There's no doubt about it: Dishes from mom's kitchen just taste better. To recreate her patented dish with similar gusto, soul, and love is a challenge that no Michelin-star stage could prepare a chef for -- no matter how sharp the knives. Still, we all attempt the impossible in an effort to preserve and revisit our own experiences, while also brushing up on perhaps the most precious family heirloom of them all. Just in time for Mother's Day, here are nine chefs who are doing just that to honor the most important ladies in their lives.
Michael Ferraro, Lasagna
Delicatessen, New York City
"Growing up, both my mother and father cooked and had their own signature meals. Mom's top dish was definitely her lasagna. She always added layers of thin-sliced hard-boiled eggs along with the braised pork and sausage, which made it unique. At Delicatessen, we serve the braised pork version of 'Lillian's Lasagna' in the wintertime, and in the warmer months, I do a roasted vegetable, ricotta and mascarpone version, adding the sliced eggs as she does."
Merlin Verrier, Pork Sate and Gado Gado
Primary Food & Drink, Greenwich, Connecticut
"My mother was born in Indonesia, and I will always crave her Pork Sate and Gado Gado. She prepared these dishes when family was in town or we had a party at the house. I remember eating as many of the Sate as possible and it never seemed to be enough."
Brian Tsao, Bulgogi Tacos
Mira Sushi & Izakaya, New York City
"Nothing beats Mom's food, and I go to her house instead of dining out. When I was a kid we used to have bulgogi and kimchi over rice all of the time. This dish is an homage to Mom and those memories."
Matt McClure, Black Eyed Peas
The Hive, Bentonville, Arkansas
"My mother always used to cook the most perfect black eyed peas with a ham bone and onions. I have a variation of this dish on The Hive's current menu -- we jazz up the peas with extra fried ham, braised greens and pepper jelly, and they're one of my favorite things to eat. I'm sure my mother learned to cook these black eyed peas from her mother, and I'm continuing the tradition."
David Santos, Seafood Fritters
Louro, New York City
"It's one of the first savory things my mom showed me how to make. It's usually done with salt cod, but we used to make it with sea robin that we would catch while at the beach. It ended up being a full circle dish - I caught the fish with my dad, and I cooked it with my mom. I haven't tweaked it a whole lot - it's a simple dish - but I do poach my fish in cream instead of poaching it in water and then adding cream."
Jesse Schenker, Chicken Soup
Recette and The Gander, New York City
"My mom probably doesn't even know this, but my favorite dish growing up was her chicken soup. My mom has always insisted kosher chicken is the way to go and only recently did I realize that she was right. Her soup is simple, but great: carrots, celery, parsnips, onion, fresh dill and, of course, the contentious kosher chicken. At Recette, we're running a play on my mother's chicken soup. We make a really flavorful chicken consommé then add three types of "matzo balls": squab and shallot, spring garlic and bacon, and a classic matzo ball. Basically, a ramped up version of a childhood favorite."
Chris Pandel, Lazy Pierogi
The Bristol and Balena, Chicago
"My absolute favorite food from childhood are called lazy pierogi. My grandmother Adamina Karpinsky Pandel would make them for all of our family gatherings. Essentially they are a ricotta dumpling that are stewed with an obscene amount of onions, black pepper, and butter until they are meltingly tender and the sauce is rich with soft, peppered onions. I would fill my plate with the lazy pierogi first then go back for seconds of the remainder of the meal! We currently serve them at The Bristol as an homage to her, as she recently passed. The dish consists of lazy pierogi, braised red cabbage, and a roasted pork porterhouse. She would have been proud."
Ford Fry, Cream of Mushroom-Braised Chicken with Egg Noodles
King + Duke, Rocket Farm Restaurants, Atlanta
"My favorite dish my mom made was this Cream Of Mushroom-Braised Chicken with Egg Noodles. The recipe was probably from the back of a Campbell's soup can, but to me it tasted like home, and I loved it. Now at King + Duke, we serve Hearth Roasted Pastured Chicken with foraged mushrooms, turnips and crème fraiche as a modern update on my mom's classic that still stays true to its homey and comforting roots."
Robert Aikens, Frozen Lemon Mousse
The Peacock and The Shakespeare, New York City
"This is a dessert my mother would make for special occasions like birthdays, or on Sundays when we would have family over for lunch. Her version was sometimes refrigerated, sometimes frozen, with a biscuit base. It was always one of my favorite desserts. The ingredients for the recipe are pretty much the same, but I've elevated the presentation and added a few more components like the candied lemon peel, lemon syrup and lemon curd."
Follow Nicole Schnitzler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/write_to_eat