Home is where you make it, and Chef Jason Ison makes it delicious for the many residents at Superior Care Home
For most people, the thought of cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal for their family, no matter what size, stresses them out.
Well, how does this make you feel: cooking both a Thanksgiving lunch and dinner…on the same day…for over 80 different families…with four different options at each meal… for many people who have special dietary restrictions? To most people, this is unimaginable. But for Superior Care Home’s Executive Chef Jason Ison, cooking holiday meals for residents and their families is his favorite time of the year.
Each year, Superior Care throws three big dinner events for residents and their family, in the form of a spring banquet, Thanksgiving meal, and Christmas dinner. This year’s Thanksgiving celebration is a little more special—it marks the first big event held at the brand new facility in the Paducah Commerce Park.
When a loved one is in a nursing home or rehabilitation center the holidays aren’t exactly what they used to be. However, the most important part of the holiday is still very much present: eating great food surrounded by a loving family. Cooking such a special meal for hundreds of people is no small task. So, Chef Jason develops a game plan.
The first step towards any great holiday meal is planning a delicious menu. Chef Jason’s Thanksgiving menu centers around traditional Thanksgiving staple foods, along with tasty spins on great classics, such as his signature cornbread: adding garlic to the cornmeal mixture and a honey reduction to the top once it’s cooked.
A Day of Preparation
The day before serving such a special meal involves a trip to the grocery. Just like everyone else preparing for Thanksgiving, Chef Jason looks for high quality ingredients, tries to buy local produce as much as possible, and makes sure to buy from reputable vendors. However, unlike the average family’s Thanksgiving, Jason will buy at least 16 whole turkeys, 25 pounds of chicken breast, 8 black forest hams, and 30 sirloin steaks. And that’s just the meat!
When he arrives back to the new facility’s state-of-the-art kitchen, he and his staff of 18 begin prep work. Each dish represents his own recipe or one he’s learned throughout his culinary experiences, which include cooking for the likes of Stevie Nicks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Robert Downey, Jr. in the cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Waterloo, and Tampa.
Early preparation includes: candying walnuts for salads, making apple-buttermilk dressing, rubbing steaks with custom steak rub, baking the first round of double baked potatoes, cooking the corn chowder soup, squash soup, and beef bourguigon, baking the dumplings for chicken and dumplings, and starting all of the desserts.
Chef Jason makes it no secret that desserts are his favorite. On top of his many other duties, he personally makes all of the desserts, which will include over 200 port poached pears and 200 pumpkin crème brulees for Thanksgiving.
The day is here!
Chef Jason and the dietary department begin their day at 5:30 AM by putting the turkeys in the oven. Then, they finish cooking all of the items that are needed to be served for lunch at noon.
When lunch is over at 1 PM, it’s time to finish putting together the Thanksgiving dinner meal. They put the hams in the oven, cook Chef’s specialty cornbread, bake the apricot dressing, and mashed potatoes with garlic herb cheese. By 4:30 it’s time to pan sauté the steaks in butter, finish the double baked potatoes, sauté zucchini, squash, carrots and onions, make the tomato Florentine soup, and put together the salads.
Because Superior Care’s Thanksgiving meal is so popular, residents and their families are split into two different seating times: 5 and 6:45 PM. Chef directs his staff on how to plate the meals to make them look as great as they taste. Then, it’s time to serve—twice that is.
This year residents and guests will enjoy this special day in a special place—the new home of Superior Care. It will be very similar to the holiday meal most residents experienced when they still lived at home: spending quality time with their loved ones, eating a delicious meal, and recalling special memories from Thanksgivings past. However, they don’t have to worry about menu planning, trips to the grocery, and cooking for multiple days. Instead, they have Executive Chef Jason Ison preparing a homemade Thanksgiving meal for their entire family.
And…his green bean casserole is much better.
Editor’s Note: When this issue went to press Superior Care residents had not moved into their new facility. But by Thanksgiving everyone will be in their new “home” eating a delectable holiday meal.
Coffee Encrusted Sirloin
Rub ingredients: Half sugar, Half coffee, pinch of salt and pepper
Can be used on your favorite steak, any kind.
Directions: Rub the coffee/sugar rub onto steak. Pan sauté in butter on stove. When butter gets brown, add more butter until desired temperature and cooking preference is reached. If you want steak well-done, take steak out when it’s cooked to medium and let it cool, then put steak back in pan and sauté with butter.
Port Poached Pear
Ingredients: 1 pint blueberries, 3 cups ruby port wine, 2 cups sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, ¼ vanilla bean, 1 Bartlett pear (skinned and cored out at bottom with all seeds removed)
Directions: Combine all ingredients and poach pear until soft (until a toothpick comes out clean), save blueberries from mixture and cool pear overnight, the next day, warm blueberries, slice and fan pear, serve with vanilla yogurt or vanilla bean ice cream, and top with lemon zest and sugar.