‘Tis the Season to Bake

Picture of Buche de Noel Recipe

I was recently asked what my favorite holiday recipe is, and there is no doubt that my family’s Christmas Bûche de Noël Yule log has to be my all-time favorite.

I recall being beside my mom during my younger years paying close attention to every move she was making to create the yummy dessert that looks like a tree. My sisters and I now laugh and reminisce about those special times as we make this dessert for her.

She always has a trick or two to make the dessert just perfect. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do (and sponge cake is very forgiving – after all you are making the cake look like a tree).

1.  Follow a basic sponge cake recipe, adding chocolate cocoa 

2. Bake on 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

3. Follow baking instructions being careful not to overcook (cake is only 3/4 inch high) 

5. When cakes cool, drizzle with Baileys Irish Cream (generously – especially in my family) 

4. For filling, whip heavy cream and flavor with cocoa and powdered sugar 

5. You can also add a small amount of gelatin (mixed with warm water) to whipped cream to stiffen (if the cake is going to sit for a while)        

6. Cover both cakes (entirely) with cocoa whipping cream

7. Delicately roll both cakes (as you would create a Jelly Roll)

8. Cut 2nd cake into 2 pieces (at angles) to resemble “branches” on the log

9. Place “branches” in natural position to main log  

10. Frost entire Yule Log with chocolate ganache, cocoa whipping cream or both

11. Using fork tines, gently create lines running length of cake to resemble real “logs”

12. Create faux “mushrooms” with whipping cream dusted with powdered sugar for effect 


Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ten22: Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Tired of pumpkin pie? Start a new tradition with a Ten22 favorite – Pumpkin Crème Brulee. It comes highly recommended by Seth, one of Ten22’s sous chefs.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Jay Veregge ~ Executive Chef

(serves 4 guests)


1½ cups                 heavy cream

½ cup                    whole milk

1/8 tsp                    ground cinnamon

2 pinches               ground nutmeg

1 pinch                   ground ginger

1 pinch                   ground cloves

4                             egg yolks

½ cup                    granulated sugar

¼ cup                    canned pumpkin purée

1/3 cup                    superfine sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 300°.
  • In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves to boiling for approximately four minutes.
  • When the mixture comes to a boil, immediately turn off the heat and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar.
  • Whisking constantly, drizzle in the hot cream mixture.
  • Whisk in the pumpkin purée.
  • Pour the mixture evenly into four oven-proof ramekins or one large one.
  • Place the ramekins in an oven-safe pan.  Fill pan with water so that it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Bake until almost set but still a bit soft in the center (30 to 40 minutes).  The custard should jiggle when you shake the pan and will firm up as it cools.
  • Remove ramekins from the water bath and let cool 15 minutes.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • When ready to serve, pour superfine sugar on top of the custard, shaking to cover the entire surface.  Remove the excess sugar by pouring over the next custard ramekin.  Repeat until all the custards are coated.  Discard any remaining sugar.

*Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and use a butane. 


Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving at The Firehouse

Why slave over a hot stove when we can do the work for you?

Continuing the tradition of Thanksgiving at The Firehouse, Executive Chef Deneb Williams has created a four-course Dinner Menu that highlights the unique flavors and ingredients of the season.  The night’s main courses will include your choice of Herb-Roasted Turkey, Prime Rib, Herb-Encrusted Sturgeon or Pork Tenderloin. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.

A special three-course menu for children 12 years and under will be offered. The menu includes two entrée choices – Roast Turkey or Macaroni & Cheese – and a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae for dessert.

Dinner is served from 1– 8 p.m., and reservations are required.  The cost is $44.95 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under.

Holiday Stuffing

Deneb Williams ~ Executive Chef

Yields 12-16 Servings


2 loaves      egg bread, cut into ½” cubes

1 lb             pecans

3 cups        Granny Smith apples, peeled & diced ¼”

8 cups        water

¼ cup         fresh lemon juice

2 cups        chicken stock

½ cup         heavy cream

2 each        eggs

½ lb            butter

3 cups        yellow onion, diced ¼”

3 cups        celery, diced ¼”

¼ cup         garlic, minced

½ cup         honey

¼ cup         fresh sage, chopped

2 Tbsp        fresh thyme, chopped

¼ cup         parsley, chopped

to taste       salt & pepper


  • Cube bread and set out for 4-6 hours to stale slightly.
  • Toast pecans in skillet over medium heat until aromatic.  Chop and set aside.
  • Mix water and lemon juice together to create the acidulated water.
  • Peel apples, dice and reserve in acidulated water.
  • Combine chicken stock, cream and eggs in a blender, mix and set aside.
  • In a large stock pot, melt butter on medium-low heat.
  • Add onions, celery and garlic and sauté until translucent.
  • Add drained apples, honey, herbs and seasonings and simmer 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  • Place bread cubes in a large bowl.
  • Add sautéed vegetable-apple mixture and pecans and toss.
  • Using a ladle, add one-third of the chicken stock mixture and incorporate.
  • Continue incorporating one-third of the liquid at a time until the stuffing is moist, but not soupy.
  • Transfer stuffing to large baking dish and bake at 350° for 1½ hours.
  • Stuffing can be baked separately or in the turkey.


  • Add 1 pound cooked and crumbled pork sausage prior to adding the chicken stock.
Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Ask the Chef: Jay’s Fall Fave

Photo by The Marmot

I asked Ten22 Chef Jay Veregge to share his favorite ingredient for fall…

Q: What is your favorite fall ingredient? 

A: That would have to be squash. It’s just so versatile! You can use it in soups, pasta, braising, salads, etc.  It’s one of the only things we’ve got going that is multi-dimensional. 

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook and/or eat that contains squash? 

A: I would say Cappelletti Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sage Brown Butter and Walnuts. 

Q: Do any dishes on the upcoming fall menu include squash? If so, which ones? 

A: Yes, a number do. 

– Fall Kabocha Squash Soup with Nutmeg Crème Fraîche

– Fritto Misto with Calamari 

– Veggie Calzone with Spinach and Roasted Squash 

– Fall Squash Ravioli with Sage and Cranberries

Kabocha Squash Soup

Jay Veregge, Executive Chef

(serves 6 guests)


1 ea                        kabocha squash (approx. 3 lbs), diced large

2 ea                        large carrots, diced large

1 ea                        large onion, diced large

6 cups                   vegetable stock

2 oz                       ginger, minced

¼ cup                   sugar

2 Tbsp                  ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp                  ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp                  ground allspice

  • Roast the squash, carrots and onion in oven at 400° for 45 minutes.
  • Peel the skin off the roasted squash, discarding skin. 
  • Place squash in a stock pot with carrots, onion and stock.
  • Bring to a simmer and add ginger, sugar, and spices.
  • Simmer and stir continually until soup starts to slightly thicken.  Approximately 1 hour.
Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Culinary Dreamin’

It was about 3:30am and I was not able to sleep, obsessing about work while watching a late night infomercial featuring some kind of new juicer. The spokesperson (I think it was Jack LaLanne) was going on and on about the benefits of juicing and I became enthralled, or perhaps I was just delirious, I don’t really know. Anyway, I watched with bleary eyed fascination as he picked up a whole beet and dropped it into the juicer bragging about the “extra wide feeder tube” but then he did something magical, he added a pint of fresh strawberries…eureka! Since then I have often wondered if he was simply using red fruits and colorful vegetables for the benefit of TV, or if he really liked the flavors together? Regardless my mouth instantly began to salivate in a Pavlovian response to my imaginations culinary bell. As I drifted off to sleep I dreamt of the two flavors together…beets and strawberries, strawberries and beetzzzzzzzzzzz…..
In the morning over a cup of coffee I began to recall my midnight inspiration…beets and strawberries huh, wonder what that combo would taste like. Then, I started thinking about other flavors that would go… well lets see, balsamic & strawberries are good, balsamic & beets are great, add some goats cheese….Oh my, that does sound good!
Later that same morning I arrived at the Firehouse, Home sweet home! In the kitchen, my culinary obsession du jour took over and I began working. It just so happened that local California strawberries were coming into season and I had a flat of luscious red berries waiting for me in the walk-in cooler….coincidence you say, well I say Kismet!

The foundation of every good salad is the dressing, so that’s where I began. “Lets see….Dijon, aged balsamic, a little honey, OK how about some fresh berries, then into the blender creating a simple emulsion with a little oil. WAIT I KNOW!!! Maybe add a little tarragon, some chili flakes….whoa slow down big fella, let’s keep it simple”. Yes…”simple flavors are sometimes best” I lectured myself via internal monologue. That’s the problem with my particular obsession, I always want to take it one step too far….you know push the envelope….well not this time!

With the salad dressing complete I begin rummaging around in my walk-in for ingredients. This “walk-in” is a veritable culinary wonderland packed with imported cheeses, fresh herbs and locally grown fruits and vegetables. For a chef it’s paradise! Really, its one of my favorite places in all the world!  All of a sudden I found myself hopelessly sidetracked after discovering that my beautiful chives are wilted and several other items delivered this morning were simply not put away properly, Oh the horror! Infuriated I launch into my “a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen” diatribe, to no one in particular, and of course no one listened because I was alone in the walk in. “OK Deneb” I say to myself, “lets focus on one obsession at a time”.
Then I find it…something so perfect it was almost too good to be true… something I had been saving (since last week) for a very special occasion. Herb encrusted goat cheese from France, Fleur Vert is what I need I exclaim holding the 5lb wheel of cheese aloft! I spent a moment congratulating myself for purchasing the perfect cheese for a dish I hadn’t thought of yet, forgetting all about my poor chives. Inspired I grabbed a few Red and Golden beets tossed them with olive oil, a dash of S&P and into a 350-ish oven they went…. I paused, well…. what else does this salad need? As with so many of my dishes I come to the same conclusion. This dish needs acid! It needed that wonderful tang on the back of your palate bringing all of the other sweet and savory flavors together. For some dishes like soup a dash of sherry vinegar will do, for salsa it’s a squeeze of lime, but for salads my favorite new trick is a thin julienne of quickly pickled red onion. This would provide just the right bite and the acid needed to compliment the beets and strawberries.
So there I was, the salad complete, the moment of truth….I tasted it!
Dear reader, imagine if you will, tender beets red and golden, an unmistakable earthy flavor, the subtle sweetness of naturally caramelized sugars. The strawberries were so red, their color surreal. Sweet, almost too sweet, sure to be overripe by tomorrow but today they were perfect!Smooth and creamy goats cheese, light and lemony with a hint of… what’s this, Tarragon? Well you can’t blame me for that one. It’s encrusting the perfect cheese after all…I guess It was meant to be. Crisp pickled Spanish onions and a delightfully smooth strawberry balsamic vinaigrette that was like violet velvet on my tongue. Sweet and savory, earthy and tangy all at the same time!!!!
That evening I ran this salad as a special in the Firehouse dining room. As it turns out our guests agree, the salad was a hit! Who says insomnia isn’t productive. I’ve never seen that infomercial again and to tell you the truth it may have simply been a dream. Whatever the truth actually is, the end result was an undoubtedly dreamy new salad…..
PS, this salad is currently the 1st course of this months chefs tasting menu…..hint hint

Chef Deneb


Courtesy of Sacramento Magazine


Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ask the Chef: Deneb Gets Squashed

In a little conversation with Executive Chef Deneb Williams about favorite Winter foods, it got a little ‘Nutty……

Q: So Chef, what IS your favorite Winter ingredient?

A: Winter Squashes!!!! I have a few I love to prepare.

Q: For instance?

A: Butternut squash is sweet with lovely nuttiness. It has beautiful color and flavor that is great in soup or baked in a squash gratin.

Then you have the Acorn squash which is great for roasting or stuffing with a wild rice and hazelnut stuffing or mashed sweet potato. Select one with as much green on the rind as possible. The skin is very hard so be careful so be careful when cutting, use a large sharp knife, grip firmly and keep your fingers clearly away from the blade.

Also you have the Delicata squash. It is well,  “delicate” as the name implies with a creamy texture and flavor reminiscent of sweet potatos. It think it is perfect when roasted with simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Spaghetti squash is FUN!!! Roasted and then peeled while using a fork to scrape “noodles” from the flesh. It can be served cold, diced and tossed in a light vinaigrette dressing and eaten in a salad. Or you can serve it with your favorite pasta sauce as a “low carb” substitute for noodles.

Q: That sounds great.

A:These are a few of my favorites, but the options are seemingly endless. there are many other varieties readily available at the grocery store or market this time of the year. All of these winter delights are also inexpensive, easy to cook, and delicious. Choose squash that are firm and without soft spots or blemishes. Store them in your refrigerator for up to a week and Enjoy! Check out a few of the recipes below and Happy Squashing. -D

Deneb Williams                                                                                    Winter 2010

Butternut Squash Gratin

Yield 6-8 portions



2 c                        Heavy Cream

3 ea                       Eggs

1 c                        Ricotta

¼ c                       Roasted Garlic Puree

1 Tbl                     Kosher Salt

1 tsp                     Ground Pepper

½ ea                      Nutmeg, microplaned

¼  tsp                             cinnamon

½ c                       Chives

¼ c                       Thyme

3 lb                       Butternut Squash, peeled & sliced 1/8” thick

1 ea                       Caramelized Yellow onion, julienne thinly

½  c                      Pecorino Romano


Caramelize onions in small amount of butter and oil, set aside

Using a hand blender combine royale ingredients

Add herbs and stir by hand

Line a 9 x 9 Pyrex baking dish with parchment

Cut corners of parchment to insure a snug fit

Pour ¼ of royale into the bottom of hotel pan

Peel and clean seeds out of butternut squash.

Slice squash 1/8” thick

Shingle squash one layer at a time

Top each layer with onions, pecorino and royale keeping squash submerged

No cheese on the top

Bake uncovered in a conventional oven at 350 for 1 ½ hours

Refrigerate overnight


Butternut Squash Bisque

Yield 1 gal


½ c                       Garlic Cloves

¼ c                       Olive Oil

¼ lb                      Butter

1ea                        Medium Yellow Onions

1ea                        Leeks, white only

¼ c                       Shallots

1ea                        Yams

2ea                        Yukon Gold Potatoes

2ea                        Carrots

1ea                        Butternut Squash

½  gal                    Vegetable Stock (water)

2 c                        Heavy Cream

Boquet Garnis

2 Tbs                    Kosher salt

1 tsp                     Pepper

1 tsp                     Nutmeg


Roast Garlic in olive oil over very low heat until soft and golden brown

Satuee onions, shallots and leeks in butter until translucent

Add stock (or water) and remaining ingredients

Simmer for 1 hour

Remove boquet garnis

Add roasted garlic, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and puree using large immersion blender

Cool in ice bath


Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment