Simply put, Mom is the original badass in the kitchen. Who slaved over the stove nightly to get dinner on the table? Mom. Who packed daily lunches for you picky eaters every day in the seventh grade? Mom. Who makes the best chicken soup around? Mom. Moms everywhere deserve a toast, but in light of Mother’s Day on Sunday, we got in touch with a bunch of the city’s chefs to learn what treasured recipes most remind them of Mom.
“Growing up, I loved eating my mom’s stuffed cabbage. It’s one of those dishes that as a kid, you wouldn’t think you would like, but I love it. It takes a lot of work to prepare, and to this day, it’s a nice surprise when she makes it. She served it this past Easter, and I ate enough for three people, then brought the rest home with me and to the restaurant to share with my staff. In the past 15 years or so, she started sneaking kielbasa in there, which made it even better. We’ve paid homage to my mom by taking the stuffing components and making a meatball out of it, cooking it the same way.” –Bill Telepan, Telepan
“Cheese soufflé. My mother only makes it once a year for Christmas Day. She gets them ready the night before and bakes them the next morning. It’s the star of the show every year. Even though I’ve made it myself all the years I can’t be home for Christmas, I still never remember the recipe, and I have to call her every time to get it. I’m pretty sure I’m not writing it down on purpose.” –Josh Blakely, Macao Trading Co.
“Definitely the dish my mother has passed on is brisket. My mom can beat me any day at Jewish cooking. Her brisket recipe uses beer, Heinz chili sauce, and onions. Very simple actually, but I never like anyone’s as much as hers. Perhaps just nostalgia.” –Missy Robbins, A Voce
“Blintzes. My mom would make dinner every night for my brother and I. She is a very good cook so we had many favorites, but none compared to her cheese blintzes. They take some time to prepare so they weren’t a regular menu item but we would beg for them daily.” –Daniel Holzman, the Meatball Shop
“My favorite dish my mother makes is braciole. This recipe has been passed down in my family for generations. My mother got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, and so on. The aromas of her cooking this are my favorite memory and when I smell it cooking I always sneak a bite while she’s cooking. To prepare the braciole, she takes flank steak and rolls it out and marinates it in olive oil and garlic, then takes hard-boiled eggs, pine nuts, and raisins, and places that in the middle of the meats and rolls and ties the meat. Then she sears it in a large pot and then covers it with tomato sauce with thyme, and oregano. This easily is my favorite and most memorable dish. My mom still makes it for me every year on my birthday, and I eat everything in sight. –Angelo Sosa, Social Eatz
“My mother’s steamed fish with ginger and scallions. It’s easy yet elegant and healthy. I make it all the time on Long Island with rice and sautéed greens.” –Anita Lo, Annisa
“On weekends the whole family would be home and we’d eat breakfast together. My mom would always make biscuits and gravy because it was one of my dad’s favorites. I would always try bugging my mom while she was trying to make breakfast for our big family, so in order to keep me out of her hair, she taught me how to make the biscuits. It was the first thing that I learned how to cook. –Linda Japngie, Cafeteria
“My mother’s leche frita was my favorite dessert. I feel connected to my childhood Spain when I’m here. It sits at room temperature on top of the counter, so it was easy to grab a slice when I came home from school or playing around. It was my reward as a little boy. My wife makes my mother’s recipe, but I like my mom’s version more.” –Alex Alejandro, El Parador Café
“When I was a kid and couldn’t sleep, [my mother] always made me warm milk. But this was special. It had a touch of honey, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, warm and calming. I started making it for my son when he can’t sleep. He now calls it ‘grandma’s milk.'” –Eva Pesantez, Brother Jimmy’s
“My mother’s lasagna was always a favorite at my house growing up. It was usually pork and ricotta lasagna that also had peas and hard-boiled eggs in it. This dish was actually the inspiration to my lasagna on the Delicatessen menu.” –Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen
“Butternut squash ravioli with sweet Italian sausage. My mamma would make the ravioli from scratch and my pappa would make the sausage from scratch, too.” –Matteo Bergamini, SD26
“After a long [baseball] game with my brothers Rob and Mike, I would help mom in the kitchen, making those freshly picked tomatoes into a tomato salad. The recipe was so fresh and perfect for the summer, cutting the tomato into wedges and then adding red onion, garlic, basil, olive oil, and ricotta salata cheese. This is one of my mom’s classic dishes that made me love to cook and eat Italian food, and I still use this recipe to this day.” –Don Pintabona, Valentino’s on the Green
Fork in the Road readers — what recipes remind you of your mom? Share yours in the comments!