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Chefs kick back

Professional chefs especially those at the top of their games live a fast-paced, high-stakes work life in steamy, clangorous restaurant kitchens. How do they kick back when the stove and grill are finally turned off, service is finished and they stumble home at last? You won't be too surprised to learn that comfort food plays a major role.

Here's a peek into the quiet lives of some top-flight local chefs
Virginia Wooters
Wooters is executive chef at McClintock's Restaurant way up north at Saguaro Ranch, which opened in May with a strictly organic philosophy. Wooters, a Tucson native, cooked at Tucson's Dish, Canyon Ranch, Ovens and Wildflower, and then spent six years at the Sweet Oregon Grill outside Portland, Ore.
She and her husband, a sous chef at Miraval, live on the far East Side with their four dogs a Chesapeake Bay retriever, a mutt, a blue heeler, and a border collie/blue heeler mix.
Wooters, who works 10- to 12-hour days, says the hour-long commute "at first was annoying, but now I don't mind it. I chill and listen to music. I use it as a way to reflect about stuff."
Wooters says she and her husband don't cook much at home.
"When we do it's always a big deal. We have people over and do it right. Nothing fancy, just a barbecue."
She says she loves to make this recipe in the morning. "I like to use lime and grapefruit, as well as lemon."

Lemon Scones
Makes 8 scones
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on the scones
* Pinch of salt
* 3/4 cup of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
* 1 cup buttermilk
* Zest of two lemons (or limes or grapefruit)
* 1 tablespoon whipping cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/3 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Pulse for about 8 seconds to mix. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it resembles course meal.
Transfer the mix to a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and the zest. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the mixture begins to form dough, about 30 seconds.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and divide the dough into two equal parts. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Do the same to the other half of the dough. Cut each circle into 4 wedges and place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the heavy whipping cream on the wedges and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Bake until golden brown, about 18-23 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes and serve warm. Bruce Yim
Yim, co-founder and executive chef at VinTabla, an American small-plates restaurant that opened a year ago, has a r�sum� that runs deep and long � Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy; the 21 Club in New York City; Le Pavillon in Washington, D.C.; Ristorante Harry Cipriani in Venice, Italy; as sous chef for Wolfgang Puck's Postrio in San Francisco; and, most famously, executive chef at Sweet Basil in Vail, Colo.
Yim and his wife, Becky, have two children, Zoe, 6, and Zack, who will be 5 this month. Yim is up every morning at 6 with the children because when he gets home from the restaurant, his family is usually asleep, he says.
"I get home and cook. That's how I wind down. I make a little meal," he says. But Bruce Yim's idea of comfort food, the recipe that make his eyes light up, is his mother's braised short ribs. Growing up in Mill Valley, Calif., he says, "my mom would make this for a hearty lunch or dinner."

Braised Beef Brisket With Noodle Soup
Makes 4 hearty portions
* 2 pound beef brisket cut into 1-inch cubes
* Salt and pepper
* 1/2 cup flour
* 2 yellow onions, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1/8 cup chopped fresh ginger
* 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
* 1 gallon chicken stock
* 2 whole star anise
* 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
Place the meat on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper. Dust the brisket with the flour and coat well. In a large skillet, brown the brisket well. Do so in small batches to make sure the meat is well caramelized. In a large stock pot, saut� the onions, garlic, ginger and scallion. Add the meat in the large stock pot. Add the chicken stock and star anise. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours or until brisket is tender. Skim the foam off the top occasionally. Add cilantro and set aside.

Noodle Soup
* 2 gallons water
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 pound mein noodles (Chinese egg noodle)
* 1/2 gallon chicken stock
* 1/8 cup chopped ginger (fresh)
* 4 stalks scallions, sliced thin
Bring water and salt to a boil. Add mein and stir constantly to prevent noodles from clumping. Cook for about 5-6 minutes. Drain into a colander and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
Bring chicken stock with ginger to a boil. Add noodles. Portion the noodles and soup into bowls. Spoon a hearty portion of the brisket on top of the noodles and soup. Garnish with scallion.
Optional: Sriracha, a hot sauce from Thailand.
Robert Petersen
The Cuve World Bistro chef has been on the Tucson restaurant scene on and off for 20 years, including stints at Caf� Terra Cotta and later as executive chef at Hacienda del Sol. From 1998 to 2000, he worked as pastry chef for Robert Redford at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah.
Today he is Cuve's executive chef, pastry chef, and also bakes breads for Cuve as well as such local restaurants as Feast, Barrio and Pastiche.
Petersen is divorced, and when his children, Alex, 10, and Tristan, 7, are not with him on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he puts in long days at the restaurant, and goes home to collapse.
For the children, Petersen says, he does lots of "quick, easy grilling, simple fish."
And on the weekends, he likes to make something that will bring comfort all week long, like this recipe for Comfort Cabeza.

Salsa Cruda
* 1 red onion, small dice
* 4 large tomatoes, medium dice
* 1 jalape�o, small dice
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
* Juice of 1 lime
* Salt and pepper to taste
Comfort Cabeza
4-6 servings
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2-3 pounds of beef head and cheek meat
* 1 tablespoon pickling spice
* 4 cups beef stock
* Tortillas
Quickly sear the meat in oil over high heat, turning to brown all sides. Add pickling spice and beef stock. Cover and simmer slowly for 3 to 4 hours overnight, if you like, but do not use a slow cooker; the lid must be just loose enough to allow some evaporation.
To serve: Do not drain off the liquid; shred the meat and serve in tortillas with salsa (see accompanying recipe). Can be refrigerated and reheated through the week.
Melissa Kelly
Kelly, executive chef at Primo at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, is really on the run. She founded Primo Restaurant in Rockland, Maine, in 2000 and, three years later, opened two more Primo locations, one here and one at another JW Marriott resort, in Orlando, Fla. She jets among the three.
"I have chefs de cuisine in Tucson and Orlando, and I direct and guide them as executive chef," she notes. But Kelly also visits Tucson every six weeks or so to cook at Primo, she says. The Mediterranean cuisine is fresh and organic Kelly keeps gardens at each restaurant location and buys other products locally, though fresh seafood is flown in from Maine.
Kelly, a native of Long Island, graduated first in her class at the Culinary Institute of America in 1988 and was named the James Beard Foundation's American Express Best Chef-Northeast in 1999. She named Primo after her grandfather, Primo Magnani, who was a butcher in New York.
Kelly says that when she cooks for herself, she likes to make soups, salads and grilled fish with "a simple sauce."
For comfort food? "Creamy polenta with grated Parmesan," she says.

* 2 cups milk, plus more if needed
* 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
* 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta (you can also use stone-ground cornmeal)
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Green Tabasco sauce to taste
* Parmesan cheese, fresh, grated
Combine the milk and garlic in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring almost to a boil. Watch carefully so that the milk doesn't boil over.
Slowly add the polenta, stirring continually, and cook for 6-8 minutes or until it thickens to a porridge consistency
Swirl in the butter. Add the salt, pepper and Tabasco. Adjust the consistency if necessary with more milk. Stir in other additions if you wish, then remove from the heat and keep warm until serving. Top with Parmesan cheese.


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