The Quintessential Fall Foods From the Quintessential Foodies
Fall is a time to be thankful. A time to be spooky. A time to be cozy. A time to eat butternut squash soup like our lives depend on it. Fall is synonymous with several seasonal comfort foods, from the aforementioned soup that rises in prominence on menus during the colder months to soulful fare such as stuffing and apple pie. When it comes to that quintessential fall dish, who better to ask than the restaurant pros? These guys know eating, and they know a good fall dish when they taste one. Here are the dishes that several chefs look forward to every year.
(Pumpkin pie army at Prairie Grass Cafe)
Few things personify fall quite like butternut squash. In a myriad of forms, the Ninja Turtle-hued gourd takes over menus this time of year, and people love it. Paul Fehribach of Big Jones cites butternut squash soup as his quintessential fall dish. He likes his topped with fried sage and truffle oil, heavy on ginger, allspice, and clove. He also likes to add onions to amp up the sweetness and carrots to boost the color. Carrie Nahabedian of NAHA and Brindille prefers her butternut squash in gnocchi form. Her favorite is butternut squash gnocchi with crisp sage (are butternut squash and sage the new Bert and Ernie?) and maple-roasted bacon.
Kissing cousins to the butternut squash is the almighty sweet potato. And not an autumn goes by without some of Toni Roberts' sweet potato doughnuts. The pastry chef at State and Lake Chicago Tavern waits all year to make sweet potato doughnuts with housemade cajeta and fromage blanc ice cream. We can't talk about autumnal sweet potato dishes without mentioning marshmallows. For pastry chef Melissa Trimmer, it isn't fall without something toasty and marshmallow-y. "Sometimes it's a re-made s'more, sometimes it's an ice cream, sometimes it's a swoosh on a plate, sometimes it's just a toasted marshmallow," she says. "Whatever form it takes, it's something I need to have every fall." I like the vigor.
For The Butcher & Larder's Rob Levitt, it's not so much a particular fall dish as it is a fall philosophy. He's interested in the seasonal change in cooking, as people visiting his shop turn their attention from sausages and steaks to braise-friendly meats and roasts. Whole chickens and ducks are in-demand, and he starts making more ragu and bolognese. There's also an uptick in rendered lard sales for pie-making. One of his favorite fall dishes, though, is a blanquette of pork and chestnuts, a hearty stew enriched with cream and egg yolk to produce a big bowl of autumnal yum.
Thanksgiving is still a ways off, but some chefs still uphold Thanksgiving-y dishes as some of their most requisite fall flavors. Christine Cikowski, co-chef and co-owner of Sunday Dinner Club and newly minted Honey Butter Fried Chicken, saves a special place in her heart for Thanksgiving stuffing. Jill Barron of MANA food bar enjoys Brussels sprouts, especially when they're sautéed with chestnuts and cream. And Cary Taylor loves a simple apple pie.
Some chefs just love it all. Prairie Grass Cafe's Sarah Stegner has too much love to restrict it to one dish, so she doles out adoration for foods such as honey-glazed and grilled pumpkins, brown sugared acorn squash, corn fritters with honey butter, and pumpkin pie. Surprised it took this long for someone to mention pumpkin pie.