Comfort Food Kitchen: Friday Night Party

Cooking with Suzanne Michaud and the Magnificent Seven

Suzanne cookin' up some chicken tenders.

Last Friday night I had a great time in my Magnificent Seven friend Gail’s kitchen. As a wonderful, generous gift Gail had arranged for Professional Chef Suzanne Michaud ( of Comfort Food Kitchen to show five friends how to prep and cook a savory selection of appetizers just in time for the holidays. It was cooking and eating heaven!

Suzanne had already prepped samples of her chicken tenders with zesty marinara sauce from the evening’s tasting menu; we wolfed down the samples (The smell of the cooked chicken brought Gail’s husband Scott into the kitchen and I saw him sneaking some of those tenders off the plate and into his mouth. I did!) as she shared helpful hints and shortcuts. Suzanne believes in fresh, and organic, whenever you can find it. When food is “in season” (like peas in spring and fresh-dug potatoes in the fall) it tastes heavenly and that’s what Suzanne’s food tastes like: fresh, bright and in-season.

Fresh, crunchy-coated chicken tenders with zesty marinara, Suzanne style.

She makes her own marinara sauce from the best ingredients she can find and she cuts her own organic chicken tenders. Listening to Suzanne talk and sampling her food reminded me how much better everything tastes when you cook with fresh ingredients.

Suzanne’s chicken tenders are rolled in the most incredibly yummy bread crumbs (old family recipe, which Suzanne GAVE us, along with other recipes from the evening). The crust was so crunchy and crispy and flavorful that I made and froze a huge batch of the seasoned breadcrumbs the very next day; my family gives the crumbs two thumbs up!

We each took a turn at prepping the other appetizers.  Suzanne, warm and funny, was there to talk us down from the ledge if we began to take ourselves too seriously. Gail led off, as any hostess should, by stuffing mushroom caps and hollowed-out cherry tomatoes with a savory mushroom stuffing that is simple to make and divine to eat. Lita jumped in to help her, while Pat, recovering from hand surgery, Jenny and I watched. The stuffing includes fresh thyme, garlic, and a little bacon fat; I couldn’t decide whether I liked the mushroom caps or the tomatoes best; however, I must have eaten a dozen of each while trying to make up my mind!

Savory stuffed mushroom caps and cherry tomatoes. Out of the oven and into my mouth!

Jenny got to try her hand at prepping the puff pastry topped with oven roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, parmesan and gruyere cheeses. Take a look:

Begin with partially baked puff pastry then add roasted tomatoes.

Add some chopped Kalamata olives.

And some fresh roasted garlic.

Brush the pastry edges with melted butter and pop into the oven. When it's done? Heavenly aroma and flavor!

I got to prep puff pastry rounds topped with either fresh ricotta, fig jam and roasted walnut bits or gorgonzola smears, fig jam. And roasted walnut bits The little darlings popped out of the oven all golden and melty and I promptly popped a dozen or so into my mouth in rapid succession! My palate loved both, but it loved the gorgonzola and fig combo best!

Watch these puff pastry rounds topped with fig and roasted walnut bits and either fresh ricotta or gorgonzola disappear at your next party!

We all tried our hands at the palmiers: puff pastry wrapped around scrumptious ingredients like French ham and gruyere, gorgonzola and fig and more. And the best part? You can make and freeze the palmier “logs” and thaw them in the frig at some future point when you want to share a tasty treat with your friends or family. I actually just made/froze two “logs!”

French ham, Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard palmiers.

If you live in Northern New Jersey and want to treat yourself or someone you love to a tasty, informative and fun evening, give Suzanne a call at 201-452-1235 or email her at She offers small and private group cooking lessons and cooking parties. I love Gail (even more) for introducing me to Suzanne.

P.S. This is not a paid plug for Suzanne; I have received nothing in return for writing about her company. I love what she offers and am writing about her because I’m thrilled with what I ate and what I learned. Period.

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