Chefs’ Picks: Mother’s Day Recipes

Most everyone wants to show Mom love on her special day. For those who plan to prepare homemade gifts, we polled a few chefs around the country on what they cook to make their moms feel treasured on Mother’s Day.
Chocolate Nut Squares

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

Most everyone wants to show Mom love on her special day. For those who plan to prepare homemade gifts, we polled a few chefs around the country on what they cook to make their moms feel treasured on Mother’s Day. Take your pick of recipes, from French berry tarts to a Mexican Love Cake, and make your mother’s day!

Chocolate Squares

Executive Chef Chris Emerling of The Bel-Air in Los Angeles makes a recipe that’s been in his family for decades: his Grandma Emerling’s Chocolate Nut Square, an ode to his late grandmother. The squares are dense and sweet, loaded with walnuts and crunchy dark chocolate pearls. The dessert is also on the menu at The Bel-Air, so you can head over there for Mother’s Day or follow this similar recipe and make them for Mom at home.

Pimento Cheese

Photo by: W Rush Jagoe V ©William Rush Jagoe V

W Rush Jagoe V, William Rush Jagoe V

Pimento Cheese

Kelly Fields, the chef and a partner in Willa Jean, a New Orleans bakery and restaurant serving modern Southern fare for breakfast lunch and dinner, grew up in the low country of South Carolina. She stays true to her Southern roots on Mother’s Day, whipping up a batch of her mother’s famous Pimento Cheese. "Beyond being one of my mom's favorite things, this dish is perfect for Mother’s Day, as it can be set out as an all-afternoon snack,” she said. “Often on the weekends, we'd spend our time outside as a family in the yard, on the beach or in the boat. There were always snacks around, including pimento cheese. It's incredibly easy, fast, and can be made way ahead of time and kept on hand for perfect timing. Not to mention it's delicious served with or on just about anything."

Kelly Field’s Mom’s Pimento Cheese
3 cups extra-sharp cheddar, shredded
12 ounces cream cheese
7 ounces mayonnaise
2 ounces sour cream
1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3  teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 whole jalapeno
6 ounces pimento
Salt and pepper to taste

Seed and mince the jalapeno; set aside. Drain the pimentos well and dice if needed (diced pimentos are common to find). In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese until it is smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through to ensure even smoothness. Add in shredded cheddar cheese, garlic powder, cayenne, onion powder and crushed red pepper; mix thoroughly. Once all incorporated, add in mayo, sour cream, jalapeno and pimentos. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nico Osteria
Handmade Rigatoni

Erling Wu-Bower, chef de cuisine at the Italian restaurant Nico Osteria in Chicago, loves to make his mother a dish of pasta on Mother’s Day. “I was born in South Bend, Indiana, but my mother was born in China, and she is a noodle expert,” he says. “I enjoy preparing the rigatoni for her, because it's an Italian noodle dish that even a Chinese noodle expert loves.” Erling says he likes to make her a bowl of handmade rigatoni in a classic Bolognese sauce with pork, veal and beef. “It’s a simple and classic Italian dish, not too heavy but full of flavor.”

Raspberry Tart
Raspberry Tart

Eric Kayser, the baker known round the world for his Viennoiserie, baguettes and library of over 100 types of artisan bread at Maison Kayser, says he had a dream when he was 3 years old that he would become a baker. His parents, who owned a bakery until he was 10, might have had something to do with nurturing that dream. On Mother’s Day, he favors something sweet and pretty for his mom: a raspberry tart.

Love Cakes
Black Bean Love Cakes

Like many chefs, Lucero Martinez of New York City’s Pampano is often working on holidays. When she was growing up in Atlanta, her family owned (and still owns) a popular Mexican restaurant, Zocalo. The tradition in the their family was that Mom would come in for brunch and order her favorite dish — Love Cakes — a recipe developed by Martinez. These sweet black bean cakes are held together with masa, topped with fried eggs, salsa and served with a steak. “It’s what I make for my mom whenever we are together on Mother’s Day,” says Martinez.

Chef Lucero Martinez’s Love Cakes (Gorditas de Frijol)

Yield: 10 to 12 patties (5 servings)
2 cups corn maseca
2 cups refried black beans (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup canola oil, divided
Refried Beans:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 white onion
3 cups black beans (canned or soaked)
1 teaspoon salt
Sour cream
Queso fresco
Feta cheese

In a large bowl, add the maseca, refried beans, water and salt. Mix well with your hands until fully incorporated. Begin making the patties by rolling the dough into 2- to 3-ounce balls and then flatting into disks, about 1/4 inch thick. To cook the patties, add 1/4 cup of canola oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add patties, 3 or 4 at a time. Let patties brown and become crisp before flipping (about 3 minutes per side). Serve immediately with sour cream, your favorite salsa and queso fresco or feta cheese.

For the Refried Beans:

In a medium saute pan, place canola oil and onion over a medium-high heat. Let the onions brown slightly, then discard. Add strained black beans to the pan and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and begin mashing beans in the pan until they reach a pureed consistency. Remove the beans from the pan and let cool.

Eggs Benedict

For the past 10 years, Cava Grill’s Chef Dimitri Moshovitis has worked on Mother’s Day. Rather than spend the day alone, his mother has always come into the restaurant to have her son cook her something special. “My mom would come to wherever I was cooking and I would make her one of her favorite dishes, pan-roasted filet mignon eggs Benedict: grilled English muffins, thick slices of grilled tomato, perfect medium-rare filet mignon, silky lemony hollandaise, and I would finish the dish with lots of fresh cracked pepper. I'll make her the same this year at Cava,” he says. “It's where my obsession for hollandaise came from.” His hollandaise recipe, below, is guaranteed to make any egg dish special enough for Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day Hollandaise 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 egg yolks
4 to 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
10 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons white wine

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to foam, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put egg yolks, lemon juice, wine, Tabasco, salt and pepper into the jar of an electric blender.

Cover, and blend on high speed for 2 seconds; then, with the motor still running, gradually add melted butter in a slow, steady stream through hole in blender lid, leaving milky solids behind. Adjust seasonings.

Lamb Meatballs

At  Hundred Acres, Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer’s farm-to-table restaurant in New York City, Executive Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja serves food that draws on the rustic, vibrant flavors of Italy, Morocco and Tunisia. It’s a menu that’s close to her heart; her father is Indonesian and her mother is Italian. On Mother’s Day, Nurdjaja loves to make her mother a bowl of rather unusual meatballs.

“My mother makes the best meatballs,” she says. “I can remember standing by the stove with a piece of torn semolina bread in my left hand, a hot meatball in my right, and a mini bowl of sauce for dipping ... this was my own personal antipasto!” Nurdjaja has developed her own meatball recipe, one that reflects her Italian and Indonesian heritage. “Weather permitting, you can find us outside in my mother's backyard, bourbon cocktails in hand, eating while we are setting the table, grilling up these lamb meatballs for our new type of antipasto!"

Spiced Lamb Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 cup red onion, grated on box grater
1 clove garlic, grated
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons mint, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Mix lamb with the grated onion and garlic. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest, spices, harissa and half of the olive oil. Form lamb mixture into 1.5-inch balls. To grill them, cook meatballs on direct heat for 6 to 8 minutes.

For the mint yogurt:
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest of lemon
1/4 teaspoons of salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix.

Charred scallions:
3 bunches of scallions

Cut root side of scallions, toss with olive oil and salt, and grill until tender and charred.

Chicken Casserole

"When I was growing up, my mother was a big fan of casseroles,” says Rachel Dow, executive chef of The Betty in Chicago. “She had to cook for a crowd, and I totally get it. One pan, maybe two, and you can get other things done while it’s cooking and make sure your children aren’t being little punks sticking things into sockets or blowing up 2-liter bottles with dry ice and water.” When Dow asked her mother what she was craving for Mother’s Day, her answer was Chicken Valencia. Rather than let her daughter come up with her own recipe, she mailed the original recipe straight from her hand-written recipe book. “I took a couple liberties with her version, but [it] stays pretty true to the Dow Mom rendition,” says Dow. “These nostalgic, savory flavors have a good balance of acid and sweetness. The woman knows what she wants, and it’s the Midwest meets Valencia, Spain … kind of."

Chicken Valencia à la Mom Dow
8 chicken leg quarters
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 ounces canola or grapeseed oil
1/2 cup Cerignola olives, pitted and sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, peeled, cored and quartered
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, small dice
1 red bell pepper, seeded, medium dice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
12 ounces chicken stock
4 ounces dry white wine
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
6 ounces Manchego, grated
2 oranges, supremed and juiced
2 ounces lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season the chicken evenly with the salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off excess. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slowly brown chicken in two batches on both sides, being careful not to burn. Remove from pan, reserving the oil; place chicken pieces in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle olives over the chicken and arrange Roma tomatoes between chicken pieces.

Melt butter in the pan. Sweat garlic, onions and bell pepper for 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour and paprika to the pan. Cook the floured vegetable mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add stock, wine and tomatoes to the pan. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Check seasoning and add salt if needed. Add remaining ingredients and pour over chicken, being careful to not splatter on the sides of the pan. Cover pan and bake until chicken is loose at the joint from the thigh to the leg. Serve over rice.

Photos courtesy of The Bel Air, Rush Jagoe, Sandy Noto, Maison Kayser, Pampano

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