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Chef Ernest Servantes Dishes on Food, Family, and Christmas

December 11, 2017

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Food is an important part of TLU Chef Ernest Servantes’ life. It’s a passion and a profession that has won him hundreds of cooking competitions, including Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters.” But during Christmas, food has an even deeper meaning for him and his family.

“Growing up in Uvalde, Texas, my family didn’t have a lot of money to buy things, so we showed affection through food,” Servantes said. “I’ve been blessed to be on so many cooking shows and have success as a chef. But when you’re cooking together with your family for your family, you really put all of your love into it. Cooking Christmas meals for my family is definitely sentimental and special. I look forward to it all year.”

Chef Ernie’s Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri

Ingredients

5 to 8-lb leg of lamb, butterflied

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

Chimichurri Ingredients

7 peeled garlic cloves

2 bunches curly leaf parsley

2 bunches cilantro

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 cups good quality extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional Items

Food processor

Large roasting pan

Meat thermometer

Chef Ernie Cooking Tip: Make the chimichurri a day before cooking the lamb. Let the sauce sit out at room temperature. Do not refrigerate. Also, ask your butcher to butterfly the leg of lamb for you if you’re not sure how.

Cooking Directions for Chimichurri

Combine garlic, parsley, cilantro, red wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper into a food processor. Puree until mixture has a nice grittiness. Cover and let flavors mix overnight. Do not refrigerate.

Cooking Directions for Lamb

Place lamb in large roasting pan. Rub top of lamb with sea salt and pepper to taste and cover with ½ of the chimichurri. Marinate and refrigerate overnight preferably, but no less than eight hours.

Place oven on broil. Remove lamb from fridge after appropriate time. Once oven is heated, place lamb inside. Cook until internal temperature reaches 125°, (medium rare) making sure to flip lamb every 30 minutes. Check temperature often. Once lamb is ready, remove from oven. Let meat rest for at least 30 to 45 minutes before serving. Serve remaining chimichurri with lamb.

Chef Ernie Tip: Lamb MUST rest before serving and it’s highly recommended to cook lamb until medium rare or it reaches an internal temperature of 125°.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

FYI: This recipe serves 10 people. It can be halved if cooking for a smaller crowd.

Ingredients

2 cups Arborio rice

2 sticks of unsalted butter

½ a yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced

8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced

8 oz button mushrooms, sliced

1 cup of a good quality, dry white wine (chardonnay works well)

¾ gallon chicken or vegetable stock

16 oz heavy cream

8 oz parmesan or fontina cheese, shredded

4 oz goat cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional Items

A heavy duty 4-quart saucepan (2-quart if halving recipe)

FYI: This risotto recipe has been modified to make it less labor intensive than most traditional methods. Chef Ernie says it’s ok to add all the liquids at once when making risotto instead of one or half a cup at a time.

Chef Ernie Tip: Unless your house is burning down, DO NOT leave the risotto unattended during the cooking process.

Cooking Directions

Put one stick of butter in pan on low to medium heat and add onions, garlic. Sautee until onions are soft. Add mushrooms and sauté. Remove from heat, put in small bowl, and set aside. Melt the remaining stick of butter in the saucepan. Add rice and cook until slightly opaque, making sure to stir constantly. Add white wine and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring every five minutes until rice is soft and liquid has been mostly absorbed. Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms back to rice and combine. At the very end, add both cheeses and the heavy cream. Stir very well. Let the risotto sit for a few minutes. Add salt to taste and serve hot.