Variations on a Theme

Three local chefs share their take on the Thanksgiving Day feast


(page 3 of 4)

Non-Traditional: Bistro Joe’s Chef Jacques Van Staden

Menu (Serves Approximately 12)
Appetizer: Roasted Pumpkin Soup With Raisins And Cognac Cream Sauce
Entrée: Roasted Turkey Roulade With Dried Fruit And Chestnut Stuffing
Side Dishes: Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts, Star Anise Cranberry Sauce
Dessert: Dulce De Leche Stuffed Sweet Potato

Jacques Van Staden is in metro Detroit because “family is the most important thing in life.” His wife, who grew up in Rochester, persuaded him to come to the Great Lakes State.

Van Staden — a partner and executive chef at Bistro Joe’s in Birmingham — describes his food as global cuisine with elements of surprise, presented in a playful manner. “What an honor to take the life from food and give it anew, to die on our palates, but forever live in our memories,” he says.

Van Staden began cooking with his Italian grandmother at the age of 8. While his father thought he was playing rugby, he worked at a local restaurant. After high school in his native Pretoria, he sold his car to buy a plane ticket to the U.S., where working as a chef was much more highly regarded than in South Africa.

Enrolling at the L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Md., led to a position with the world-renowned chef Jean-Louis Palladin at the Watergate Hotel. Palladin became a mentor — Van Staden hangs a well-worn photo of him “for luck” whenever he opens a new restaurant. It’s gotten a lot of use: He’s opened more than 100 restaurants to date.

In 2001, Van Staden headed to Las Vegas and soon ran two premier restaurants: Alizé and André’s. Alizé was awarded a Michelin star during his tenure. Six years later, he became an award-winning vice president of food and beverage for Celebrity Cruises.

While Van Staden has an international reputation, he says he is old school — and proud of it. “Being conscious of who you are and what you do is key to being successful in the hospitality industry. Respect for self, others, and the food is so very important.

“We need to listen to our food,” Van Staden says. “It talks to you, if you’re willing to listen.” As Palladin would say, “the food will tell you how to cook it.”


Roasted Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Raisins and Cognac Cream Sauce
12 cups pumpkin, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut in chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
Corn oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 yellow onions, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
4 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups whole milk
6 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 teaspoons Chinese five spice, ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
Zest from 1 orange

DIRECTIONS: Mix together in a bowl pumpkin, sweet potatoes and butternut squash with oil (enough to coat), brown sugar, and cinnamon. Roast at 300 degrees until golden brown and tender, about 30-45 minutes. Set aside. Melt butter in a medium-sized stock pot; add onions, apples, and garlic and cook on medium high until tender, stirring often for about 15-20 minutes. Add stock, milk, and cream; bring to a simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes. Once cream has come to a simmer, add the roasted pumpkin, sweet potato and squash, followed by the spices, salt, and maple syrup. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and puree in batches in a blender until finely pureed; pass through a fine mesh strainer. After soup has been strained, add the orange zest; stir well. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve piping hot. Top with cognac cream.*

*Whisk together 2 ounces cognac, 12 ounces heavy cream and 2 ounces sugar until slightly stiffed whipped cream is formed.

Entree ( bonus recipe)

Roasted Turkey Roulade with Dried Fruit and Chestnut Stuffing

1 16- to 18-pound whole turkey (see instructions in method)
2 tablespoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons finely ground white pepper
2 pounds mirepoix (equal amount carrots, celery, onion)

Turkey Legs
4 turkey legs and thighs (skin off), two from above turkey and 2 additional legs and thighs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon allspice
5 large white onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 pound salted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons sage, chopped
4 sheets phyllo dough
1 pound clarified butter (simmer unsalted butter until foam rises to the top and strain through a cheesecloth)

DIRECTIONS: Place turkey on its breast side on the cutting board with the back facing up. Make an incision along the backbone of the turkey and carefully remove the skin from the entire turkey without cutting through the skin. Once turkey is completely skinned, place skin on a tray and set aside. Remove turkey breast (see below for how to finish the breast). Remove thighs and legs from turkey. Save the carcass for the gravy.

Season thighs and legs with salt and spices; set aside. Arrange onions, garlic, and butter on the bottom of a roasting pan, and place legs and thighs on top of onion mixture. Sprinkle with thyme and sage, cover with aluminum foil, and roast in a 300 degree oven for 5 hours or until tender to the bone. Remove and pull meat in flakes from the bones; place in a mixing bowl. Drain excess fat from onion and garlic mixture and add to the flaked turkey. In an electric mixer with paddle on low speed, whip onions and meat together until well incorporated. Place mixture in plastic wrap and roll in the shape of a sausage; place in refrigerator to cool. Once mixture has cooled down, it will hold the cylindrical shape. Brush 1 sheet of phyllo dough with clarified butter, place another sheet on top of first sheet, and brush. Repeat once more. Remove plastic from meat, place on one end of the phyllo dough, wrap around and roll until completely covered. Refrigerate to set. Once phyllo dough has congealed from the butter, cut the roll in 2-inch pieces. In a medium hot skillet, brown the phyllo dough crust all around, then bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

To finish the breast, carefully remove the skin; make sure not to puncture. Then butterfly breast and lightly pound until even all around. Place half of the stuffing in one breast and the other half in second breast. Carefully fold the breast closed to a cylindrical shape, wrap the skin around to cover entire breast, and tie with butchers twine. Season with salt and pepper, place mirepoix in a roasting pan, and place breast on top of mirepoix. Roast at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours or until completely cooked (inside temperature to 180 degrees). Remove and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

** Tip: You can add the mirepoix and pan drippings to the gravy.

Sage Gravy
5 pounds turkey bones, including trimmings (use carcass)
2 additional drumsticks, dusted with flour
Turkey giblets
1 bunch leeks, diced, white part only
Mirepoix (2 carrots, diced; 1 yellow onion, diced; 3 celery stalks, diced)
1/2 pound whole butter
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup sherry wine
1 cup white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
10 sprigs fresh sage
1 quart turkey stock
4 ounces whole butter, cut in cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
Black pepper

DIRECTIONS: In a large roasting pan over high heat, caramelize the turkey bones, drumsticks, giblets, leeks, and mirepoix with the butter. After they are seared off, mix in the tomato.  To caramelize deeper, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Return the pan to the stove. Add the sherry, white wine, and herbs, and reduce to syrup consistency. Add the turkey stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until turkey drumsticks and giblets are cooked through, approximately 20 minutes. Remove and strain the stock. Let cool and slowly stir in the cubes of butter. Turkey roasting juices can be added to the gravy prior to seasoning and thickening. Add salt, peppercorns, and pepper to taste.

12 cups white bread, diced into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound whole butter
1 cup smoked apple wood bacon, julienne *optional
2 yellow onions, diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 cups carrots, small cubed
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cubed
2 cups ruby red port
1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
8 ounces whole chestnuts
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 each whole eggs, slightly whipped
1 pound ground turkey meat

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until dried and slightly toasted for about 10 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add bacon (if using), onions, celery, carrots, and apples and cook about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly browned. Deglaze with port and reduce to dry consistency. Add cranberries, raisins, sour cherries, and stock; reduce. In a small baking dish, roast the chestnuts until golden brown, about 8 minutes, remove and cut into large chunks and combine with the dried fruit, salt, and pepper; refrigerate until completely cool. Once the cooked fruit mixture is cold, combine parsley, sage, thyme, eggs, ground turkey and toasted bread cubes. Mix until well incorporated. Reduce oven temperature to 350. Transfer stuffing to a 12-gallon ovenproof baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.

Side Dishes

Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
5 pounds of medium-sized
Brussels sprouts
4 pounds of bacon
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey clover
Corn oil
1 gallon water
1/2 cup kosher salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper

DIRECTIONS: Place a medium-sized pot filled with 1 gallon water and 1/2 cup salt on stove on high heat; bring to a boil. Cut each Brussels sprout halfway, but do not cut in half. Blanch sprouts for 1 minute, remove, and place in ice bath to stop cooking. When sprouts are cooled, remove and drain well. Lay out bacon strips and cut in half. Place each Brussels sprout on one end of bacon and roll to wrap bacon all around; insert toothpick at end of bacon strip to keep from falling off when frying. Once all Brussels sprouts are wrapped, fry in a pot of corn oil at 350 degrees until bacon is crispy and golden brown. Remove from oil, drain well, and place in a bowl. Mix with honey, maple syrup, and vinegar; toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Star Anise Cranberry Sauce
7 cups cranberry juice
2 cups raspberry vinegar
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons star anise (approximately 6 to 8 whole pieces)
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
5 cups dried cranberries
2 each lemon zest

DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and place on medium heat. Simmer until most liquid has evaporated, turn down to low heat, and continue cooking to a thick consistency for about 1 hour. Be careful not to burn.

Tip: This sauce can be made in larger batches weeks before needed, placed in an airtight jar, and refrigerated. 


Dulce De Leche Stuffed Sweet Potato
12 medium-sized sweet potatoes, whole, skin on
12 foil sheets
1 cup dulce de leche (This spread is made from milk and sugar that has been slowly cooked until the sugars caramelize; find it in the ethnic foods section at the grocery store or make your own.)
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
Melted butter, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS: Individually wrap each sweet potato in foil and place on baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove and let cool in refrigerator. Remove foil and cut each potato in rectangular shape, hollowing out the center. Add the salt to the dulce de leche. Pipe 1 tablespoon of dulce de leche inside the hollowed sweet potato, and cover with the marshmallows, about 10 pieces per sweet potato. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with melted butter, and bake at 300 degrees until marshmallows are golden brown. Garnish with chopped pecans and serve immediately.

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