We asked chefs: What’s your favorite winter ingredient?

"We asked chefs" is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food.

Last modified on January 18th, 2019 at 8:48 am

“We Asked Chefs” is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food. Read their responses to the latest: “what’s your favorite winter ingredient?”


Ivor Cryderman

Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House
Executive chef Ivor Cryderman at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Ivor Cryderman at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Brussels sprouts most definitely. I love’em — eating’em, cooking’em, everything about’em. You can use the little beauties in so many ways: pickled, roasted, shaved into a salad, grilled, tossed into a soup, and of course — my favorite — fried. You’ll have to come by Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House soon because they might be making an appearance in the coming weeks.”

View our October 2018 Nine on the Line with Ivor Cryderman.

C.J. Hamm

Saguaro Corners • Mulligan’s
Executive chef CJ Hamm at Saguaro Corners (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef CJ Hamm at Saguaro Corners (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My favorite winter ingredient is an obscure herb that has been garnering much [attention] as of late. Tree Fiddy is a beautifully salty accompaniment to winter plates all around Tucson.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with C.J. Hamm.

Matt Kraiss

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery (at the time of interview)
Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“When I think of the winter, I think of the stuff that was cooked in my house growing up: big batches of soup and chili — with my mom’s freezer bags of hatch chili that were always abundant.

Now as a chef, I think of soup still. From sweet squash purees to hearty potato soups and all the fun garnishes to top them with — crispy, fried potato skins, and fried onions and fun infused oils. It’s all part of the fun of soup and as a young chef or line cook, a lot of the time the responsibility to make a ‘soup of the day’ is shared between everyone — so there’s always some friendly competition going on.

I also think of anise, which has become one of my favorite things to play with over the years — especially for braised meats I have been doing recently for ramen. The flavor of anise goes great with soy and chili and also makes great winter pickled vegetables.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Matt Kraiss.

Mateo Otero

Rollies Mexican Patio
Owner-chef Mateo Otero at Rollies Mexican Patio (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Owner-chef Mateo Otero at Rollies Mexican Patio (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Cinnamon.”

View our December 2017 article Rollies Mexican Patio brings fun, modern Mexican to South 12th Avenue.

John “J.P.” Pratt

Tohono Chul Garden Bistro
Executive John "JP" Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive John “JP” Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I would have to say my favorite winter ingredients are: citrus, leeks, winter squash, and all the winter greens and herbs. There is so much you can do with all of them during the season.”

View our October 2018 Nine on the Line: Chef John “JP” Pratt from Tohono Chul Garden Bistro.

David Solorzano

Americana Provisions
Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef David Solorzano (left) plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My favorite winter vegetable is, hands-down, cauliflower. Cauliflower is super versatile — you can butter-baste it while baking it, you can fry it, saute it, steam it, roast it, and even break it down and pickle the stems and use the tops by grating them and making faux grits — the possibilities are endless.

Not to mention, [cauliflower is] absolutely delicious. Even though some chefs are using it more often, I feel it still is a very underrated vegetable.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with David Solorzano.

Fulvia Steffenone

Caffe Milano
Chef Fulvia Steffenone "La Fufi" at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Fulvia Steffenone “La Fufi” at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“[In my opinion], corn is the ingredient that best symbolizes winter in Italy. Corn-based dishes give a lot of heat, even from a visual point of view.

If we talk about corn and Italy, it is impossible not to think about polenta, in all its forms: solid or almost liquid, white or yellow — depending on the variety of corn we will use — stuffed with cheese or as an accompaniment to meat and game. And again, fried thin and crispy sheets — children in Italy steal them from hand-to-hand, it’s so good — or used as a pizza, topped with tomato and mozzarella and baked in the oven.

A wonder that is good for health and that does not cease, after many centuries, to inspire the imagination of cooks.”

View our November 2018 Nine on the Line: Chef “La Fufi” Fulvia Steffenone from Caffe Milano.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
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