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The Daily Dish

Exclusive: 'Top Chef' Alum Reflect on Their Mom's Best Dish

For Mother's Day, we asked the pros what mom-made dish they still can't replicate.

By Mike Hess

Mother's Day weekend is officially upon us, and moms and their kids across the country will likely be spending some quality time over a meal on Sunday. And when it comes to food, everyone has that dish that their mom simply makes the best version of -- even the culinary elite of Top Chef. We reached out to TC alum, who all willingly and proudly admitted that no matter how much professional training or fancy equipment they can get their hands on, there's dishes their mom made all throughout their childhood that simply cannot be topped.

Check out what dishes these Top Chef favorites will always remember their mom for:

Tiffany Derry: My mom makes the best gumbo, hands down. Seafood gumbo ... well, it's different. It's shrimp and crab legs and chicken -- no, she uses hen. It's kind of a mix and it has the best flavor. Trust me, obviously I make it, but it's nothing like my mom's. Even my grandma can't make it. If my mom is here, she needs to make it. She will actually freeze it and when she comes to visit me she bring me containers of it. I came from a family of cooks -- every one of my grandmothers cooked. My grandmother does dressings -- every holiday we get together and she always does roasted duck with cornbread dressing and sweet potato pies. We have a tradition in our house and on Mother's Day and all the men get together and cook for the women, and on Father's day, vice versa. It's become a competition over the years. They are literally serving you -- the women don't touch anything or cook anything.

Watch Tiffany talk about her family and upbringing:

Get to know Tiffany Derry

Dale Talde: It's really easy, but it's a chicken and pork adobo I grew up eating. It's a traditional dish from the Philippines... and every time I made it it didn't taste like my mom has made it. It's never going to taste like my mom has made. It's the little things that as cooks today, we look over a little. It's the way she fries her onions and garlic in the beginning. It's the way she cuts her onions. I really spent time researching it and what she does different compared to what I do. We're classically trained to cut onions a certain way, a julienne cut, that's supposed to draw out the sweetness in the onions. Whereas my mom cuts it the other way, which draws out the savoriness ... and she takes it a little darker than I would -- literally like 3 minutes more in the pan without adding in your chicken. That makes an enormous difference. I really had to dig deep into it and it makes the difference in the dish.

Get To Know Dale

Spike Mendelsohn: If I set my pride aside, I could tell you that my mom can make the best baklava in the world. No matter how hard I try, I can’t capture the same taste and consistency as my mother’s baklava. Whenever I eat my mom’s Baklava, it brings me back to my days as a kid when the sweet treat made all of my problems melt away. If everyone could try my mom’s baklava, there would be world peace. My mom also makes a killer Pastiticio. There are so many variations on this dish, but my mom’s version is the ultimate Greek treasure.

Meet Spike's mom in the video below, and under that he shares her killer Pastitcio recipe!

Meet Spike's Folks, pt.1


Ingredients For the Meat Sauce:
3 1/2 lbs lamb mince
2 large cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 can tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon tomato puree
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for frying
Salt and Pepper, to taste

For the Pasta Layers
5 cups Penne
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

For the Bechamel
4 Cups Milk
8 Tablespoons Plain Flour
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
4 Egg Yolks
Nutmeg, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Cup Mozzarella, grated

To prepare the meat sauce, head the olive oil in a large pot. Sauté onions until transparent. Add mince and cook until browned. Add in the canned tomato, tomato puree, cinnamon, crushed garlic and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow mixture to simmer until the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool. Boil the pasta in salted water until slightly underdone. Drain and toss with olive oil. When cool, mix pasta with 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and the beaten eggs. For the béchamel, melt the butter on a low heat. Stir in flour and mix with a wooden spoon to remove any lumps. Remove from heat. Gradually pour in milk, while constantly whisking. Return to heat, while continuing to stir, until it thickens. Remove from heat. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of grated Parmesan and allow the mixture to cool. Stir in egg yolks and mix until smooth.

To assemble for baking, lightly grease an ovenproof dish. Spread half of the pasta over the bottom of the dish. Evenly spread the meat sauce over the pasta and then add the remaining pasta on top of that. Pour the béchamel over the pasta and spread evenly.

Bake at 320 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of grates Parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella and bake for an additional 20 minutes until the sauce rises and turns a golden brown. Remove from oven. Allow the dish to cool for 25 minutes prior to serving.
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