James Beard Semifinalists
Spelt Focaccia with Kale, Squash and Pecorino
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Paul Kahan
Kahan serves dishes like spicy pork rinds at his Chicago restaurant, The Publican, but he was game to create a healthy alternative. His idea: a focaccia made with spelt flour, which is high in protein. He tops the focaccia with tangy marinated kale, sweet slices of winter squash and shavings of nutty pecorino cheese.
Tuna Scallopine with Parsley and Pomegranate Seeds
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Jerry Traunfeld
Dried porcini mushrooms flavor these crisp, creamy-centered croquettes, which Traunfeld serves in walnut-size balls. An easier way: Use shiitake mushrooms in place of porcini, and make the croquettes larger for a vegetarian main course.
Lemony Chickpea Salad
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Tom Colicchio
Serve Colicchio's fresh-tasting chickpea salad with warm, soft pita bread to soak up the olive oil dressing.
Maple Custards with Sugared Pecans
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: José Andrés
One of Andrés's favorite American sweets is pecan pie. "We love nuts in Spain too, but I confess I find pecan pie a little heavy. This version is my attempt to lighten it up a little." This twist was inspired by tocino de cielo, a rich, eggy cousin of flan.
Crispy Vietnamese Crêpes with Shrimp, Pork and Bean Sprouts
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Charles Phan
Phan, the chef and owner of San Francisco's Slanted Door, thinks banh xeo (a.k.a. "happy pancakes") should be lacy thin and crackly crisp. After years of obsessive experimentation, he recommends refrigerating the batter overnight, so the starches have time to relax, then cooking the crêpes in a nonstick pan.
Pork and Chile Stew
Truffle-Infused French Onion Soup
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Michael Mina
Mina invented this soup in the early days of Aqua, the San Francisco restaurant where he rose to fame in the '90s. He started playing with the combination of black truffles and caramelized onions and went crazy for the mix of earthiness and sweetness. This version of the soup calls for truffle-infused pecorino cheese (sold in any good cheese shop), which is melted to form a marvelously gooey topping for the oniony broth.
Two-Day Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Sam Hayward
Hayward prefers cooking with pork from small farmers who raise heritage breeds, such as Berkshire, Gloucestershire Old Spot or Duroc. This pork is deeply colored and often as marbled as high-quality beef, and Hayward treats it with the special care it deserves. His two-day curing process is worth the time because it allows the spices to penetrate these thick and juicy chops.
Chicken Smothered in Gravy
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Ana Sortun
Sortun likes to serve this tangy Middle Eastern twist on the classic French sauce with oily fish like bluefish. But the intense flavor of the tahini stands up equally well to charred lamb.
Lemon Pudding Cakes with Apricot Sauce
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Gary Danko
The unusual thing about Danko's lemony cakes is that while they are baking, the batter splits, creating a creamy, puddinglike top and soufflé-like bottom.
Spicy Southern Barbecued Chicken
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Scott Peacock
When Peacock and Edna Lewis first began appearing as co-chefs in the early Nineties, they were dubbed The Odd Couple of Southern Cooking.
Vetri's Almond-Ricotta Tortellini with Truffle Butter
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Marc Vetri
Vetri's exquisite tortellini combines subtle toasted almonds and sweet ricotta. Start the recipe a day ahead to allow time for the ricotta to drain and the pasta dough to rest.
Honey-Caramelized Pears with Orange-Vanilla Flan
Outstanding Chef semifinalist: Julian Serrano
The custard for Serrano's flan needs to stand overnight so it can be infused with the flavors of the orange zest and the vanilla bean. Plan accordingly, and start the recipe one day in advance.