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When it comes to fall recipes, it's all about hearty comfort foods — fall soups, fall stews, fall stuffings, fall proteins — y'all get the gist. Problem is, it's common for people to have a few negative associations with the term hearty. Hearty doesn't always mean fattening and it certainly doesn't always mean difficult/time-consuming to prepare.
We thought who better than to dispel these common cooking myths than Executive Chef John May? As a Durham, North Carolina native John has been steadily gaining notoriety in the culinary world since 2009. He is now the executive chef at the Piedmont Restaurant which can be described as an establishment known for its farm to table style eating — highlighting different produce throughout the year with an emphasis on fresh, innovative "kinda fine dining."
He's here today to teach all you manly-men out there a thing or two about upping your cooking game this fall! Sit back, relax, and take some notes. Trust us, you'll want to replicate these dishes.
FHM: When you think of fall, what flavors come to mind? Produce, spices, herbs, etc.?
John May: As far as produce, I love gourds and squashes; I also think of grapes in the fall. In the summer, we focus on fresh and light herbs like basil, cilantro, and tarragon, but in the fall, we think of hard herbs: rosemary, thyme, etc. Spice-wise, I tend to think of warm and comforting baking spices in the fall: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon.
FHM: Traditionally, when we think of Fall we also think Turkey — any other proteins that can highlighted during this season?
John May: I think game is particularly good in the fall. I really love quail and duck; I love using the duck leg in particular during the fall season. Duck breast is a bit lighter, so I tend to use it in the summer and will just sear it off with a little sauce. When fall comes around, I like to braise and baste the leg, giving it a nice, thick, viscous sauce.
For the quail, we’ll roast it and serve it with an apple cider reduction, which caramelizes on the bird and gives off a warm, apple-cinnamon flavor. I also think pork served with any fruit-based sauce is a great protein for fall.
FHM: Do you have any examples of meals that are both hearty AND healthy?
John May: Rabbit is one of the best protein sources we have available to us because not only is it very sustainable and widely available, but it also has the highest protein-to-fat ratio of any animal protein. Rabbit meat is really good for you, and it also pairs well with fall flavors. For a healthy, yet hearty, fall meal, I like to make a light stock with the rabbit meat, and cook it off with wine.
FHM: What's your go to stuffing recipe?
John May: I make an apple, cornbread, and sausage stuffing with lots of thyme. I’ll typically use a chicken sausage or rabbit sausage. It’s very warm and comforting and totally feels like fall, and it’s great to use as a stuffing for quail.
FHM: What's you go to stew/soup recipe?
John May: I actually really like a chilled soup. One of my favorites for the fall is making a very hearty chilled soup out of apples, greens, herbs, and leeks. I like it because it tastes like fall, but it’s also very light. It makes a great first course to help assimilate your palate to fall flavors that you can then develop into a heartier meal.
FHM: We've gotta ask, pumpkin spice — is there a way to make it "manly" or should it strictly remain a Starbucks latte flavor?
John May: Pumpkin spice totally gets a bad rap! Pumpkin spice is basically just nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. It can go on everything in the fall; it’s what people use in mulling spices, in apple cider, and it’s also great for braising meat. I can make a very manly pumpkin spice-braised duck dish; I just don’t call it “Pumpkin Spice.”
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