Comfort Foods

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Four Savannah chefs serve up hearty and heart- warming dishes for cold-weather months. Photography by Katie McGee. 

White Bean Cassoulet with House-Cured Ham

Serves 4 to 6

Chef John Roelle of Brasserie 529 sources more than 50 percent of the menu ingredients at his casual French bistro from local sources, including Hunter Cattle Co.  This classic, one-pot Provençal dish is slow-cooked to allow the flavors to deepen and enhance one another.


1 pound dried cannellini or other white beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 celery ribs, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 pounds fresh, cured ham

4 cups chicken stock

Toasted breadcrumbs, for garnish

Soak the dried white beans in cool water over night.  Strain and rinse the beans until the water runs clear.  Add the beans to a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, along with the oil, carrot, celery, onion, thyme, salt, pepper and ham.  Sauté the ingredients on high heat for 4 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.

Add enough chicken stock to cover all of the ingredients in the pot, and slowly simmer until the beans are tender.  Serve hot in a bowl and top with toasted breadcrumbs.


Savannah River Farms Hungarian Beef Short Ribs with Jasmine Rice and Tri-Colored Baby Carrots

Serves 4

Not only does Chef Emanuel May go out of his way to find the freshest ingredients for SCAD students, he serves up farm-to-fork fare at home, including this spicy stew made with all-natural beef from Savannah River Farms.  “It’s a way of life,” Emanuel says.  “I want my daughter to eat the way I grew up, without all the chemicals and fillers.”


Ribs with vegetables:

3 pounds short ribs

1 cup flour

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 onions, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

4 cups heirloom tomatoes, diced

5 – 6 sprigs thyme

1 cup Tempranillo wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika

16 ounces beef stock (vegetable or chicken stock is fine)

1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 tablespoon kosher salt


20 tri-colored baby carrots

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Parsley for garnish


2 cups jasmine rice

4 cups water


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, julienne

2 red bell peppers, julienne

1 green pepper, julienne

2 cups braising liquid (reserved from cooking the short ribs)

1/4 cup butter, cubed

Salt and pepper for seasoning

To prepare the short ribs, season with salt and pepper.  Dust the ribs with flour, shaking off any excess.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup olive oil and sear all sides of the short ribs. Remove the ribs from the skillet and set aside.

Add diced carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes and thyme to the skillet and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.  Deglaze the skillet with the wine, vinegar, paprika and beef stock.  Add the caraway seeds and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Place the short ribs on the bed of vegetables and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and place in preheated 300?  oven for 2 to 3 hours.  Check after 2 hours to see if the ribs are fork tender.  Adjust the cooking time if needed.

When the ribs are falling off the bone, they are ready.  Strain the braising liquid and reserve 2 cups for the sauce.

While the ribs slow cook in the oven, clean and peel the tri-colored baby carrots.  Blanch in boiling water for approximately 4 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

When the carrots are completely cool, remove them from the ice bath and place on a towel to absorb the excess water.

Gently heat the carrots in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

For the rice: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add the rice.  Bring the water back to a boil and cover the pot.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.  Turn the heat off, keeping the pot covered.  Let the rice steam and cook until light and fluffy.

Once the ribs have finished cooking, sauté the Vidalia onions and red and green peppers for 4 to 5 minutes in a hot skillet with olive oil.  Add the reserved braising liquid and bring to a boil.  Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the butter to finish.  Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a bed of rice on each plate with 4 to 5 carrots on the side.  Place short ribs on top of rice and spoon sauce over plate.  Top with a sprig of thyme and freshly ground pepper and enjoy.


Stuffed and Grilled Pork Chops

Serves 6 to 8

Alligator Soul’s executive chef, Christopher Dinello, is one of the Hostess City’s strongest advocates for eating locally and seasonally to obtain the best flavors and the highest nutritional value from food.  This cold-weather main course takes full advantage of the season’s best offerings, including thick, juicy chops from Savannah River Farms.


Apple Cider Brine:

1 gallon cool water

1 quart prepared apple cider

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup Kosher salt

2 bay leaves

4 star anise

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

8 whole cloves

8 fresh thyme sprigs

Six to eight 1½-inch thick, bone-in pork chops

Cajun Pork Stuffing:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 pounds hot Italian sausage, crumbled with casings removed

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 cup carrots, finely diced

1 small red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon Cajun spice mix

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 cup dried bread or cornbread, crumbled

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat, combine the water, apple cider, brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, star anise, peppercorns, cloves and thyme and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the brine for 45 minutes.  Remove the brine from the heat and let cool in the pan.  While the brine is cooling, wash and pat dry the pork chops.

Once cooled, strain the brine through a fine-mesh sieve into a large glass dish.  Add the pork to the brining solution, cover and set in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours to maintain their juicy flavor.

Prepare stuffing one day before grilling so that it is cool and workable.  Begin by browning sausage, fennel and red pepper in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, preferably a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat.

Once the sausage is cooked through, remove the pork to paper towels to drain and remove the excess oil from the pan, leaving about a tablespoon reserved.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil, the onions, carrot, celery and garlic.  Sweat the vegetables until softened, about 5 minutes.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetables are translucent, return the pork to the pot, add the chicken stock and deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Add the Cajun spice, cheese and breadcrumbs.  Combine all the ingredients until you reach a stuffing consistency.  Add the fresh thyme and parsley, salt and pepper.

Remove the stuffing from the heat to cool, then store in the refrigerator until you are ready to stuff the pork chops.

Remove the pork chops from the brining solution, rinse them thoroughly, then pat dry.  Lying the chops flat on a cutting board, make a small 1- to 2-inch incision in the fat side of the chop with a sharp knife then insert the blade to create a pocket in the chop suitable for stuffing.  Work the stuffing into the chop with your fingertips.  (Note: Chef Dinello generously stuffs each chop, so that when they are done grilling, he can stand them on the bone end for a beautiful presentation.)  Lightly brush each chop with oil and strafe with salt and ground pepper before grilling.

Prepare your gas, electric or charcoal grill for direct heat, approximately 375? to 450? F.  Once the grill has reached the desired temperature, place the chops directly over the heat source for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, making quarter turns every 2 minutes to get the desired crosshatch of grill marks.  Before removing the chops from the grill, use a digital thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 135? for doneness.

Serve the chops with Red Eye Gravy and your favorite vegetables.

Orecchiette Bari-Bari

Serves 6

Robert Leoci, executive chef of Leoci’s Trattoria and Bonna Bella Waterfront Grille, cherishes the Old World aesthetics of his Italian ancestry, who would handcraft their own pastas, breads and sausages if they couldn’t find a local baker or butcher that met their high standards for quality and taste.  Leoci struck a partnership with Hunter Cattle Co. to provide a specialty (and secret recipe) Italian sausage for his restaurants.


5 links mild Italian sausage

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled and minced

3 heads fresh broccolini, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound fresh orecchiette pasta, prepared

2 cups chicken stock

5 sprigs fresh sage

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

Slice the sausage on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces.  In a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat, lightly brown the sausage in the olive oil.  Add the garlic and sage and toss until it is fragrant.

Add the broccolini and toss the ingredients until the broccolini turns bright green.

Add the oriecchette then the chicken stock and butter.  Toss until the butter is melted into a velvety sauce.  Serve immediately.