By Elizabeth SanFilippo

Get some inspiration in the kitchen during the holidays. These chefs from three Chicago-area restaurants are talking about what they make for the holidays with family and friends and how you can make these dishes too.



Cucina Paradiso
814 North Blvd.
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 848-3434

Butternut Squash Risotto

During the holidays, Anthony Gambino, owner and operator of Cucina Paradiso and Burger Boss, loves to serve complex dishes. He says, “I live to create dishes like this because most people don’t have the time or culinary experience and when they eat them, there is a greater sense of appreciation because it’s known that they are difficult dishes to make.”


  • 1 chopped onion
  • One-fourth cup pancetta
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 10 ounces oven-roasted butternut squash
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 7 to 8 leaves fresh sage
  • Half-cup sweet peas
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Directions:

  • In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions and pancetta until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the Arborio rice and toast the risotto by continuously stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Once the risotto is toasted, add the dry white wine and let the white wine cook out.
  • Ladle 1 quart of chicken stock in intervals a couple ladles at a time. Allow the liquid to evaporate while you continuously stir. Once the liquid evaporates, continue to ladle more of the stock into the risotto.
  • Stir the oven-roasted butternut squash into the risotto during the last 3 minutes of cook time.
  • Season the rice with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper (to taste).
  • At the last minute, add butter, fresh sage, sweet peas and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • (credit:


    Pumpkin Ravioli


  • 1 cup ricotta
  • Half-cup pumpkin (canned)
  • Half-teaspoon salt
  • One-fourth teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • Half-teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • Water
  • Brown butter sauce ingredients:

  • Half-pound butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • Half-cup grated Romano
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Directions:

  • Mix the ricotta, pumpkin, salt and ground nutmeg. Set aside.
  • Combine unbleached flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour.
  • Beat oil and eggs until well blended, and then pour into the flour well.
  • Stir with a fork gradually to bring the mixture to the center of the bowl. Do this and make a dough ball. If the dough’s consistency is too dry, add as much as 2 tablespoons of water.
  • Cover the surface with a cloth and then knead the dough lightly. If the dough starts sticking to the cloth, add more flour as needed. This process will take about five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Cover the dough and let it rest.
  • After about 5 minutes, cut the dough into four pieces of equal size. Roll out each part one at a time so that each piece is in the shape of 12-by-10-inch rectangle, approximately. (Cover the remaining dough until used.)
  • Drop 2 teaspoons of the pumpkin mixture onto half of the rectangle to make 2 rows of 4 scoops each. Moisten the edges of the dough with water. Fold the other half of the dough up over the pumpkin, pressing the dough down around each scoop of pumpkin.
  • Trim the edges with a pastry wheel or knife. Cut between the rows of filling to make the ravioli; press the edges together with a fork or cut with a pastry wheel to seal. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
  • Put all of the ravioli on a towel. Let it all rest and only turn it once while it dries, about 30 minutes.
  • Boil 4 quarts of salted water and add the ravioli in to cook, which will take about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain carefully.
  • Saute ravioli in a skillet with a brown butter sauce.
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    David Burke’s Primehouse
    616 N. Rush St.
    Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 660-6000

    Caramelized Carrots tossed with Goat Cheese and Aged Sherry Vinegar

    Chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse believes the holidays are about spending time with family, not in the kitchen, and his holiday recipes reflect that attitude. “Anything that can be prepped and baked or roasted is the way to go instead of standing over the stove,” he says.


  • 1 Himalayan salt slab (can be purchased on Amazon, William Sonoma, etc.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of aged sherry vinegar
  • 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 large carrots
  • 4 ounces goat cheese chunks
  • Directions:

  • Preheat a Himalayan salt slab over medium to medium-high heat for 20 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mix together minced garlic, thyme and aged sherry vinegar.
  • In small increments, whisk in 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Peel the carrots and cut in half lengthwise (cut any large pieces of carrot into the size of the small pieces).
  • Place carrots in a bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and black pepper (to taste).
  • Place the carrots on the hot salt block and allow them to caramelize. Once browned, turn over and cook on the other side. Remove from the salt and cut into diagonal pieces approximately 1.5 inches in length.
  • Place the carrots and parsley in a bowl and toss with the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Put the carrots in a bowl or plate for service and top with chunks of goat cheese.
  • Shortbread Cookies

    When Executive Pastry Chef Jove Hubbard of David Burke’s Primehouse thinks about the holidays, he thinks of holiday cookies and everyone making their favorites and trading them. One of his favorite cookie recipes is shortbread.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • Turbinado (brown sugar)
  • Directions:

  • Cream butter and sugar until light.
  • Add egg yolks one by one, then vanilla, salt and flour.
  • Fold white chocolate chips in and place the dough on a buttered cookie sheet.
  • Push the dough down into an even layer and roll smooth by covering with plastic wrap then smoothing out with a rolling pin.
  • Egg wash the top and sprinkle with more sugar or turbinado.
  • Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown (about 20 minutes).
  • Allow to cool slightly and cut into squares while still warm.
  • (Credit:


    Mindy’s HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar
    1747 N. Damen Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 489-1747

    Heirloom Apple Confit Pie with Pork Fat Pie Dough

    Chef Mindy Segal’s popular HotChocolate restaurant may feature a full menu, but she’s best known for her pastries, which is one reason she loves to serve her heirloom apple confit pie with pork fat pie dough as a savory holiday dessert.

    Dough ingredients:

  • 7 ounces cold cubed butter
  • 1 pound 2 ounces all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3.5 ounces frozen cubed pork fat
  • 1 egg
  • Water
  • Pie ingredients:

  • 5 pink lady or honey crisp apples
  • 5 Macintosh apples
  • 2 cups cider
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • One-fourth cup corn stach
  • 1 cup caramel (optional)
  • Directions:

  • To make the dough, combine cold cubed butter, all purpose flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed. Once you’re about halfway done, mix in frozen cubed pork fat until the “fat” looks like small peas.
  • Beat an egg and then add, along with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Work the mixture briefly by hand to feel how moist it is. You may need to add ice water (half cup) to help it all congeal. Finish mixing by hand.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for about 4 hours or overnight.
  • To prepare the pies, peel and quarter pink lady (or honey crisp) apples and Macintosh apples, and clean out the core.
  • On a mandoline, slice the apples paper thin and place in a bowl with the other ingredients, including cider, kosher salt, pinch of black pepper, cane sugar and corn starch (if you’d like a caramel flavor, you can also add 1 cup caramel). Let the mixture marinate for at least an hour.
  • Take one-third of the dough and roll into a circle about 2 inches wider than the pie tin. Place in the pie tin so the the extra dough is hanging over the tin. Place apples in pie tin, leaving out the liquid. Pour one cup of the liquid in the pie. Reserve extra liquid for later.
  • Roll out another circle of pie dough but only the circumference of the pie tin. Cut a small circle out from the middle of the dough so that the liquid and steam can release.
  • Cover the apples with the dough and then push the dough’s overhang over the edge of the pie tin. Once done, refrigerate.
  • While preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, brush egg white on the pie’s surface and then sprinkle with a dash of sugar.
  • Bake the pie for approximately 1 hour. If the top crust starts browning too much, turn the oven’s temperature down.
  • Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at