At home with chef Tanya Fallon

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Tanya Fallon, executive pastry chef for the Union Joints — a conglomeration of restaurants including Vinsetta Garage in Berkley; Fenton Fire Hall in Fenton; Union Woodshop, Union General Store and Clarkston Union in Clarkston — clearly remembers helping her mother cook when she was just 12.

“I wanted to cook dinner desperately, so my mom let me do the spaghetti thing,” said Fallon, of Milford. “And every summer, while visiting my grandparents who owned a bar/restaurant in Pennsylvania, I loved to watch my grandmother cook everything from scratch. She inspired me and I thought she was amazing. While still in high school, I realized this is what I wanted to do and that I was born to do this.”

After graduating from Kendall Culinary School in Chicago, Fallon got a job as a pastry chef at Ambria Restaurant.

“I actually wanted to be a chef, but Ambria was only hiring pastry people, so I took the job,” she says.

After working at Ambria for three years, Fallon accepted a position at the Ritz Carleton Hotel, where she had the opportunity to work with Sebastien Cannone, an internationally renowned pastry chef from France who now owns The French Pastry School in Chicago.

In 1996, Fallon moved from Chicago to Detroit to be James Beard Award-winning Chef Takashi Yagihashi’s pastry chef at Tribute Restaurant. Then, following stints at Stonehouse Bakery, Forte Restaurant and the Big Rock Chophouse and Reserve, she spent a few years polishing her skills in Miami, Florida, and Portland, Oregon. Fallon returned to the Detroit area five years ago and worked at Tallulah in Birmingham and Cork in Pleasant Ridge before joining Union Joints in 2014.

While Fallon’s work day starts at 4 a.m. and she works long hours, she still manages to find time to cook at home at least once or twice a week for her fiancé, Darin Bowers, and their 5-year-old son, Ayden.

The chef, 44, says her waffle recipe is an adaptation of one found in her mother’s treasured old cookbook called The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. (One of the most published cookbooks in the United States, it has been in print continuously since 1936.) “Since receiving a waffle iron this year for Christmas, I’ve been making these waffles frequently,” she says.

And Fallon says she likes this potato dish for two reasons.

“I personally love corn and fingerling potatoes,” she says. “And while it’s really hard to get Darin and Ayden to eat veggies, they both love this recipe.”

Creamed Potatoes with Grilled Corn and Green Beans

1 package Aunt Mid’s fingerling potatoes (see note)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ears corn, silk removed and husks on

2 cups cleaned and halved French green beans

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Note: Aunt Mid’s fresh-cut packaged fingerling potatoes can be purchased in the produce department at local Kroger stores.

Grill the corn in the husks. Cut the corn off the cob.

Blanch and shock the green beans.

Roast the potatoes in a 375-degree oven with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste) until fork tender.

Cut the potatoes into quarters.

Combine the corn, beans, potatoes and cream. Bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper, chives, and cheese. Stir gently and serve hot. Serves 4.

Per serving: 482 calories; 32 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 60 percent calories from fat); 46 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 86 mg cholesterol; 285 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Beer-Can Chicken

1 4-pound chicken

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup brown sugar

5 garlic cloves smashed

1 lemon

5 bay leaves

1 quart of water

3 16-ounce cans of beer (two cans for the brine; reserve the third can to use to hold the chicken when you grill it)

3 sprigs rosemary

For the rub:

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon Coleman’s mustard powder

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil with the brown sugar and salt. Whisk this hot water mixture together with the rest of the water and the rest of the ingredients. Place the chicken in this brine and submerge. Let it sit in the brine overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, remove chicken from the brine. Then let the chicken come to room temperature and make sure to dry it well, inside and out. Combine the rub ingredients. Season the chicken inside and out with the rub. Open the remaining can of beer and dump half the beer out of it.

Place your chicken upright on the can (making sure your grill is tall enough to hold the vertical chicken) and place it on direct heat and cover. When it starts browning, move it over so it is away from the direct heat. Grill until brown and crispy and the temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and 140 degrees for the breast. Let rest for 15 minutes and then, using a knife, separate the breast from the bone. Serves 6.

Per serving: 297 calories; 15 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 45 percent calories from fat); 6 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 135 mg cholesterol; 1,550 mg sodium; 32 g protein; 0 g fiber.

Malted Waffles with Strawberries and Creme Fraiche

For the waffles:

1/2 cup malt powder

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 egg yolks

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

6 tablespoons melted butter

2 egg whites

Heat the waffle iron on high.

Sift all of the dry ingredients (except for the sea salt) together. Separate the eggs.

Beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add the buttermilk to the yolks.

Stir the buttermilk and yolk mixture into the dry ingredients with just a few quick strokes. Add the sea salt, then gently stir in the butter. Whisk the whites to medium peaks. Fold the whites into the batter in two parts.

Spray the waffle iron with pan spray. Pour the batter into the waffle iron and be sure to fill out the corners.

Shut the waffle iron and cook until golden brown (approximately 4 minutes.) Serves 6.

For the Creme Fraiche

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream and buttermilk in a dish and cover with cheese cloth and set on your kitchen counter overnight. Then, before using, whip the cream and buttermilk mixture with the vanilla and sugar until medium peaks. Reserve in the refrigerator until the waffles are done.

For the strawberries:

2 cups strawberries

1/8 cup honey

Wash the strawberries in cold water and air dry on a paper towel.

Cut the tops off with a paring knife. Quarter the strawberries.

Drizzle the honey over the strawberries just before serving.

Per serving: 641 calories; 33 g fat (19 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 72 g carbohydrates; 31 g sugar; 160 mg cholesterol; 636 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 2 g fiber.