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Chefs' secrets

Favorite recipes from our favorite cooks.

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CHRIS TANNER: Try his 'shrooms.
  • CHRIS TANNER: Try his 'shrooms.

We asked four of our best chef runners-up to divulge the recipe of a popular dish they serve. Here goes:

 The Faded Rose’s Tony Rogers learned the art of cooking the old-fashioned way, working his way up through some of Little Rock’s most prestigious kitchens. Soups are his specialty, he says, but he also likes to work with fish. This recipe is a Faded Rose classic.

Snapper Pontchartrain
4 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped roasted red bell pepper
1 tbsp. green onion tops
2 oz. lump crabmeat
1 sliced mushroom
broiled or fried snapper

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute next five ingredients together, then add mushroom and cook until tender. Stir in other 2 tbsp. butter, then pour mixture over broiled or fried snapper.

Chef Chris Tanner says this recipe, from Cheers in the Heights’ catering menu, is a “good all-around dish” that gets raves wherever it’s served. But that’s not the only reason he chose to share it with Arkansas Times readers.
“I like that it’s not complicated,” Tanner said. “It’s just a few ingredients, but it’s outstanding flavor-wise.”

Cheers in the Heights’ Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

3 Italian hot sausages, casings removed
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
Olive oil

24 large (about 2-inch diameter) mushrooms, stemmed
1/3 cup dry white wine

Saute sausage and oregano in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through and brown, breaking into small pieces with back of fork, about seven minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage mixture to large bowl and cool. Mix in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder, then cream cheese. Season filling with salt and pepper; mix in egg yolk.
Brush 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish with olive oil to coat. Brush cavity of each mushroom cap with white wine; fill with scant 1 tbsp. filling and sprinkle with some of remaining Parmesan cheese. Arrange mushrooms, filling side up, in prepared dish. (Can be made one day ahead; cover and chill.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered until mushrooms are tender and filling is brown on top, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chef Paul Novicky needed a few days to come up with instructions for this dish. “I had to try to remember what we actually made,” he said. “There’s not a recipe in the house.” Instead, Novicky cooks by philosophy and instinct, a formula that’s kept tables full at Nu through frequent menu changes. This dish, he said, is popular when it’s on the menu.

Nu Asian Beef Salad
Serves 4 to 6
3 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
6 oz. beef tenderloin, sliced thin
1 tbsp. chopped green onions
1/8 cup sliced celery
3 oz. teriyaki sauce
1/8 cup sliced red onions
Phyllo or puff pastry cups
1/8 cup sliced carrots
1 oz. wilted pea sprouts or mixed greens for garnish

Heat sesame oil in a very hot skillet. Saute celery, red onion, carrots and garlic until tender. Remove from skillet. In same pan, saute beef slices to desired doneness. Add teriyaki sauce, then place vegetables back in skillet with beef. Add green onions. Divide mixture among phyllo cups. Saute sprouts in same skillet with 1/2 tsp. more sesame oil or butter; use for garnish. Serve hot.

This recipe from chef Kathy Webb was inspired by a vegetables-and-pasta dish she and partner Nancy Tesmer ate in an Italian restaurant out of state several years ago. “We said we could really make this into a dynamite Asian dish, and we started playing around with it,” Webb said. It’s since become a Lilly’s signature, and even won a place in a cookbook published by soy sauce maker Kikkoman. This restaurant-kitchen recipe calls for preparing 3 1/2 pounds of chicken to be cooked a pound at a time. To serve a family of four, divide the recipe in half. You’ll probably have leftovers.

Lilly’s Dim Sum, Then Some Hong Kong Chicken

1. In a large bowl, mix:
3 cans (13 oz. each) cans coconut milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup soy sauce
(Yamasa or Kikkoman)
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
6 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Whisk ingredients well. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Cut 3½ pounds skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Put in large mixing bowl and marinate with:
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
Mix chicken and marinade thoroughly. If there is excess marinade, drain off chicken before covering. Cover and refrigerate at least two or three hours.

3. Fill a large stock pot with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook 12-16 ounces angel hair pasta according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove from heat and drain when pasta is slightly al dente. Immediately rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. When thoroughly cool and drained, transfer pasta to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

4. Stir-fry ingredients:

6-8 white mushrooms, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 medium red bell peppers, thinly sliced, cut in 3-inch strips
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
3-4 tbsp. minced garlic
(Dish can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead of time.)

5. Heat wok or large skillet, add cooking oil to coat bottom of pan. Over medium to medium-high heat, saute chicken until done, tossing to avoid burning. Set aside. Clean wok or skillet; heat, add oil and saute over medium heat, adjusting if necessary to avoid burning garlic:
1 tsp. garlic
12-14 pieces red bell pepper
12-14 pieces mushrooms
1/4 cup scallions
approximately 1 pound chicken

After 2-3 minutes, add 2 cups of sauce (from step 1). Mix sauce and other ingredients, heat thoroughly. Then add 12 ounces cooked noodles. Toss noodles in the sauce; remove from heat. Serve on large platter, garnished with bean sprouts scallions and 2-3 sprigs fresh cilantro.

Depending on number of guests, repeat process. You will probably use about six ounces cooked noodles per person.

Vegetarian: Delete chicken. Take one package firm or extra firm tofu. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to stir fry just before adding sauce.
Spicier: Use 1 1/2-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes.
Rice: Cook jasmine rice according to directions. Serve over rice, using bowl instead of platter.
Peanuts: Use crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy, or use crushed, unsalted peanuts as additional garnish, sprinkled across platter.
For leftovers: Cook chicken and vegetables; refrigerate. Add to sauce, with freshly cooked noodles, and heat.

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