When San Francisco chef, restauranteur and television personality Ryan Scott was asked to write a cookbook, he looked no further than his own upbringing for inspiration.
Born in Modesto and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, Scott grew up in a working-class family where money was tight and stretching the grocery dollar was the norm. But it was in that environment that Scott grew to appreciate the ability of his mother, Pat, to take ordinary staples, such as ground beef, and turn them into something memorable.
“I remember walking home from school with my brother and being able to smell that sauce cooking a mile away,” Scott says. “And the cool thing was she would use that sauce for two or three different meals. I used to call her the David Copperfield of ground beef.”
He’s carried those lessons with him throughout his career that began humbly in junior high when he was doing kitchen prep at a Chubby’s Diner in Los Banos. His parents, who had no restaurant background, bought a Chubby’s franchise and ran it for a few years.
He also worked in the kitchens of other well-known Los Banos eateries, including Foster’s Freeze and Country Waffles, where he says he developed his longstanding affinity for breakfast.
“I’d go home after at 2 p.m. smelling like bacon, sausage, grease and eggs,” Scott says. “I called it the culinary cologne.”
Scott has come a long way from his early days of flipping pancakes, including competing in 2007 on the reality cooking show “Top Chef.” Today, he is in the process of opening his newest San Francisco restaurant, Finn Town. He recently closed his Market & Rye eatery in Potrero Hill after five years to focus on his new venture.
It was his friend Ray who wrote the forward to his first book: “One to Five.” The book is an entertaining guide on how to cook incredible dishes by using everyday staples in your freezer, pantry or fridge.
Scott says he purposely created a cookbook for all who want to step up their game, from the novice to the experienced home cook.
“I am not going to make you run all over to find some Middle Eastern ingredient or some hard to find Mexican chili,” he says.
The books lists 20 basic ingredients, including fresh, frozen and canned foods, that can be used individually in five different recipes.
Scott admits he was a little nervous that his peers might snicker at the thought of using a box of cake mix in a recipe.
“But they actually loved it,” Scott says. “What this book does is help you understand technique and be able to think outside of the box, or the can.”
In the book, Scott has a recipe using a simple white cake mix and pumpkin purée, along with other ingredients, to create pumpkin churros. The deep-fried, sugary dessert was a hit at his Market & Rye restaurant.
Other recipes include how to get the most out of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Scott says there is no shame in taking shortcuts, especially when you can whip up some delicious meals from it.
Included in the book are five ways to use rotisserie chicken, including a quick and easy recipe for making a chicken salad sandwich that adds the smoothness of avocados with the crunch from Cool Ranch Doritos. The recipe includes one of his favorite food obsessions, ranch dressing.
Scott says he isn’t quite sure why he loves ranch dressing so much, but suspects it’s because it brings back good memories and it’s such a uniquely American thing.
“I just love the creaminess, and the flavor of those chives and onion powder,” he says, with a laugh. “It is just super delicious. And it’s good with pizza, fries or sloppy joes.”
Scott, who also lived in Oakhurst and Los Banos before making his way to the Bay Area, is excited about coming back to Fresno for a book signing. His sister went to Fresno Pacific University and his mother and stepfather lived here for several years. Scott will be at the Costco, 7100 N. Abby St., at 1 p.m. Nov. 12 with copies of his book available.
“I have a lot of dear friends in Fresno,” he says.
Chicken and butternut squash enchiladas with red sauce
By Ryan Scott
2 1⁄2 cups diced yellow onion
1 1⁄2 cups frozen butternut squash cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jalapeño chili, seeds removed, diced
2 tablespoons refrigerated garlic paste (from tube)
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
One 7-ounce can chopped green chilies
1 cup chunky salsa (see note below)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons mild taco seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend (about 8 ounces)
Ten 6-inch corn tortillas
One 16-ounce can red enchilada sauce, such as Las Palmas
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the onion, squash, oil, jalapeño, and garlic paste in a medium skillet over medium-high, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chicken, green chilies, salsa, taco seasoning, salt, and 1 cup of the cheese.
Put the stack of tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, and cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high until softened, about 1 minute. Keep the tortillas covered until ready to use.
Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish; pour the remaining sauce in a shallow bowl. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, dip the tortillas into the sauce in the bowl, and fill each with 1⁄2 cup of the chicken mixture. Roll up the tortillas like a cigar, and arrange them, seam sides down, in the baking dish, nestled next to each other. Cover the enchiladas with the sauce remaining in the bowl, and sprinkle them with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
Bake until the sauce is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to broil; broil until the cheese is brown and crispy on top, 2 to 4 minutes.
Note: If you are using fresh salsa from the store, drain the liquid before adding to the enchiladas. Also, substitute shredded mozzarella or sharp Cheddar cheese for the four-cheese blend, if you like.
Corn, quinoa, and feta salad with red wine vinaigrette
By Ryan Scott.
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups, plus 1/3 cup water
4 cups frozen petite corn, thawed and drained
One 15-ounce can brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
2 dashes of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese, about 1 cup
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the quinoa, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in an ovenproof saucepan over low, and cook, stirring constantly, just until the quinoa begins to pop like popcorn, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat; stir in 1 1/2 cups of the water, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat; cover and bake until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high; add the corn, and cook without stirring until the corn is golden and crispy on one side, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the corn and lentils into the quinoa.
Process the vinegar, mustard, pepper, honey, hot sauce, and remaining 3⁄4 cup oil, 1⁄3 cup water, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt in a food processor until emulsified. Drizzle 1⁄2 cup of the vinaigrette onto the sides of a serving bowl; add the quinoa mixture, and toss it into the sides of the bowl to coat with the vinaigrette. Add the feta, almonds, parsley, and chives, and stir just until incorporated.
Store any remaining vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
By Ryan Scott.
4 cups vegetable oil
1 box white cake mix, such as Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic White
One 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 375 degrees. Meanwhile, stir together the cake mix, pumpkin, flour, eggs, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl. Transfer the dough to a large zip-top plastic freezer bag, and cut off one bottom corner to make a 1⁄2-inch hole. (For prettier churros, use a pastry bag with a star tip.)
Working in batches, pipe about 3-inch lengths of dough into the hot oil; use scissors or a knife to cut the dough between pieces. (It’s OK if the churros curl into shapes.) Fry, turning occasionally, until the churros float in the oil and are golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the churros to a plate lined with paper towels to drain; blot the churros with more paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Stir together the sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice in a shallow dish. Roll the churros in the sugar mixture to coat while they’re still hot.
Makes 30 to 40