The Dish: The Barn at Blackberry Farm chef Cassidee Dabney inspired by nature

The Dish: Chef Cassidee Dabney

Chef Cassidee Dabney spent much of her childhood moving among the country's national forests because her father was a wildlife biologist. That's where she learned to appreciate nature's bounty at the peak of freshness.

Her culinary career also kept her on the move — at worldwide locations of the Four Seasons hotel group, but then she found an idyllic place to settle down. She's now executive chef at "The Barn at Blackberry Farm" outside Knoxville, Tennesee, where the menu includes produce grown right on the restaurant grounds.  

Here are some of Dabney's recipes:

Pecan butter and roasted beets (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart toasted pecans
  • 6-8 baseball sized red beets
  • Kosher salt
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Aged balsamic or aged sherry vinegar

Puree toasted pecans in a food processor until smooth. Note: the pecans should have enough natural oil in them that you probably won't need any oil, but if needed, add a small amount of oil in the beginning. Season with salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Thoroughly wash the beets under running water. Remove the stem and root end with a sharp knife. Keep the skin on and dice the beets into 1-inch pieces. Note: don't worry too much about uniform shape and try not to waste any beet. Drizzle oil over the diced beets and then toss to coat. Place the diced beets in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Roast in the hot oven until the beets are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, toss the beets with ½ cup of the pecan butter. Add more salt if needed. Drizzle with the aged vinegar before serving.

Butternut squash (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:  

  • 1 large butternut squash (choose one with a longer neck)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 16 ounce crème fraiche (whipped like cream)
  • 1 cup of fresh dill (stems removed)
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts (toasted and coarsely chopped)

Peel one large butternut squash. Reserve the bulb end for another day. Slice the neck of the squash into 1-inch thick rounds. Drizzle with oil and season with salt. Roast in a 350 degree oven on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Cool until ready to use.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Using a skewer, poke 12 to 14 holes in the butternut slices and top each slice with a tablespoon of unsalted butter.

Just before serving, heat the butter-topped squash in the 450-degree oven for 5 to 6 minutes or until the butter starts to brown and the squash is warm through. Remove from oven and drizzle lemon juice evenly over the squash.

Top with chopped toasted hazelnuts, a generous dollop of whipped crème fraiche and a hearty pinch of fresh picked dill.

Sauteed brussels sprout leaves with smoked onion jam and chili oil (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoon smoked onion jam
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 lemons
  • Your favorite chili oil (optional)

Wash the sprouts and discard any damaged leaves. Remove any stems with a knife and peel the leaves off. As you peel more leaves, you may need to cut the stem again to better access the leaves. Keep peeling the sprouts back until the center is the size of a small acorn. This should yield about 2 quarts of peeled leaves.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a baking tray with parchment. In a large mixing bowl, lightly toss the leaves with grapeseed oil. Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast in the hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes, remove from oven and season with salt. Transfer the roasted leaves back to the large mixing bowl (wipe it out if it's too oily).

Melt the butter in a microwave in an appropriate bowl. Stir in the smoked onion jam. Toss the roasted leaves with the jam and butter mixture until evenly coated. Adjust salt and season with the juice of the lemons. Drizzle with chili oil if you like and serve. 

Herb roasted rack of lamb

Ingredients:  

  • 2 lamb racks (8 to 9 ribs each)
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
  • 4 (4-inch) rosemary sprigs
  • 8 thyme sprigs, crushed
  • Freshly black pepper
  • ½ cup butter

Pat the lamb rack dry with a paper towel and season generously with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place on a baking pan and allow to come to room temperature for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Sear the racks fat side down until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Turn over so that the fat side is up and roast in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and add the herbs and the butter to the pan. Over medium heat, baste the racks with the herb garlic butter for about 5 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the lamb with a probe thermometer. Shoot for an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Let the rack rest on a clean pan for 10 minutes before cutting.

To serve, cut each lamb rack into 4 equal pieces, 2 bones per chop. Garnish with more fresh herbs.

Apple crisp with cinnamon milk jam

Apple crisp

Ingredients:    

  • 6 apples (preferably Cameo or Winesap)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch

Peel the apples and cut into small dices. Place the brown sugar, apple cider, lemon juice and zest, vanilla paste and salt in a pot and bring to a simmer. Make a slurry with the corn starch and a bit of water, then add it to the pot and stir so it disperses evenly. Once it reaches a boil, remove from the heat and cool.

Oat streusel

Ingredients:   

  • ½ pound White Lily or all-purpose flour
  • ½ pound brown sugar
  • 4 ounces of rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound cold butter, cut into cubes

Combine the flour, sugar, oats and salt in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix the dry ingredients until they are fully combined, then add the butter and mix on a low speed until the mixture is crumbly.

Cinnamon milk jam

Ingredients:    

  • 1 quart Cruze Farm milk, or other high quality local milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
  • ¼ pound butter
  • 1 cinnamon stick, toasted

Toast the cinnamon stick in an oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Place the milk, sugar and cinnamon in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Dissolve the baking soda in a little bit of milk and then add to the milk once it is simmering. Bring to a boil and reduce the sauce until the color is brown and it has thickened significantly. It should be the consistency of sweetened condensed milk. Add the salt, vanilla and butter once you have removed it from the heat.

To bake:

Pour the apple filling in an ovenproof dish and top with an inch-high layer of the streusel topping. Bake for around 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the streusel is browned. Pour the milk jam in a mason jar and serve next to the apple crisp.