Dean Fearing
Dean Fearing

Dean Fearing

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Dean Fearing, chef at Fearing’s in Dallas, tells F&W about his grandmother's famous cheese ball, his favorite cookbook and the right way to heat a tortilla. What’s the one dish you’re most known for? Our tortilla stuffing. It’s something I came up with years ago, a south-of-the-border take on cornbread stuffing, in which we use fried tortillas along with a traditional cornbread, and instead of chicken stock we add tortilla soup. Then we add fresh jalapeños, a little bit of cumin, along with sage and thyme. Instead of baking it in a pan, we shape it into balls that we brush with a little olive oil to give them a nice crust. Part of my whole philosophy of food is that on every plate something has to be crunchy. What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?Oscar of the Waldorf’s Cook Book, by Oscar Tschirky. Somebody gave me this book when I was first starting as an apprentice. Tschirky was the maître d’ of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel restaurant in New York, and he came out with this cookbook in 1896. It’s as thick as an encyclopedia. We all think that everything’s new, but a lot of it was being done in New York in 1896. You talk about truffle sauce or hollandaise or even crab cakes and corn chowder, it’s all in there. The unbelievable part is there’s not one amount given, like 1 cup or 2 tablespoons—he explains how to make every recipe verbally. Yet his recipes are so thorough. The book is so complete, it covers everything from killing wild game to canning and pickling and how to poach, sauté or fry a fillet of sole. I’ve used this book through my whole career. What’s a technique everyone should know? The best way to heat a tortilla. If you want the perfect tortilla—corn or flour—take a stack of five out of the bag and heat them, uncovered, for 15 to 20 seconds, depending on how powerful your microwave is. We do that at home, because my boys love migas in the morning when I’m cooking them breakfast. Some people say to hit the tortillas with a little water, but forget it. I think it’s because they steam so quickly, but microwaving works better than heating them on top of the stove at times. The stove can dry them out if you’re not careful. Out of the microwave they’re more pliable, perfect for migas, tacos or for getting a tight roll for enchiladas. Can you share a great entertaining tip? I grew up in Eastern Kentucky, and had two grandmothers who lived just blocks from us. They were both unbelievable country cooks. My grandmother on my dad’s side, Granny Fearing, would always make a cheese ball of cheddar cheese, cream cheese and blue cheese with Tabasco, Worcestershire, some salt and chives or green onions, all blended together and covered with chopped pecans. She’d let it come to room temperature so the cheese was soft, put a butter knife in there and set it on a platter, and surround it with overlapping layers of Triscuits and Ritz Crackers. For me, that was like decoration deluxe. Talk about food preparation, and display. Boy, we would just dig into that. And I think they’re still good. You can make them ahead of time, and when people come over, for late-night party drinks or the cocktail hour or afternoons, you can just bring it out of the refrigerator and design your own cracker display. There are many cooler crackers you can use these days, but to me nothing beats that taste on a Triscuit. If I have that, I’m back on Newman Street in her house in Ashland, Kentucky, and it’s 1961.
This extraordinarily rich and sweet pecan pie was the winner at the 1996 State Fair of Texas State pie competition, which Dean Fearing helped judge. "Out of 140 pies, this one was it," he says. "Her name was Bobby Lee; she never told me her last name."Plus: Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide More Pecan Pie Recipes
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Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare
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These spicy, tangy little hors d'oeuvres are chef Dean Fearing's take on the classic combination of smoked salmon, red onion and capers—he throws in roasted garlic, lime juice and jalapeño and replaces the standard cream cheese with sour cream. To make the dish especially Southwestern, he serves the tartare on tortilla chips. "Everything is good on a chip," he says. More Fast Hors d'Oeuvres
Soy-Glazed Chicken Yakitori
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Fearing's • DallasWalking into a yakitori bar in Tokyo, chef Dean Fearing was startled by the thick grill smoke filling the room, then delighted by the delicious flavor of the skewered meats. "These chicken skewers are as close to the food from that grill as I can remember," he says. More Cocktail Party Recipes
After chef Dean Fearing made these spicy shrimp tacos with pickled onions for the BubbleQ, he served them at his Dallas restaurant, Fearing's. They are now the signature dish. "To me, anything wrapped in a flour tortilla is absolutely delicious," he says. More Tasty Tacos
"This is where I like to use Thanksgiving cranberries," says chef Dean Fearing, who mixes them into the maple-butter sauce topping his brussels sprouts. He roasts the sprouts to bring out their nutty sweetness. "This dish turns a non-brussels sprouts lover over to the other side," he says.
Dean Fearing loves the holiday feel of butternut squash, especially when it's combined with ginger, as it is for his smooth, gently sweet soup. He tops it with whipped cream flecked with chopped pecans for a number of reasons: "Usually holiday soups have a dollop of cream—adding pecans gives it a dollop of flavor. And crunch. I think everything should have a little bit of crunch to it. Plus, this is Texas, and pecans are Texas." Chef Holiday Recipes Made Easy More Squash Dishes
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For chef Dean Fearing, these creamy onions, spiked with fresh herbs and nutmeg, have a melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness similar to mashed potatoes. Using large onions, which are easiest to peel and chop, makes the dish much simpler to prepare than the standard pearl-onion version. More Onion Dishes
Dean Fearing loves the holiday feel of butternut squash, especially when it's combined with ginger, as it is for his smooth, gently sweet soup. He tops it with whipped cream flecked with chopped pecans for a number of reasons: "Usually holiday soups have a dollop of cream—adding pecans gives it a dollop of flavor. And crunch. I think everything should have a little bit of crunch to it. Plus, this is Texas, and pecans are Texas." Chef Holiday Recipes Made Easy More Squash Dishes
For chef Dean Fearing, these creamy onions, spiked with fresh herbs and nutmeg, have a melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness similar to mashed potatoes. Using large onions, which are easiest to peel and chop, makes the dish much simpler to prepare than the standard pearl-onion version. More Onion Dishes
Blood Orange Margaritas
Rating: Unrated
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Chef Dean Fearing calls this drink, which is a best seller at his wife Lynae's popular Dallas restaurant Shinsei, "the fall margarita." The sweet-tart blood orange flavor intensifies the margarita-ness of it. More Margaritas