Fiddling in the kitchen one day, The Henry Ford‘s executive chef, Nick Seccia, dreamed up one of his signature creations: A flavor-infused chicken breast modeled after a pork chop. Using fresh herbs grown at Greenfield Village (the historic town which is part of the museum’s property in Dearborn) and animals raised on local farms, Chef Nick concocted the inventive dish. Did I mention that the chicken breast is wrapped in bacon?
Buying local not only helps support Michigan’s economy, explains Chef Nick, but it’s also good for the environment. And there’s an even better reason why Chef Nick uses local ingredients in his professional kitchen and in his home: It tastes better. For home cooks, Chef Nick suggests getting to know the farmers’ markets in your area. He’s also a regular at the Eastern Market in Detroit. "I remember how exciting it was to go there as a child," recalls Chef Nick, who grew up in Novi and Gaylord. "It’s really coming back. It’s a lively, happening place now with lots of great, local vendors."
Below, Chef Nick – who regularly creates everything from five-course meals for high-end events to finger foods for visiting school groups and menus for the museum’s on-site eateries – shares some insights into his cooking style. He also passes along the recipe for his Oven-Seared, Amish-Raised Chicken "Chop" with Morel Sauce.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
It’s tough to choose just three. But, I’d have to say veal stock, fresh herbs and butter. Real butter.
What is your favorite meal to make or eat?
Anything braised. I like dishes where the meat has been seared and then cooked for a long time so that it just becomes tender.
We all have a favorite indulgence; for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Chocolate. I like ganaches (smooth, creamy chocolate sauce or frosting) that are made with a high percentage of chocolate.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I learned how to cook first, and when you’re cooking, you create dishes using your eyes and your palette. I tried to do the same with baking. Now this was a long time ago, but I made this cake without measuring any ingredients. I can’t even remember what kind of cake it was supposed to be – it was just terrible.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
Real Michigan maple syrup.
What do you suggest for first-timers to The Henry Ford? What menu item should they make sure to try?
If you’d like a taste of Chef Nick’s culinary creations, you can head to The Henry Ford in Dearborn and try any of the eateries there, or you can master one of his dishes at home.