Private Chef Services


This past summer I made my first foray into the world of private chef services. Until this summer, I had prepared an occasional private event, usually for good customers of the restaurants I was involved with, or for friends. But I have found that I really enjoy this type of work and now I want to make it a larger part of the services I offer.

This service will be a premium one. I don’t want to do weddings for 300 guests but, instead, private dinner parties with customized menus. The menus may be presented as buffets, plated and coursed events, or as tasting menus with a variety of options. I will also offer paired food and beverage menus that reflect the use of locally grown fruits and vegetables, locally sourced fish and meats and locally produced wines, beers, ciders and coffee.

Sarde en Saor
Sarde en Saor

I can provide this service anywhere in the world for customers who live or entertain outside of the United States. Customers will need to provide the event venue, whether it be a private home, a public space, or a winery setting. If rentals are necessary for an event we can deal with it in a flexible manner.

Roasted Prime Beef Rib Roast
Roasted Prime Beef Rib Roast

You can also see this information on the new page I added to this website under the Private Chef Services link on the top right of the site.

My Thanksgiving Recipes in Newsday

My Thanksgiving Recipes in Newsday

Today in Newsday, my friend Erica Marcus wrote their annual Thanksgiving story and I provided the recipes for the article. The recipes were developed before the photo shoot and they were revised and refined as we shot the dishes. What does that mean? It means the recipes work and they are delicious. Take a look and check them out. You should make as many of them as you can because they are really easy and delicious.

Here are the recipes as they appeared in Newsday:

Roast Turkey and Gravy

1 (10-to-12 pound) turkey
Kosher salt


1. The night before Thanksgiving, take the turkey out of its wrapping, dry it off, and, from a distance of about a foot, give it a nice sprinkling of kosher salt. Grind some pepper onto it then refrigerate it, uncovered.

2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator up to an hour before you plan to roast it. Place it on a rack in a sturdy sheet pan or shallow roasting pan (you want air to circulate around the bird as it cooks) and put it on the bottom shelf of the oven. If your oven is deep enough, put the legs facing the back of the oven.

3. Turn oven down to 300 degrees and roast for about 3 hours, until the temperature of the breast registers 150 to 160 degrees and the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 to 170 degrees. Carefully remove turkey to a carving board so you can deglaze the drippings in the roasting pan. Let turkey rest for at least 45 minutes and up to 90 minutes before carving. Makes 8 servings plus leftovers.


The secret to this gravy is using dark poultry stock (recipe below) — stock that has been made with roasted chicken or turkey and, instead of water, a regular stock.

Pan drippings (still in roasting pan)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups dark poultry stock
Turkey giblets, trimmed of connective tissue and chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. After you remove the turkey from the roasting pan, pour off the fat in the pan and discard. Then add a cup of water and put the pan back into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes, until the drippings stuck to the bottom loosen enough to be scraped into the water with a wooden spoon. Pour into a heatproof vessel and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, combine butter and flour and stir, over medium heat, until you have a richly tanned roux, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in the liquid from the roasting pan and the poultry stock. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until mixture slightly thickens. Add optional giblets. Taste for salt and pepper (it may not need any). Makes 3 1/2 cups.


1 1/2 pounds turkey wings or thighs
1 1/2 pounds turkey gizzards and/or necks
2 pounds chicken thighs
4 quarts homemade chicken stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the items on a sheet tray and roast in the oven until nicely browned, about 1 hour or so.

2. Remove them from the sheet tray and place them in a large pot. Add the cooled chicken stock and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 quarts, 1 to 2 hours. Strain and reserve. Makes about 2 1/4 quarts.


4 pounds chicken backs, necks, thighs and/or wings

Combine chicken with 6 quarts of water in a large pot, bring to a boil and then reduce the flame so that the liquid maintains a strong simmer (just a bit less than a boil). Cook for 3 hours, until slightly reduced, and then strain the stock. Discard the bones and chill until needed. Makes about 4 quarts.

Creamed Italian Onions with Thyme and Creme Fraiche

2 pounds cipollini onions, or pearl onions
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark poultry stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Trim the ends off the onions but leave on the skins. Bring a pot of water (make sure it is large enough to hold the onions) to a boil over high heat. Add the onions and blanch for 1 minute and then drain them in a colander under cool running water. Peel the onions and add them back to the pot.

2. With the onions in the pot, add the creme fraiche, heavy cream and poultry stock and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the liquid thickens enough to coat the onions and the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the herbs. If the liquid seems too thick, you can thin it with a little stock or water. Makes 8 servings.

Aromatic Sausage and Herb Stuffing

16 cups bread cut into 2-inch cubes, white or sourdough (1.5 pounds or so)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
4 cloves of garlic smashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet fennel sausage, casings removed and broken up
3 cups dark poultry stock (or canned, low-sodium broth)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Place the toasted bread cubes in a very large bowl.

2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

3. In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, stirring often to keep breaking up the sausage. Add to the bread-and-vegetable mixture.

4. Add the chicken stock to the mixture, mix well, and add it to a buttered 9 inch-by-12-inch Pyrex or enamel baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm or reheat in a 300 degree over if necessary. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Leaves with Pancetta and Brown Butter

4 tablespoons butter
6 ounces pancetta, in 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, cored and leaves separated
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 bunch of thyme, leaves stripped off and chopped


1. Brown the butter by putting it into a small saucepan and heating over medium until it has a nutty aroma, turns a rich tan color and the milk solids, which will initially float to the top, fall to the bottom. Scrape up the solids and pour into a heatproof vessel. Set aside.

2. Unroll the round pancetta slices into strips and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat starts to render and it begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer pancetta to a small strainer placed over a small bowl.

3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high and cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until it is fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add Brussels sprout leaves, tossing and letting them wilt slightly before adding more; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until leaves are browned in spots and the edges are crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, pancetta, thyme and brown butter; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 servings.

Yukon Gold Potato Puree

2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes scrubbed and pricked with a fork
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
Salt to taste
Snipped chives, to garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove them from the oven and let cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and then, using a potato ricer, rice them into a mixing bowl.

2. In a saucepan, heat the butter and milk until the butter is mostly melted and the milk is steaming. Keep stirring the mixture into the riced potatoes until the mixture is fully combined. (For creamier potatoes, you can work them through a metal strainer or sieve, or place them in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and beat them on medium speed until creamy.) Season to taste with salt and top with snipped chives. Makes 8 servings.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over and rinsed
1 cup best-quality, amber-colored maple syrup
1 stick of cinnamon, toasted over an open flame until aromatic
1 orange, zested with a Microplane grater, then juiced


1. Combine the cranberries, maple syrup, cinnamon and orange juice in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, just until the cranberries pop, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat, stir in the zest and let it cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Leave the cinnamon stick in it. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TIP: When you toast the cinnamon stick over your gas burner, use tongs. If you have an electric range, you can forego the toasting.

Watercress, Endive & Pomegranate Salad

1 pomegranate, halved, seeds removed and set aside (see note)
2 bunches watercress, trimmed, washed and dried, about 8 ounces
3 endives, broken into leaves
4 ounces Cabrales or another blue cheese, crumbled
4 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1. Combine the pomegranate seeds, watercress, endive, Cabrales and parsley in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss with the salad, and serve. Makes 8 servings.

NOTE: To extract pomegranate seeds, cut the fruit in half through its equator. Place a large bowl of water in the sink. Hold the halved pomegranate in one hand so that the cut half is down, facing your palm. With your other hand, use a wooden spoon to whack the skin side of the pomegranate all over. The seeds will fall out into your hand, and then into the water. Keep whacking until all the seeds are out. The white pith will be floating on top of the water; the seeds will sink. Skim off the pith, then strain out the seeds. Many greengrocers also sell plastic containers of pomegranate seeds.

Sweet Potato Panna Cotta with Maple Syrup

3 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (about 1 1/2 [1/4-ounce] packages)
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweet potato puree
1/2 to 1 cup good-quality, dark amber maple syrup

1. In a small bowl, whisk the gelatin with 1/4 cup cold water and set aside.

2. Whisk the cream, milk, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat until just beginning to boil.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin. Whisk in the sweet potato purée, and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pitcher or liquid measure. Divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins or coffee cups. When cool, cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until firm and cool, at least 4 and up to 48 hours.

4. Unmold the panna cotta by dipping the bottom of each ramekin in hot water briefly, and then running a paring knife around the edge all the way to the bottom to loosen it. Cover with a dessert plate and invert, give it a firm shake, and then remove the ramekin or coffee cup. Drizzle each unmolded panna cotta with a little maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.

Bay Scallop Season is Back

Atlantic Bay Scallop Season is Here

Peconic Bay scallops
Peconic Bay scallops

The first Monday of November is a day I always look forward to, but this hasn’t always been the case. The Atlantic bay scallop season begins on that day and over the years it has been a rollercoaster ride of harvests and availability. The lives of bay scallops in the Peconic estuary are linked directly with the presence of eelgrass beds in the area. In the 1930s, a “wasting disease” affected the eelgrass and then again, in 1985, brown tide blooms essentially destroyed the eelgrass and, therefore, the scallops.

When I first came out to the east end to cook, in 1992 at Della Femina restaurant in East Hampton, we generally had reliable harvests of bay scallops but they were never as big as those from the years before 1985. Through most of the latter 1990s, the harvests continued to dwindle and by the early 2000s there were almost no scallops coming to market. If we wanted to cook with bay scallops we were forced to buy the Nantucket scallops which, while very good, were not as tasty or as sweet as the local scallops.

In 2005, Cornell Cooperative Extension and their partners began a project to restore the eelgrass and bay scallop populations in the Peconic estuary and by 2009 we began to once again see notable harvests. Last year, during the 2014-15 scallop season, we finally noticed a sustained availability and the start of the 2015-16 season looks pretty good, too. Only time will tell how it plays out, but it is nice to have such a delicious local and seasonal resource available again.

The real beauty of these scallops is their sweet, saline flavor. They can be prepared raw, lightly pickled or cured, and fully cooked and they are delicious in all of these ways. My favorite preparations include sliced raw and served with ponzu and other Asian flavors or lightly warmed in brown butter with lemon and sage. I have seared them and served them with quickly seared foie gras and porcini mushrooms and I have also served them as a ceviche with a variety of citrus components. Versatility is another of their strengths.

Bay scallops with brown butter, bacon & lemon
Bay scallops with brown butter, bacon & lemon

If you happen to live on Long Island or in the tri-state area, you should indulge yourself this season with some bay scallops. You can prepare them at home or eat them in a restaurant. You will be glad that you did.

Chick-fil-A hits Long Island

Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches and nuggets, recently opened in Port Jefferson, NY. The chain enjoys a large and dedicated following that loves the reasonably priced offerings on the menu. The quality of those offerings is another thing to love. There is a vast qualitative difference between what Chick-fil-A puts between the bun and the sandwiches from the mega-chains.

When I arrived at the recently opened Port Jefferson location the parking lot was jammed but well-managed by a store employee who was separating the drive-thru crowd from the folks planning to eat inside. Once I headed inside I was stopped on a line that snaked from the counter to the front door, composed of maybe fifteen to twenty people. Occasionally the line grew longer but the staff, who were friendly and helpful, did a good job of keeping everything moving.

When I made it to the counter to place my order I chose a “spicy chicken sandwich meal” which included the sandwich, a side of waffle fries and a bottle of water. The bill was $7.59, which is comparable to the mega-chains for the same type of meal.

Spicy fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A
Spicy fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A

So how was the food? It was alright. The sandwich was actually quite good and the chicken retained a decent amount of moisture. This never happens at the mega-chains regardless of if they are frying a natural breast or a restructured patty. The bun was almost perfect–soft, white, squishy, and lightly toasted with two slices of large diameter pickles. The breading was thicker around the edges of the breast while the flat surfaces could have used a little extra to make them crispier. The waffle fries were a disaster. They were white, soft and the only hint of crispiness occurred as they cooled and the potato starch film dried out on their surface.

Bight thru of the spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A
Bight thru of the spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A

As fast food goes Chick-fil-A seems to invest more in training their employees than the mega-chains and they also offer a higher quality product, with the exception of the waffle fries. I think they tend to benefit from having a well-focused menu while the mega-chains struggle by offering too much diversity on their menus. At the end of the day, it is just a fried chicken breast sandwich. But it’s better than anything you will find on the McMenus of the mega-chains.

The unfortunate waffle frie from Chick-fil-A
The unfortunate waffle fries from Chick-fil-A

Making a sandwich like this at home is really not so difficult and it will allow you to control what kind of chicken you use–hopefully one that is raised humanely and without growth hormones and antibiotics.  You can check out the way my friend Kenji Lopez-Alt does it at The Food Lab on Serious Eats.  You should also check out his new cookbook called The Food Lab for even more fun cooking.

Copyright 2015 Kevin Penner

Burgers and The Food Lab Cookbook

I have been reading through an excellent new cookbook called “The Food Lab” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. First of all, if you like to cook, buy the book. Kenji does a great job of demystifying the process on a number of levels and his book is also fun to read and easy to follow. The recipes are very well-tested and explained and the photography really helps with the explanatory process. As a working chef who has spent over 30 years in restaurant kitchens, I can also attest to the deliciousness of the recipes.

Lately, I have been reading through his discussion of burgers and the logic behind cooking them well. He does a great job of nailing the “smash” burger technique and his “pub-style” burger discussion is also excellent. If you read them and follow his lead you will be cooking outstanding hamburgers at home (pay special attention to his discussion of beef at the beginning of the section).

Back in 2008, when I was the executive chef of the 1770 House and cittanuova in East Hampton, NY, we decided to overhaul our burger operations at both restaurants. The first move was to come up with a better beef blend for the burgers. We had always used ground chuck that typically was eighty percent lean and twenty percent fat (80/20) and we had a pretty solid burger. But I wanted something more indulgent. I approached my friends at Main Street Meats in Farmingdale, NY about the project and after testing a lot of blends we came up with one that used beef chuck as the base and we added brisket, flap meat, and aged rib cap to finish it. The flavor was great, but the texture was not what I was looking for. We tried a grind that was coarser and we finally had our blend. The coarser grind allowed the fat to melt more slowly and gave the burger a better chew. And it was very indulgent.

My burger, originally designed for the 1770 House
My burger, originally designed for the 1770 House. Note the coarse grind of the meat.
Seasoned burger, originally designed for the 1770 House in East Hampton, NY.
Seasoned burger is ready to be smashed and griddled. Use plenty of salt and pepper.

From the standpoint of technique, the burger was already cooked using the “smash” method on a griddle but it was an eight ounce burger, closer to what Kenji refers to in his book as a “pub-style” burger. So the burger I developed for the restaurants was a mash-up of the two styles of burgers he discusses in The Food Lab. Check out my photos (from 2009 I think) and buy Kenji’s cookbook. It’s all good fun.

Toasted burger bun
Toasted burger bun is first buttered
Seasoned burger, on the griddle.
Seasoned burger, on the griddle, after the smash.
On the griddle. Designed originally for the 1770 House in East Hampton, NY. Typically between 75/25 and 80/20, ground chuck, brisket, aged rib cap.
On the griddle and after the flip. Typically between 75/25 and 80/20, ground chuck, brisket, aged rib cap and flap meat.

copyright 2015 Kevin Penner

Summer Food 2015 in Pictures

Here is a photo recollection of the things I cooked this summer and some photos of local foods as well–the things I get to cook.

Copyright 2015 Kevin Penner

Cooking on the East End at Home

I came to the east end of Long Island twenty-four years ago to open a restaurant. At that time, there were a couple of people growing vegetables to sell to restaurants, most from what were large gardens and not farms. There were some people fishing in the local waters and some baymen clamming and harvesting bay scallops who would then sell to local restaurants and markets. The wineries were mostly new and trying to figure out what grapes to grow and how to properly vinify them. Most of the local restaurants were buying their produce and meat and fish from jobbers and distributors who might also have been importers of some European products.

So it is interesting to look back at those times from the standpoint of today on the east end. The North and South Forks of Long Island have become amazing places to cook, farm, fish and make wine. We now have a large number of local oyster beds that produce some of the finest oysters in the United States. The bay scallops, which were adversely affected by a brown tide in the mid-1980s, have come back to solid levels. The wineries have refined their efforts so dramatically that solid and consistent bottlings have replaced the inconsistent and not so good offerings of the time when I came here. We have local wheat and bakers who mill that wheat and make great bread with it. Small scale food production businesses continue to blossom and sell their products in the NYC market and in some cases nationwide. A few farmers on both forks are raising cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens of outstanding quality. The farmers who focus on vegetables are now large and well managed, turning out plenty of fantastic tomatoes, greens, potatoes, onions, garlic, sweetcorn and much, much more. It is now possible to cook in a restaurant that uses almost 100% locally grown, caught and produced products. Who would have thought this was possible when I first arrived? Not me.

I will go one step further and say that right now, in 2015, there is no finer place to cook with local ingredients in the United States. There is no other place in the United States where the farming of vegetables, fruits, grains, animal husbandry, winemaking and fishing coalesce to the degree that they do here.

This is a big claim to make, I suppose, in some quarters. But there is no other wine region in the country that has the fish and shellfish available to cooks in their area in the proximity that we do here on the east end. Long Island may be a little late to the game, but it has arrived in a very big way. When you look at the area regionally instead of locally, say from Portland, Maine to northern Virginia, the agriculture, aquaculture, fishing industry and viticulture is truly amazing and often overlooked in the food press.

The food press spends far too much time fetishizing food and chefs. The most important part of what is happening to food in the US, namely the growing demand for well made, well grown, sustainably harvested and distributed foods is happening before the chefs get their deliveries or do their purchasing. It happens on the farms and in the water and in the vineyards. I think in the future we will see restaurants playing a smaller role in food culture. The larger roles will stay with the farmers, fishermen and with the people who are remaking food manufacturing in the country.

The story I want to tell takes place where I am and where I cook. But as the growth of small-scale farming and food production continues all over the country this type of cooking can happen anywhere.

I am a chef. I have been cooking as locally as possible since I was a kid in college cooking for myself. As a chef, I have always supported local vendors and will continue to do so. My next concern is to find a way to get people to learn how to cook again so that they can enjoy delicious, healthful, locally sourced foods in their own homes. People at all economic levels have come to rely on everything from shitty prepared foods sold in big box stores and supermarket chains to high-end restaurants for their sustenance. Cooking at home at a reasonably high level, with amazing local ingredients and making truly delicious food is the future.  And it is not that difficult.

This past summer was the first one in about 30 years that I didn’t spend in a restaurant kitchen. I cooked in a private home. And while I was cooking there I came to the realization that the meals I prepared could be cooked in any home that has running water, a stove, and a few kitchen tools. In the coming weeks and months, I want to provide some recipes and insights that will allow more people to enjoy cooking well, more healthfully and entertaining at home with friends and family. We’re going to be cooking on the east end and we will be cooking at home.



copyright 2015 Kevin Penner

Summer is Winding Down

Summer is winding down but there is still time to enjoy the remaining days by eating tomatoes. Panzanella is one of my favorite ways to eat them. This classic bread salad is great for entertaining at home because it can be started ahead of time and finished at the last minute.

End of Summer Panzanella
2 servings as an appetizer

Preheat an oven to 400F

100 g. fresh country bread cut into 1″ cubes
2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Toss the oil and the bread so the bread is well coated, place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned. It should have a crispy exterior and a soft interior.

15 g. shallot, minced
15 g. garlic, minced
30 g. cherry tomatoes cut into quarters (I like Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes-they are very small and very sweet)
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. decent quality red wine
1/2 t. kosher salt
90 g. green heirloom tomatoes cut into 1″ pieces-save any juices (I like Aunt Rubie’s German Green)
90 g. red heirloom tomatoes cut into 1″ pieces-save any juices (Stick to larger beefsteak heirlooms like Black Krims)
6 basil leaves-I like Thai basil but any will do
4 T. extra virgin olive oil (Frantoia is good)

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. The salt will draw the juice out of the tomatoes. Let the ingredients rest together at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Add the bread and let it all rest together for another 20 minutes. Mix it well again and serve in a shallow bowl or on a plate.

This salad works well as a base for grilled fish, grilled chicken, veal cutlets and other mild flavored meats.


copyright 2015 Kevin Penner