Go inside the kitchen with chef Michelle Youngberg
Photos by Robin May
Chef Mica and her spaghetti squash chicken pot pie
Step through the doors of E's Kitchen at Parc Lafayette during lunchtime and you'll see chef Michelle Youngberg chopping, sautéing and conversing with her customers. Mica, as she is affectionately known, is all about delivering a hearty lunch full of flavor using the freshest ingredients available (ask her about today's produce; it was probably picked that morning), but also shows concern for making it good for you. Her Italian and New Orleans roots shine through in an attitude of hospitality, yet as someone who suffers from food allergies, she understands the needs of people who cannot tolerate particular ingredients. Her back-to-basics approach to cooking is allowing foodies to indulge in flavor without processed additives. "I make food that's honest and simple - good food, what food was meant to be," says Mica. Come for a lunch, but leave knowing it was prepared by a caring heart concerned for your health.
Q. What is it about your heritage/family upbringing that made you want to become a chef?
A. My great-grandmother, grandmother and mother are all wonderful cooks. My fondest memories growing up were in the kitchen with them doing whatever I could to help or be involved - food always seemed to be the center of every holiday or family gathering and brought so much joy to myself and everyone who came to the house.
Q. If you can cook only one dish ever again, what would it be?
A. My favorite dish to cook growing up was spaghetti and meatballs. At a young age I helped my great-grandmother and grandmother to roll the meatballs out and then prepare them to sit all day in a pot of homemade red gravy.
Q. What do you say to people who don't believe a dish can be healthy AND delicious?
A. My advice is to use the best fresh, local seasonal products and herbs they can acquire. Healthy food is not bland - it's all about great combinations of high quality ingredients. Canned and processed products in heavy sauces only tend to cover up the freshness and simple beauty of well-sourced items.
Q. Do you have any special talents besides cooking?
A. I was a visual arts student in high school with my primary focus on oil painting and dry brush watercolor, but these days the things I enjoy most outside of the culinary world are my three daughters.
E's Kitchen's Spaghetti Squash Chicken Pot Pie
A farm-fresh approach to a comforting classic dish, the squash naturally creates a shredded texture once baked, resembling the texture of noodles.
1 c. each: onion and bell pepper, diced
½ c. each: celery and carrot, diced
2 Tbs. Minced garlic
1 Tbs. House blend seasoning (available at E's Kitchen)
1 ½ c. each: fresh green beans and yellow squash
1 c. Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 qt. chicken stock
½ c. Flour
½ c. Pecan oil
4 c. Chicken breast, baked then diced
2 small to medium sized spaghetti squash
2 chilled puff pastry sheets, quartered
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and carrot in half cup of pecan oil. Add garlic once sauté becomes translucent. Add remaining oil and flour to skillet and make a roux. Then, add stock, seasoning, remaining vegetables, chicken and continue to sauté.
Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove inside seed contents and enough of the bottom of the squash to sit flat in a baking dish. Fill inside of squash with chicken and vegetable mix and top with a slice of puff pastry. Bake for 35 minutes and allow to cool before serving.
1921 Kaliste Saloom Road
For more information on local eateries, view the online INDEats Dining Guide.