Taste of the Season chefs create the perfect holiday meal

Three local chefs. Four recipes. One perfect holiday meal.

Taste of the Season

Looking for a little holiday culinary inspiration? Look no further: In October, Monthly asked three Taste of the Season chefs for their favorite holiday dishes and assembled them into one perfect holiday dinner you can make at home — assuming you have the time and considerably more cooking abilities than we do.

Consider this also a sneak preview of the cuisine you can sample from more than 35 of the Lowcountry’s top chefs at the 21st annual Taste of the Season, taking place Dec. 3 at the Marriott Resort & Spa on Hilton Head. The event finds chefs competing for the honor of “Best Cuisine” and confectionery artists vying for the top honor of “Best Cake.”


  • Chef Franz Auer, Old Oyster Factory (pictured)
  • Chef Simon Warren, HH Prime
  • Chef Michael Cirafesi, Michael Anthony’s
6:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa
Tickets: $45 for Taste of the Season.
$75 for the Conversation with the Chefs
preview party, which brings attendees
in for a pre-show tasting an hour
before doors officially open. Tickets
can be picked up at Chamber of
Commerce headquarters, 1 Chamber
Dr., Hilton Head, and will be available
the night of the event.
Details: 843-785-3673.



‘For the holidays, soup is a wonderful starter,” says Chef Simon Warren of HH Prime. “It’s simple, warm and seasonal, it doesn’t take too long and it gives off great aromas throughout the house, enticing guests to anticipate a very special dinner.”

Warren says the rustic flavor of his roasted chestnut soup pairs well with the menu courses, and suggests following it with a festive salad course of winter greens with cranberry orange vinaigrette, greens, reds and golden toasted nuts.

Chef Simon Warren of HH Prime contributed a “rustic” roasted chestnut soup to the collaborative feast.Originally from England, Warren has been executive chef at HH Prime since May. He formerly served as sous chef at The Omni CNN Hotel in Atlanta.

Warren’s trends for 2011: “Good colors and seasonal ingredients for the right note. Inspired classics, such as crab cakes with cranberry and apple relish.”



• 1 medium diced carrot
• 1 celery, diced
• 1 small parsnip, diced
• 2 large shallots, diced
• 1 sprig each of bay leaf, thyme, parsley
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3 cups butter
• 1 1/4 lb. coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts
• 2 tablespoons dry sherry
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 4 each: shiitake mushroom, julliene

In a saucepan, place butter and add carrots, celery, parsnips and shallots. Cook until tender over medium heat. Add chicken stock and fresh herbs. Add chestnuts and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. In batches, puree soup in blender until smooth and return to saucepan. Add sherry, salt and pepper and return to a simmer. Saute mushrooms in butter, then add salt and pepper to taste. Place five pieces of mushroom in bottom of soup bowl, ladle 8 ounces of soup on top. Garnish with chopped chives (optional).



• 1 cup sliced almonds
• 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Water
• 1 cup sun-dried cherries
• 1 lb. mixed salad greens

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place almonds in a single layer on baking sheet. Toast in oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. In a blender, combine vinegar, oil, cranberries, mustard, water, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. In a large bowl, toss greens with almonds, cherries and vinaigrette. Garnish with blue cheese (optional).




Chef Franz Auer on his salmon en croute: “It’s traditional with a regional flair, great for entertaining and not too hard to prepare — plus it has a presentation that will impress!”

Auer says he selected the salmon dish because it offers a “Lowcountry bounty,” with its fresh shrimp, crab and local ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden: Bear Island Farms, off of the Colleton River. Auer also says the dish is a blend of European and Lowcountry regional cuisine.

Chef Franz Auer, Old Oyster FactoryNamed one of Monthly’s “Intriguing Islanders,” the Austrian native apprenticed in Vienna and developed his skills in Paris, London and Montreal. He is co-owner of Alexander’s, Red Fish and Old Oyster Factory.

Auer’s trends for 2011: “Local ingredients. Sustainable foods. Broad Creek oysters, fresh as you can get.”



• 1 lb. salmon
• 1?2 lb. scallops
• 1?2 lb. medium shrimp
• 4 oz. crab meat
• 3 teaspoons mayo
• 4 (5”x 5”) sheets of puff pastry
• 4 fresh spinach leaves
• Fresh chopped dill to taste
• Lemon juice/dash
• Worcestershire sauce to taste
• White and black pepper to taste
• Fresh chopped garlic to taste

Mix diced scallops and shrimp. Add crab meat, mayo, dill and seasonings. Place spinach leaves on a puff pastry square, add a slice of salmon, place about 4 oz. of seafood mixture on top and add another slice of salmon. Pull ends of puff pastry together, place on a baking sheet, brush with egg yolk and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.




Michael Anthony’s Chef Michael Cirafesi on his extremely appealing cinnamon and Chianti poached pear: “Simplicity in Italian cuisine is the sign of perfection. I like serving this dessert for its beauty. The beautiful red color of the pears is perfect for the holidays. Brightened by the red wine and reminiscent of winter, it makes an elegant presentation.”

Right before serving, Cirafesi lays a warm glaze over the pears and tops with ice cream or gelato for a festive dessert — and the perfect end to your holiday meal.

As part-owner of Michael Anthony’s, Cirafesi says his style goes back to his classical training in Italian cuisine.

Chef MICHAEL CIRAFESI of Michael Anthony’s contributed a dessert befitting his Italian roots and influences. “I always have to think about what is beautiful,” he says.Cirafesi’s trends for 2011: “Classic cuisine with nouveau presentation. Staying true to the classics of Italy. I always have to think about what is beautiful.”


Chianti and Cinnamon
Poached Pears Pere al
Forno alla Chiantigiana

• 6 Anjou or Bartlett pears
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 3 cups of Chianti
• 1 tablespoon whole butter
• Powdered sugar for garnish
• Mint leaves for garnish
• Cinnamon or vanilla gelato

Using an apple corer or a small, sharp knife, carefully core each pear from the bottom. Leaving the stems intact, peel the pears. In a shallow pan over medium heat, stand the pears upright. Add the sugar, cinnamon and cinnamon sticks and cover the pears with the wine. Slowly simmer for approximately five minutes. Lay the pears flat in the pan and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally turning, until the pears are cooked and a small knife can be inserted easily into the bottom of a pear. Remove the pears, keeping them upright.

Bring the remaining liquid in the pan to a boil and reduce to syrup-like consistency. Once it has reduced, lower the heat to a simmer and add the butter, whisking the sauce until it thickens to a smooth glaze. Place the pears on their serving plates, and spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of glaze around the pears. Place a sprig of mint at the stem of the pear to resemble a leaf, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with cinnamon or vanilla gelato.