Chef Jason Roberts

Autumn Ingredients Say "Comfort Food" to Me

Chef Jason

G’day kids,

You all know my love of summer; I’ve written about it many time here. Having said that, I do like watching the autumn leaves change color, that bite of crisp freshness in the air that makes you want to stay in bed a little longer each morning.

Autumn, with its abundance of great ingredients and the cooking techniques to choose from, is probably one my favorite times of year to be in the kitchen. And with my background in French cooking, my thinking turns to braising, pot roasting and some of the great comfort foods of the season. Since our autumn in Australia is quite the opposite to yours here in the States, I’m learning now that I’m here, what an important season "the fall" is. While the American autumn leads up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, and precedes the "holidays," in OZ we have no Thanksgiving and fall comes after Christmas. Still, I love making the soups, stews, confit, braising meats and pastoral elements in dishes that most Americans associate with the fall season season as well.

Recently, I’ve been back in the kitchen and I’ve been so at home, going back to my French cooking roots, making pure pork sausage, duck neck sausage, pate, rabbit rillet, and a variety of other Charcuterie (pork small goods) offerings and other game meats. It feels good getting back to my first love, cooking, after a hectic spring and summer traveling around the country for both The Chew and Amway.

I’ve always loved using nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves anytime of year, (these 4 spices make up my favorite spice, Quatre épices aka, 4 spice), but with the abundance of great fall herbs like fennel and sage, as well as great fall produce like apples, pears, squash, pumpkin, olives, chestnuts, persimmon and quince, plus the variety of game meats and pastoral elements available now, I get to really stretch my repertoire in the kitchen.

And kids, don’t forget to check out this month’s Recipes as I have given you some hearty and comfort food selections that go great while watching your favorite game or just enjoying a crisp fall Sunday with family and friends around the fire after a day of "leaf peeping" and enjoying all the fall colors.

Fall also means that kids are going back to school and while we're talking abundance here, I’d like you all to keep in mind those that are less fortunate. Especially the kids. There are currently over 40 million people in the United States that are food deficient, with almost 15 million of them being kids. Recently, many studies have come out that show kids from food deficient families, or food deficient homes, are having problems in school. Research shows that kids from food insecure and hungry homes have poorer overall health status--they are sick more often, much more likely to have ear infections, have higher rates of iron deficiency anemia, and are hospitalized more frequently. To put it bluntly, going hungry makes children sick. They miss more days of school and are less prepared to learn when they are able to attend. But together we can make a difference and help.

Local food banks, school initiatives and community programs along with national organizations, like Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry  are all about making sure our kids get the food and nutrition they need. I urge you to get involved and do your part, whether it’ s giving your time and resources in your local school districts, making sure kids get proper breakfasts or lunches, or by donating much needed dollars on the national level to organizations like the one above. Every little bit helps.

As a professional in the food and hospitality business, this is an area that has become near and dear to my heart. I feed people. The thought of all this season has to offer, with folks enjoying farmer's markets, or the abundance of ingredients and fall produce available that we sometimes take for granted, it pains me to think that there are those who don’t get to enjoy just having a healthy meal. There's nothing better than to see the smile on a child’s face when they get that slice of apple or pumpkin pie with a scoop of ice cream, or a bowl of warm and hearty stew after a day outside playing in the crisp fall air.

So, while autumn may be a time of abundance for many of us, let’s not forget those who are less fortunate.