Chef Alyssa: The Recipe for Love & Success

Sep 05, 2017
We are thrilled to have Chef Alyssa Wilen, a Charlotte native and culinary phenom, as host of our cooking stage. Her cooking classes are always sold out so you don’t want to miss this opportunity to see her first-hand!

Chef Alyssa

Whether you’re hosting book club, a game watch, a casual gathering or holiday, imagine your food spread when entertaining at home looking like a professional chef took over the kitchen. Chef Alyssa and the all-star lineup of local chefs on stage will wow you with home-entertaining cooking tips and tricks to make that vision a reality (after the show, you’ll be wanting to show off your home, right?!).

Alyssa’s dream became a reality when she met Andrew Wilen. Their recipe for success – and love – didn’t quite follow the steps you might expect though. Alyssa and Andrew dated, started a business, got engaged and then got married. While some might say they got their ingredients “mixed up,” it certainly worked for them. In a few short years, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen was named one of the top nine cooking classes in the United States by Tripping.com, Alyssa was recognized as one of Charlotte’s Top 50 Most Influential Women, and Andrew as a Forty Under 40 winner.

“Being able to work together has been amazing. As our relationship has progressed through the years, so has our creativity and our ability to add more variety to the classes. While Andrew is great at rallying the team, and figuring out all the logistics, I love learning about new foods from other cultures and finding ways to incorporate those into our classes so we can share them with others,” says Alyssa.

More than 530 classes and 4 years later, there really isn’t a genre Chef Alyssa hasn’t covered. Her classes range from beginner’s workshops to holiday-themed, and she exposes participants to exotic cuisines such as Korean, Moroccan and Thai.

Cooking

Want to get a taste before the show? Check out Alyssa’s recipe for Ricotta and Butternut Squash Toasts below.

Ricotta and Butternut Squash Toasts
Makes 12-15

1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ¼” cubes
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
2 tsp light brown sugar
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup fresh ricotta cheese (recipe follows)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh sage
Thinly sliced toasted baguette

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss squash, 2 Tbsp. oil and sugar in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until squash is golden and tender, 20-25 minutes. Let cool on sheet pan.

2. In a sauté pan, combine balsamic vinegar and sage. Simmer to reduce to a glaze, about 10. Test thickness with a spoon to see as it drips off and becomes thick and syrupy.

3. Mix ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on each baguette slice. Top each with roasted squash. Drizzle crostini with balsamic glaze.

Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Makes 1 pint

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1. Prepare a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl. Ready a piece of butchers twine for trussing the bundle later.

2. Pour the milk and cream into a pot and stir in the salt. Heat on medium-high to reach 195 °F. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minute until it curdles.

3. As the curds form on top of the whey, skim it off with a strainer basket and transfer to the cheesecloth lined basket. Allow it to drain into the bowl for 30 minutes. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

We hope you enjoy this tasty treat. For more delicious recipes see Chef Alyssa at the Southern Ideal Home Show, Sept 8-10 at The Park Expo & Conference Center. Alyssa will be taking over our Cooking Stage on Friday, Sept 8th. Check out our stage schedule for more details - and be sure to grab your tickets online, too. Save $1 when you buy online, or connect with us on Facebook and get 2-for-1. We can't wait to see you there!

Southern Ideal Home Show Logo

THE PARK EXPO & CONFERENCE CENTER
SEPTEMBER 8-10, 2017.