As the cooler weather decends upon us, I always love to dig out my fall and winter comfort food and soup recipes. When the leaves on the trees just begin to change colors, you know that fall foodie ingredient season is about to begin, so let's get cooking!

Let Me Introduce You To My Favorite Pumpkin Soup Recipe!

The secret to the rich creaminess in this easy-to-make vegan, gluten free, dairy free, roasted pumpkin soup recipe comes from the use of coconut milk. If you wish to skip the coconut milk, you can always substitute it for regular heavy cream as well. This hearty fall or winter soup recipe can be used either as part of the main course, paired with your favorite gourmet grilled cheese, hoagie, even alongside your Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwich, or even with a gorgeous organic green salad.

Chef's Tip:

As with any soup, it will always taste better the next day after flavors have had a chance to meld together, making this roasted pumpkin soup recipe great for meal prep or make-ahead meals!

dairy free roasted pumpkin soup recipe completed and served in a bowl

Using Roasted Fresh Pumpkin:

For this recipe, I'm utilizing fresh organic pumpkins in lieu of canned pumpkin. I just find that when you oven roast the pumpkin yourself you get a much better tasting soup recipe both in texture and in flavors. So please, whenever possible, always use fresh pumpkins. If you're absolutely in a pinch and can't roast the fresh pumpkin, then make sure that you utilize only a well-drained canned pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling.

How to Oven Roast Fresh Pumpkin:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees conventional, or 400 degrees convection roast.
  2. Line a rimmed sheet tray with aluminum foil, and spray generously with your favorite non stick cooking spray.
  3. Slice the pumpin into 6-8 large slices.
  4. Discard the stems, scoop out the seeds, and discard any extra stringy pumpkin flesh.
  5. Using a silicone pastry brush, apply approximately 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the entire orange pumpkin flesh, and place skin side up on the baking sheet.
  6. Roast in the oven for 40-55 minutes or until the pumpkin is fork tender with very little resistance. Set aside pumpkin pieces on a cooling rack.

Ingredients For Dairy Free Roasted Pumpkin Soup Recipe:

How To Prepare Dairy Free Pumpkin Soup Recipe:

  1. In a heavy bottomed dutch oven or stock pot, heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. The oil will be hot enough when it dances or shimmers in the bottom of the pan. Add in onions and kosher salt, stir to coat the onions in oil.
  2. Reduce the temperature to medium flame, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally for 8-11 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add in the garlic, stir, and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. While the garlic is cooking, peel and discard the skin from the oven roasted pumpkin.
  5. Add the cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cloves, white pepper, to the onions and stir until well coated. Cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add in the roasted pumpkin, using a wooden spoon to break up larger pieces into chunks.
  7. Add in the stock, stir, and raise heat to high.
  8. Bring the mixture to a full boil, then immediately reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes.
  9. In a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds you earlier rescued from the interior of the pumpkin. Toast until golden brown. Pay extra care to make sure to keep the seeds moving in the pan by shaking or stirring, until fragrant and golden brown as to not burn them. Once toasted, transfer them to a paper towel to cool.
  10. After the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, stir in the bourbon, maple syrup, and coconut milk. Remove the pot from the heat.
  11. Using an immersion (stick) blender, (or a regular countertop blender in smaller batches) puree the soup until smooth and velvety.
  12. When ready to serve, garnish the dairy free roasted pumpkin soup with pan toasted pumpkin seeds.

Additional Tips & Recipe Variations:

I hope you enjoy cooking this delicious and easy-to-make gluten-free pumpkin soup recipe! Drop us a comment and let us know how it turned out or if you have any questions or suggestions! We'd love to hear from you.


Check out our other delicious recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Cooler weather approaches, and the dog days of summer fall away. I always start to crave this pumpkin spice bread pudding with pecan praline topping recipe right around fall start time. This recipe can be used all year long and goes great as an alternative to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or Christmas as well.

Easy to prepare in just about one hour and so delicious both as a dessert or even as breakfast with a delicious piping hot cup of coffee or tea.

Pumpkin spice bread pudding recipe

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for the Pecan Praline Topping

How to Prepare Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the day old bread into 1 inch cubes, and spread into a single layer on an unlined baking sheet.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in eggs and whip to combine.
  4. Add in all of the remaining bread pudding ingredients to the bowl and whip on low speed until well combined.
  5. Place the bread into the oven, tossing it every 3-5 minutes until lightly golden brown. Note, you aren't making salad croutons here, so lightly toast the bread but make sure to leave some moisture left in it. Remove from oven and set aside to cool once it's lightly golden brown.
  6. Generously spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray
  7. Add the toasted bread to the baking dish.
  8. Pour the liquid from the mixing bowl over the top of the bread, coating each piece of bread evenly. Gently press the bread into the liquid mixture every 5 minutes for a total of 15 minutes to ensure even soaking of each bread cube.
  9. In the bowl of your food processor, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, bourbon whiskey and brown sugar. Add in the cold butter cubes, and pulse 8-10 times or just until everything has come together. Then add in the pecans and pulse 3 more times for 1 second each.
  10. Place the topping into the fridge until ready to bake the pumpkin spice bread pudding.
  11. Evenly distribute the pecan praline topping over the pumpkin spice bread pudding. Make sure to distribute all the way to the corners to evenly coat the entire dish without creating high spots that could potentially burn while baking.
  12. Place the 9 x 13 dish onto a rimmed foil lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-40 minutes or until puffed and just set. The bread pudding will slightly jiggle when tapped.
  13. Remove the pumpkin spice bread pudding from the oven and let cool at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  14. Slice into 3x3 squares, and top the pumpkin spice bread pudding with either slightly sweetned whipped cream, or your favorite pecan praline ice cream for some extra decadence.

Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Not just for Cinco de Mayo, also known by some people as "Cinco de Drinko". It's always a great time to think about deliciously fresh and seasonal cocktails featuring artisanal ingredients. Enter the perfect Don Julio 1942 blood orange margarita?

Margaritas don't have to be the traditional boring "lime" flavor, think seasonal citrus fruit, like deeply flavorful blood oranges!

1942 Blood Orange Margarita Recipe featuring Don Julio Tequila, Blood Orange Juice, Lime Garnish.

 Recipe for the Perfect Don Julio 1942 Blood Orange Margarita 

How to Make a Don Julio Blood Orange Margarita: 

Start by muddling the jalapeno and orange segments in your cocktail shaker. (Again, remove the seeds and white membrane (pith) from the pepper to lower the heat and astringency in the mouthfeel of the drink.)

Add in the remainder of the ingredients, top with ice, and shake vigorously for a minimum of 20 seconds, or until the cocktail shaker is so cold you can't hold it anymore. Now is not the time to be dainty with your shaking! Really get in there and shake it until you make it!

How to Garnish a Margarita: 

Serve the blood orange margarita in your favorite glass with a simple fresh lime wedge as garnish. For an extra "pop" of flavor, add a pinch of Maldon Large Flaked Sea Salt for flavor enhancement.

Salud! Cheers! Enjoy!

Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Give that boring red sauce a long vacation! It's time to liven up your pasta with five easy to prepare homemade recipes for pasta sauces that aren't boring red sauce!

graphic with red sauce in a pan covered by an international no symbol.

Creamy White Pistachio Pesto Sauce Recipe: 

Ingredients for Pistachio Pesto Sauce:

How to Prepare White Pistachio Pesto Sauce:

To Prepare The Pistachios: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toast the pistachios on a rimmed sheet tray, stirring once for approximately 4-6 minutes. Once toasted, remove from sheet pan immediately and let cool to room temperature.

To Prepare The Sauce: In the bowl of your food processor, add the pistachios, Meyer lemon zest, garlic, ricotta cheese, oregano, and 1 cup of parmesan cheese. pulse until combined, while slowly drizzling in the olive oil, a tablespoon or so at a time. Season with salt and generous amounts of black pepper to taste. In a large mixing bowl combine the sauce and your freshly cooked and well-drained pasta, toss with tongs. Top your favorite pasta with the remaining parmesan cheese right before serving. If the sauce is a little too thick, add in a tablespoon at a time of pasta water.

pasta with a white pistachio cream sauce

Guanciale & Sage Butternut Squash Carbonara Sauce Recipe: 

Ingredients for Guanciale and Sage Butternut Squash Carbonara Sauce:

How to Prepare Butternut Squash Carbonara: 

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, and render the Guanciale. Cook until crisp. Remove from heat, and toss in the sage and toss to coat in rendered Guanciale fat. Use a slotted spoon or spider, and transfer Guanciale and sage to a small heatproof bowl, and set aside.

Add in the onion, garlic, & butternut squash to the skillet and season with kosher salt & pepper, and cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally onion is translucent, but not brown. Add in low sodium chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 12-18 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half and the squash is tender.

Add the hot, well-drained pasta to the skillet, and add in Pecorino cheese, sage, Guanciale, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to combine until creamy. Shave more cheese on top for an extra cheesy boost. Add pasta cooking water to thin the sauce out if it gets too thick.

butternut squash carbonara pasta with fried sage garnish

Sweet Corn Cacio e Pepe Sauce Recipe:

Ingredients for Sweet Corn Cacio e Pepe Sauce:

How to Prepare Sweet Corn Cacio e Pepe Sauce:

Prepare your pasta. Reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. While the pasta is cooking, in a bowl, combine the cheese, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, red chili flake, 1/3 cup cold water, mixing with a fork into a thick paste. Continue stirring with a fork until the consistency of Boursin or whipped cream cheese. If things are too thick, add a tablespoon of additional cold water at a time and continue mixing until it comes together properly.

Add the cheese mixture to your well-drained pasta, add in the corn. Use a rubber spatula to stir the hot pasta to coat the pasta and melt the cheese. Add reserved hot pasta water, to continue melting the cheese, two tablespoons at a time until the desired sauce consistency.

Serve the pasta while hot, top with additional cheese and black pepper to taste.

sweet corn cacio e pepe with a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese and thyme

Easy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce Recipe: 

Ingredients for Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce:

How to prepare Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce: 

  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, bring the water to a boil. Add in the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-9 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add the garlic, worcershire, and red chili flake and butter, cook together for 60 seconds. Then remove from the heat.
  3. After the cauliflower is cooked, drain in a colander, reserving 1.5 cups of the cooking water.
  4. Transfer the cauliflower to a blender, adding a cup of the cooking water, and the garlic, milk, butter and chili. Remove the center plug of the blender to allow for steam to vent. Cover the hole with a clean tea towel and blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Transfer the sauce back into the large sautee pan, and place over medium low heat. Add in the parmesan cheese, stirring frequently to combine and melt the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper, serving immediately over hot zoodles or pasta.
a bowl of cauliflower alfredo sauce

Spinach Avocado Pasta Sauce Recipe: 

Ingredients for Spinach Avocado Sauce: 

How to Prepare Spinach Avocado Pasta Sauce: 

  1. In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except for the pasta water, salt and pepper.
  2. With the blender running on puree speed, remove the plug from the center of the top of the blender pitcher.
  3. Slowly drizzle in up to a cup of pasta water until the sauce comes together and is smooth in texture.
  4. Serve immediately over hot buttered noodles or zucchini noodles.
spinach avocado sauce topped pasta with grated parmesan cheese and black pepper sprinkled on top.

Check out other tips & tricks for Easy Effortless Entertaining, along with recipes from AWG Private Chefs

About the Author:

Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom tailored, private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Learn how to cook steak perfectly every time, and say goodbye to improperly cooked steaks!

How to cook the perfect steak.  A Certified Angus Beef Steak pan seared perfectly by a private chef.

What's In This Article?

How Do I Choose The Right Cut of Steak? 

Selecting the right cut of steak is always a personal choice depending on the texture and flavor profile that suits you best. Being a private chef, there are 5 primary cuts of steak that I am most commonly asked to prepare by our clientele.

The Filet Mignon

What is a Filet Mignon?

The filet mignon comes from the small tip end of the beef tenderloin. It is one of the most tender cuts of beef. Filet mignons are generally more on the expensive side, and quite lean, and don't contain a lot of fat or gristle.

The T Bone or Porterhouse Steak:

 What is a T Bone or Porterhouse?

The T Bone or Porterhouse steaks are one of my most favorite steaks to prepare. I think that they have the perfect balance of meat to fat ratio to create that delicious signature beefiness that everyone loves, plus in essence, you get two different steaks in one.

These two cuts of meat come from the short loin, contain a T-Shaped bone that runs through the middle of the steak. On either side of the bone reside the strip loin or the tenderloin.

What is the difference between the T Bone and Porterhouse Steak? 

T-Bone steaks are cut from the front end of the animal and have a smaller tenderloin. The Porterhouse steaks are cut from the back of the animal and have a larger tenderloin attached.

porterhouse steak in a cast iron pan with rosemary and garlic bulbs

The Ribeye Steak:

 

What is a Ribeye Steak?

 A Ribeye steak contained a generous amount of marbling (fat) throughout the steak that melts beautifully in the mouth, stays tender when cooked rapidly at high temperatures. The Ribeye steak comes from the rib area of the animal between ribs six through twelve.

Not all of the fat will render out when cooking, so if chewing through or cutting away meat fat isn't your cup of tea, you might want to select an alternate cut of beef, such as the New York Strip steak.

  

The Hanger Steak

 

What is a Hanger or Butcher's Steak? 

The hanger steak is an elusive cut of steak that may be more difficult to find but is definitely worth the hunt. This super tender and intensely beefy flavored cut of meat hangs off the diaphragm in the lower belly of the animal.

Also known as the Butcher's Steak, or the Butcher's Secret Steak, only one hanger steak exists per cow, whereas with most other cuts of steak there are multiple steaks per animal. Due to the highly concentrated beef flavor and extreme tenderness of the hanger steak, a simple seasoning of just salt or pepper is all that is needed.

 

The New York Strip Steak

What is a New York Strip Steak?

The New York or New York Strip Steak is cut from the short loin area of the animal. It is a lean cut of steak that has a bit more chewiness. It's the strip loin side of the Porterhouse steak and is only served boneless.

new york steak bone in on a butchers block cutting board with a cleaver

Should I Buy Boneless or Bone-In Steak? 

The biggest "bone of contention" between consumers and chefs alike is the age-old debate of should I buy bone-in or boneless steaks. While not all cuts of steaks are offered with the bone, for those that are, I always suggest going bone-in when it's an option.

While they do take longer to cook, having the bone-in gives you additional flavor enhancement from the bone marrow which comes out during the cooking process and then reincorporates itself into the meat for added flavor. Bone-in steak can help aid in the prevention of inadvertent overcooking of your steak due to the insulative properties of the bone.

What Grade of Beef Should I Buy?

 

What do the different grades of beef mean? 

There are 4 primary grades of beef most often found in stores here in the United States. According to the USDA beef grading shield matrices, they are Ungraded, Standard or Non-Specified, Select, Choice, and Prime.

Ungraded, standard or non-specified beef is the lowest quality and will often be the cheapest in price. This is commodity grade or mass-produced beef and should be avoided under all circumstances as this is the minimum grade determined that is edible by humans by the USDA.

Select grade of beef is generally what is put on the market at an attractively advertised lower price. Select beef is generally regarded as "not that great, but not that bad either", it hits slightly higher quality and price points over the ungraded or standard beef.

Choice grade beef is the middle of the road both in quality and price point. Choice beef is higher quality than select, and much higher quality than ungraded, standard.

Prime grade beef is of the highest rated quality by the USDA and comes in at the highest price tag as well. Prime grade is our choice for the beef we serve our clientele.

USDA prime steak grilled perfectly and sliced and fanned out on a wooden cutting board

How Do I Cook A Steak? How To Cook Steak:

 What Doneness Temperature Should I Cook A Steak To? 

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as such, steak doneness is also of the same ilk. As a chef, the standard doneness temperature that I prefer to serve a steak at to my guests is medium-rare.

Important Note: The temperatures discussed below are the temperature that you should remove the steak from the heat, allowing it to rest tented with aluminum foil for a full 10 minutes prior to cutting into it.

Rare:

A steak cooked to 120 degrees F is rare. The steak is warm on the outside and cooler in the middle, very soft to the touch, and has a very red, shiny, nearly raw appearance when sliced.

Medium-Rare:

A steak cooked to 130 degrees F is medium-rare. The steak is just warmed throughout, soft to the touch with just a bit of resistance, and has a red to deep pink appearance when sliced.

Medium:

A steak cooked to 135 degrees F is medium. The steak is warmed all the way, is slightly firmer to the touch, and has a nice blush of pink in the center when sliced.

Medium-Well:

A steak cooked to 140 degrees F is medium-well. The steak is cooked through all the way, firm with just a slight amount of resistance when touched, and has just a tiny amount of remaining pink in the center while the rest is grey, and is beginning to dry out.

Well Done:

A well-done steak is cooked to 150 degrees F. The steak is grey all of the way through, incredibly firm to the touch, and is grey with no residual pink, and very little to virtually no moisture at all.

Cooking The Perfect Steak:

 

Equipment Needed For Cooking Steak:

There are really only two pieces of essential must-have equipment you need in your kitchen to prepare the perfect steak.

Lavatools Javelin Instant Read Thermometer

Having a reliable, and trusted instant-read digital meat thermometer is an absolute must when cooking. I exclusively use the Javelin Lavatools PT12 Instant Read Meat Thermometer as my everyday go-to thermometer in both my home and professional kitchens.

cast iron frying pan with lid and red rubberized handle attachment

The second essential piece of equipment for the perfect steak is a Preseasoned Cast Iron Skillet of at least 10 or 12 inches in size. Cast iron pans provide the evenest heat distribution and retention, tolerate all high heat situations, and can go from stovetop to oven without worry.

Before You Begin Cooking:

Before you embark on preparing the perfect steak, there is a critical step that always must be followed. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator, discarding any packaging. Place the steaks on a plate or rimmed sheet pan, and let stand at room temperature for a full 60 minutes prior to cooking.

How To Cook The Perfect Steak:

So by now, you've chosen the best cut of steak for you, removed it from the packaging and allowed it to rest at room temperature for an hour, and have your trusty instant-read thermometer and cast iron pan.

Ingredients You Will Need:

Steak Cooking Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F conventional, or 375 degrees F convection.
  2. Preheat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high to high heat for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While the skillet is preheating, pat the steaks dry on all sides with paper towels.
  4. Generously season all sides of the steaks with kosher salt and black pepper.
  5. Once your skillet is smoking hot, place the steaks in the skillet, laying them away from you as they make contact with the pan.
  6. Don't move the meat! Sear the steaks over high heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Turning only once.
  7. Once the steaks have seared, toss the garlic in the pan, and spoon the unsalted butter over the top of the steaks.
  8. Place the skillet into the oven. Cook the steaks until 5 degrees prior to the desired doneness using your instant-read thermometer. For example, if you are looking for a medium-rare steak, remove the steaks from the oven at 125 degrees F.
  9. Remove the steaks from the cast iron skillet, and baste the steaks with the garlic butter.
  10. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and let the steaks rest for a full 10 minutes. The steaks will continue cooking, adding the remaining 5 degrees and arriving at the perfect desired doneness temperature.
chef prepared flat iron steak on a wooden cutting board

How to Slice and Serve Your Steak:

After your steak has rested in its foil tent for a full ten minutes, it's time to slice. Using a sharp knife, slice the steak across the grain to maximize tenderness. Transfer your steak to a warm plate, and top with a bit more of the garlic butter from the pan.

If you're looking for a great quick sauce for any steak, check out our recipe for Easy Red Wine Reduction Sauce.


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs!

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

French onion soup, quintessential classic comfort food, and star of many dinner parties. Over the years, traveling all over the globe, I've had the chance to try many different adaptations of a basic onion and broth soup that has been passed off as "French Onion Soup".

Let's face it, there is a lot of onion soup recipes out there that are just really, really bad. Most "quick" style recipes end up tasting like muddy dishwater with just a nuance of onion perfume, zero depth of flavor, boring, ick.

Here's the secret to the absolute best French onion soup recipe... ready? It's not the broth, or the herbs, the wine, or the type of butter you use..

The Secret To Really Good French Onion Soup: The length of time it takes to extract the flavors from the onions. 

Making really great tasting French onion soup takes a long time to slowly extract, and then convert the natural sugars in the onions into deep, rich, onion flavors. The caramelization of the onions is the foundation of the best soup. If you try and cut corners, or speed things up, it's just not going to taste good. So please, follow the steps below, spend the time to extract maximum flavor from those onions, and enjoy the world's best French Onion Soup!

french onion soup recipe completed and served in a white ramekin.

How to Make The Best French Onion Soup:

 

Ingredients You Will Need:

Equipment You Will Need:

caramelizing onions in a heavy bottomed pot

How to Prepare The Best French Onion Soup Recipe:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Adjust rack height to accommodate the dutch oven being in the center of the oven with the lid on. This is normally the lower/middle rack position.
  2. Prepare the dutch oven by generously spraying the interior with non stick pan spray. Don't skimp on the spray, as you will end up scrubbing the pot for days afterwards!
  3. Peel and slice all of the onions into 1/4 inch thick half-moons. Add the butter to the dutch oven.
  4. Next, place the onions into the pot, and sprinkle over 1 heaping teaspoon of the kosher salt on the top of the onions.
  5. Cover with the lid, and place the dutch oven into your oven for 1 hour. No peeking during this time!
  6. After one hour, stir the onions, and adjust the lid slightly askew to allow for evaporation to take place. Return the pot to your oven and cook again for an additional 90 minutes, stirring the onions, and scraping the sides and the bottom of the dutch oven every 45 minutes with a flat wooden spatula.
  7. After 90 minutes of additional cooking time, remove the dutch oven and place it onto your stove.
  8. Continue cooking the onions uncovered over medium to medium-high heat for approximately 15-20 more minutes to develop a rich and powerfully flavorful fond. It's important to stir frequently and to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot regularly.
  9. You will notice that the liquid will evaporate and browning or fond will develop. We want this fond to be a rich dark brown... not black! Stirring is key to prevent burning. If the onions begin to darken too fast, lower your heat to medium or medium-low.
  10. This is not the time to rush this process and burn the onions! After 15-20 minutes, you should have a nice dark fond on the bottom and sides of the pot.
  11. Move the onions to one side of the pot, and deglaze with 1/4 cup of water. Scraping vigilantly to get as much of that fond up as you can. Continue cooking for another 5-8 minutes, allowing another layer of fond to form.
  12. Repeat the deglazing process again twice more, for a total of three deglazes, with another 1/4 cup of water for the second deglaze, and for the final deglaze, add in the dry sherry wine and balsamic vinegar and stir frequently for 5 minutes until the vast majority of the sherry wine and balsamic vinegar has evaporated.

13. The onions will continue to get very dark brown as the fond layers are extracted by the deglazing process.

14. Upon completion of the final deglaze, add in the chicken and beef stocks, the bouquet garni, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

15. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the pot one more time to get any remaining fond incorporated into the soup.

16. Raise the heat to high, and bring the soup to a medium bubble simmer. Lower the heat back down to low, cover, and gently simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

17. While the soup is in its final simmer, slice the baguette on a hard bias into 1/4 inch thick slices, place it on a sheet tray in a single layer. Bake the baguette slices at 400 degrees until toasty and slightly golden brown, this normally takes about 7-11 minutes. Upon removing the croutons from the oven, adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position, and set the oven temperature to broil.

18. Fish the bouquet garni out of the soup and discard it. It's done its delicious flavor job.

19. Fill each oven-safe ramekin or soup terrine 3/4ths full of soup, and float a single layer of baguette croutons on top of the soup.

20. Top with a nice layer of the shredded Gruyere cheese, make sure to keep the cheese off the top of the serving vessel to prevent premature burning of the cheese.

21. Broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is all melty and golden brown. Do not walk away from the broiler at this time!

22. Remove the serving vessels from the oven and let cool a full 5 minutes before serving to prevent taste bud scalding. While the soup is cooling, pour yourself a nice glass of wine.

Dig in and enjoy your delicious French onion soup recipe with that yummy gruyere cheese in all of its bubbly glory!

From our kitchens to yours, cheers and happy cooking!


Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef Company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

When two of my absolute favorite things in the world come together. It's a match made in pure culinary ecstasy. Sea salt, and caramel. Mmmm... So amazingly delicious.

This easy-to-make homemade caramel recipe is so amazingly flavorful, and decadent! Use the caramel sauce in your coffee, for the best salted caramel macchiato. Drizzle it over vanilla bean ice cream, fresh fruit, cheesecake, brownies, in your hot chocolate, or banana chocolate chip pancakes or some apple slices for a caramel apple twist!

Or just eat it gluttonously direct out of the glass jar with a spoon! One of our favorite nontraditional uses for this sauce is spread on the rim of a martini glass, for a salted caramel vodka dessert martini. Adults only, please.

You only need just a few minutes, just 6 ingredients, and a little bit of patience to create this deliciously addictive recipe for the world's best salted caramel sauce.

best salted caramel sauce in a jar

Ingredients for Salted Caramel Sauce:

How to Prepare Salted Caramel Sauce:

In a medium high sided saucepan, set over medium to medium-high heat, combine the sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Stir just until combined, and then let it cook without stirring until the sugar has achieved a deep golden amber color. This will prevent crystallization and take anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on your stove's BTU heat output.

IMPORTANT: Do not walk away from the stove during this process, once the color starts changing it happens so incredibly rapidly! If the sugar becomes overly dark, it can take on a very off-putting burnt flavor! Literally, all it takes is just a couple of seconds to over brown the sugar and ruin the entire dish.

sugar changing to caramel in a pot on the stove

When the desired deep amber color has been achieved, turn off and remove from heat and quickly pour in the heavy cream and whisk the hot sugar and cream mixture to stop the cooking.

Chef's Note: The mixture will up bubble violently, and release quite a bit of steam!

Please be extra careful not to splash molten sugar as you whisk! Molten sugar can cause very serious burns! Whisking will almost immediately reduce the violent bubbling Continue to whisk for 2-3 minutes.

Next, add in the unsalted butter and sea salt, and continue whisking for another 2-3 minutes until the texture is completely smooth, and the butter and salt are fully incorporated.

Set aside to begin cooling. Whisk in the vanilla extract after 7 minutes of cooling.

Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature before placing it in an air-tight glass jar, and store your salted caramel in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If you like an extra "punch" of salt, sprinkle over large flaked sea salt on top of the caramel for an extra pop of flavor and crunch.

This recipe makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of salted caramel sauce. It can easily be scaled to make larger batches. When scaling the recipe up, add a touch more vanilla extract and salt to taste.

Variations On Salted Caramel:


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About the Author:

Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry venues worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Turn the modest potato into a rockstar side dish that everyone will be begging for more with our simple, easy tips on how to make easy perfect potatoes, every time!

three potatoes with funny eyes on them is always a good start for how to make easy perfect potatoes.

Perfectly Crispy Skillet Potatoes

Side dishes don't have to be elaborate, require a bunch of pans, or hours of daunting prep work to be made. Potatoes and more specifically this recipe for crispy skillet potatoes are easy to prepare and so delicious.

There is something to be said about the amazingness of something so simple as a crispy golden brown crunchy exterior with the buttery, pillowy soft interior of a perfectly pan-fried potato. With just a few simple ingredients, you can easily transform that plain spud into a work of art for your tastebuds.

Using fresh herbs is a must when making skillet potatoes. The freshness of the herbs is what gives the potatoes that extra pop and brightness in the flavor profile. Rosemary is a classic herb match for potatoes, but I prefer to use thyme.

How to Make Crispy Potatoes Without Deep Frying 

If you're like my better half, potatoes are always the most requested side dish whenever dinner menus are discussed, often followed by the comment of "I would sell my soul for a lifetime supply of potatoes." They are a versatile accompaniment to almost any dish and can be flavored to complement virtually any style of cuisine you may be having.

Making crispy pan-fried skillet potatoes is one of the simplest ways to get the potatoes crispy without drowning them in oil by deep-frying, boiling them in water, or having to fire up the oven. Toss them in the pan, let them cook, and pour yourself a nice glass of wine while the magic happens inside the skillet.

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It's Simple To Make Easy Perfect Potatoes That Are Crispy: It's All About The Skillet! 

When making this crispy skillet potato recipe, the most important secret to the potatoes getting that perfectly crunchy golden brown exterior and fluffy cloud-like interior is the pan you choose to cook them in.

The best pan for the job is a 10 inch cast iron skillet with a lid. Cast iron pans retain heat incredibly well, heat evenly over the entire cooking surface, and produce the ability to brown food beautifully. Having a cast iron skillet with a tight-fitting lid allows you to effectively steam and brown the potatoes at the same time.

In general, a 10-inch skillet will hold about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of potatoes, which is enough to feed 3-4 people. If you have a larger family or are my better half who can't seem to get enough potatoes, then using a 12 inch cast iron skillet with a lid would be perfect for you.

Chef's Note: This recipe is not designed for use with non-stick cookware. So please leave the teflon non-stick, aluminum, or other lightweight cookware in the cabinet for this one. It's time to do the heavy lifting, and drag out the cast iron.

Preheat + Patience = Perfection

Chef Sean Andrade

Whenever cooking with cast iron, you must always preheat the pan for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes. When the potatoes hit the pan, you want them to immediately sizzle. If they don't sizzle straight away, you've not let the pan heat long enough. Once the potatoes go in, it's super important that you resist the primal urge to move them or to lift the lid to check to see how things are going. Trust me, they are fine and don't need constant movement or turning.

Ingredients for Perfectly Crispy Skillet Potatoes

How to Prepare Pan Fried Skillet Potatoes

Preheat your dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes.

Cut each potato into 1 inch thick rounds.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of grapeseed oil in the preheated cast iron skillet for 2 minutes or until shimmering.

In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with salt and pepper to season both cut sides.

Place the potatoes into the pan using tongs, in a single layer. Reduce temperature to medium.

Cover with a tight fitting lid, and cook without shaking, or turning the potatoes for a full 15-20 minutes, or until the bottoms are completely golden brown. If the potatoes are sticking to the pan, they aren't ready yet. Replace the lid and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, remove the thyme from the woody stems, discard the stems, and chop the thyme leaves finely.

When the potatoes are golden brown, remove the lid, turn the potatoes over, increase the heat to medium-high, cook uncovered for another 7-10 minutes until browned.

When the potatoes are nicely browned and crispy, add in the fresh thyme and 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, and optional granulated garlic.

Toss the potatoes in the butter, herb, and garlic mixture until well coated, no more than 60 seconds.

Serve immediately.

  

perfectly cooked skillet potatoes sprinkled with salt

Chef's Tips:


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs

 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

Our sweet and tangy grilled pineapple recipe is coated in a tastebud explosion of flavor. A perfect side dish or even as a dessert temptation that you're going to go crazy over!

A perfectly ripe pineapple sliced open top to bottom, placed on a wooden cutting board.

Step aside boring canned pineapple, this is the best recipe for grilled pineapple that is easy to prepare, sweet, spicy, and oh so delicious.

With just 6 ingredients, your spiced pineapple flavor will be taken to a whole other level. With this preparation, you can easily serve it as a side dish with barbeque, Hawai'ian food, or even spicy Asian or Thai style cuisine. For a dessert, simply serve the grilled pineapple with a bit of vanilla bean gelato, over a piece of all-butter pound cake, or even stand alone.

Please don't use canned pineapple with this recipe, it doesn't hold up to grilling and sometimes produces an offputting magnified metallic flavor when heated. You always want to use fresh from Hawai'i, Maui Gold pineapples for best results.

pineapple on the grill with a sticky caramelized glaze on it. The perfect grilled pineapple recipe

Ingredients for Spiced Grilled Pineapple Recipe:

How to Prepare Caramelized Brown Sugar Spiced Grilled Pineapple:

  1. Clean & prepare your BBQ grill following these easy steps.
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high for 15 minutes.
  3. Lightly brush oil onto the grill grates right before cooking to prevent sticking.
  4. In a large zip-top bag, combine the cardamom, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt.
  5. Add in the Maui Gold pineapple spears, and toss until well coated on all sides
  6. Remove the pineapple from the bag and grill 3-4 minutes per side. Turning only once.
  7. Take the remaining contents of the zip-top bag, and pour into a medium-sized mixing bowl, add in the honey, and whisk to combine to form a spice glaze.
  8. Baste the pineapple spears with the honey and spice glaze mixture using a heat-safe basting brush.
  9. Serve while warm, and drizzle over any remaining spiced honey glaze.

Chef's Tips:

Don't forget the pineapple core! After working and living in the Hawai'ian islands and on Maui, I developed quite the affection for eating fresh pineapple core. I know it may sound a bit strange, but to me, there's nothing more satisfying than crunching on a piece of pineapple core as a snack. It's sort of the perfect combination of sweet, crunchy, slightly bitter, and just good old-fashioned plain yummy.

Pineapple core also makes a great cocktail stir stick for your Trader Vic's Original Mai Tai or other tropical adult beverage, reduces food waste, and gives you something to crunch on all at the same time while adding a touch of pineapple flavor without adding a ton of sweetness to the drink.

If you haven't hoarded then devoured the pineapple cores all for yourself, make a pineapple syrup to add to your cocktails as a sweetener or drizzle over pancakes, macadamia nut waffles, or banana crepes for a delicious island-style twist to breakfast.


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

As temperatures begin to rise, the warm sun shines down once again, the cold rain and snow subside, becomes one of the most exciting times in the cocktail season, spring. Enjoy a tasty fresh spring cocktail recipe alfresco, now's the time to switch up your drinking styles from the heavier spirits and big wines, and look forward to fresh spring cocktails using light and fresh ingredients.

a bunch of friend doing a cheers with spring cocktail recipes made by them.

Meyer Lemon Lavender Martini Recipe 

One of the most refreshing spring cocktail recipes is this Meyer lemon lavender martini is a fresh spring twist on the traditional lemon drop martini recipe. Lavender adds a light perfume and unique floral note to the cocktail. The clean, crisp notes of vodka, complimented with bright citrus, the touch of floral notes become a delicious and unique cocktail to enjoy on a warm spring day with friends.

Ingredients for Meyer Lemon Lavender Martini: 

How to Prepare: 

  1. In a cocktail shaker, lightly muddle one of the lavender sprigs and simple syrup together.
  2. Fill the shaker with ice.
  3. Add in the Meyer lemon juice and Absolut Citron Vodka.
  4. Shake well for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.
  5. Strain into a frozen martini glass.
  6. Garnish with the remaining lavender sprig and a twist of Meyer lemon zest.
glass of elderflower infused champagne spritz cocktail with 3 raspberries floating in it

Elderflower Champagne Spritz Cocktail Recipe 

When spring has sprung and you're hosting a delicious Sunday brunch with cocktails in the backyard, this refreshing elderflower champagne cocktail should be at the top of your list. This cocktail features St. Germain, a tasty elderflower perfumed liqueur that is widely available in most liquor stores nationwide. If you can't find the liqueur, then you can use elderflower cordial instead.

Ingredients: 

How To Prepare: 

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Pour the champagne and elderflower over the ice to chill.
  3. Stir using a bar spoon for 10-15 seconds.
  4. Using a cocktail strainer, strain into a chilled champagne flute.
  5. Float the tonic water on the top, and garnish with a few fresh raspberries.
carribean screwdriver cocktail with fresh garnish being stirred.

Caribbean Screwdriver Cocktail Recipe 

This cocktail recipe is a fruity rum based cocktail recipe that is a unique play on the traditional screwdriver cocktail. The combination of flavors from the freshly squeezed orange and key lime juices and the nuances of vanilla and anise from the Galliano is reminiscent of your last warm tropical vacation but in a glass!

Ingredients: 

How to Prepare: 

  1. Using a handheld citrus press squeeze the key lime and orange juices.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  3. Add in the white rum, orange juice, key lime juice, cherry syrup, and Galliano.
  4. Shake well for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
  6. Top with the dark rum.
  7. Garnish with the Amarena cherry and garnish.
spring gin kiss cocktail being served in a martini glass.

Spring Gin Kiss Cocktail Recipe

The spring gin kiss cocktail is a unique and wonderfully elevated gin martini. While most gin martini recipes are dry and can be sharp, the use of the grenadine, fresh citrus, and the unique twist of the infusion of apple brandy gives this delicious spring martini cocktail recipe a round of applause. Serve the spring gin kiss in a well chilled or frozen martini glass as an aperitif cocktail to welcome guests to your home.

Ingredients: 

How To Prepare: 

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour in the gin, brandy, vermouth, Meyer lemon juice, and grenadine.
  3. Shake well for 15-20 seconds.
  4. Strain into a chilled or frozen martini glass.
  5. Garnish with an Amarena cherry.
little hot pink dress cocktail served in a tall glass with fresh garnish

Little Hot Pink Dress Cocktail Recipe 

The little hot pink dress cocktail is always a little bit spicy and always a touch sassy. The unique blend of fresh pink grapefruit, combined with the aromas of reserve orange bitters, and the spicy kick of fresh organic jalapeno will keep you coming back to the glass again and again with this delicious spring cocktail.

Ingredients: 

How to Prepare: 

  1. Fill a double rocks glass half full with ice.
  2. Pour in lime juice, grapefruit juice and agave nectar.
  3. Add in Don Julio Blanco tequilla.
  4. Stir Well.
  5. Top with 2 dashes of the reserve orange bitters.
  6. Garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit and thinly jalapeno wheel.
  7. Optional: If you like your drinks a touch sweeter, rim the glass with a sugar & salt combination.

Conclusion:

No matter what cocktail you choose, step outside, relax and enjoy! Also, check out our tips below on other ways to enjoy spring outdoor living.


Check out other great recipes, and tips and tricks for Easy, Effortless Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the Executive Chef Owner of AWG Private Chefs headquartered in Northern California. Voted best personal chefs and best caterers in San Francisco, and #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, personal chef service, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

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