Momma Always Said

Abbey-Jo Eans, co-owner of Happy Gillis with her husband, Josh, cherishes her mom’s influence on her cooking —and her family

Side Dish

After finding much culinary success at Kansas City hot-spots like The Drop Bar & Bistro in Martini Corner, Blanc Burgers + Bottles in Westport and The American Restaurant, Abbey-Jo Eans and her husband, Josh, purchased their “favorite spot on Sunday morning to get breakfast”—Happy Gillis Café & Hangout. As chefs and parents of three children, the purchase of a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch was an opportunity to stay in the restaurant business while still seeing their children at night. Their seasonally changing menu reflects their support for local farmers and retailers, as well as a dedication to simple, wholesome ingredients. The Eans family lives in the same community as Happy Gillis in the Columbus Park neighborhood near the River Market.

Abbey-Jo Eans, Photos by Aaron Leimkuehler

I had a thought the other day: “I’m becoming my mother!” For many people this is not a realization that they come to easily or one that they always like to own up to. For me it was something that made me proud. As I get older, I recognize the importance of the things she taught me. She taught me how to bake, make butter and use the most ordinary things to make the greatest meal.

I was raised in upstate New York, in the middle of farm country. We had what we needed but not a lot more. All of my friends’ parents were farmers of some sort. We spent our days playing in the barns, picking vegetables to take to the farmers’ market, milking cows, feeding horses and anything else we might need to do to help out. At the end of the day it was always the same: we sat down for dinner as a family.

I’ve always said that my mother can make something wonderful out of nothing. That statement is what has inspired these recipes.

Now that my husband, Josh, and I have our own family, it’s important to be able to put a meal on the table that’s great for everyone—and if we have an impromptu guest, I’m not scrambling to make it fancy. Simple is the key for me. Food is what brings us together at the end of the day. Food should be a process that’s enjoyed from start to finish.

I’m pretty sure that my mom is the greatest reason I do what I do today. Hopefully you’ll find these recipes simple and delicious, and maybe they’ll make you have fond memories of your mom too.

This recipe can be put together from scratch in about 20 minutes. It is bright, fresh and beautiful. I thought of this when the craze for kale chips was in full swing. Broiling the kale for only a few minutes changes the texture and look of the kale and brings a new element to this dish.

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Charred Kale Salad

For the salad:

2 bunches of fresh kale

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup cauliflower

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4-6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

To start, preheat oven to 500 degrees and separate cauliflower into small florets. Toss in a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on a sheet pan for approximately five minutes. In the meantime, remove the kale stems and wash the kale. When the cauliflower is finished, turn the oven to broil and spread the kale onto the sheet pan. (You can use the same pan.) Place the kale in the broiler for approximately two minutes until the edges are browned and the kale is partially dry. You want the kale to be approximately 1/2 dry chips and 1/2 wilted but still moist. Watch this step closely because it will burn quickly. Place the kale and cauliflower in a bowl with the pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and a little salt and pepper. Toss with dressing to taste.

This dish is great all year but in the winter it really hits the spot. Lots of tasty root vegetables are readily available making this dish easy to modify to whatever you find. There is usually nothing left after I put this on the table. If there is, it makes delicious leftovers. This recipe includes what you see in the photo but feel free to make it your own and use whatever your family likes.

Roasted Chicken

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3 carrots

3 parsnips

5 radishes

3 stalks of celery

1 large yellow onion

10 whole cloves of garlic

1 sweet potato

10 small red potatoes

Olive oil

1 Campo Lindo chicken

2-3 sprigs each fresh rosemary and thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut all the vegetables (except red potatoes and garlic) to about the same size for cooking. I use the size of the red potatoes as a guide. Keep in mind what things take longer to cook and cut them a bit smaller. Toss them all together and spread out on a baking sheet pan with the fresh herbs. Drizzle with a little olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Next dry the skin of the chicken with a paper towel and place the chicken on top of the raw veggies. Drizzle with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. This could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Once done, take out of the oven and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Scoop up whatever juices are left around the veggies and and spoon it on top the chicken. Feel free to serve right off the sheet pan, or transfer it to a beautiful serving piece. Either way, I’m sure people won’t be paying attention to the serving vessel.

This scone recipe is so versatile. I use this as a base and add in whatever I feel like. The dough also freezes really well and can be kept for at least a month in the freezer. This is also the recipe I use at our restaurant, Happy Gillis Café & Hangout. We keep several flavor options in the freezer and then bake them fresh every day. It’s so nice to have hot baked scones from the oven on a cold morning without making a mess in the kitchen.

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Mexican Chocolate Chip Scone

4 cups sifted flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold butter

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

2 cups chocolate chips

1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 whole egg for egg wash

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a box grater, shred the butter into a large mixing bowl. Add in sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix these together till uniform, then sift in the flour and mix till mixture looks like a fine meal. Try to do this step quickly as working the butter too long will make it warm and the scones will spread instead of rise. If the mixture gets warm, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. Add in the cinnamon, cayenne and chocolate chips.

Create a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the buttermilk. With your fingers, mix the buttermilk into the flour and mix just until it’s almost fully combined. DO NOT KNEAD. The less you mix the lighter and softer your scones will be. Dump mix out onto a floured surface and gently form into 2 rounds. Flatten gently to about half- to one-inch thick and cut into wedges. The size is up to you, but you should get eight to 12 scones. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, wash with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 12 minutes. If freezing, place on a sheet pan in the freezer till frozen then wrap tightly. Bake frozen scones from frozen at 325 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Eat while warm!

This recipe is so stinkin’ simple you won’t believe it. The key here is just a little time. To make it really easy, prepare these the day before so they are ready to go. Depending on the size of the cup you’re using, this yields four to six individual servings.

 

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Panna Cotta

10 ounces heavy cream

10 ounces whole milk

4 ounces white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

7-1/2 teaspoons cold water

For the top:

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

 

Combine milk, cream, vanilla, salt and sugar in a pot and heat on medium heat till warm and sugar is dissolved but NOT boiling. Getting it too hot will destroy the gelatin and the panna cotta will not set up. Put the water in a separate bowl, and then sprinkle the gelatin slowly over the water letting it absorb. Once the sugar has dissolved, slowly pour the mixture over the gelatin, stirring until it is all dissolved. Portion into small coffee or tea cups and place in the fridge for four to six hours till set—better yet overnight. Before serving, whip the heavy cream and honey until medium to stiff peaks form. Pipe onto top of panna cotta and top with toasted hazelnuts.

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