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Joy of Cooking


They say the secret to a great plate of food is the heart and soul that are put into it. And we can’t disagree. Even for those who cook for a living, some meals simply mean more than just sustainence and tastiness. They are about family and friends, history and ritual, and the celebration of tradition. Here, four local chefs spread the love with YS readers, offering recipes for dishes they serve to guests—whether it be customers in their restaurants or family members for a holiday meal.

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Mascarpone and Smoked Bacon
From chef Alec Schuler at Arugula

Alec Schuler, chef and proprietor at Arugula in Boulder, was born and raised in Long Island, New York, so he feels something of an affinity with the Long Island cheese pumpkins grown at Munson Farms. The squash’s firm flesh holds up well after cooking for use in risotto or salads, but here, it tastes especially creamy when puréed into a delicious soup that tastes like liquid autumn.

Arugula Bar e Ristorante, 2785 Iris Ave., Boulder, 303.443.5100

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Soup
(Makes 16 portions):

• One 13 pounds (12″ diameter) “Long Island Cheese” pumpkin (can substitute 3 large butternut squashes or equivalent amount of other pumpkin)
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/2 pound butter
• 3 apples, peeled and rough chopped
• 2 large yellow onions, peeled and rough chopped
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and rough chopped
• 3 stalks celery, rough chopped
• 1/2 cup fresh sage, rough chopped
• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
• Small pinch of clove
• 1/4 teaspoon of each: allspice and nutmeg (can substitute 1.5 teaspoons pumpkin spice for all spices)
• Up to 2 quarts of either chicken stock or vegetable stock
• 1 1/2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar*
• 1 cup of heavy whipping cream

*CORRECTION: The original recipe contained a typo, erroneously calling for half a cup of vinegar. The above is the correct amount.

• 2 cups Mascarpone mixed well with a pinch of each: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg (can substitute pumpkin spice for all of the spices), a smidgen of cayenne and 1 tablespoon honey.
• 6 thick cut pieces of bacon, cut in strips and cooked down until crunchy.

Cut pumpkin/squash in half, remove the seeds, rub with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast cut side down for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees, or until a knife will easily slide through the flesh.

Add butter into a large pot and cook on low until it turns brown and smells nutty. Then add apples, onions, celery, carrots, sage and spices and sauté on low for 25 minutes until all vegetables are soft. Remove pumpkin/squash from oven, turn over and let cool a little. Scoop out flesh with large spoon and add to the other vegetables

Add 6 cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Finish seasoning with salt and pepper. Blend with an immersion blender (or with a conventional blender a few cups at a time) adding the cream slowly. More stock may need to be added to thin. Add sherry vinegar. The soup may be strained at this point through a chinoise or very fine strainer.

Serve topped with a dollop of cheese and a tablespoon of bacon.

Roasting a whole pumpkin (or butternut squash) isn’t as difficult as one might assume; if you can carve a jack-o-lantern, you can roast a pumpkin. Using the largest knife you have (chef Alec uses a machete!) cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds with a heavy metal spoon. Rub the inside and outside of the squash with olive oil; coating the outside will help prevent scorching. Salt and pepper the inside liberally and place on a heavy baking sheet, cut side down and roast until the flesh is soft. Easy!

Lamb Loin and Gratin Potatoes
From executive chef Mark Monette of Flagstaff House

Mark Monette knows how to do a holiday table with style, and although this dish looks complicated, it’s not hard to put together. Sautéed chard forms the bottom layer, with the gratin in the middle and sliced rare lamb loin on top. If you have a ring mold, you can plate this up just like Monette, but if not, go ahead and serve the three components more traditionally side by side.

Flagstaff House Restaurant, 1138 Flagstaff Drive, Boulder, 303.442.4640

Gratin of Yukon Gold & Sweet Potatoes
(Serves 8-10)

• 1 nutmeg
• 1 head garlic, roasted
• 6 sprigs tarragon
• 1 quart heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon each Salt, pepper, and cayenne or to taste
• 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 340. Prepare cream mixture first: finely grate one nutmeg, peel and puree one head of roasted garlic, and mince the leaves of six sprigs of tarragon. Whisk herbs and garlic into heavy cream. Divide into two large bowls. Add salt, pepper and cayenne.

Stir the Yukon Gold potatoes into half of the cream mixture. Layer half of the Yukon Gold potatoes into a large casserole dish.

Stir the sweet potatoes into rest of the cream mixture and layer half of them on top of the Yukon Gold layer, then alternate the final two Yukon Gold and sweet potato layers.
Cover with foil and perforate. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle with bread crumbs, toast under a broiler until golden and serve.

Most people think of long cooking times when they think of lamb, but a lamb loin can be prepared just like a cut of beef. Season the lamb with minced fresh rosemary, salt, pepper and crushed garlic before broiling or grilling to an internal temperature of 145 degrees (for medium rare). Slice thinly against the grain to serve.

Mammaw’s Squash Casserole
From Pete and Michelle Tripp, owners of Tortuga’s

Holidays at the Tripp table always include a few signature Southern dishes: cornbread dressing, maybe some fried okra and definitely squash casserole. Michelle’s grandmother, Mary Alice, was the original matriarch of this recipe, and although it’s been lightened over the years (believe it or not), it remains a staple of their holiday table.

Tortuga’s, 218 Coffman St., Longmont, 303.772.6954

Mammaw’s Squash Casserole

(Serves 6–8)

• 3 yellow squash
• 1 medium yellow onion, diced
• 1/2 stick of butter
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
• 20 Ritz crackers, crushed
• 2 eggs, beaten
• Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the squash into even rounds about a quarter of an inch thick and steam 4 minutes or until tender. Melt butter in a small sauté pan and sauté onions until translucent. Mash the squash and mix in the cooked onions.

Mix in the cheese and sour cream until combined. Add the crackers and mix to combine, then add the eggs. Salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the mixture to a greased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.

You can substitute different cheese for a different flavor or add half a cup of diced roasted chiles for heat.

This casserole is excellent with a simple roast chicken—or turkey—and simple sides.

Unlike boiling, steaming maintains much of the texture of vegetables and is much less prone to overcooking. To steam vegetables, you can use a specific steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water, or even use a metal strainer or colander that fits over your pot. Use a fork to test the vegetables as they’re cooking to ensure you get the desired texture. The smaller and thinner you slice your vegetables, the more quickly they will cook.

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onions
From Susan Yurish, owner and chef at Hanna’s Specialty Foods

Many families wouldn’t dream of setting their Thanksgiving table without a green bean casserole, and we’ve got nothing against that. But why settle for the canned, fried version when you could have a creamy, caramelized homemade version that takes green beans to a whole new level? Susan Yurish’s dish is just as popular with her catering clients as it is with her guests at home.

Hanna’s Specialty Foods, 802 S. Public Rd., Lafayette, 303.664.0200

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onions
(Serves 6-8)

For Onions:
• 3 large onions, cut into thin half moons
• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 1 stick)
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally for another 45 minutes. Onions should be a golden brown and have a thick, caramel-like coating. Set aside.

For Cream Sauce:
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 medium onion, diced (1/2” dice)
• 3 cups heavy cream
• Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat; do not brown. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add cream, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes; it will coat the back of your spoon.

For Green Beans
and Mushrooms:
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 ½ pounds fresh green beans—ends trimmed
• 1 pound fresh mushrooms sliced
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 teaspoon soy sauce( a key ingredient in the “soup version”)

Sauté green beans and mushrooms in butter and oil, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender.

For Casserole:
Combine green beans, mushrooms, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and hot cream sauce together. Taste for seasoning. Place in a 2-quart baking dish. Top with caramelized onions. Cover with foil and bake a 350 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.


Slow cooking the onions prevents over-browning/burning and allows the natural sugars to be released, which is key to caramelize the onions. By combining butter and oil in the sauté pan, you get the best properties of each: the flavor of butter and the high smoking point of the oil.


Lacy is an award-winning food writer and blogger. She lives in Westminster with her family. Google