Ask most chefs what makes a good meal and the answer is usually the same. It’s not long lists of complicated ingredients that require trips to specialty grocery stores. It’s about using a few quality ingredients and knowing the right techniques to prepare them.
And while the Tahoe-Truckee region is full of restaurants worthy of a night out, preparing a meal for your friends and family from the comfort of home — or perhaps your temporarily rented “home” — is truly something special.
Tahoe Magazine caught up with three local private chefs to bring you recipes for cooking up the perfect three-course winter meal. Lucky for you, if the prospect of cooking for a group sounds too daunting, all of the chefs are available to cook it for you in-home, too.
Scallops and Acorn Squash
(Makes 8 appetizers or 4 sides)
2 oz blended oil
Clean the scallops by removing the tendons and patting dry with paper towels. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat with oil. Season the scallops with sea salt on all sides. When the pan is smoking, place the scallops in the pan and cook until they begin to brown, then flip. Remove from the pan once both sides have browned.
1 acorn squash
1 oz olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and cut into eight pieces. Next, coat the inside of the squash with oil and salt and bake until soft, about 45 minutes. Set aside.
Honey Butter Sauce
1 shallot, chopped and peeled
8 oz white wine
½ lb butter
1 oz honey
16 oz heavy cream
Wilt the shallots over medium heat with 1 teaspoon of butter in a saucepan. When translucent, add the wine and reduce until almost gone. Add the heavy cream and reduce until thick, about a quarter of the original volume. Cut the rest of the butter into cubes and add one cube at a time until the butter has been incorporated. Next, add the lemon juice, honey and salt. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
To assemble, place the scallop atop the squash and drizzle with the honey butter sauce. Alternatively, you can plate the sauce first and drizzle designs with olive oil and balsamic vinegar before adding the squash and scallop.
Chef Peter Brinckerhoff is chef of Heavenly Mountain Resort’s Tamarack Lodge. He is the former executive chef of Tahoe Restaurant Collection (Bar of America, Caliente, Garwoods and Riva Grill), as well as the former chef de cuisine of the Lone Eagle Grill in Incline Village. He has called Lake Tahoe home for over 20 years, and is currently working to realize his dream of becoming a personal chef. www.mychefpeter.com
The main course…
Coffee Rubbed Ribeye
(Makes 4-6 servings)
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup grass fed butter, softened
Place the softened butter, bourbon and maple syrup into a food processor, until creamy and smooth. Place the butter on a sheet of plastic wrap, fold one end of the plastic wrap sheet over the butter and roll the butter into a cylindrical “log.” Twist the ends of the plastic wrap (like a wrapped candy) and refrigerate for at least one hour or until hardened.
3 ribeye steaks, 1-inch thick
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup espresso dry rub (use your favorite brand or the recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400°. Season steaks generously with dry rub; let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat cast iron skillet over high heat. Add oil and heat until smoking and carefully place the steak in the skillet, cook for 1 minute each side. Place skillet into the oven and roast the steaks until done.
For rare (120 degrees), bake for 2-3 minutes; medium rare (130 degrees), 3-4 minutes and medium (140 degrees), 5-6 minutes. Check with a thermometer for desired temperature. The steak will continue to cook slightly, while resting.
Remove each steak and place onto a cutting board. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Slice the butter and place one slice on each steak. Serve and enjoy!
Coffee Dry Rub
(makes ¾ cup)
3 Tbsp ground espresso
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Ancho Chile powder
1 Tbsp coarse salt
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
Combine and set aside. Store extra rub in airtight container.
Chef Arica Davis grew up in Louisiana watching her parents cook and took her love of Southern food out west when she moved to California. In addition to culinary classes from community colleges and local programs in Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas, she has traveled to Italy and Spain to take instructional cooking classes while immersed in the culture and flavors of the region. Davis operates Yummy Fixins, a personal chef service, in South Lake Tahoe. www.yummyfixins.com
And for dessert…
‘Black Betty’ Flourless Chocolate Torte
8 oz butter
1 lb high-quality dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa)
Vanilla, almond, coffee or orange extracts (optional)
Preheat over to 250 degrees. Whip eggs until frothy, 4-5 minutes, with a mixer or blender. At this point, if desired, add in a few dashes of extract or a combination of extracts. Melt butter and chocolate together using a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring between 30-second intervals. Fold eggs into mixture.
Next, coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter and cocoa powder before pouring in batter. Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes or until an internal temperature of 140-150 degrees (the middle of the cake will still be jiggly). Let cool for an hour before putting in the fridge covered in plastic wrap.
This cake can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for up to two weeks. When ready to serve, cut individual slices and microwave for 15 seconds each — do not microwave the entire cake. The result is a delicious, mousse-like cake that can be topped with fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, ice cream or nuts.
Chef Grog Verbeck has over 25 years of professional restaurant experience throughout the United States and France. For the past 20 years, Verbeck and his wife Holly have run HeyChef! in Truckee, an in-home staffing source for private chefs, bartenders, baristas and servers that makes it possible for you to be a guest at your own party. www.heychef.com