Hot Plates

We put four area chefs in the hot seat, asking each “what is your favorite dish to prepare?” They graciously shared their secrets, allowing you to serve up these meals at home.

Whoever coined the phrase “I’ve died and gone to heaven” might have been dining on one of the divine signature dishes featured on the following pages. the kitchen geniuses behind these culinary creations open their recipe books and reveal the steps they take to achieve the perfect taste and texture of their delectable plates. now that you know what it takes to make these meals, it’s time for you to put these recipes together in your kitchen. 


Rigatoni With Pumpkin and Goat Cheese

Executive Chef/Owner Howard Raczkiewicz of Moonstruck in Asbury Park

Serves 12 


  • 1 small cheese pumpkin or medium butternut squash
  • 1 lb. rigatoni 
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. olive oil 
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and chopped 
  • 2 tbs. fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled 
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  •  ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped 


Peel the pumpkin and cut it into ¾-inch cubes. Steam the cubes on a stove (or roast them in an oven, covered with foil) until they’re tender. Boil the pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and sauté the leeks until softened. add the sage and cooked pumpkin to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 1–2 minutes to blend the flavors.

Add the drained pasta and fold it into the contents in the skillet. Add the goat cheese and ½ cup of cooking water. Continue cooking over low heat, for 1–2 minutes, tossing the ingredients together until the cheese starts to melt. Add more cooking water as needed to develop a sauce that nicely coats the pasta and vegetables. Toss in toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds (optional). Season to taste with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Plate the dish in large bowls, garnish with parsley and serve immediately. 


Stuffed Artichokes

Chef/owner Danny Kerr of Citricos in Bradley Beach

Serves 4 


  • 4 medium fresh artichokes
  • 1 gallon (16 cups) water 
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tb. salt
  • 2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs 
  • 1 tb. minced garlic 
  • 2–3 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tb. dried parsley
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1–2 tbs. for drizzling


Clean the artichokes in cool water, pulling the leaves outward to loosen. Trim the stems so that the artichokes sit upright on a flat surface. Snip off the pointed tips of each leaf with scissors. In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil and add the lemon juice and salt to the water (reserve ¼ tablespoon of the salt for a dry mixture). Add the artichokes to the boiling water and boil until tender, about 45–60 minutes. Remove from the water and put them in the fridge to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper and remaining salt. Slowly add the oil until the crumb mixture is moistened enough to stick together. Starting from the bottom of the artichoke, stuff each leaf with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the stuffed artichokes on a large baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the artichokes and cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil. Bake for approximately 10–12 minutes.

Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and parsley.


Apple Rose Tarts

Executive Chef Jonathan Vukusich of Just in Old Bridge

Makes 12


  • 12 shortbread tart shells
  • 7 red apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 oz. applesauce
  • 1 tbs. almond paste
  • 1 oz. dulce de leche syrup or chocolate syrup
  • 12 scoops vanilla ice cream 


Keeping the peel on, slice the apples as thinly as possible and eliminate the seeds and any hard parts. Lay the apple slices on a baking sheet, sprinkle on the sugar and let them sit for 45 minutes or until the apples soften and are pliable.

Combine the applesauce and almond paste, then put 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each tart shell.

To form each rose, lay out 15 apple slices in a straight row with each slice overlapping one another. Starting with one end, gently roll the apple slices. Transfer the rolled slices into the tart shells. Repeat this process until all of the tart shells are filled.

Place the filled tarts on a tray and put into an oven preheated to 350°F for 5–7 minutes to warm them (optional). Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to each tart. Drizzle with syrup before serving. 


Mashed sweet Potatoes with Brown sugar and Pecans

Chef/Owner Neil Malloy of Neil Michael’s steakhouse in hazlet

Serves 12


  • 1 cup packed golden-brown sugar 
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ stick of butter (¼ cup), chilled, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 5 lbs. red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 3tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 2tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1tb. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. salt


Preheat the oven to 350°f. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Mix the sugar, pecans and butter in small bowl. Cover the mixture and chill until needed.

Cook the sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water until very tender (about 12 minutes). Drain and let them sit in a colander for 15 minutes. Then, purée the sweet potatoes in a food processor.

Beat the eggs, syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the puréed sweet potatoes, then transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the pecan topping evenly on top. Bake until the sweet potato mixture is set and the topping bubbles, about 1 hour.

Let cool for 15 minutes; serve.

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