Campus News

Comfort Foods

AVI staff members share personal recipes for some of their favorite dishes

March 2, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A man wearing a chef jacket chops parsley on a cutting board.
Sous Chef Brian Csaky chops parsley as a garnish for his hot chicken dish.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Sometimes there's nothing like a warm bowl of comfort after a long day. To help fill the craving, AVI staff members share some of the dishes that give them the warm and fuzzies, from fried chicken to cream puffs. 


Sous Chef Brian Csaky’s Pickle Brined Nashville Hot Chicken

“This is hands down the best way to prepare chicken,” says Csaky. “Who doesn’t love Nashville chicken? The addition of the briny pickle flavor really compliments the spicy fried goodness.”



8 bone-in thighs


Chicken Brine Ingredients

2 cups pickle juice

1 cup hot sauce

2 to 3 cups buttermilk 


Frying Ingredients

2 to 3 cups seasoned flour

peanut oil 


Sauce Ingredients

1 cup hot sauce

½ cup brown sugar 

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper (or to taste)

3 tablespoons paprika

3 tablespoons garlic powder

3 tablespoons chili powder


Brine Preparation

1. Combine brine ingredients into a large bowl. Pour over chicken to cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. 


Chicken Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 275°F.

2. Fill a Dutch oven three-quarters of the way with peanut oil.

3. Drain chicken in a colander, then coat chicken in enough seasoned flour to coat. 

4. Gently drop chicken into oil and cook until internal temperature reaches 165 °F, roughly 18 minutes. Set on paper towels to drain. 



1. Combine hot sauce, brown sugar, cayenne pepper (or to taste), paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder in a bowl and whisk until smooth. 

2. Gently pour 1 cup of the mixture over fried chicken and toss in a bowl, making sure to completely coat chicken. *Be careful not to touch your eyes. 

3. Remove coated chicken from the bowl.

4. Place leftover sauce in a small bowl for dipping.


Esther Reed’s Cream Puffs

“My mother always makes cream puffs for family gatherings,” says Reed, director of retail at AVI. “They take some work but they are SO worth it.”

A woman holds a board with a flat piece of dough on top.
Esther Reed, director of retail, holds a plate of unrolled pastry dough. Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Pastry Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

½ cup water

½ cup 2% or whole milk

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

4 large eggs, beaten 

Combine 1 egg with t tablespoon milk or water for egg wash.


Pastry Cream Ingredients

2 cups half-and-half

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

&frac18 teaspoon salt

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


Choux Pastry Dough

Combine butter, water, milk, salt, and granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and add flour all at once. Stir until the flour is completely incorporated and a thick dough clumps into a ball. Mash the ball against the bottom and sides of the pan for 1 minute, which gently cooks the flour. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or, if using a handheld mixer, a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for a few minutes before adding eggs in the next step.


Adding Beaten Eggs to Pastry

With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add beaten eggs in 3 to 4 separate additions, mixing for 30 seconds between each. The mixture will look curdled at first, but will begin to come together as the mixer runs. Pour in the final addition of beaten eggs very slowly. Stop adding when the choux pastry has reached the desired texture: shiny, thick, and smooth with a pipeable consistency.

Your choux pastry dough is complete. You can use it immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Pastry Shells (profiteroles)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Lightly brush the parchment with water.

4. Transfer choux pastry dough to a piping bag or use a zip bag and cut off one corner for easy piping.

5. Pipe smaller than palm sized puffs onto parchment paper.

6. Using a water moistened finger, smooth down the peaks and lightly brush each puff with egg wash.

7. Do not open the oven as the pastries cook, as cool air will prevent them from properly puffing up. Bake for 20 minutes then, keeping the pastries in the oven, reduce heat to 350°F (177°C) and continue baking for 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. 

Allow puffs to cool completely before filling.


Cream Preparation

1. Heat half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt together in a bowl until smooth. Add flour and whisk until combined. Mixture will be thick. Whisk about 1/2 cup half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture into half-and-half in the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes as the mixture thickens.

2. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on the surface, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until combined. Pastry cream will be thick. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Put plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

3. Transfer pastry cream into a piping bag or zip top bag. Cut tops of profiterole shells off and fill with pastry cream and replace tops.

Alternatively, puffs can be filled with fresh whipped cream, lemon curd, chocolate mousse, etc. The sky's the limit!

Sarirose Hyldahl’s Hot Sauce Crackers

“This is a simple recipe but the result is so good and can be changed up in so many ways to suit your tastes,” says Hyldahl, director of catering.

A woman pours hot sauce into a large metal bowl.
Sarirose Hyldahl, director of catering, pours hot sauce into a large metal bowl. Photo credit: Yvonne Gay


4 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup hot sauce 

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (for extra spicy)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 box club crackers 


1. Preheat oven to 350 °F

2. In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine, add dried spices and gradually stir in hot sauce until incorporated and the mixture has a gloss. Remove from heat. 

3. Place crackers in a large bowl and pour hot sauce mixture over top. Stir gently with a rubber spatula to ensure all crackers are evenly coated.

4. Cover and allow crackers to soak up the sauce for at least 30 minutes or longer.

5. Arrange crackers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to15 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crispy.

Matt Schlottag’s A1 Meatball Sauce

“This is a great recipe rather than the traditional chili and jelly meatball sauce you normally see,” says Schlottag. “Once people have these, they will be begging you for your meatball sauce recipe. This recipe is forgiving and you can adjust the ingredients to suit your personal taste."

A man holds two bowls of food.
Matt Schlottag, retail manager, in the Stevenson Dining Hall kitchen. Photo credit: Yvonne Gay


Sauce is for 1 pound of meatballs. Use it with your favorite meatball recipe.


¼  cup unsalted butter

¼ cup steak sauce

¼ cup ketchup 

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ cup sour cream



1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter on low heat.

2. Add ketchup and steak sauce, whisking to combine.

3. Stir in brown sugar until melted.

4. Whisk in sour cream.

Take care to not rush the sauce. Blending the ingredients too quickly or with too high of heat will cause the sauce to become greasy and separated.

When the sauce is done, pour over meatballs in a crockpot and cook for 1 hour on high. Reduce temperature to low and cook an additional 3 hours.

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