By now you know I say this all the time, but this is my favorite time of year to cook. When fall sweeps in however, I mean it. I love the flavor of orange, and by that I mean carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, and the like. I love game associated with fall – rabbit, venison, duck, squab – that there are still ample frost-hardy green and cruciferous vegetables to keep things colorful and balanced, and I especially love the the historical and cultural significance of the harvest and the yearly rituals of canning, curing, and preparing for winter. It also means I don’t have to consciously work to lighten dishes because it’s hot outside; I can craft dishes with the various tastes in balance – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory (umami.)
That’s not to say the food I cook in fall is heavy. In fact, as I’ve grown older and more experienced I’ve gravitated toward vegetable-intensive dishes that don’t weigh me down too much. Even dishes like etouffee or choucroute garni don’t have to be heavy if they are properly portioned and accompanied with balancing tastes and textures, which usually means fresh vegetables and herbs. Good thing we have such great green markets in Chicago!
Sometimes though, you do want something that will stick with you for a while, warm you up, and just make you feel good. That’s the direction I tend to go with brunch. An early meal on your day off (or even on a work day for that matter) is a great time to indulge in a little decadence and still have the rest of the day to work it off so you can sleep well feeling light again.
This year, we are bringing back some favorites and introducing some new dishes that I hope will become classics. Here are some highlights:
- Sweet Potato Soup, Spicy Apple Compote, Fried Sage, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Cumin Oil – Yes, soup in the morning! In New Orleans, and indeed much of the world, soup or gumbo for breakfast is a common thing, and if you’ve ever tried it, you understand the restorative powers. This is vegetarian (vegan without the croutons,) and contains only a touch of coconut milk for fat, so it’s also supremely healthy as we get into flu season.
- Sally Lunn French Toast, Brandied Harrow’s Delight Pears, Applewood Smoked Ham, Sugarcane Glaze – We recently started back up ordering from Green and Green, a really cool small farm cooperative in Wisconsin. One the the farms there, Future Fruit Farm, grows lots of interesting heirloom fruits that are certified organic. Their Harrow’s Delight pears taste so richly of the orchard with such a great pear perfume, this is my most exciting dish. It’s sweet, salty, succulent, chewy, creamy… We buy the pears and soak them in brandy syrup for a month before we can even think about putting this on your plate!
- Goat Cheese and Cracked Pepper Biscuits – We add crumbled Prairie Fruits Chevre and cracked Tellicherry peppercorns to our buttermilk biscuit dough and bake them up. Served with rhubarb preserves. Yep, we put up a bunch of rhubarb preserves last June in order to plan this dish for fall. Get them while they last!
- Mushroom and Melted Leek Omelet – You’ll remember this from last winter. Leeks are great right now, and we always have local mushrooms thanks to people like Hidden Valley and River Valley Ranch.
There are more really cool dinner menu changes coming up soon, I was unable to post the last few here while we changed hosting providers. I’ll let you know when they come up. We have 200# of sauerkraut fermenting. Stay tuned to see what we do with it!
Thanks to everyone who has made our brunches such a resounding success. I’m different from most chefs in that I really enjoy cooking brunch, because I love it and think it’s a great joy to share.