November can be a stressful time of year, with planning Thanksgiving and getting ready for the upcoming holidays. But nationally renowned chef and Dash Magazine’s contributing editor Jon Ashton reminds us of the importance of enjoying this special time with family and friends. He also shares some culinary secrets and provides a few recipes to try this Thanksgiving.
Ashton will be in town Nov. 13 for the Dash Around the Table Tour, hosted by The Bakersfield Californian at Savor Bakersfield. Don’t miss an evening of boutique shopping, food and beverage sampling from local restaurants and a live two-hour cooking class showcasing the chef’s amazing talents, not only as a cook, but also as an entertainer.
“It will be smashing to share our simple, fast and delicious recipes with everyone,” said Ashton. “If you love food and you love to laugh, then this is a show I promise you won’t want to miss.”
To learn more about the chef or for recipes and tips, visit jonashton.com.
When did your love of the culinary arts begin? When I was 8 years young, Granny Ashton took me into the kitchen and taught me how to make bread. By the time I was 14, I knew cooking was my greatest passion and wanted to figure out a way to make it my profession.
What is your favorite food during the holidays? Today, my favorite holiday food is Brussels sprouts. However, as a wee lad, I could not stand the smell of them, let alone the taste. Once I went into the professional kitchen, I gained an appreciation for their unique character. My favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts is to saute them and add a couple sprigs of fresh thyme and a splash of chicken stock.
What is your best family or food-related Thanksgiving memory? Being from England, Thanksgiving is an adopted holiday for me. It is my favorite holiday, as it involves food and family around the dinner table versus material gifts.
What wines do you pair with your dishes at Thanksgiving? Wine pairings differ depending on what I’m cooking. You can’t go wrong with either pinot noir or chardonnay. Pinot noir won’t overwhelm the taste of the meal. If you prefer white, a chardonnay can be versatile. With so many chardonnay options, choose a bottle within your price range and enjoy!
Do you suggest bringing kids into the kitchen to help with the cooking? Little Victoria Mei, my sweet 6-year-old daughter, has been helping me in the kitchen since she was 2 years old. We laugh and smile and play lots of fun music while we chop, slice and dice. Lucky for me, she will pass on “Dora the Explorer” to spend time cooking with Daddy.
What does she help out with in the kitchen? Little Mei has helped out with many fun tasks including peeling shrimp, rolling out pie dough and pulling the leaves from fresh herbs.
It can be chaotic in the kitchen during the holidays, what advice can you give to those preparing the meal? If your gravy is lumpy, pass it through a sieve, or give it a whizzing with an immersion blender.
When you decide on the Thanksgiving menu, what factors do you take into account? How do you achieve balance? Creating an easy flow in the kitchen is always my key objective. I want to try to spend as much time as I can with my company, so I always try to plan a menu that I can execute easily.
What is your ideal Thanksgiving menu? Have some nibbles out for guests to munch on while you’re finalizing the extra touches in the kitchen. I like to start with a soup such as my butternut squash, add in a main course and end with a scrumptious dessert.
Do you have any advice on how to time the meal prep in the kitchen so that everything is ready at the same time? Let your oven be your best friend. Have the majority of everything ready before your guests arrive and keep dishes warm at 225 degrees Fahrenheit before you sit down for your soup or appetizer.
What is your comfort food during the holidays? I cannot help but think how a bowl of chili brings comfort to my belly when there is a nip in the air and frost on the windows. You can also shred some leftover Thanksgiving turkey into your chili for a next day treat.
How do you handle the Thanksgiving leftovers? Have fun! Think of taking your leftovers to various countries. For instance, add some chipotle chilies to the cranberry sauce, which makes for a delicious side or spread. Don’t forget, you can potion and freeze leftovers.
What is the most essential item in your kitchen? I can’t imagine life in the kitchen without my knives. A chef’s knife is as important to him as a magic wand to a magician.
On the recipes you provided, what do they mean to you? A recipe is a part of your heart. When I create them, I think about families sitting around the table making memories and sharing joy.