Holiday Recipes From Philadelphia’s Chefs

December 12, 2012 7:00 AM

If you’re struggling with your holiday menu, don’t fret! These Philadelphia chefs shared the holiday recipes they use at home. Chef Olivier Desaintmartin, of Caribou Cafe and the Zinc Bistro a Vins; Chef Jose Garces, an “Iron Chef” winner who operates Garces Group restaurants in Philadelphia and around the country; and Chef Rosario Romano of Ristorante Panorama at Penn’s View Hotel, provided original recipes for a holiday appetizer, entree and dessert sure to please any of your guests this holiday season.
Caribou Cafe
1126 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 625-9535

About Chef Olivier Desaintmartin:

A Master Chef of France, Olivier Desaintmartin was born in the country’s Champagne region and apprenticed with famous French chefs including Michel Guerard, Jacques Chibois and Gaston Lenotre, to name a few. Desaintmartin, who also owns Zinc Bistro a Vins, credits his mother with inspiring his love of cooking. After attending a hotel school in Paris in 1976 where he studied cooking, wines and all other aspects of hotel service, he opened Caribou Cafe in Philadelphia in 2003. Here, he focused his culinary expertise to create hearty comfort food – the kind of food his mother prepared for the family on a daily basis. The dishes reflect the cuisine of Provence, Gasconny, Lyon, Paris, Burgundy and other regions of his native France. In 2006, he opened Zinc Bistro a Vins, which specializes in cuisine bourgeoise, or French home cooking, that relies on a farm-to-table approach and seasonal products. “For an appetizer, I’ll serve wild mushrooms with mustard sauce,” Desaintmartin said. “Venison roast is a real classic for me during the holidays, with a celery root puree. Because I’m French, I would normally serve a chocolate dessert, but because my daughter loves it so much, I’ll make an espresso pumpkin cheesecake.”

Appetizer: Croustade of Wild Mushrooms, Mustard Sauce
1 lb mushrooms (4 to 5 kinds) sliced
2 shallots chopped finely
1 bunch of parsley washed and chopped
3 oz butter
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/8 sheet puff pastry
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg
Season to taste salt, pepper

Divide the puff pastry in four even squares. Whip the egg with a little bit of salt and brush the top of the pastry without going on the sides. Bake at 420 F for 10 minutes. Heat the butter in a sauté pan, add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper and add the shallots. Cook for 10 minutes and deglaze with the wine, let reduce by half, and add the cream. Check the seasoning and add the parsley. Cut the pastry in half by the middle. On the bottom part add the mushrooms, then place the top on and sauce around.

Entree: Celery Root Puree and Venison Roast “Grand Veneur”

Celery Root Puree Ingredients

2 lbs celery root, peeled and quartered
1 lb potato peeled and quartered
4 oz butter
6 oz milk
Season to taste salt, white pepper, nutmeg

Cook all the way through the potatoes and the celery in salty water. Drain. On low heat, add the milk, whisk thoroughly, and season with the pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Add the butter. Serve with lots of parsley on top.

Venison Roast Ingredients

4 lbs venison roast (leg)
2 ea shallot roughly diced
2 cloves garlic smashed
1 ea carrot diced
1 ea celery branch diced
1 branch thyme
1 ea bay leaf
1 glass red wine (8 oz)
5 oz butter
2 oz oil
2 cups red wine vinegar
1.5 cup black currant in syrup or jelly (in syrup with the fruits in is better)
Season to taste salt, pepper

In a skillet (iron), heat the oil and sear all of the vegetables (carrot, celery, shallot and garlic), then remove them and reserve them. In the same skillet, heat the butter. Season your roast with salt and pepper and sear it all around. Keep the roast in the skillet, then add the vegetables, the thyme, the bay leaf and the wine. Cover and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat. Remove the meat, strain the vegetables, and return any juices back to the skillet. Add the vinegar and boil until you have half of the liquids left. Add the black currant, and cook gently until you obtain a syrupy consistency (saucy). Slice the roast, add any juices back to the sauce. Serve with a little bit of the sauce on the roast and serve the rest in a sauce boat.

Dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Crust Ingredients

1.25 cup graham cracker crumbs
1.33 cups brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 lb butter melted

Filling Ingredients

1.5 lb cream cheese
1.5 cup packed pumpkin pulp (like Libby’s, unsweetened)
6 eggs
1.5 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup espresso strong

Mix the four first ingredients and line a 10-inch spring form pan with the crumbs very tightly. In a food processor, mix the cream cheese with the sugar and the pumpkin. Then add the eggs, vanilla and the coffee. Let this mixture become liquid and smooth. Pour into the mould and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The center should remain soft. Do not over cook.

Related: Top Vegan-Friendly Restaurants

Amada Restaurant
217 to 219 Chestnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-2450

About Chef Jose Garces:

Iron Chef Jose Garces opened his first restaurant in 2005. The 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic, he is a regular guest on “Iron Chef America.” In October, he published his second cookbook, “The Latin Road Home.” In addition to his brick and mortar restaurants in Philadelphia (Village Whiskey, Chifa Restaurant, Distrito Restaurant and Tinto Restaurant), he operates Garces Trading Company, a European-style cafe and market; JG Domestic; Guapos Tacos, a Mexican-style food truck; Garces Catering; and also founded the Garces Group that operates restaurants in other major cities across the country. A graduate of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Garces credits his love of food to his Ecuadorian parents and especially to his grandmother, “Mamita Amada,” who gave him is first lessons in how to prepare favorite family recipes. “For me, empanadas, maybe more than any other food, are all about family,” he said. “Food’s a big thing in my family, and there is no food that we are ritualistically devoted to [more] than empanadas. My mom has always made fantastic empanadas de viento, fried empanadas with a flour-based dough and cheese filling.”

For Garces’ main course, it’s all about deep-fried turkey. “I love turkey. Of course, most people only think of turkey for Thanksgiving, but I also like to serve it during the holidays. In my home, we don’t roast the bird, we deep fry it. For dessert, crema catalana is a tasty and elegant ending to a holiday dinner.”

Garces recipes below may also be found in his second cookbook, “The Latin Road Home,” which was released in October.

Appetizer: Empanadas de Viento

Dough Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1.5 cups vegetable shortening
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup cold water

Empanadas Ingredients

1.25 lb queso fresco, grated (2 cups)
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup granulated sugar, for sprinkling

For the dough, sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the vegetable shortening into the dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Add an egg yolk and mix thoroughly. Add two or three tablespoons at a time, then knead in water by hand until a smooth dough forms. Pat dough into a round, flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to one day before making empanadas. To assemble the empanadas, divide chilled dough into a dozen one-inch balls. Using a manual tortilla press, a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, press each ball into a circle about 1/8-inch thick and about six inches in diameter.

Mound about two tablespoons of cheese in center of each round and fold dough over to form half-moon. With a dinner fork, crimp the outer edge, or use a plastic empanada press from a Latin market. To cook empanadas, heat oil to 350 degrees in stockpot using a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Fry empanadas in batches until golden brown and crispy, three to four minutes each, turning once in oil. Drain on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar before serving with pickled onions and on the side.

Entree: Deep Fried Turkey

20 lb turkey
2 cups salt
2 cups sugar
2 gallons water
1 cup pickling spices
2 gallons vegetable oil

Mix water, sugar and salt in large pot and submerge the turkey. Refrigerate overnight to allow the turkey to brine. When you’re ready to cook the turkey, place two gallons of vegetable oil in a turkey fryer and heat it to 400 degrees. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry on a rack. Slowly submerge the turkey in the fryer. Cook one hour or until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove the turkey carefully and place on a platter. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. If you’re serving it later that day, cover with aluminum foil and allow it to sit on top of the stove. When it’s ready to serve, heat in a 350-degree oven for a half an hour.

Dessert: Crema Catalana

Custard Ingredients

1 cup cold whole milk
3.5 tsp unflavored granulated gelatin
1.5 lb good-quality dark chocolate, such as Valrhona or Scharffen Berger, grated (3 cups)
2.5 cups cold heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
18 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Vanilla-Macerated Berries Ingredients

1 Tahitian vanilla bean
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
5 cups mixed seasonal berries, such as strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries

Brûlée Ingredients

Raw sugar (such as Demerara, sanding, or raw cane sugar), for sprinkling

To serve: Lemon zest, for garnish

To make the custard:

Combine milk and gelatin. Let stand for 10 minutes or until gelatin is totally dissolved. Set double boiler over medium heat with two inches of water in the bottom; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, place chocolate in top of double boiler, and stir to melt chocolate while taking care not to scorch. Combine cream and sugar in a saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for three to five minutes. Put egg yolks in large heatproof bowl. Pour half of the hot cream mixture in a steady stream into egg yolks, stirring constantly. Add tempered yolks back to the cream mixture in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens to where it coats the back of spoon. Remove the custard from the heat. Add gelatin mixture and melted chocolate, mixing well to incorporate them. Stir in salt. Strain custard through fine-mesh sieve and pour into eight shallow six-ounce custard cups. Allow custard to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for minimum of four hours or up to three days, covered tightly with plastic wrap to keep the tops from drying out and to prevent refrigerator odors from permeating the custards.

To make the vanilla macerating syrup:

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and combine in a saucepan with the water and granulated sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Discard vanilla bean and measure out quarter cup of syrup, storing the remainder for another use. (It will keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to two weeks.) When it’s ready to serve, macerate the fruit: Combine berries in a bowl with a half cup vanilla simple syrup. They can be left to soak at room temperature for up to 15 minutes.

To caramelize the chilled custards:

Just prior to serving, coat the tops with raw sugar, gently tipping off the excess. It should be a fine, thin layer of sugar. Use a culinary or crème brûlée torch to caramelize sugar evenly across the top of each custard. This will take about one minute per custard, but may happen more quickly: Be watchful and use caution. Garnish custards with berries and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Ristorante Panorama
14 N. Front St.
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 922-7800

About Chef Rosario Romano:

Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Chef Rosario Romano of Ristorante Panorama said he “learned to cook the old Italian way – watching the great chefs in the kitchen and working by their side.” At the age of 16, Romano worked as a busboy at Palumbo’s. Later he worked at Spinelli’s, Franceso, Villa Di Rieti and then at Alfredo, where he caught the attention of Chef Angelo Ciaranini. It was under Ciaranini, who now works at Disney’s Epcot, that “I learned the right way to do everything,” Romano said. As the executive chef for Ristorante Panorama, Romano says the “reason people love Italian food is because they can understand it.” Romano said he believes in using the best and freshest ingredients, which he cooks “simply to bring out the most flavor.” On Sundays, he continues to cook the family meal for his wife and three children, along with other members of his extended family. Part of the joy of cooking, he said, is to make the rounds to Claudio’s for bread, P&S for ravioli, and Giordano’s and Anastasio’s for vegetables.

For a family holiday meal, Romano said he plans to serve “poached calimari marinated in olive oil, garlic and lemon zest for an appetizer. For the entree, pan-seared veal tenderloin with Madeira wine and black truffle, and for dessert, pumpkin crème brulee with honey-roasted pecans and caramel.”

Appetizer: Calamari alla Panorama

50-60 calamari tubes (score on one side- do not cut through)
5-6 fennel tops (slice-leafy green)
2 tbsp chopped garlic
10 lemon zest
6 shallots (sliced)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 cup parsley (chopped)
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
5-6 cups extra virgin olive oil

Add all calamari salad ingredients to a pot (excluding calamari) and bring to a medium-low heat. Slowly add the calamari. Cook for about 10 minutes or until calamari turns bright white. Cool to room temperature. On plate, place the calamari on top of garlic toast and finish with micro greens. Drizzle with sauce.

Entree: Vitello al Tartufo

Veal Ingredients

2 whole veal tenderloins
2 Tbsp olive oil
Season to taste salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim all fat off of the veal and discard. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Season the outer surface of the veal with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and sear veal on both sides until browned. Remove veal to an oven-proof dish, and place in the oven until it reaches the desired temperature.

Sauce Ingredients

1 shallot
2 Tbsp truffle paste
1 oz butter
1 cup veal stock
1/2 cup Madeira wine

In a large skillet over medium-high heat add shallots and cook for two minutes, then add wine and reduce by half. Next, add butter and truffle paste, and cook for one minute, then add veal stock and simmer. Allow tenderloins time to rest, about five minutes. Slice veal and fan onto a plate top with truffle sauce.

Dessert: Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Pumpkin & Brulee Ingredients

12 small mini pumpkins
8 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
8 oz sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 cups heavy cream
10 oz pumpkin puree
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp all spice

Cut tops off of each mini pumpkin, saving them and hollowing out the inside of pumpkins. In a large bowl, blend together egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar and vanilla. Place the egg mixture aside. Place heavy cream in pot and boil. Remove and add heavy cream to the egg mixture. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and all spice. And the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well and then divide it evenly among mini pumpkins. Place the pumpkins in a water bath at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cream Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 oz sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch all spice

In large bowl combined all ingredients whip to stiff peaks form. Place aside.

Caramel Ingredients

1 quart of heavy cream
5 oz sugar
1 cup water

In a medium pot, boil water and sugar until it’s amber in color. Slowly add heavy cream. Take off of the heat and place aside. To finish, sprinkle sugar evenly over the top each mini pumpkin brulee. Use a small kitchen torch to caramelize each mini pumpkin. On a small dessert plate, spoon on caramel sauce, and place the mini pumpkin over sauce. Top the mini pumpkin with cream sauce and garnish with chopped pecans.

Related: Top Spots For Thai Food In Philadelphia

Jeffrey B. Roth, has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on

Watch & Listen LIVE