An Infatuated Chef, That Bodes Well For Diners!

by Lynn Ogryzlo | photos by A.J. Harlond

if I had a restaurant, I’d want jean white to cook for me. Jean White, or Jeanie as her friends call her, has a larger than life personality; a smile to melt a heart, a culinary talent to make your mouth water and an infatuation with food that can only bode well for the diners. Simply put, the woman is a really happy chef that intuitively knows what her customers want. What else could you want when you’re eating out?

Jeanie is the Room Chef of Three Sisters Restaurant in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Resort. It’s the only 24-hour restaurant that serves up never-ending breakfasts. Morning, noon or night you can order any breakfast on the menu. The popular Steak & Eggs is a juicy New York strip loin cooked to your liking and seasoned simply to bring out the full flavor of the premium Rochester beef. It’s accompanied with perfectly cooked New York State eggs. Mine were Sunnyside up with the whites totally cooked and just enough runny yolk to sop up with thick slices of buttery toast. Yum, it was perfect.

My colleague ordered the Banana Walnut Hotcakes. A high stack of light, fluffy pancakes with chopped walnuts and thick banana slices buried inside but with just enough of the banana showing to caramelize on the griddle with the sweet butter. We spread a thick layer of maple whipped butter overtop and it melted into the feathery stack that we sliced up and ate with fresh strawberries and real whipped Chantilly cream.

Jeanie’s motherly nature probably comes from the early influences of her three grandmothers. “My great grandmother was a chef on the farm in Italy,” says Jeanie proudly. At Christmas Jeanie’s family would have hand-made fettuccini made in their basement and hung on broom handles to dry. “My friends thought we were weird because we didn’t have turkey.” All three of Jeanie’s grandmothers were really good cooks. “My mother’s mother taught my dad to cook Polish dishes and my dad taught my grandmother to cook Italian dishes. Somewhere in between this exchange it all stuck with me. But food was more, it was a way of bringing us together in one room either cooking or sharing it together at the table. They influenced me so much it’s just in my blood. I couldn’t be anything else.”

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Jeanie cooks from her heart and hopes that her cooking will bring other people together around the table. “I’m in a place I love,” coos Jean. “I worked here when the restaurant first opened and I was a line cook. That’s when the casino was just a casino. Now that it’s a resort, the culinary side of things are just exploding and I came back to be part of it,” says Jeanie.

That may explain the exciting combination of Chocolate Martini and Nutella Stuffed French Toast you’ll find on The Three Sisters menu. The martini is made from Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka with dark crème de cocoa Bailey’s Irish Cream and chocolate drizzle is mixed together and sipped with uber-thick slices of toast sliced horizontally and stuffed with the magical Italian concoction of quality milk chocolate and creamed hazelnuts. These chunky slices of toast are dredged in a cinnamon egg wash and griddled in sweet New York State butter. As the French Toast cooks, it softens the Nutella into a seductively warm cream that oozes out when you bite into it. The martini brightens your senses while the warm Nutella luxuriates across your palate. Your shoulders relax, you sigh deeply and for just one moment, it seems the world stops.

The use of Nutella on the Three Sisters menu probably comes from Jeanie’s culinary experience at a Michelin star restaurant in Positano, Italy. Chocolate runs deep into the psyche of Jeanie and her staff of four sous chefs. I find this surprisingly unusual because her sous chefs are all men, yet they’re all chocoholics! Ok, could this restaurant get any better?

“My favorite part of the job is working with my chefs,” explains Jeanie. Because all of the restaurants in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Resort are striving for resort quality cuisine, “every day we learn something new, every day we’re talking about new recipes. These guys are my canvas and we’re painting every-day Picasso’s on the plate. It’s an exciting time for the kitchen and also for people who eat here.” Part of the new menu includes a solid Ahi Tuna sandwich, “you would have never seen this on our menu before.”

The name Three Sisters comes from the Seneca tribe of Indians. They believe the three staples; corn, beans and squash are essential to life. Chef Jean and her team are working on redesigning some of the dishes to include more of the Seneca influences in modern style flavors.

With traditional ingredients and modern influences, just how does a new dish get created? Designing new dishes means all white hats around a stove and counter chopping, mixing, grilling, simmering, sautéing and plating, it’s an organic way of reinventing classic dishes and designing new ones. The latest dishes for the new menu will focus on local ingredients so they insist on sourcing out the necessary quantities of locally grown and raised foods for their needs.

Like Italian or Mexican cuisine, Buffalo cuisine is big at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Resort. Dishes indigenous to Buffalo include more than just Buffalo Wings. You’ll see Beef on Weck, a dish that represents the Polish influence in the region and likewise, Souvlaki became popular because of the wave of Greeks who settled here. Of course, Jeanie puts her spin on all of the foods and Buffalo wings are no exception. She likes her wings crispy so the Buffalo wings are deep-fried until crispy and then tossed in Franks Hot Sauce. “It’s all a matter of timing,” explains Jean. “I like mine crispy so that’s the way we do wings here.”

The most popular dish in the Three Sisters Restaurant is the signature French Onion Soup. It’s made from scratch and kissed with sherry drenched caramelized onions. Once the broth is perfected, it’s topped with a delicious trio of cheeses and baked in the oven until the broth bubbles up over the cheese and melts into the crock. It’s a dreamy, creamy mouthful of a classic dish done to perfection.

Open 24 hours, some think The Three Sisters is the best restaurant for a relaxing sit-down breakfast, but it’s much more than that. The menu ranges from a zesty Jalapeno Burger to a hearty Tuscan Steak Sandwich. Do as Chef Jeanie would like you to do, take a friend and share the Turkey Club or make a tradition of her Friday Fish Fry Sandwiches. No matter what you eat, she hopes it helps you create happy memories with the person you’re dining beside.

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Three Sister’s French Onion Soup

Ingredients

2 lb onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme 1 bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 tsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry sherry
6 cups beef broth
6 slices of French baguette, 1/2-inch-thick
½ cup each of shredded Gruyère and Emmental
2 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

Directions

1. Cook onions, thyme, bay leaf in butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Stir in sherry and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and season to taste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

2. While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and preheat broiler.

3. Place 6 French onion soup bowls in a shallow baking pan. Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among bowls. Float a baguette slice in each. Divide shredded Gruyère and Emmental cheese among 6 soup bowls. Ensure the cheese covers the tops of each bowl, allowing ends of cheese to hang over rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

4. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted, bubbly and is golden on top, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 6. [/box]