Martial Noguier, executive chef and owner of Bistronomic, prepares ahi tuna nicoise salad, with fennel shavings, haricot vert and hard-boiled eggs. | Kelly Wenzel / Sun-Times

Chicago chefs on special dishes they’d make Mom for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day evokes memories — often centered on food. In that spirit, we asked Chicago-area chefs to tell us what they would prepare for their mom on her big day next week and why.

Martial Noguier, Bistronomic, said he’d honor his mother with a dish she often prepared — Nicoise salad, made with fresh ahi tuna. [See recipe.]

“My mother loves fish and salads. She always prepared Nicoise salad during family gatherings on weekends at our country house in France, using fresh vegetables from her garden, dressed with her homemade lemon vinaigrette, then top it with canned tuna. This dish is a standing tradition in my family.”

Jimmy Bannos, Heaven on Seven, lost his mother more than 20 years ago but still fondly remembers her leg of lamb with orzo pasta. Bannos tweaked his mother’s Italian recipe to reflect his Cajun-inspired dishes, creating “ozalaya” (ozo jambalaya), which he serves on special occasions. [See recipe.]

“I would always be at my mother’s side when she made this dish. My grandmother made it, and I would be at her side. It’s a family recipe and means so much to me.”

Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Café, would make sautéed wild halibut with asparagus and greens with lemon honey vinaigrette. [See recipe.]

“My mother is a fish lover and also a gardener who is health-conscious and appreciates eating seasonal ingredients. She enjoys the fresh seasonality of the vegetables and hint of lemon. Mom would love this dish.”

Cedric Harden, III Forks Prime Steakhouse, goes for his mother’s spaghetti — one of the two dishes that stands out most from his childhood, though he admits he can’t make it the way she does.

“Growing up, my sister and I would play ‘restaurant’ and serve the same three-course meal to our parents. The entrée would always be spaghetti. It’s a simple dish, but it means a lot to me.”

Brian Mita, Izakaya Mita, is emphatic about his choice — hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail collar), a favorite he and his mother enjoyed together for many years at a favorite restaurant.

“When mom and I set out to build Izakaya Mita, we knew we had to have hamachi kama on the menu,” Mita said.

Herve Cuyeu, executive chef at the Drake Hotel, prepares seared foie gras, sweet and sour apple and pear, brioche grillee — a Mother’s Day meal that he would cook for his own mother in France. | Kelly Wenzel / Sun-Times

Herve Cuyeu, executive chef at the Drake Hotel, prepares seared foie gras, sweet and sour apple and pear, brioche grillee — a Mother’s Day meal that he would cook for his own mother in France. | Kelly Wenzel / Sun-Times

Herve Cuyeu, The Drake Hotel, is transported back to the open markets of France where he shopped with his mother for ingredients to make her favorite dish — foie gras.

“My mother still resides in France, and every time I go home, we go shopping in the open market, pick out fresh ingredients and prepare the dish together.”

Michael McDonald, El Tapeo, grew up in the suburbs, where the family garden always seemed to produce an abundance of zucchini, which he would experiment with in recipes. [See recipe.]

“The dish I would serve is garden-layer zucchini quiche with a fresh arugula salad. Of all the recipes we tried, it’s my mother’s favorite.”

Cameron Grant, Osteria Langhe, grew up in Scotland, where his mother ran a catering company out of their home. His selection, which he says is a “simple, but favorite dish,” is Plin, a classic Piedmontese pasta.

“My mum influences every item I make. The Plin is one of our most popular menu items. I would treat her to it on Mother’s Day.”

Ashlee Aubin, Salero, chose creamed morel mushrooms and soft shell crab. [See recipe.]

“Two of my mom’s favorite ingredients are morel mushrooms and soft shell crabs. Luckily, they both come into season right around Mother’s Day.”

Siobhan McKinney, Chief O’Neill’s Pub, goes with roasted wild salmon because she loves it, it’s healthy and because of Irish folklore that suggests salmon has mystical powers.

“This is one of my favorite dishes. Mom knows best.”

Bill Kim, of urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack, has fond childhood memories of dumplings — a New Year’s Eve tradition in his family.

“Food is very important in our family, and Mom is the centerpiece. I would cook this dish for her to stick to family tradition.”

Jonathan Fox, Osteria La Madia, recalling his mother’s tuna dishes, would make Italian tuna Nicoise salad.

“We often enjoyed tuna in my family. My mom made this amazing tuna casserole with crispy chips. They were very fond memories.”

Craig Couper, Michael Jordan’s Steak House, would make charcoal-grilled New York strip steak.

“My mom is an avid gardener and eats very seasonally. I would go to the farmers’ market on Saturday for fresh seasonal ingredient and create something like charcoal-grilled New York strip steak with charred ramp vinaigrette.”

SARA STEGNER (Prairie Grass Café)

Sautéed wild halibut with asparagus and greens, lemon honey vinaigrette

5-6-ounce piece of halibut

6 asparagus, peeled and trimmed

2 tbsp. olive oil


Fresh ground white pepper for fish

1 tbsp. whole, sweet butter

Squeeze of lemon

1/4 tsp. fresh lemon zest

1 tsp. chives or garlic chives

Big handful mixed greens (pea shoots, radicchio, endive, watercress)

Lemon honey vinaigrette

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 lemon (seeds removed)

Splash of cider vinegar

1/2 cup local honey

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Blend dressing ingredients well. Use 2 tablespoons of dressing for the salad and to splash on fish. Reserve the rest.

To cook halibut, season with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear fish in olive oil in hot pan until golden on both sides. Lower the heat and continue cooking. Add 1 tablespoon whole butter, squeeze of lemon juice, fresh grated lemon zest and a pinch of fresh herbs (garlic chives are beautiful right now). Cook until desired temperature.

Blanch asparagus in boiling water for a minute (slightly longer depending on the size.) Toss in a little butter or oil. Season with salt.


Garden Fresh Layered Squash Quiche

1 premade deep-dish piecrust

1 medium size onion — diced and sautéed till tender

1 pound sliced zucchini — sliced thin, saute till tender

6 eggs, whole

1 cup half-and-half

½ cup Parmagiana cheese, grated

¼ cup Romano cheese

3 oz. cream cheese

2 oz. sliced Serrano ham, paper thin

Salt and pepper

Layer zucchini and onions in piecrust (don’t add liquid from zucchini). Mix together eggs, half-and-half, cheeses and salt and pepper. Pour into pie shell. Spoon cream cheese in small amounts on top of quiche. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until set . Remove from oven and set aside till cooler. Add sliced Serrano ham over the top of the quiche and cut into 1/8’s and serve warm or chilled.

Serve with a simple arugula and herb salad with sliced cherry tomatoes and a Champagne vinaigrette.

Yields 6-8 servings. Cooking time 45 minutes


Ahi Tuna Niçoise Salad

1 large shallot, minced

1 tbsp. capers

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. coarse salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound haricot verts

1 pound small red bliss potatoes

2 large farm eggs

1 small head Romaine lettuce, in bite-size pieces

1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 heirloom tomatoes, cut in wedges

4 breakfast radishes, thinly sliced

1 six-ounce can water-packed solid white tuna, drained

3 ounces Nicoise olives (about 24)

8 anchovies (optional)

Whisk together shallot, capers, Dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil; set dressing aside.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water; set aside. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add haricots verts, and cook until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain; plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain again, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside. Refill saucepan with cold water, and add potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes; let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl; toss with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette; set aside. Place eggs in a small saucepan of cold water. Bring to a boil; cover. Remove from heat. Set aside for 11 minutes. Rinse in cold water; peel; cut into wedges; set aside.

Arrange lettuce on plates. Arrange haricots verts, potato salad, sliced eggs, celery, tomatoes, radishes, tuna, olives and anchovie. Drizzle with remaining dressing, and serve.

JIMMY BANNOS (Heaven on Seven)


12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 teaspoon Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning (recipe below)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch slices

2 tablespoons finely diced tasso ham

2 tablespoons finely shredded pickled pork or Shredded Smoked Pork Shoulder Butt (recipe below)

¾ cup seeded, finely diced green bell pepper

½ cup finely diced celery ½ cup thinly sliced green onion, white and green parts

2 tablespoons finely diced yellow onion

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1½ teaspoons seeded, minced jalapeño

1 bay leaf

1½ cups seeded, diced plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon Roasted-Garlic Puree (recipe below)

6 ounces rock shrimp or small shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 ounces dried orzo, cooked according to package directions

1½ cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly grated Parmagiana cheese

Season the chicken with ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Melt butter and oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Add andouille. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add seasoned chicken, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-high; stir in ham, pork, bell pepper, celery, onions, jalapeño and bay leaf; sauté for 3 more minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic puree and remaining 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning; continue cooking for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Stir in shrimp, and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir the orzo into the mixture, pour in the chicken stock, and add the Worcestershire and hot pepper sauces, ground black and white peppers and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Serve topped with cheese.

Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning

3 tbsp. Hungarian paprika

1½ tbsp. Spanish paprika

5 tsp. salt

1¼ tsp. dried thyme leaves

1¼ tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. ground white pepper

½ tsp. dried basil

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

⅛ tsp. garlic powder

⅛ tsp. onion powder

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container. The spice mix keeps its best flavor for about 2 months.

Shredded Smoked Pork Shoulder Butt

2 ¾-pound smoked boneless pork shoulder butt

1 3-ounce package crab boil in a bag

1 tablespoon Angel Dust Cajun Seasoning (see recipe above)

Hot tap water

Place the pork, crab boil and Cajun seasoning in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Add enough hot tap water to completely cover the meat. Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 hours, adding hot water as needed to keep the meat immersed. Drain and cool slightly. Cut the meat into several pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off a few times until the meat is broken up. Process for another 20 to 30 seconds, or until meat is finely shredded. Keep refrigerated, or store unused meat in freezer bags in ½- to 1-cup portions in the freezer.

Roasted-Garlic Puree (and Garlic Oil)

1 cup peeled garlic gloves

1 cup extra-virgin or regular olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300°. Place the garlic in a small ovenproof container and pour in the oil. Use additional oil if needed to completely immerse all the garlic cloves. Cover the container with aluminum foil and roast 1 hour, until garlic is soft and light golden brown. Strain the garlic and place in a blender along with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding a small amount of oil if necessary. Pour into a container and cover the top of the puree with a thin layer of the oil. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Reserve the remaining garlic-infused oil in another container and refrigerate.

Yields 6 servings

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