After spending years training to be - and becoming - a ballerina, Williams retired from dancing at the age of 30, and went to Europe to regroup. She fell in love with the food in France, and decided she'd pursue a culinary career when she returned to the States.
Though Williams is self-taught, she gained experience in some of New York's most celebrated kitchens: the legendary Quilted Giraffe, Arizona 206, Sarabeth's Kitchen, SoHo hipster hangout 150 Wooster, Restaurant Charlotte and Butterfield 81. She's currently the executive chef at District, which is located in Manhattan's theater district (at the Muse Hotel, 130 W. 46th St.).
She agreed to take the Saturday Early Show's "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge, creating a three-course meal for four people for just $40. Because this week's challenge is based on leftovers, the cost of the turkey, rolls, Brussels sprouts and other Thanksgiving-related items was not factored in to the overall budget.
Her menu: a pumpkin soup jazzed up with gorgonzola cheese and spiced walnuts; a most unusual - and delicious - turkey burger; and, for dessert, a fruit tart with cranberries, tangerines and strawberries.
Pumpkin Soup with Gorgonzola and Spicy Walnuts
2 cups cooked pumpkin, mashed
2 tbs. butter
1 small onion, diced
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 oz gorgonzola
fresh black pepper and salt to taste
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Saute the diced onion in the butter until tender. Add the chicken stock, cream and the cooked pumpkin. (If you want a finely pureed soup, place the soup in the blender.) When the soup is warmed through, season with salt, pepper and the spicy walnut garnish.
For garnish: Toss the nuts with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and the cayenne and bake in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pour the soup into the bowls and top with a tablespoon of gorgonzola and the spicy nuts.
Open Faced Turkey Burgers with Giblet Gravy
3 cups leftover turkey, shredded
4 whole eggs
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup cooked leftover Brussels sprouts, sliced (or green beans diced or bell peppers diced)
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup finely ground bread crumbs (can use leftover stuffing)
1 tbs. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
4 leftover dinner rolls
1 cup giblet gravy
1 cup flour
3 tbp. olive oil
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
Place the shredded turkey in a bowl and add the onions, Brussels sprouts and 1/2 cup bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, combine the cream and 2 eggs. Season the turkey mixture and add the egg mixture. Form into four patties.
Beat remaining 2 eggs in a separate bowl.
Place remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs in a separate bowl or plate.
Roll turkey patties in flour, then beaten eggs, and then the bread crumbs.
In a sauté pan, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the turkey burgers until nice and crisp. Separate the rolls and heat in the oven. Heat the giblet gravy; place the rolls on the plate and top with the seared burger then the giblet gravy. Garnish whole parsley leaves on top.
Cranberry Strawberry, Tangerine Tart
2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 pint strawberries, sliced
2 tangerines supreme (segmented and removed from pith)
1 prepared pie shell
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Combine the cranberry sauce, the strawberries and the tangerine sections. Pour in the prepared shell and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Fold the cinnamon into the crème fraiche. Cut the pie and garnish with the cinnamon crème fraiche.