Ask A Denver Expert: Top Fall Family Dishes

October 2, 2015 6:00 AM

Denver has a growing culinary scene. Some of the top award-winning chefs in the country proudly call the Mile High City home. These pioneers of food have set amazing precedents for culinary creativity and innovation, paring foods and spices in unconventional ways. The foodie is never bored. Many restaurants even have seasonal menus to keep you coming back for more. Two of Denver’s top chefs shared some of their favorite fall recipes, which are perfect for a family meal at home this season.
Chef Kyle Mendenhall
The Kitchen
1530 16th St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 623-3127
thekitchen.com/the-kitchen-denverMeet the Chef

“My name is Kyle Mendenhall and I am the Executive Chef for The Kitchen Restaurants (Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins & Chicago). I’ve been with The Kitchen for over seven years and have been in many different roles. I started by running The Kitchen Boulder as the head chef and when we started expanding with new locations, I quickly took on the role of managing all BOH operations for all restaurants.

I have no culinary degree, just the school of hard knocks and lots of blood, sweat and tears. I’ve been able to surround myself with amazing individuals in the culinary industry whom I’ve learned a great deal from. My ultimate goal is to bring happiness and add fulfillment to the lives of the people in our communities.

I believe that chefs have a responsibility to represent all the great things a community has to offer in the food world. We believe it starts with relationships and our ability to impact our communities in a positive way. We want our guests to recognize the difference in quality and taste as we strive to offer the best possible food at the best value. Here are three of my favorite recipes for you to try at home this fall.”

The Kitchen’s Duck Fat PotatoesA decadent approach to roast potatoes.

[Recipe Serves 8-10]

Ingredients:

  • 5 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup warm duck fat

Directions:

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Season water heavily with salt (it should taste like seawater). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until nearly cooked, 10–15 minutes.
  2.  While potatoes are cooking, mix flour with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  3.  Preheat oven to 400º and place a large baking sheet in the oven to warm. Drain potatoes. Immediately toss potatoes in seasoned flour and then toss in warm duck fat. Place potatoes on the hot baking sheet and transfer to oven. Cook for 40–60 minutes or until golden brown.
Angel Food CakeThis is a wonderfully light dessert, served with fresh fruit and whipped cream in the summer, and stewed fruits in the winter.

[Recipe Serves 8]

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups egg whites, room temperature (about 75º)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, or 1 scraped vanilla bean
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake or pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Using a mixer with a wire whip attachment, beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add granulated sugar, and beat until stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and gently mix.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together powdered sugar, cake flour, and salt. Repeat. Then sift one-third of the flour mixture again over egg whites and fold in gently. Repeat two more times with remaining flour mixture until all dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter.
  3. Pour batter into an angel food cake pan or a large cake pan with a removable base. (We highly recommended that you use an angel food cake pan if at all possible; they’re available at Target.com.) Bake for 40 minutes or until it’s a deep golden brown and fairly firm.
Chef Jennifer Jasinki
Rioja
1431 Larimer St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 820-2282
www.riojadenver.comMeet the Chef

“I opened my first restaurant, Rioja, to critical acclaim in 2004 and was soon named Colorado Chef of the Year. Rioja features a menu inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by both local and seasonal products. You may have seen me on the 2013 season of Top Chef Masters. More recently, I am honored to have won the Denver tour stop of Cochon 555 in 2014. I’m most proud of Rioja consistently being listed among Denver’s top restaurants by the 5280 Magazine, The Denver Post and the Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Guide. The community support has been overwhelming and is deeply appreciated.”

Apricot Sage Bread Pudding [Recipe Serves 8]

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pure olive oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3 quarts diced honey wheat bread (or another nice crusty whole wheat bread)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried apricots cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 cup chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want to make a vegetarian dish)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, whisked

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1.  In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until golden. When tender, add the garlic. (Adding the garlic too soon will cause it to burn.) Stir in the sage and let the flavors come out.
  2.  Add the cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, transfer to a large stainless-steel bowl and set aside.
  3.  Place all remaining ingredients into the cream mixture, adding the whisked eggs last, and stir well to combine.
  4.  Spray 8 ramekins (6-8 ounces each, for individual bread puddings) or an 8-by-10-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottoms of the ramekins with parchment paper. Place them on a sheet pan and fill past the top with the bread pudding mixture so it is brimming. Place in the preheated oven and bake until they are brown on top and reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees. This is the temperature at which the eggs are cooked and the custard set. (If you are using 1 baking dish, your cook time will be longer.)
  5.  Remove from the oven and rest a few minutes before trying to remove them from the cups or they will fall apart. If preparing 1 large pudding, simply serve from the baking dish. Make sure to remove the paper from the bottom of each individual ramekin before serving.
Savory Chestnut Soup[Recipe Serves 8]

This soup combines the sweetness and meatiness of the chestnut with earthy mushrooms and sage. Just the right amount of cardamom perfectly accents this soup. I love to serve this soup at Thanksgiving in a large scooped-out pumpkin. It is a natural soup terrine and a great conversation piece. First, ladle boiling hot water into a large, cleaned pumpkin. Then pour it out so it is hot inside and does not chill your soup. If you are using small pumpkins for individual servings, you can bake them so your guests can scoop out the pumpkin and enjoy it with the soup in each bite.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup duck fat (preferred) or pure olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced domestic mushrooms
  • 10 sage leaves (no stems)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12-14 ounces whole peeled chestnuts*
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground cardamom
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Assembly And Plating Tips8 small pumpkins, 1 large pumpkin or 8 small butternut squash

Duck fat (preferred) or extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


*I suggest Frozen IQF (individually quick frozen) chestnuts that are already peeled. You can get them through your specialty foods market or Earthy Delights 800-367-4709. (www.earthy.com)

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot or sauce pot, melt the duck fat and then add the sliced onions and garlic cloves. Sauté these until they are translucent, being careful not to color.
  2.  Add the mushrooms and all the aromatics (sage, peppercorns and bay leaf). Sauté this until the mushrooms have softened.
  3.  Add the chestnuts to the pan and then deglaze with the wine. Cook until the wine has reduced completely and add the chicken stock. Raising the heat as needed, bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer on very low for about 45 minutes.
  4. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom and cream and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. The chestnuts should be very soft by now. Take the soup off of the fire and transfer it to a blender; remove cinnamon stick and blend until it is smooth. Season with the salt, pepper and sugar and then strain through a china cap. Serve immediately or chill to serve later.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut the tops off of the pumpkins, clean out the insides and brush with the duck fat. Season the insides with salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and roast in the 350-degree oven until the flesh of the pumpkins can be removed easily with a fork or spoon, depending on ripeness). Be careful not to roast so completely that the skin and flesh of the pumpkins become weak and fragile, as this will make it difficult to use as a serving bowl.
  7. Heat up the soup as needed and serve it in warm, hollowed-out roasted pumpkins. Be sure to eat the flesh of the pumpkin as well.

Related: Ask A Denver Expert Fall Comfort And Food Recipes

Lonza Dennis is the founder and creative director of First Class Fashionista, a lifestyle, beauty and fashion blog based in Denver, Colo. Lonza is a freelance writer with an expert understanding of the role social media plays in networking, business development and marketing.