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A Seasonal Feast

| Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

Winter holiday-makers, start your stoves! Four talented Pittsburgh chefs steer you, course by course, to a joyful dinner celebrating family and friends. Here are their recipesand the inspirations behind them. All recipes serve 8 to 10.

Chris O'Brien, Executive Chef, Hyeholde

Quinoa & Chestnut Stuffed Quail with Root Vegetable Puree and Cranberry Ginger Jus

"The flavors of chestnuts, brown butter, cranberry and ginger remind me of a chill in the air, with a warm fire and enjoying family and friends. This versatile recipe can be served separately or, by adjusting cooking times, as a stuffing for chicken, duck, or even pheasant."

To prepare the quail:

8 quail

Olive oil as needed

8 tablespoons reserved brown butter.

Salt & pepper to taste

Thyme sprigs for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut off wings and legs (reserve for other use) and stuff each quail with the quinoa and chestnut mixture. Season the birds with salt and pepper, rub with olive oil and roast in the oven until medium (8-12 mins.). Remove from oven (cut in half, if desired, for presentation) and spoon 1 tablespoon brown butter over each.

2. Spoon the celery root puree onto each plate; spoon the jus onto the puree; arrange the quail; garnish with thyme sprigs.

For the stuffing:

3/4 cup quinoa, cooked

1/2 cup chestnuts, fresh or canned, chopped

1/8 pound butter*

1/2 lemon

Parsley to taste

1/2 head garlic, roasted

Salt & pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse quinoa with chestnuts. Place together in a medium mixing bowl, and season with 2 ounces brown butter, lemon juice, parsley, smashed roasted garlic and salt & pepper to taste.

*For brown butter, melt whole butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepot over medium to high heat. Stir vigorously, agitating the milk solids, until the liquid turns golden brown and emits a nutty aroma. Take care not to burn. Remove from heat and reserve.

Celery Root Puree:

2-3 medium celery roots

4-6 cups chicken stock

Cayenne pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

6 ounces unsalted butter

Salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Clean celery roots, peeling outer skin, and cut into large pieces. Place in roasting pan. Add 1 inch chicken stock, butter, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast until tenderabout 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from pan and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning.

Cranberry and Ginger Jus:

1/4 onion, chopped

1/3 cup peeled & diced ginger

1/4 carrot, chopped

1/4 parsnip, chopped

1/2 head garlic, roasted

1/2 cup cranberry jelly

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup Port

4-5 cups veal stock (or beef broth)

3 ounces butter

1/4 cup Vodka

In a heavy bottomed saucepot, over low heat, cook onion, ginger, carrot and parsnip in a small quantity of olive oil until soft but not browned. Add roasted garlic, red wine and port, and cook until the wines are reduced by half. Add veal stock and reduce by one third. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to mixing bowl and whisk in butter and cranberry jelly, then finish with vodka and salt and pepper to taste. Strain through chinois.

Derek Stevens, Executive Chef, Eleven

Cider and Mustard Glazed Rack of Pork, with Cipollini Onions, Sage and Golden Raisins

"For me and my wife, the holidays are all about creating memories and traditions for our small children. Each year we go to Hozack Farms, ride the tractor and cut down our own Christmas tree. The whirl of activity includes food shopping in The Strip and cooking all day. Pork loin is a festive dish, but those with dietary restrictions can use the same techniques and flavoring for turkey."

1 center cut pork loin, bone-in, "frenched"

2 gallons brine*

2 pounds cipollini onions, peeled

1/2 bunch sage, cut into thin strips

1 cup golden raisins

2 cups apple cider

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup Amontillado Sherry

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1/4 cup honey

1 small pinch ground clove

1 teaspoon salt

4 ounces whole butter, diced

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large pot, combine all ingredients, bring to a simmer to dissolve everything, then cool thoroughly.

Place the whole pork loin in brine and refrigerate, making sure the meat is entirely submerged, for 24 hours.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse well and pat dry. Season lightly with ground black pepper and set in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the cipollini and cook for 2 minutes, or until tender. Remove and shock in ice water. When cooled, drain the onions, cut each in half and set aside.

3. Soak the raisins in hot tap water for 15 minutes to rehydrate. Drain and reserve.

4. In a small saucepot, make the glaze: Combine the cider, vinegar, sherry, mustard, clove, salt and pepper and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Place the pork in the oven and roast to an internal temperature of 115 degrees, about 45 minutes.

6. Carefully remove the pork from the oven, brush generously with the glaze and add the blanched cipollini, sage and raisins. Drizzle the remaining glaze on the cipollini and dot with butter.

7. Return the pork to the oven and continue roasting to an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Sonja Finn, Chef/Owner, Dinette

Pumpernickel and Rye Stuffing with Porcini Mushrooms

"I love stuffing, but the white bread and sage variety can be boring. This more sophisticated version satisfies my kid-craving, but the earthiness of the mushrooms and pumpernickel and the bright notes of thyme and rye keep it from becoming dull after a couple of bites."

1 loaf pumpernickel bread, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1/2 loaf rye bread, cut into 1/2 "cubes

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 leeks, cut into 1/2 inch tiles, washed twice

1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, quartered

3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water

Leaves from 6 branches thyme

3 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread bread cubes on sheet pans and bake about 20-25 minutes until dry, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, melt 1/3 cup butter in large pot, add leeks, thyme, 1 tablespoon salt and about 8 turns of the peppermill. Cook until translucent, then add cremini with a little more salt. Cook until tender and all juices have evaporated. Add porcinis and stock and cook a couple minutes more. Remove from heat. Add bread and toss until ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning. Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Put mixture into a buttered 3 quart gratin dish. Dot with butter, and bake until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Grilled Chicories

"Chicories have a bitterness that compliments the sweet flavors of the pork and keeps the meal balanced. Grilling adds a smokiness that also contrasts to sweet. At big holiday dinners, there is never enough room in the oven or space in the kitchen, so dishes done outside on the grill are great."

2 heads radicchio, each cut through the core into 6-8 wedges

4 heads Treviso, each cut through the core lengthwise into 4 wedges

2 heads escarole, leaves cut off the core, carefully washed

1 to 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat grill to medium heat.

In a large bowl, toss the radicchio with 1/3 cup olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and lay the pieces flat on the grill. Cook about 3 minutes. On each side or until edges are crispy and slightly charred. Repeat process with the Treviso. For the escarole, place in a large bowl, with 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread the leaves in an even layer across the grill. Turning occasionally, cook for about 6 minutes, until edges are crispy and slightly charred. Arrange chicories on a large platter and drizzle olive oil on top.

Joe Post, Pastry Chef, Tusca Global Tapas& Executive Chef, Serendipity

Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Bomb

"Baked pumpkin and the smell of cinnamon always remind me of the holidays. Add chocolate and your friends and family are sure to ask for more."

1 pound cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

7 ounces canned pumpkin

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 sheets gelatin

2 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Milk Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)

Pepita Praline (recipe follows)

Pomegranate seeds and caramel sauce (optional)

1. Prepare 8 6-ounces ramekins, with non-stick spray.

2. In a mixer, cream the cheese and sugar until well blended. Add the pumpkin and cinnamon. In a metal bowl, add water to soften gelatin, about 10 minutes. Drain and melt. Quickly whisk gelatin into cheese mixture. Fold in heavy cream.

3. Fill prepared ramekins 3/4 full with mousse, sprinkle on praline, then pour the warm ganache to fill. Place in the freezer for 2 1/2 hours or until set. Unmold by running a hot knife around the ramekins. Enrobe with the extra chocolate ganache. If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds and caramel sauce.

Milk Chocolate Ganache

14 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 ounces unsalted butter

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and butter to a boil. Place chocolate in a medium bowl, pour over the hot liquid and whisk until chocolate is melted.

Pepita Praline

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 pound unsalted butter

4 ounces toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Combine sugar, heavy cream and butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Place over medium heat and caramelize until the color of toffee. Stir in pepitas. Remove from pot onto a greased cookie sheet. Caution: This is very hot! When cool break into pieces and pulse gently in food processor.

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