Chefs of the Triangle
Sumptuous Southern dishes from the new book

Editor’s note: “Chefs of the Triangle: Their Lives, Recipes, and Restaurants,” a book written by Ann Prospero, was recently published by John F. Blair. Here are excerpts, including the chefs’ own recipes.


This book celebrates all the grand chefs who make the Triangle a mecca of delectable and memorable food, an area that has been recognized by the New York Times, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Saveur, Food & Wine and other national, regional and local publications.








Sweet and Sour Vidalia Onion Relish
By Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham

Customers might see Scott Howell dressed in chef’s whites, shorts and a baseball cap, delivering food to tables. Yet the executive chef and owner of Nana’s restaurant in Durham is one of the country’s outstanding chefs.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large Vidalia onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Campari
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions, cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened. Uncover, add sugar, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are very tender and lightly browned. Stir in raisins, vinegar and Campari, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook uncovered over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.

This relish can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups


Southern Field Pea Salad
By Shane Ingram of Four Square in Durham

Chef Shane Ingram and his wife and partner, Elizabeth Woodhouse, now have the restaurant of their dreams. Named the area’s most romantic restaurant by Citysearch, Four Square came to fruition only through years of training and honing of skills.

½ cup blended olive oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1-½ teaspoons honey

In a small bowl, slowly whisk olive oil into vinegar until mixture thickens and is blended. Whisk in mustard. Whisk in honey.

1 cup fresh field peas, blanched
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced small
1 onion, grilled and diced small
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallot
2 ribs celery, diced small
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine field peas, apples, onions, garlic, shallots and celery. Mix in vinaigrette. Add chives and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6-8 servings

Note: The chef says the field peas may be substituted with any beans or peas.


Salsa Verde
By Tim Lyons of Blu Seafood and Bar in Durham

“At Blu, we use salsa verde to brush on our whole fish as it roasts in the oven. However, it can be used on steaks, chicken, and vegetables, even pasta,” chef Tim says.

½ bunch parsley
½ bunch cilantro
½ bunch basil
4 cloves garlic
1 shallot
2 tablespoons capers
4 anchovy fillets
½ cup blended oil
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place first 7 ingredients and half the oil in a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Slowly add remaining oil.

Makes 1-1/2 cups


Coq au Vin
By Chris Stinnett and John Vandergrift of Pop’s: A Durham Trattoria and Rue Cler in Durham

John and Chris share ownership of the two restaurants and the bakery that is part of Rue Cler....Rue Cler was one of the first fine-dining restaurants to open in Durham’s new gentrified downtown and has remained one of the favorites.

Small bag of pearl onions
3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cooking oil
6 strips bacon, diced
4 stalks celery, diced to same size as pearl onions
3 carrots, diced to same size as pearl onions
4 cups red wine
3 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup butter, softened

Peel pearl onions by cutting a small X in the root end of each. Pour boiling water over onions and soak for 2 minutes, then drain. Cut off root ends with a paring knife; the papery skin will peel right off. To save time, peel onions up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dust chicken with flour and add salt and pepper. In a braising pan or pot, heat oil over medium heat and brown chicken. Remove chicken, add bacon, and render until brown. Add pearl onions, celery, and carrots and brown in fat with bacon for 4 to 5 minutes. Deglaze with red wine and place chicken back in over vegetables. Bring to a boil and add chicken stock, thyme, and more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil again.

Cover with foil and place in oven for 1-½ hours. Remove from oven and check tenderness of chicken; if not tender, return to oven in 20-mintue increments. Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes, then remove chicken from pot. Add butter and stir to thicken. Adjust seasonings. Replace chicken and serve with crusty bread.

Makes 4-6 servings


Lemon Bars
By Walter Royal of Angus Barn in Raleigh

This cool Iron Chef, winner of a competition with chef Cat Cora, oversees the feeding of more than 240,000 customers a year. Angus Barn, built to look like a big red barn, is one of the Triangle’s, if not the country’s, finest restaurants.

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
¾ to 1 cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup half-and-half, light cream or whole milk
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 1- to 2-inch overhang. Grease the foil and set aside. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until edges are golden. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, remaining 3 tablespoons of flour, lemon zest, lemon juice and half-and-half. Pour filling over hot crust. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more until center is set. Remove from oven and cool completely. Grasp foil overhang and lift from pan. Cut into bars. Right before serving, sift powdered sugar over bars.

Makes 36 bars


By Colin Bedford at Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro

Colin creates the recipes that the restaurant serves. He and his executive sous chef check every plate that goes out to guests. If it is not perfect, they send it back. Fearrington House Restaurant and executive chef Colin Bedford earn every diamond they get from AAA.

“My philosophy of food preparation is that simplicity is the key to maximum flavors,” he says.

1-¾ sticks butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar until pale. Add flour, cornstarch and salt, and mix until a ball forms. Chill mixture, then roll out to 1/8-inch thickness between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Cut into desired shapes and sizes, place on a cookie sheet, and bake until golden brown.

Makes 10 servings