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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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A new direction for Blue Jacket.
A new direction for Blue Jacket.

Blue Jacket makes changes

After a year at Blue Jacket, Chef Matt Kerley is moving on. 

"We have gone in a new direction at Blue Jacket, and it was a really tough decision, but we felt it was better for both parties to move in separate directions," says co-owner Laura van Heijningen.

Prior to Blue Jacket, 135 E. National Ave., Kerley was the head chef at Rumpus Room.

Justice Neal, Blue Jacket’s former sous chef, will serve as the new lead chef.

"He’s really stepped up and proven himself to us. So, we felt it was time to give him that promotion," says van Heijningen.

Bittercube was originally a partner in the restaurant. Recently, Bittercube stepped out of the business partnership and took on a consulting-only role.

"We dissolved our partnership with Blue Jacket about six months ago due to the fact that we just didn’t see eye to eye on certain aspects of running the business. But we felt that we’d put a lot of time and effort and training into making Blue Jacket what it was – and helping to make it a success – so, we moved our focus to the bar and continued on as consultants," says Bittercube's Ira Koplowitz.

However, van Heijningen and co-owner Tom van Heijningen decided to completely move away from the Bittercube program and, consequently, parted ways with Bittercube's Mike McDonald – who worked for Blue Jacket – along with the bartenders who worked with him.

"At this point, we’ve severed our affiliation completely," says Koplowitz.

"Ultimately, the restaurant world is tough, Tom and I don’t make these decisions lightly. But, at the end of the day, we just wanted to reign things back to the original intention of the restaurant," says van Heijningen. "We don’t discredit those who have helped to make the restaurant what it is, because we really do owe them in getting us this far. But, it’s time to move forward."

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Create a simple and delicious side with Chef Justin Aprahamian's rice pilaf recipe.
Create a simple and delicious side with Chef Justin Aprahamian's rice pilaf recipe. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Side-ling up to the holiday table: Aprahamian's rice pilaf

Want to pull out all the stops this holiday? Some of Milwaukee's most talented chefs have shared their favorite holiday side dish recipes with us. So, throughout the month of December, we'll share their takes on holiday-worthy fare.

Chef Justin Aprahamian of Sanford says no matter how much of this simple pilaf his family makes for a given holiday, every last bit of it gets eaten.

"This dish is special to me because of family. It is a staple of our house and representative of our Armenian Heritage, as it is a recipe that came from my father's family. I taste it and just associate such fond memories with it. It pairs well with so many different things ... char-grilled or roasted meats and a simple salad with vinegar and oil and I would be a happy camper."

Rice Pilaf

3 tablespoons butter
1-1.5 ounces egg noodles or vermicelli
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 cup long grain rice, like jasmine
2 cups hot chicken broth, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
1 bay leaf

In a saucepot over medium heat lightly brown butter.

Toast noodles for 3-5 minutes or until nutty and golden. Add shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in rice and toast for 2-3 minutes.

Pour stock over rice mixture, cover and place in preheated 375-degree oven for 16-20 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked.

Simply sweet potatoes with Scott Pampuch's savory recipe.
Simply sweet potatoes with Scott Pampuch's savory recipe. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Side-ling up to the holiday table: Pampuch's spiced sweet potatoes

Want to pull out all the stops this holiday? Some of Milwaukee's most talented chefs have shared their favorite holiday side dish recipes with us. So, throughout the month of December, we'll share their takes on holiday-worthy fare.

Chef Scott Pampuch of the Iron Horse Hotel asks "Is there anything worse than over-baked sweet potatoes or yams topped with miniature marshmallows?" And he proposes this recipe instead.

"My first idea was to do a sweet potato soufflé. But then you're in the kitchen for four hours, in the middle of holiday craziness, and all you have is a soufflé. Then I considered mimicking the dish but using better ingredients: freshly whipped yams with dots of Stickney Hill goat cheese standing in for the marshmallows. But seriously, does it have to be this hard to either use a ton of time and effort into something that is so simple, or to just try and remake a visual duplicate of the same dish?

"In this case I want to spotlight the beauty of autumn ingredients in a big, uncomplicated bowl of roasted sweet potatoes tossed with apples, red onions, rosemary and cardamom, with soy nuts thrown in for a little unexpected texture. It's maybe not glamorous, but it's different, seasonal and delicious. Don't be afraid to experiment. There's no reason you can't take familiar ingredients and use them in a whole new way."

Spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese

3 whole sweet potatoes or yams, washed and diced into bite-sized pieces
3 sprigs of rosemary, needles only, ground in spice grinder to a fine powder
1 pod of cardamom, also ground
2 apples, diced into similarly sized bite-sized pieces
1/2 red onion, minced finely
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of maple syrup
splash of sherry vinegar
4 ounces goat cheese

Start by warming a cast iron pan in a 450-degree oven until hot. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, cardamom and rosemary powder. Toss the potatoes into the cast iron pan and put it straight back into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes ar…

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Turn English peas into a savory side with Marc Bianchini's recipe.
Turn English peas into a savory side with Marc Bianchini's recipe. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Side-ling up to the holiday table: Bianchini's creamy English peas

Want to pull out all the stops this holiday? Some of Milwaukee's most talented chefs have shared their favorite holiday side dish recipes with us. So, throughout the month of December, we'll share their takes on holiday-worthy fare.

Chef Marc Bianchini of the Bianchini Restaurants says this side dish makes a great accompaniment for pork, beef or chicken.

"When I was a kid, I loved peas – pea soup, fresh peas, raw peas, peas with rice, peas with pasta ... My Nana had these onions that, at the time, I did not like, so she added peas and made it just like a pasta dish that I love. I ate the whole bowl. After that, she always made it for me. It became a staple side at the holidays."

Creamy English Peas

4 ounces prosciutto
2 cups English peas
1 cup pearl onions
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces parmesan cheese
1 ounce cooked chopped garlic
1 ounce fresh chives, chopped
Salt and white pepper, to taste

Chop the prosciutto into small pieces, peel the pearl onions and sauté them until tender in butter (nice and slow). If you are going to use canned peas, drain and rinse well.

In a sauce pot heat the cream and add the prosciutto, peas, cooked garlic and salt and pepper. When hot, take off the heat and add the chives and cheese. Stir until creamy and serve.