For Mom, With Love From Santa Fe Chefs

Gourmet Girl - May 5, 2015

Around the world, Mother's Day is typically celebrated with flowers, chocolate, greeting cards and other gifts. But for chefs, it's often a day to honor mothers with what they know best—food, prepared with love.

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In some cases, the dish might be a family recipe handed down from mother to mother. In others, it might be a favorite dish made by chefs that their mothers have enjoyed over the years. Whatever the source, a recipe for a beloved family dish is a meaningful Mother's Day gift. Here are a few delicious dishes from Santa Fe chefs, garnished with memories of their mothers, who all, interestingly, were not great cooks themselves.

Mark Kiffin of The Compound with his girlfriend, Barb, and mom.

James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Kiffin, owner of The Compound in Santa Fe and Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila in Albuquerque, grew up in Denver. On Mother's Day, he and his sisters would present their mother with flowers and attempt to serve her breakfast in bed before the family headed off to The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs for a real brunch. But, he says “my mom wasn't the greatest cook in the world and her happiest moment was when her son told her he was going to chef's college. In the later years my mom loved asparagus, so I would gently scramble eggs with lots of butter and lovely green spring asparagus. Then I took it up a notch and shaved some black truffles over the dish for her and my dad, and that was a true joyful smile with good coffee and brioche. Cheers mom, love you!”

Mark Kiffin's Asparagus Mascarpone Truffled Eggs (Serves 2 to 3)

8 medium spears asparagus, remove the bottom and any white bottom stalk
2 tablespoons butter
6 farm fresh eggs
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper mill, to taste
1 small black truffle or good quality truffle peelings
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Bring a quart of water to a rolling boil, add a good pinch of salt, add the asparagus and cook to desired doneness.Remove to ice water to shock and stop the cooking process, drain and slice on the bias.

In a medium Teflon pan, heat to warm and add the butter until foaming and melted but not browning.  Whisk in the eggs to mix well and pour in the pan.  I like to cook until light and creamy but not dry.  Whisk in the cheese and fold in the sliced spears.  Mix until hot but don't overcook the eggs. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Plate the eggs, slice the truffles on top and top with chives and serve.

Over at Mu Du Noodles, Mu Jing Lau's Chinese Congee has delighted diners for years, and it's a traditional dish enjoyed by her mother, as well, who also wasn't a great cook. Lau grew up in New Jersey, where she would make this dish on a rainy, cold days. “This is a great recipe to comfort the human spirit and you can use any leftover items you may have in the fridge to make it, she says.

Mu and mom.

Mu's Chinese Congee (Serves 2 -3)

1/2 cup cold cooked rice
1 ½ to 2 ½ cups rich broth (Mu uses a combination of chicken, pork and seawood broths)

Cook the rice and broth over low to medium heat until it has the consistency of porridge or to your liking. Pour into bowls and top with minced meat, sliced scallions, chopped hard-boiled egg, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame oil, a dusting of fresh ground pepper and salt or soy sauce to flavor. The amount of the toppings vary, but a little of each goes a long way. And you don't have to heat the topping because when it's served you stir it all together and the residual heat from the broth will warm everything up.

Santa Fe chef Kim Müller, chef/owner of B / O / T / H Consulting, has a treasured recipe for potato salad written on the back of a postcard that her mother sent her when she was a freshman in college. “Since I never lived in the dorms, I cooked for myself, until I started working in restaurants,” says Muller, who was a chef at The Compound and most recently izanami, nominated under her tenure for a prestigious James Beard award shortly after it opened.. “Somehow, I managed to hang on to this recipe for the last 42 years.”

Müller has always loved her mom's potato salad— “a very simple recipe, but so delicious,” she says. “My mother did not know how to cook a bit when she married my dad at 16. Having just left the Army, as the head mess sergeant at the Presidio of Monterey, my dad did most of the cooking. Gradually, my mom taught herself how to cook. James Beard, Julia Child, et al, were her teachers. She became an amazing cook! So much so, that when she decided to go to Paris in 2000, at age 62, and attend Le Cordon Bleu, she soon realized that she already knew most of what they were teaching.

"I attribute my love of food, and cooking, to both of my parents, but my mom gave me an appreciation of great food and wine and all things beautiful. Definitely missing her this first Mother’s Day without her.” Pictured here: Kim's mom and her twin brother, taken just 3 weeks before she passed away last August..

Kim Müller s Mom's Good Ol' Potato Salad (Serves 10-12)

7 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into chunks
1 large jar sweet pickles, chopped
2 cans black olives, chopped
5 large stalks celery, diced
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3 large onions, diced
Mayonnaise, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and season to taste.

Catherine as a little girl with her mother.

Chef Catherine O'Brien has been making diners happy with her recipes for years, starting with Peas'n'Pod Catering and more recently at TerraCotta Wine Bistro. She grew up on the north end of Virginia Beach, "thus the crab and Old Bay," she says. Because her family's nanny, Miss Virginia, did all the cooking, her mother was rarely in the kitchen. "My cooking talents did not pass down from my mother," she says. Catherine created this recipe for Crab Benedict at age 9 (!) for her mom on Mother's Day.

Catherine O'Brien's Chesapeake Lump Crab Benedict (Serves 6)

12 slices country ham
1 pound lump or jumbo Blue Crab meat
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Chopped fresh oarsley
1 16-ounce box Velveeta Cheese
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup sweet sherry
1 package English muffins – preferably Bay’s
12 large free-range eggs
White vinegar
Butter for grilling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook ham slices in a pan over medium heat until crispy but still moist – set aside and keep warm.

Mix crab gently with Old Bay seasoning and fresh parsley.

Melt Velveeta in microwave slowly with cayenne and sweet sherry , stirring every few minutes.

Spray a muffin tin with Pam, fill 1/3 full with water and add ¼ tsp vinegar . Add one raw egg to each muffin cup and bake in preheated oven until yolk reaches desired consistency.

Warm the crabmeat in a sauté pan with a little butter.

Grill the muffins in butter until golden brown

Preheat broiler. Assemble each plate with two muffin halves and top each halve with 1 warm slice of ham. Top with one egg and cover with Velveeta sauce. Place under broiler for a few seconds to seal the deal!