14 Mar SPOTLIGHT ON: Chef Curtis Stone
One of Australia’s most recognisable names on the gastronomy scene, Chef Curtis Stone, entered the world of cooking by following his heart. Before deciding on a career in the kitchen, Curtis studied for a Bachelors of Business degree from Victoria University. He credits his success to his grandmother, who instilled in him the love of food and cooking from the earliest age. At only eighteen, he took a job cooking at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne before heading to London, where he worked under eminent three-star Michelin chef, Marco Pierre White. He quickly worked his way to a Head Chef at Marco’s restaurant, Quo Vadis.
In 2014, Curtis opened his first restaurant in Beverly Hills, named Maude, as an homage to his grandmother. Maude is continuously ranked high on Los Angeles’ gastronomy scene and in 2014, TIME and Travel & Leisure listed Maude as one of the best new restaurants in the world.
This small and intimate eatery is based on a unique concept; up until this year, the menu was changed monthly, always rotating around one single ingredient. This year, however, the concept is taking a shift, planning out four seasonal menus a year each inspired by different wine regions from around the world, starting with Rioja, Spain.
Chef Stone has appeared in numerous culinary shows, such as The Celebrity Apprentice 3, The Biggest Loser and Food Network’s Iron Chef America. He published six cookbooks so far; of which, What’s for Dinner? Recipes for a busy life made the New York Times bestseller list.
Here’s a recipe for one of Stone’s famous quick and easy dishes, a delicious and nutritious pasta bake, which can be served as main or side dish, and will be loved by the whole family.
Curtis Stone’s Roasted Cauliflower, Broccoli and Pasta Bake with White Cheddar
1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into large bite-size florets
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
18 ounces (about 8 cups) broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups (about 5 ounces) penne
4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup very coarse, fresh multigrain breadcrumbs (made in a food processor or blender from 2 slices of bread)
Position racks in the top third and centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a quart baking dish or three individual crocks.
On a large baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet. On a second baking sheet, repeat with the broccoli florets and 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake veggies for 10 minutes. Stir each sheet of vegetables and switch the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom. Bake for about 10 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tinged with brown. Set aside. (Leave the oven on.)
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, for about 7 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain the penne.
Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the pancetta is browned and crisp. Add the onions and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until the onions are tender and slightly browned. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture, then stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, or until it is very pale golden brown.
Gradually stir in the milk and cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often for about 4 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly thickened and has no raw flour taste. Remove from the heat, add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the vegetables and penne to the cheese sauce and fold together. Spread evenly in the oiled baking dish. In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat, then sprinkle over the vegetable mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.