The Chef: Rebecca Wilcomb
Her Restaurant: Gianna in New Orleans
What She’s Known For: Cooking that honors Italian grandmothers, including her own, for whom the restaurant is named. Pristine ingredients, the best local produce and Gulf seafood.
FROM THE START,
the Italian restaurant she opened a year and a half ago in New Orleans, holistically. “It’s about the energy in the room and the smell from the kitchen,” she said. “And making food that feels right.”
It’s hard to imagine food that feels more right, right now, than Ms. Wilcomb’s first Slow Food Fast recipe. Crescents of delicata squash roasted with butter and sage nestle into a bed of velvety cauliflower purée. Topped with hazelnuts, chile flakes, brown butter and a drizzle of honey, it’s a meatless meal that more than satisfies meat eaters.
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It also conveys the sense of cozy indulgence diners expect at Gianna. This fall, Ms. Wilcomb tried out the dish and a number of others on a group of friends. “I knew this was special then,” she recalled. “Everyone said, ‘This is the winner.’ ”
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- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 delicata squash, sliced into crescents ¾ inch thick
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sliced fresh sage
- ¼ cup onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 2 ½ cups chopped cauliflower
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts
- ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ½ tablespoon honey
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large ovenproof pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Season squash with salt and arrange, cut-side down, in pan. (If necessary, use a second pan to avoid crowding.) Sprinkle sage over squash. Transfer to oven and roast until squash is brown on underside and tender at thickest point, about 15 minutes.
- In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine 1 tablespoon butter, onion, garlic, cauliflower and bay leaf. Season with salt. Pour in water and milk. Simmer until cauliflower completely softens, 15-20 minutes.
- Discard bay leaf and transfer cauliflower, onions and garlic to a blender or food processor, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Pulse cauliflower until completely smooth. Add just enough reserved cooking liquid to thin purée to the consistency of loose mashed potatoes. Season with salt. Cover purée and set aside.
- Set pan with squash on stovetop over medium-high heat. Flip squash and add hazelnuts, chile flakes and parsley to pan. Add vinegar and cook until it evaporates. Transfer squash and toppings to a platter, keeping pan on heat. Add remaining butter to pan and cook until it’s golden and smells nutty, 1-2 minutes.
- To serve, spread warm cauliflower purée across individual plates or a platter. Arrange squash and toppings on top. Finish with drizzles of brown butter and honey.
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