'Be our guest'

by Don Bingham
Mike Kemp photos

The official Executive Residence of the Governor of the State of Arkansas has often been called “The Front Door” for Arkansas hospitality. The Governor’s Mansion Culinary Team presents a trained, professional and colorful array of food styles, personalized to each occasion and guests. 

Each week, the three chefs with the assistance of the Mansion service crew, prepare and present delectable meals that range from a conference room meeting to dinners for 250. 

The three chefs are Patrick A. Herron, Altus Hays Buttry and Daniel R. R. Darrah. 

Chef Patrick Herron: Trained in American, European and regional cuisine; wine and food pairings; time and cost efficient procedures; and catering and special events production. Education: The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York.

Chef Altus Buttry: French, Creole, Italian and Vietnamese proficiency; recipe development; menu design; and roasting, braising, sautéing specialty. Education: The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York.

Chef Daniel Darrah: Baking and confectionery arts; international cuisine; soups, stocks and sauces; garde manger (in charge of salad, fresh vegetables, etc.); and nutrition. Education: Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Program, Portland, Oregon.

Whether it’s a formal, seven-course dinner or tea and crumpets in the Mansion Gardens, the Mansion chefs offer a delightful culinary experience for every occasion. Each Chef has provided 501 LIFE with one of their recipes that frequent the menu at the Governor’s Mansion located at 1800 Center St. in Little Rock. Those recipes are listed below for your cooking and entertaining enjoyment.

Fire Roasted Apple Bouchee
(from Chef Daniel R. R. Darrah)

3 cups chopped apples*
3 cups of apple juice
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 each cardamom pods crushed
1 box puff pastry sheets
Cinnamon ice cream

*Fire-roasted Fuji add a great flavor but any firm apple will do. Use your favorite.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the puff pastry into four each, 2-inch by 2-inch squares. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. While the pastry is baking, place the cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, nutmeg and apple juice into a sauce pan and reduce by half over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the chopped apples and bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch into the remaining juice and add to the mixture stirring constantly. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Cut the pastry 1/8 inch from the edge all the way around the center. Remove center piece to create a cavity for the mixture. Spoon the apple mixture into the cavity and top with a scoop of the ice cream. Serve immediately.

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
(from Chef Altus Hays Buttry)
Makes approximately 9 pounds.

At least an 8-quart pot, either enamel or stainless steel. (Do not use aluminum, cast iron or other reactive pots.)
Thermometer (A candy thermometer will probably work, but a good digital thermometer is much better for accuracy.)
A couple of measuring cups or something to dissolve the Citric Acid and Rennet in.
A big strainer to strain the curds from the whey.
A long, sharp knife to cut the curds.
A slotted spoon to stir the curds and dip them out with.
Large bowl for the drained off whey. (Glass is best.)
Small bowl to put the curds in. (Glass is best.)
Cheese cloth

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-homogenized)
1 Rennet tablet, crushed
2 teaspoons citric acid
1/2 cup unchlorinated water
2 teaspoons salt

Pour 1 teaspoon citric acid into 1/4 cup unchlorinated water and stir. Crush the Rennet tablet and pour it into the other 1/4 cup of unchlorinated water. The citric acid should be dissolved by the time you have to use it. Most of the Rennet will be dissolved, but there will still be some residue left.

Heat milk to 50 degrees, then pour in the citric acid solution. Heat the milk to 88-90 degrees, stirring occasionally. At 88-90 degrees, turn off heat and stir in the Rennet solution for 15-20 seconds. Cover with lid undisturbed for about 20 to 30 minutes, until you get a clean break from the curd from side of pot or with finger.

Cut the curd into 1/2-inch cubes and let sit about 10 minutes. Apply low heat and reheat in pot to 108 degrees while stirring occasionally (takes about 15 minutes). The curds will shrink and start to sink as the whey is expelled from them.

Turn off the heat and continue stirring every few minutes for an additional 20 minutes. The curds will keep shrinking. Drain the curds into a strainer or colander fitted with the cheese cloth and let set for about 15 minutes. Either use a small strainer to dip them out or just pour into the big bowl through the large strainer. Let the curds drain until no more whey comes out of them. This might take 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve the whey solution to make ricotta cheese.

Warm a large pot of lightly salted water to just below boiling (about 190 degrees). Pour the curds into a strainer and nestle the strainer into the pot so the curds are submerged in the hot water. Let the curds sit for about five minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, fold the curds under the water and check their internal temperature. If it has not reached 135 degrees, let the curds sit for another few minutes until it does. Once the curds have reached 135 degrees, lift them from the water and stretch as directed. Using both hands, stretch and fold the curds repeatedly. It will start to tighten, become firm and take on a glossy sheen. When this happens, you are ready to shape the mozzarella. Make one large ball, two smaller balls or several bite-sized bocconcini, or roll flat. Try not to overwork the mozzarella.

Chicken Agro dolce
(from Chef Patrick A. Herron)

4 6-ounce chicken breasts
24 red grapes, cut in half
4 medium-sized shallots, julienned
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper   
2 ounces olive oil
Flour for dredging

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat skillet to medium high heat and add olive oil. Quickly add the chicken breasts and saute until both sides are golden brown but not cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and add shallots to the skillet.

Cook shallots
until translucent, then add the garlic, balsamic vinegar and the bay leaf.  Deglaze with white wine and cook the alcohol off, then add the chicken stock. Reduce by one and add the capers along with the chicken breasts to finish cooking in the sauce. To finish, add the grapes and cook for 3 minutes at a simmer, then add chopped parsley and serve.


Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and previously served as the executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion. He is now the director of special events at the University of Central Arkansas.


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