Ovations executive chef Jason Westerfield shares cooking stories and Thanksgiving recipes

Please note the Thanksgiving recipes are listed at the bottom of this blog entry.

Minor League Baseball is synonymous with a lot of things, but something that truly sticks out on a yearly basis is the variety of food one can find at concession stands throughout the country. This past year at Chukchansi Park, the “Grizzly Eggs” were the one-of-a-kind item you couldn’t find anywhere else. A brainstorm from Fresno Grizzlies Director of Marketing Sam Hansen, Ovations executive chef Jason Westerfield experimented with the original recipe and was able to produce the cream-cheese filled deviled eggs, which were wrapped in bacon, baked in an oven and then drizzled with buffalo sauce. The item was so popular that it landed on the front page of the Fresno Bee before anyone ever tasted it. Non-traditional moments like those are what Minor League Baseball marketing professionals live for, and in turn, those ideas help expand the expectations fans have when it comes to a culinary creation they can enjoy at a baseball game. While the Grizzlies are currently in the midst of the offseason, Ovations Food Services and executive chef Jason Westerfield are currently brainstorming ways to blend a Texas flavor into the Chukchansi Park menu for 2015. We recently caught up with Jason to talk about where that process currently is, get his background in cooking, as well as pull a few Thanksgiving recipes from him that people could easily execute for the holiday.

chefjasonwesterfield

Ovations at Chukchansi Park executive chef Jason Westerfield

Q: With the Fresno Grizzlies now being the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, are there any Texas elements coming to the concession stands in 2015?

Jason Westerfield: I definitely have some ideas. Everything is bigger in Texas, so it’s really about going over the top on what’s trending. You see giant hot dogs or corn dogs, so you may see us load one of those with caramelized onions and velveeta cheese to make it bigger and better. Texas barbecue is also huge, and we’re looking at creating our own signature sauce that will include some local Fresno chili peppers.

Q: Obviously cooking comes a little more naturally to you than others. Where do you get your cooking inspiration from?

JW: The internet is a huge resource for me. At this point, I wouldn’t say anyone is reinventing the wheel, but they’re putting a new spin on old, traditional foods. One of the things I wanted to come up with was a sweet potato ravioli with a nutmeg and sage cream. Nothing came up on an internet search with those ingredients, but a pumpkin ravioli did, which helped me formulate my sweet potato recipe a littler better.

Q: Your earliest cooking memories go back how far?

JW: Wow… probably when I was 10 or 11 helping out my grandmother and mother in the kitchen. I started out learning the simple tricks, such as the correct way to peel a tomato. As the years went by, I would be asked to take care of a certain dish.

Q: Did they play any tricks on you in those early years?

JW: The first time I cut an onion I remember asking my mom why I was crying…

Q: So when did you begin cooking professionally?

JW: In high school I washed dishes for Marie Callender’s Restaurant and Bakery, then moved on to bus tables and then decided I wanted to cook. I started out prepping, then shifted to Olive Garden where I went from prep, to line cook, to line trainer and eventually corporate trainer. After that, I moved to Monterrey (Calif.) and worked at Pebble Beach. From there, I helped open up Roy’s Restaurant in Spanish Bay.

Q: What were some learning experiences you had at Roy’s?

JW: Well, that was really the pinnacle of transition from an ordinary cook to becoming a chef. Roy really pressed us to create new things on the menu. If I was working the appetizer station, I was tasked with the normal appetizers and then I had to create three custom appetizers from scratch. You couldn’t repeat any of your custom dishes, so it made you think ahead two or three days in advance. It was a constant science experiment in the kitchen.

Q: Bet that got your creative juices going!

JW: Exactly. It was a Euro-Asian fusion style we did, which is now my forte. It takes traditional Asian ingredients, but adds in European cooking techniques.

Q: How did you make your way from Monterrey to Fresno?

JW: I moved on to help open up Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, then moved north up to Oroville (Calif.) and ran Gold Country Casino. Both of those places broadened my experience in other cuisines, considering there are different style restaurants you have to account for. I remember having a couple hundred different finger food desserts, which was a lot of fun to brainstorm and execute.

Q: Yum! Well, speaking about all of this food and with Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, what’s a favorite memory you have that deals with the meal that was on the table when you were younger?

JW: What I remember most was my mother doing a different theme for Thanksgiving each year. We went to Williamsburg one year and ended up cooking oyster dumplings and all of those old school recipes from the 1700s. Another year she had visited San Luis Obispo and the Apple Farm Inn, so we did an apple theme with chicken apple sausage, apple fritters, and apple pie.

Q: You have a little bit of your own theme for us here. What recipes have you concocted that a person could use for Thanksgiving this year?

JW: I was able to take the traditional elements of Thanksgiving and put a little different spin on it. I wrote up a few of the recipes to share (shown below), and they’re simple enough for people to follow and execute for their Thanksgiving supper. I did a butter and herb roasted turkey, turkey gravy with giblets, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a citrus ginger cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin crème brule.

chef_wordpressThe recipe creations at their completion. Please review the time needed for each recipe if you are going to use them on Thanksgiving. This will help you line up all of the dishes so they are ready to serve at the same time.

All recipes courtesy of Ovations at Chukchansi Park executive chef Jason Westerfield.

BUTTER AND HERB ROASTED TURKEY

This recipe has been tailored for a 10-12 pound turkey

Cook time: 3.5 hours

One pound softened unsalted butter

¼ cup minced Rosemary

¼ cup minced Sage

¼ cup minced Garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Let butter soften to room temperature. Then, combine the butter, rosemary, sage, and garlic in a mixing bowl. Once incorporated, rub the compound butter in between the skin and the breast meat saving enough to coat the outside of the turkey. Place the turkey in a roasting pan with a rack, pour three (3) cups of water in the bottom of the pan, and cover with foil. Cook in the for roughly 3.5 hours at 325 degrees. When the turkey has an internal temperature of 150 degrees, remove foil and brown the turkey until the internal temp reaches 165. Remove from the oven and let it rest while you finish the gravy.

TURKEY GRAVY WITH GIBLETS

Cook time: Roughly 80 minutes

Giblets from the Turkey

2 tbsp Butter

½ cup diced onion

½ cup diced carrot

½ cup diced celery

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 teas Italian seasoning

4 cups of water

Turkey drippings

3 tbsp flour

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a two-quart sauce pan, melt butter over medium high heat, then add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sweat for one-minute, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Add the water to the pan along with the giblets (including the neck). Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about an hour. Remove the neck, giblits and set aside. Strain the stock into another pan and set aside.

I advise that you remove as much of the neck meat as you can and fine chop along with the rest of the giblets. When the turkey is done, remove it to a serving platter and let rest while finishing the gravy. Skim as much fat as you can from the drippings into the gravy, then add the rest to the previous stock. Add the chopped giblets to the stock, and return to the heat. Combine 3 tblsp of flour with a ¼ cup of cold water. Bring the stock to a boil and drizzle in the flour mix while whisking quickly. Let it thicken for about a minute, then it is ready to serve.

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ROASTED GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

This recipe has been tailored for a 5 pound bag of russet

Cook time: Roughly 25 minutes

1 cup Roasted Garlic Chopped

2 tbsp minced Garlic

2 cup Heavy Cream

8 oz Unsalted Butter

Salt and White pepper to taste

Peel and cut potatoes into one inch cubes. Combine in a pot with enough water to cover the potatoes, then add the minced garlic. Boil until soft (about 15 minutes), then drain water off of the potatoes and return to the heat for one minute to get rid of any excess water. This will keep the potatoes fluffy. In a sauce pan, add the heavy cream and butter and heat until butter is melted. Once hot, add the cream mixture and the chopped garlic to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a whisk. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

CITRUS GINGER CRANBERRY SAUCE

Video Demonstration

Cook time: Roughly 10 minutes

1 bag Fresh Cranberries

6 medium Oranges (3 for segments, 3 for juice)

½ cup Brown Sugar

Juice from 3 oranges

½ cup water

Zest of 1 orange

¼ cup minced ginger

1 teas Vanilla Extract

Zest one orange and finely mince. Peel that orange and two others with a knife. Cut out segments from between the membrane of the orange, set aside. Juice the other three oranges and add to a sauce pan along with the water, brown sugar, orange zest, and ginger. Bring the mix to a simmer, then add the cranberries and vanilla. Let simmer until it thickens and have reached a jam consistency. Fold in the orange segments and serve.

PUMPKIN CRÈME BRULE

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

Overall time: 5 hours (4 of which to refrigerate)

8 Egg Yolks

¾ cup sugar

3 cup Heavy Cream

¾ cup canned pumpkin

2 Vanilla Beans Seeded + 1 teas Vanilla Extract

1 teas Pumpkin Pie Spice

Topping

1 ½ cup heavy cream

3 tbsp sugar

1 teas cinnamon

Combine sugar and egg yolks into a mixing bowl. Bring the cream and vanilla beans just to a boil, then remove. Drizzle in small amounts of cream into the egg/sugar mix to temper the eggs (about 1 cup). Return the egg mixture back to into the sauce pan. On low heat, add the pumpkin and the vanilla extract to incorporate well. Divide mix between 8 – 6oz ramekins or custard dishes. Place on a baking sheet with a water bath. Bake at 325 for about 25 until the middle is just set (should jiggle a little). Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then refrigerate for about four hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a ½ tbsp sugar to cover the top and caramelize with a torch or under the broiler. WATCH closely so you don’t burn them.

For the topping, whip the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks. Fold in the cinnamon.

Dollop the topping on the Crème Brule and serve.

Hope you enjoy! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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