few years ago, a chef friend of mine gifted me a food mill/ricer for my birthday. Most of the time it stays in the back of my cabinet, but I knew it was necessary for what I wanted to achieve with this squash. I honestly don’t know why I don’t use it more often; I always forget how much I like to “rice” things! I wanted the squash to be velvety smooth, and light – the best way to do this is not with a potato masher (too lumpy) or a food processor (too “gluey”), but with a food mill. I then added some chicken stock, a little butter, and a couple of heaping spoonfuls of fresh goat cheese – actually it was some fresh chevre from my favorite farm – the farm I used to work for! A little salt and pepper, and voila! Creamy. Sweet. Tangy. Rich. Awesome.
While the pork was in the oven, I wanted to grill the chard so it would get a little char and a little smoke on it. I cut the ribs out of the chard first, and put the “whole” leaves into my salad spinner. With the grill on medium high heat, the leaves went directly on the grates – no oil or seasonings. Just heat and leaves for about 3-5 minutes, turning over once. I wanted them to get a little dark and charred. I then took them off, gave them a rough chop, and tossed them with a garlic chili oil I made. Then seasoned with salt and pepper. To make the garlic chili oil, I sliced some garlic cloves thinly, put them in a small pan on the stove with a couple of pinches of red chili flake. I then heated this until it poached for a bit, and let it sit for about 2 hours to infuse.
With the ribs, I did more of a batonnet cut on them, because I wanted them to pickle first and then put them into the gremolata garnish. I didn’t want them to be in small brunoise pieces at first, because I didn’t want them to cook in the hot pickling liquid. Therefore, the longer strips were the perfect way to go, I only had to cut them twice – batonnet, into the thin strips, and then later into a very small dice, brunoise. I didn’t want the pickle to be too sharp or overwhelming, just wanted it to add a nice acidity and freshness to offset the creamy squash, and the rich braise. And I hate when edible bits go to waste…why throw away the ribs when they make a great pickle?!?
The pickling liquid was a basic pickle, the recipe follows below. I heated the liquid, and let it cool slightly, then poured it over the chard ribs and some thinly sliced onion. I put it into a glass container, and weighed it down (with a can from the pantry) so all of the veggies stayed submerged in the liquid, and it went into the fridge for the next 6-8 hours. It was a pretty quick pickle, but it did the job! It wasn’t too strong with vinegar, the spices were well balanced, and the chard still had a nice crunch to it.
Once the pickles were finished, I had already finely chopped the parsley, zest from one lemon, and mixed it all together with the diced, pickled chard. I then set this aside and let the ingredients mingle for about 20-30 minutes. This fresh element was really great, and it added some brightness in flavor but also nice color to the dish as well!
And, finished! All of the components of this dish are finished, and it was time to plate and eat. A meal that I had worked on (off and on) all day, was ready and it was time to see if it worked out the way I had envisioned…dun dun dun…
Was the pork tender and flavorful, yet did it stay together for plating, yes! Was the squash sweet and smooth, and the epitome of fall, yes! Was the chard charred and spicy, yes! (But it could have been more spicy, yes!…next time…) Was the gremolata a bright and fresh addition to the plate, yes! Overall, I would say it was a success, it was delicious, October success!
We certainly believe that you will enjoy this dish as well! Check back with us next month for the latest edition of “The Pass!”
To make the non-BBQed pork butt –
– 3-5# Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder
– 2 T salt – divided
– 10 sprigs thyme
– 3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
– 2 t black pepper
– 2 tomatoes
– 1 onion
– 3 carrots, small
– 3 ribs celery
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 1 quart chicken stock
– 6 T loose leaf black tea
– 1 T black peppercorns, whole
– 1 bay leaf
– Parsley stems, about 20 2 inch pieces
- Cut the pork butt into the desired size portions, or you can leave it in a whole roast if you want to shred it or slice it when it is finished braising. If portioning, it could be helpful to tie them, but not 100% necessary.
- Season with salt and pepper, sliced garlic cloves, and fresh thyme, and put it into a plastic bag and let it sit overnight in the fridge. This helps to break down the connective tissues. This step can be done 12-24 hours in advance. You can get creative with seasonings if desired. I wanted to keep it simple with S+P, garlic, and thyme.
- Sear the pork in a hot pan that has been drizzled with a little bit of EVOO.
- Grill large chunks/pieces of carrots, onion, celery, and halves of tomatoes. This helps to develop a richer flavor for the braise. Can be done ahead.
- Put vegetables into the pan that the pork came out of, the tomato water will deglaze the pan – gently scrape up all the browned bits – that’s flavor!
- Add a couple of smashed cloves of garlic, and the sachet of tea, herbs, and peppercorns
- Add 1 quart of chicken stock (or whatever stock you have on hand, I used chicken), put the pork back into the pan with all the goodies – and bring to a simmer on the stove.
- Cover with the lid, and place into a preheated 250° oven, for 3-3.5 hours. The pork will be fork tender.
- Remove the pork, and put onto a sheet pan. You can put it back in the oven at 375°, for 8-10 minutes to crisp up the outside.
- Strain the veggies out of the braising liquid, and discard the sachet. Put the braising liquid back onto the stove over medium-high heat and let reduce until it is thickened, napé, and coats the back of a spoon.
- Dunk the pieces of meat back into the shiny delicious sauce, and let sit until time to plate.
For the pickle brine –
-¼ onion, thinly sliced
-8-10 swiss chard stems, about 1 cup sliced
-1 tsp salt
-½ cup apple cider vinegar
-½ cup water
-1 T peppercorn
-1 tsp coriander seeds
-2 T sugar
-2 tsp mustard seeds
- -Cut the swiss chard stems into julienne or batonnet pieces, combine with onions in a bowl, toss with salt and set aside
- -In a small saucepan toast coriander seeds, peppercorn, and mustard seeds for about 1-3 minutes or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them!
- -Add apple cider vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, and cook until sugar is dissolved
- -Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, and pour over the chard stems and onions
- -Make sure the veggies are covered with the brine, and refrigerate for a minimum of 6-8 hours, overnight or 24+ hours would be ideal
-3 Delicata Squash, cut in half and seeds removed
-2 T EVOO
-Salt and pepper
-1 handful of thyme
-4 oz. goat cheese
-½ cup chicken stock (more or less based on desired consistency)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1 bunch chard, stems/ribs removed
-¼ t crushed red pepper flake
-1 large clove of garlic, sliced thinly
-3 T EVOO
-1 bunch parsley, stems removed (some of the stems used in sachet for pork), chopped super fine – and I squeezed it out in a paper towel to remove some of the excess water from washing them
-Pickled chard stems from above recipe, diced (- no onions)
-Zest of 1 lemon
I want to work with a Chef to create a totally new cuisine. My goal is to take Asian Fusion on a more progressive path. -Chef Jae Lee
Chef Jae Lee, Executive Chef of Miga (Champaign IL) is a passionate and meticulous Chef. His life experiences shine through his food. Originally from Korea, Chef Jae made his way to the United States in his twenties to Boston, Massachusetts.
It was here Jae was bit hard by the culinary bug and he eventually enrolled in the culinary arts program at Newbury College. At Newbury, he began to develop an understanding of the culinary basics, but also his creative reservoir within.
Jae would eventually find his artful passion while working at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. The polish, excellence, and composure needed for fine dining tapped into Jae’s soul. Up to this point, he had been restlessly searching for a life direction to understand the art of production and the business side of large operations. Thriving in the large city environment, he gravitated toward the fine dining aspects of the culinary realm and began intensely exploring his craft. The primal instincts of creation began to consume Jae. From these instincts and hard work, Jae developed an acute and singular vision.
Almost overnight, Chef Jae pulled up stakes and flew home to Korea to attend the Star Chef Course at the Korean Food Institute. His Korean upbringing took a firm grip on his vision of his own future. He knew he had to study under the best mentors he could find to better develop his skills. Then one day, while burning up the line working as a Demi Chef at the W Hotel in Seoul, a perfect opportunity
walked through the door. Chef Jae caught the eye of an investor that admired and appreciated Jae’s passion and fusion cuisine. The investor’s vision and Chef Jae’s vision were the same. The stars aligned and Miga was born.
Miga is Chef Jae’s latest masterpiece. Working from the ground up, Jae invented an Asian fusion inspired concept that has proven to be more than your ordinary midwestern restaurant. Using his experience and his deep-rooted work ethic, Miga rose to the ranks of “top 5 restaurants” in all of Illinois by Opentable. Considering that Chicago is in this category, one can understand the magnitude of this accomplishment. Driven, doesn’t fully describe Chef Jae’s mentality, but it does lend to his burning desire to push the limits. Being a small, college town – Champaign, Illinois was not quite ready for Chef Jae’s creativity. However, the diversity that the University of Illinois brings to the community significantly affects restaurant culture throughout the city. The younger, traveled, liberal demographic gave Jae a foothold, with the help of the worldly University professors and staff. But his pure talent and passion, took it to the next level.
There is no question that his culture is all about focus, hard work and extreme dedication. Those ideals are what helped create a one of a kind concept. Day in and day out, Chef Jae is pushing the limits with his food. It is wild, yet refined. Delicate, yet bold. In your face, yet
comforting. Ultimately, Chef Jae wants to invent a new cuisine. Audacious? Yes. Possible? Certainly. Jae is a visionary, with a specific skill set and artful eye. His concept, implemented in Miga, represents where he comes from and who he is, but also what he wants to become. The preface of Chef Jae’s story has been written. What is to come next? We can only wait and see what his next chapter holds.
Kylie Sullivan here! I had the pleasure of speaking with Executive Chef Dennis Brunet. Chef Dennis has been involved in many successful restaurant openings, from intimate café settings to a full-service eat-in restaurant. His passion for food has led him all over the world including destinations such as Florida, California, Japan, and even Switzerland! Read the full Q&A below to learn more on Chef Dennis, including which prominent chef he shared a meal with in the 70’s!
Q: Chef Dennis, tell me a little about what you’re doing now in your career.
A: I’m the Executive Chef at Kelly’s Restaurant in New Hampshire, serving 500-600 customers on Friday and Saturday nights, and around 300 on the weekdays.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a chef? When did you realize?
A: My grandfather and my father were both chefs. I’ve been in the business a long time and have a 4-star rating at Cozy’s Culinary Cafe.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as a chef?
A: Probably owning my own business (Cozy’s Culinary Cafe). It started out very small, but we expanded over time.
Q: When you get time out of the kitchen, what do you like to spend your time doing? Hobbies?
A: I’m very into cars. Anything to do with cars.
Q: What advice would you give to future Chefs?
A: The business, from when I started to what it is now, is very different. Do whatever you have to do to survive. Some people come out of culinary and really don’t know what they’re doing. Get involved in mentorship programs. I’ve mentored a lot of people in a halfway house in Manchester. I’ve mentored a lot of young chefs. I really enjoy doing that.
Q: Who was the most influential person in your career?
A: I spent three and a half years in Switzerland training under Chef Jean Pierre Eighner. He would have to be the most influential person for me.
Q: Please describe the most challenging aspect of getting to where you are in your career today.
A: Trying to mentor people under certain circumstances, and keeping people from being flustered or crumbling under pressure. It’s a challenge every day to get them to the point that they can handle what they’re doing.
Q: Do you have any plans or dreams of retirement? What are they?
A: Not in the near future. I have a son who is handicapped so I’ll work as long as I possibly can for him.
Q: If you could dine with anyone once, who would that be?
A: I’ve dined with Julia Child back in the 70’s. It was at a very high-end Italian restaurant in Massachusetts, which has since shut down. She came in and the executive chef brought her through the kitchen so I was able to meet her.
Q: What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
A: Asian pork with peanut butter, coconut milk, and cilantro. I marinate it for a day and a half and then grill it off and make a sauce with the leftovers
“Back in 2001, the Union Leader Gourmet visited Brunet’s Cozy Culinary Cafe when it was located in Londonderry, calling it a “really great find.” The Gourmet enjoyed the spinach and feta triangles made with phyllo dough and filled with spinach, feta, seasonings, and a lemony flavor, as well as the Mexican lasagna featuring meat more flavorful than usual.” – Newhampshire.com