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Autumn creeps up on us like a cool breeze on a hot afternoon, prodding us to slip on a sweater and hunker down by the stove with a warm bowl of soup.

The soup leads to a slow-cooked braise, the braise leads to rib-sticking stew, and next thing you know, you are whisked off into the cozy whirlwind of the winter kitchen.

Unlike the quick meals of summer, fall dishes require the cook to slow down and proceed with patience as the kitchen fills with the aromas of cider and spice, smoke and wine.

As an homage to the season, local chefs and home cooks shared ideas about what dishes they like to serve to their families and friends in the slanting light of late autumn.

At The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa, Executive Chef Liza Hinman serves comfort foods that she has been cooking at home for the past few years, since she started a family. One of her favorites is the Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder, served with celery root mash and fennel, that she recently added to the menu.

"It uses apple cider and some fresh apples," she said. "It's a Sunday dish. Just set it up, put it in the oven, and it's ready in the evening."

Richard Whipple, executive chef of the Brasserie in Santa Rosa, likes to bake Brown Butter Apple Galettes as a simple fall dessert.

"Galettes are just a free-form pie, so you don't have to worry about making a shell," he said. "I use puff pastry for the crust."

It would not be autumn without a bite of Whipple's Mushroom and Leek Tart, made with product from Gourmet Mushrooms of Sebastopol.

"For me, fall is always mushrooms," he said. "Any kind of mushrooms work, but I prefer using a mix."

As a light supper, home cook Marna Hill of Santa Rosa warms up her kitchen with a Roasted Vegetable "Minestra" soup topped with a seasonal pesto.

"I get a little overzealous at the farm market and need to put the produce to work," she explained. "As the weather cools, roasting the vegetables (and warming the kitchen) in the fall is a prelude to winter roasting menus."

To make the soup, she cuts onions, leeks, carrots and summer squash and coats them with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then roasts them in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring once.

Then she throws it all in a food processor with hot water. Finally, she makes a pesto from basil, parsley, garlic, arugula and olive oil, to serve on top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Colleen McGlynn of DaVero in Healdsburg has been roasting whole cippollini onions this autumn as a tasty side dish.

To roast, peel the onions, then add a film of olive oil and some water to a skillet. Place the onions in the pan, then put a slightly smaller skillet on top of onions so it serves like a lid. Place the skillet over a medium flame.

After 10 minutes, when the onions are bubbling and steaming, turn them and put the lid back on, then cook until soft and browned. To finish, sprinkle a few drops of balsamic vinegar and some Maldon salt.

As a savory fall entree, professional chef Todd Muir of Healdsburg braises pork chops with caramelized onions, tomatoes and red wine.

"The deep, rich wine flavors are complemented by the caramelized pork chop," he said. "The tomato adds some acidity and the onions and soy add sweet, rich components."

Home cook Adele Barnett of Healdsburg has developed her own recipe for Tuscan Bean Soup, inspired by the ribollita she first tasted on a trip to Italy.

"I couldn't get enough of it when I was there," she said "So I came home and came up with the recipe."

Her version of the rustic soup calls for chicken, cannellini beans and kale, and she serves it over a big hunk of bread.

Autumnal tailgate parties require dishes that can be made ahead to feed a crowd. That's why Bruce Aidells of Healdsburg likes his recipe for a Chile Colorado from Mexico, which uses beef brisket and butternut squash.

"Leftovers make great fillings for tacos and enchiladas," he said.

Chris Hanna, president of Hanna Winery in Healdsburg, has two fig trees laden with the ancient fruits. When she's not baking the figs into tarts, she whips up Fig Chutney to serve alongside a pork tenderloin.

"You put in red wine and some vinegar and allspice," she said. "It's really wine-friendly."

It wouldn't be fall if there wasn't a jar of pear jam sitting on the counter of Pam Wilsey's Santa Rosa home.

"Pear jam is delicious on toast on a chilly morning," she said. "The subtle flavor of pears is a perfect complement for any fall menu."

Lise Ciolino, winemaker and owner of Montemaggiore Winery in the Dry Creek Valley, grew up in the chilly Northeast, where October marks apple season.

For breakfast, she bakes up a Dutch Apple Pancake in the oven to remind herself of her own childhood.

"It's very simple," she said. "And that's the beauty of it."

"Look for the best quality pork shoulder you can find, preferably a natural or organic product," said Liza Hinman, chef of Spinster Sisters. "Have the butcher truss the roast evenly for you. Do not trim off the fat on the outside, or you will end up with a dry roast."

Braised Pork Shoulder

Makes 6 to 8 servings

15-6 pound pork shoulder, trussed with twine



4 cups fresh apple cider

1 cup cider vinegar

6 cups chicken stock

2 yellow onions

2 heads of fennel

4 sprigs thyme

6 sage leaves

2 bay leaves

5 tart, crisp apples (Sierra beauties, Gravensteins, Golden Delicious)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

One hour before cooking, remove the pork from the refrigerator and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover lightly and leave at room temperature to come to room temperature while preparing the vegetables.

Slice the onion and fennel into large thick slices. Pick the thyme and sage and lightly chop.

Preheat a large dutch oven or heavy bottom ovenproof pot with a lid large enough for the pork roast, and add 3 tablespoons canola oil and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pork and let brown for 3-4 minute, then rotate. Repeat until the entire roast is well browned. Remove the roast, drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil, and return to the heat.

Add the onions and fennel and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly tender. Add the herbs, 2/3 cup of cider vinegar and all of the apple cider to the pan, and use a spoon to scrape up all of the carmelization off the bottom of the pan. Once the cider has come to a boil, add the chicken stock and the pork into the pan. The liquid should come at least halfway up sides of the pork. Once the liquid returns to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and put into the oven. (Cooking time is about 2? hours.)

While the pork is roasting, cut each apple into 8 pieces and remove the core. After 1 hour of cooking, add the apples to the pot around the roast, re-cover and return to the oven. Roast for 1 more hour. Remove the lid for the final 30 minutes of cooking time to allow the meat to brown.

To check for doneness, insert a knife into the meat. If you can insert the knife through easily, and the meat seems very tender, it is done. Remove from the oven, uncover, and carefully remove the meat to a serving platter and surround with the vegetables and apples and cover with foil. Place the sauce onto the heat, add the remaining 1/3 cup vinegar, and simmer for 15 minutes. Check the seasoning, ladle over the meat, and serve with mashed potatoes and saut?d chard.

This recipe is from "The Great Meat Cookbook" by Bruce Aidells with Ann-Marie Ramo, reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

"Chili con carne has its origins in the slow-cooked stews of Mexico," Aidells writes. "One such dish, chili Colorado, was no doubt made in clay pots cooked long and slow over small fires or in bakers' ovens. No need for multiple steps here: Just combine all the ingredients and cook (if you have a slow cooker, this is an ideal recipe, but do brown the bacon first)."

Mexican Beef Brisket and Winter Squash Chili

Makes 8 to 10 servings, with leftovers

6 dried ancho chiles

2 cups boiling water

6 ounces bacon, diced

4 cups chopped onions

5 pounds first-cut beef brisket, cut into 3-inch chunks

— Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 jalape? chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (optional)

6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano (I use Mexican)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2tablespoons chili powder (I use Gebhardt)

114.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles (I use Muir Glen)

112-ounce bottle Mexican beer, plus more if needed

1bunch cilantro, stems chopped, leaves saved for garnish (1? cups total)

4fire-roasted mild green chiles, such as Anaheim, peeled, seeded, and diced, or one 7-ounce can diced fire-roasted green chiles

3cups 2-inch chunks peeled and seeded butternut or banana squash

For the garnish:

—Fresh cilantro leaves (from above)

—Finely chopped onions

—Peeled, seeded, and sliced avocados

—Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

—Warm corn or flour tortillas

Tear the dried ancho chiles apart, discard the seeds and stems, and place in a small bowl. Pour over the boiling water and soak until soft, at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Fry the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add the onions and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the beef.

Place the soaked chiles and about ? cup of the soaking liquid in a blender (save the remaining liquid to add to the pot later if needed). Add the jalape?s (if using), garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder, and 2 teaspoons salt. Blend to form a puree, then add to the pot along with the tomatoes, beer, cilantro stems, and green chiles. Stir well, cover, place in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. If the chili becomes too dry during cooking, add some of the reserved chile-soaking liquid or more beer. The meat is done when it's fork-tender. If the meat is not yet fork-tender, return the covered pot to the oven and check it every 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the squash and bake for 20 minutes more, or until the squash is tender.

Remove the pot from the oven. Degrease the chili (or, better still, cool, refrigerate overnight, and then remove the congealed fat; reheat to serve). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with the garnishes on the side, and the warmed tortillas to roll and dip.

Alternative cuts: Any cut of chuck roast, rump roast, bottom sirloin flap (bavette), or short ribs (reduce the cooking time for these cuts by 30 minutes, then start checking for doneness). Beef cheeks, oxtails, or shank (you may need to increase the cooking time by an hour or so). You can also use sirloin tip or a bottom round or eye-of-round roast if the meat has at least moderate marbling. Also good with equivalent cuts of bison.

This recipe is from Todd Muir of Wine Country Chefs Catering in Healdsburg.

Pork Chop with Caramelized Onion

Makes 4 servings

4 pork chops, cut 1?-inch thick, lightly trimmed of fat

1 cup flour for dredging

— Salt and pepper, to taste

? cup olive oil

2 onions, finely diced

2 cups tomatoes, crushed

4 cloves garlic, minced

? cup soy sauce

1 cup red wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Dredge the pork chops in flour, shaking off any excess.

Heat the olive oil in a pan large enought to just fit the pork chops. Brown the chops about 10 minutes on each side or until well browned. Remove the chops from the pan. Add onions and cook about 20 minutes or until well caramelized. Add remaining ingredients.

Return pork chops to the pan, turning them to coat with the sauce. Add water just to cover the chops and braise, uncovered in the oven for about 1? hours or until the pork chops are very tender. If liquid reduces too much, add some water or chicken stock. Remove the chops from the pan and reduce the sauce if needed to desired consistency.

This recipe is from Richard Whipple, executive chef of the Brasserie in Santa Rosa.

Gourmet Mushroom Tart with Leeks and blue Cheese

Makes 2 tarts


?cup water

2 puff pastry sheets (cut into 6x6-inch squares)

1 leek, trimmed, split and sliced

8 ounces of exotic mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms of Sebastopol

? cup crumbled Point Reyes Blue Cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon diced shallots

1 tablespoon diced garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

1 sprig sage, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Make an egg wash with 1 egg and ? cup water. Place the puff pastry squares on a cookie sheet. Brush the egg wash on the outer inch of the puff pastry, and pierce the inner portion with a fork (preventing the puff pastry from raising in the center).

Sweat the leek with 1 tablespoon butter. Let cool and spoon into the center of the puff pastry.

Saute the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add shallots, garlic, sage and thyme to mushrooms and saute until soft. Let cool and place mixture on top of the leeks. Sprinkle the Point Reyes Blue Cheese on top of the mushroom mixture.

Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.

"This tangy chutney is the perfect condiment to accompany grilled pork tenderloin," writes Chris Hanna. "It's also a lovely addition to a cheese course."

Chris Hanna's Savory Fig Chutney

Makes about 3 cups

1 large shallot, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 ? pounds fresh Mission figs, quartered

1 cup red wine

1?cups water

? cup golden brown sugar

? cup red wine vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 teaspoon salt

? teaspoon allspice

? teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan until shimmering. Add shallot and garlic and saute a few minutes until translucent. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the mixture is syrupy and figs are tender, about half an hour. Add more water if the mixture is too thick. Break up fig pieces with a spoon, though you want a chunky consistency. Remove the cinnamon stick. Cool chutney and chill. Serve a tablespoon or two alongside grilled meats or cheese.

This recipe is from Adele Barnett of Healdsburg, who makes it in the slow cooker and serves it in warm bowls, with slices of warm, crusty bread.

Tuscan Chicken and Bean Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

—Mirepoix (about ? cup each diced onion, celery and carrot)

1 quart box of chicken broth

1 14?-ounce-can of beef broth

1 14?-ounc can diced tomatoes with juice

3 14?-ounce cans of cannellini beans (1 reserved)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 to 2 cups diced butternut squash

4 to 6 leaves of chopped, baby kale (or spinach or chard)

— Salt and pepper to taste

— Parmesan cheese, for garnish

— Olive oil, for garnish

Put everything (except the reserved can of beans and the greens) in the slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours. The chicken should break apart easily when it's done.

Pull out the rosemary stems. Puree the reserved can of beans and add after soup is cooked, along with the fresh greens, so they don't overcook.

Serve in bowls, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and warm, crusty bread.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com