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Chef Steve Allen offers new twist on Thanksgiving meal

Judith Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble! Because Thanksgiving is waiting in the wings (pun intended) — and also because Steve Allen, the executive chef and operating partner of Steve & Rocky's restaurant in Novi and a co-owner of Rocky's Rotisserie in Livonia, actually raises domestic broad breasted white turkeys — we thought he would be a perfect candidate to feature today in At Home With Chef.

The Detroit native's first professional job, at the age of 16, was working as a dishwasher and prep cook at Nanny's Soup Kettle located in the Oakland Mall. Not long after, in 1982, he was hired to work as a pantry cook at The Golden Mushroom restaurant in Southfield, owned by celebrated Gold Medal Certified Master Chef Milos Cihelka. "The first word that comes to my mind about him is 'godfather' because of the way he carried himself and because of his abilities and knowledge and taste," Allen says.

At the same time he was getting hands-on training at the restaurant, Allen, at the recommendation of Cihelka, went through a three-year apprenticeship program that began at Schoolcraft College's culinary school and ended at Oakland Community College's.

And in 1989, Cihelka sent Allen to the South of France for six months to work at renowned chef Michel Guerard's famous spa and restaurant, Les Pres d'Eugenie, located in Eugenie Les Bains.

"It was a great experience," Allen says. "But I actually learned more about cooking at the Golden Mushroom where I had lunch with Chef Milos every single day until he retired in 1992, at which time I was appointed the Golden Mushroom's executive chef. And it was Chef Milos who introduced me to my partner Chuck Rachwitz (aka Rocky)."

Allen says he remembers helping his mother make fried chicken when he was just six or seven years old. "I used to be the saltine cracker man," he says. "I would put the crackers in a brown paper bag, then roll them with a pop bottle. I loved watching the whole process of the chicken being dipped first in the flour, then in the egg wash and finally the crumbs.

"Mom's fried chicken was great," he says. "And I still use her fried chicken recipe for some of the dishes that we make at the restaurant."

For this article, Allen gave us recipes for almond stuffing and yam puree. Both would be ideal to serve on Thanksgiving. But here's the really cool thing: the next day (or even the day after) you can incorporate whatever stuffing or yam puree you have left into one of these soup recipes. (I just love two-for-ones, don't you?) More good news: if you can't part from your traditional stuffing or yam recipes, Allen's soup recipes can utilize those leftovers instead.

The chef says he particularly likes this turkey soup recipe because "you can leave it on the stove all day and then eat it while socializing with the family or watching the football game on TV."

"It's comfort food," he says. And he particularly likes the Yam Puree soup because "the natural richness and sweetness that comes from the yams gives it a dessert-like quality."

As for those 400 turkeys he raises on the six acres that surround his charming Hartland home (a former schoolhouse that dates back to the 1860s)? He says he'll be cooking some at the restaurant on Thanksgiving Day.

"We will be serving approximately 1,000 dinners. It's our busiest day of the year," he says.

Judith Harris Solomon is a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Contact her at judyfreelance@aol.com.

Almond Stuffing

1 large onion, diced fine

8 stalks celery, diced fine

3 tablespoons butter (for sautéing)

1 pounds Italian sausage

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons poultry seasoning

3 pounds croutons

1 cups almonds, sliced

cup chives, sliced

12 egg whites

1 cup turkey stock

cup melted butter

cup whipping cream

12 egg yolks

Preheat a suitable sauté pan and saute the onions and celery in 3 tablespoons of butter until they are translucent. Add the sausage and season with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook sausage thoroughly on medium high.

Then transfer cooked sausage to another container and cool.

Place croutons, almonds, chives into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft/medium peaks and set aside. Add all the wet ingredients (but not the egg whites) to the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate. Lastly, carefully fold in the egg whites. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and place in a 350-degree preheated oven to bake for approximately 45 minutes.

Makes 15 servings

Per serving: 730 calories; 37 g fat (14 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 73 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 234 mg cholesterol; 1,096 mg sodium; 25 g protein; 7 g fiber.

Leftover Turkey Soup with Stuffing Dumplings

Leftover turkey, diced in large cubes

Leftover turkey carcass

1 cup leftover gravy

6 cups chicken broth

6 stalks celery, diced ½ inch

5 carrots, diced inch

1 large onion, diced inch

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Stuffing Dumplings (see below)

1 cups cooked pasta (any kind you like)

Remove turkey from the carcass to obtain manageable pieces. Then place the turkey's picked-clean bones in a stock pot. (This will help to give the chicken broth a turkey flavor.) Add leftover gravy and enough chicken broth (approximately 6 cups) to cover the cut carcass bones. Bring to simmer and let cook about an hour. Strain through a fine strainer and reserve liquid (broth). Discard carcass. In a separate pot, saute celery, carrot and onion on medium heat in butter and olive oil until vegetables are tender (do not brown). Add garlic and stir. Combine the broth mixture with the vegetables. Let cook for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Gently poach dumplings into soup, stirring gently because dumplings are delicate. While on low, simmer dumplings for about 10 minutes. Add preferred pasta and leftover turkey cubes. Let simmer 10 more minutes. Keep warm until serving.

Stuffing Dumplings

3 cups leftover stuffing, cold

½ cup gravy or chicken broth

2 eggs, beaten

8 green onions, sliced fine

Incorporate all ingredients to form solid mixture. Form into one-inch balls and poach into finished soup.

Makes 10 servings

Per serving: 569 calories; 28 g fat (10 g saturated fat; 44 percent calories from fat); 53 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 188 mg cholesterol; 1,179 mg sodium; 22 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Myer's Dark Rum and Orange Yam Puree

5 pounds yams

2 sticks butter, softened

2/3 cup marmalade

cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

3 ounces honey

4 ounces Myer's rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place yams on baking sheet, pierce the yams with a fork and place in the oven. Bake yams until they are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes to one hour.) Remove yams from the oven and let cool. Peel the yams after they are sufficiently cooled. Place yams into a food processor, add the remaining ingredients and process to a smooth consistency. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving: 624 calories; 30 g fat (19 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 80 g carbohydrates; 34 g sugar; 86 mg cholesterol; 326 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 8 g fiber.

Yam Puree Rum Chata Soup

1 small minced onion

¾ stick unsalted butter

2 cloves crushed garlic

1½ cups chicken broth

2 cups leftover yam puree

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk

2 ounces piña colada mix

½-¾ cup half & half

Rum Chata, to taste (Rum Chata is a Caribbean rum that contains real dairy cream)

Sour cream, for garnish

Sliced green onions, for garnish

Grated coconut, for garnish

In a suitable stock pot on medium heat, gently saute onion in butter until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add broth and leftover yam puree, stir and bring to simmer for 20 minutes. ( If soup thickens while cooking, thin with a small amount of chicken broth.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add condensed milk, piña colada mix and half & half. Let cook another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add Rum Chata to flavor as preferred. Place soup in serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, green onion and coconut.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving: 355 calories; 22 g fat (14 g saturated fat; 56 percent calories from fat); 31 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 63 mg cholesterol; 154 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber.