With one of the biggest, all-American feast based holidays coming up this Thursday, countless women who enjoy cooking for family and friends will proudly and willingly take their place in the kitchen*. In celebration of women who love to cook, we’re devoting every post this week to a few of our favorite, notable female chefs. They are part of a strong culinary minority who are whipping up a fierce gastronomic storm. We’re also sharing some of their recipes – modern twists on classic holiday dishes.
Chef Stephanie Izard
Meet Chef Stephanie Izard, owner and executive chef of Chicago’s Girl & The Goat, dubbed “America’s best new restaurant” by Saveur Magazine and nominated for the 2011 James Beard Best New Restaurant Award.
Hailing from Chicago, Stephanie first came to America’s attention as a contestant on Season 4 of Bravo’s Emmy Award-Winning Series Top Chef. Known by fans for her meticulous attention to taste, presentation, and blend of flavors, Stephanie went on to win her season, becoming the first woman in the history of the show to take the title of Top Chef.
According to her personal website, Stephanie’s parents got her hooked on food with their themed dinner parties, weekly menus posted on the fridge and a life-changing trip to Epcot where Stephanie couldn’t wait to get home and recreate the crepes she ate in “France”. As much as she loved cooking (and eating), she went the traditional route first and got a Sociology Degree from the University of Michigan. Soon after, she discovered that all she really wanted to do was cook.
Stephanie’s impressive culinary resume includes: Garde Manger at Jean-George Vongerichten’s Chicago outpost of Vong, Roundsman at Spring under Shawn McClain, Sous Chef at La Tache with Dale Levitsky, and then Chef/Owner of the now closed Scylla – named one of the 10 best restaurants in the country by Bon Appétit magazine.
Check out how Chef Stephanie works her magic on classic green bean casserole.
Chef Stephanie Izard’s Green Bean Casserole
“No holiday meal is the same without a green bean casserole. The first time I made this, my mom went out and bought some canned mushroom soup just in case… think the soup is still in her cupboard.” – Stephanie Izard
Green Bean Casserole photo credit: Stephanie Izard
Ingredients for the casserole:
2 pounds fresh haricots verts (stems removed)
5 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 shallots, minced and divided
3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 pint button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups milk (room temperature)
1-2 teaspoons sambal (chili garlic sauce)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound maitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and halved
Ingredients for the crispy shallot topping:
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
4 shallots, sliced into very thin rounds
¾ c rice flour
¼ c cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add beans and boil for 2 minutes then transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking (beans will continue to cook as the casserole bakes). Drain the beans from the ice bath and lay on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to remove excess water.
Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepot over medium-low heat. Add half of the shallots and half of the garlic and sweat over medium low heat for 5 minutes without browning. Add the button mushrooms and sweat for five more minutes.
Add the flour and stir to coat the mushrooms. Whisk in the milk and continue to whisk for a minute or two to avoid lumps. Continue whisking and raise the heat to medium-high to bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally as the liquid thickens. Stir in the sambal, salt, and pepper, adjusting seasonings to taste. (A thick base is desired for casserole, but if the liquid becomes too thick, whisk in a few additional splashes of milk).
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil in large sauté pan over high heat. Add the shiitake and maitake mushrooms, and the remaining shallots and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms release their water, soften and begin to brown.
In a large bowl, combine haricots verts, sautéed mushrooms and creamy mushroom base. Mix well, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, and transfer to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until heated through.
While the casserole bakes, make the crispy shallot topping. Put the salt and red pepper flakes in a coffee grinder, grind to a fine powder and set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed medium saucepot until it registers 375° F on a deep-fry thermometer. (If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, put the handle end of a wooden spoon in the hot oil to test the temperature instead. When a steady stream of bubbles forms around the handle, the oil is hot enough.)
Mix together the flour and corn starch in a medium bowl. Coat shallots in the flour mixture and then shake them in sieve to remove any excess. Carefully add the shallots to the hot oil in two batches and move them around with tongs as they fry to avoid clumping. When each batch is lightly brown and crispy, remove the shallots to drain on a paper towel and season with some of the red pepper salt powder.
When the casserole has finished baking, remove it from the oven, sprinkle with crispy shallots and serve.
Taken out of context, most modern women are probably inclined to react to the title of this post, which interestingly comes from an 1878 feminist work – My Summer in the Kitchen – by Hetty A. Morrison, with a gasp or maybe even a good, down and dirty expletive. But, if a woman LOVES to cook and is not mandated to do so by anyone but herself, then we say, “Get in that kitchen and cook your heart out!”
Though women have been the primary food providers all over the world for eons, the culturally embraced connection of women to kitchens/cooking got stuck at the domestic level, with its positive aspects never fully translating within the professional culinary world. Even today, female chefs still remain a bit of a rarity in the upper ranks of professional kitchens.
The Culinary Institute of America, the nation’s premier culinary school, didn’t accept women until 1970. Today, 44% of the CIA’s 3,000 students are women (that is more than double the 21% in 1980) and roughly 50% of students in culinary schools across the country are women. While there has been a recent explosion of women’s pursuit of culinary arts, women have been slow to attain higher certification levels (fewer than 5% of the Certified Executive Chefs in the US are women). Though still a minority, there are a number of important women chefs making a name for themselves. They are leading busy kitchens in some of the most, well-regarded restaurants across America and raising the bar for their kind. They are Women You Should Know.