12 restaurants America loves. With recipes!
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From Los Angeles to Atlanta to Chicago to New York, restaurants all over the country are dealing with trying times. Steakhouses, sushi bars, taquerias and bistros — we miss them all, and they miss us. We reached out to a dozen chefs and proprietors, to hear a little about their stories and their worlds today. And we have a great recipe from each, so you can recreate a little of their food in your kitchen.
Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles
Hwa Yuan, New York City
Chien Lieh Tang, the chef of Hwa Yuan in Manhattan’s Chinatown, grew up in the kitchens of his family’s restaurants in Taipei, Taiwan. “I remember watching the chefs spread the hot noodles on ice,” he said in a recent video call, demonstrating the gentle, draping hand motions used to make the spicy cold noodles dressed with sesame paste that were popular in hot Taiwanese summers.
He added, “Every ingredient in the sauce was put together at the last minute,” and then switched over to furious whisking.
The Tang family’s roots are in Nanchong, in Sichuan province, China, where fresh noodles slicked with dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns are classic street food. Like about 2 million others from mainland China, Tang’s parents moved to Taiwan when the communists took over in 1949 after a civil war. When immigration restrictions were lifted in 1965, many moved on to the United States, including Tang’s father, Yu Fa Tang (nicknamed Shorty).
He opened a restaurant in Chinatown in 1967 and became a successful restaurateur with multiple Sichuanese restaurants in Manhattan and a much-copied recipe for cold noodles — made without Sichuan peppercorns, then unavailable in New York. But he died young, and the original Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn closed in 1991.
Today, Tang, 67, and his son, James, 35, who helps run the business, are luckier than most Chinatown restaurant owners in the pandemic. The family owns the building, so they do not have to worry about rent, a tremendous barrier to reopening in New York. They have been able to keep the kitchen running for delivery and takeout with a skeleton crew of cooks.
The Tangs have never shared the recipe for their sesame noodles. But The New York Times developed a home-cooking version of it in 2007, with a common twist: substituting peanut butter if the right kind of sesame paste is hard to come by.
Tang said that after the restaurant reopened with an elegant makeover in 2017 and received a two-star review in The Times, there had been a constant flow of customers who announced that they were there to honor a first date, an engagement or a love affair with carp in hot bean sauce, the first dish he ever learned to make.
Anti-Chinese vitriol and violence have risen across the country because of misinformation about the coronavirus, and many Chinese restaurants have been forced to shut down completely because employees fear leaving their own neighborhoods. Still, Tang said, it was tourists, not local residents, who avoided Chinese restaurants in February, when business was down by 40%.
“New Yorkers know better than that,” he said. “We are all in this together.”
— Julia Moskin
Recipe: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
- 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
- 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste
- Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.
Tips: The Chinese sesame paste called for here is made of toasted sesame seeds; it is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of plain, untoasted sesame. But you could use tahini in a pinch. You need only add a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, and perhaps some peanut butter to keep the sauce emulsified.
Toum (Garlic Whip)
Phoenicia, Birmingham, Michigan
For decades, diners at Phoenicia, a Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham, Michigan, went home with an image of Sameer Eid imprinted on their brains — specifically, his outsize, curling mustache.
“The mustache is first,” said Eid, Phoenicia’s 80-year-old founder. “I come second.”
He believes his customers wouldn’t recognize him if he shaved. “My wife and myself are stopped in airports,” he said. “People ask me, ‘Are you the Monopoly guy?’”
Eid’s son, Samy, is now in charge of running Phoenicia and the family’s two other restaurants, Leila, in nearby Detroit, and Forest, also in Birmingham. Leila, which GQ magazine named one of the best new American restaurants of 2020, has been closed since March, when stay-at-home orders were issued in Michigan, while Forest and Phoenicia remain open for takeout and delivery.
Keeping the elder Eid away from the restaurants for the sake of his health has been “one of the more depressing parts” of the shutdown, his son said.
Before the pandemic, Sameer Eid wasn’t exactly retired. He woke at 5 a.m. three times a week, as he had for nearly 50 years, to buy produce and meat at the Detroit Produce Terminal or at Eastern Market. He started the habit a few years after opening the first version of Phoenicia in Detroit in 1971. “I must have gone through 15 purveyors,” Eid said of those early days. “They couldn’t understand, I want what I want, not what you want to sell me.”
Phoenicia moved to its current site in 1982. The new space was an upgrade, in both size and appearance, from the diner-style original. But the food stayed the same, even if it was served on white tablecloths: traditional Middle Eastern mezze (hummus, stuffed eggplant, tabbouleh), kofta kebabs, broiled chicken with toum, all made with Eid’s hand-picked ingredients.
Phoenicia’s food is what Eid ate growing up in Marjayoun, Lebanon. A notable exception is one of the restaurant’s best-sellers: barbecue pork ribs. “My dad went to college in Denton, Texas, and fell in love with barbecue,” said Samy Eid, 40. “The kebabs go like crazy, so does the fattoush. But people really love our baby back ribs.”
Samy Eid took over the restaurant in 2009, but his father continued to be very much a part of it, returning to Phoenicia to serve as host for dinner service every night. “Literally, it’s entertainment for me,” Sameer Eid said. “I love to go back to the restaurant, to see my friends at the restaurant.”
He regards Samy’s entry into the family business as “the great blessing of my life.” But he still doesn’t understand why his son won’t grow a mustache like his. “Poor guy, he refuses to do that,” he said. “Why?”
— Brett Anderson
Recipe: Toum (Garlic Whip)
Total time: 15 minutes, plus chilling
Yield: 4 1/2 cups
- 1 cup peeled garlic cloves (about 32 cloves, from 3 to 4 whole heads)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
- 3 1/2 cups canola oil or grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons ice water
1. Place peeled garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the garlic for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then repeat three more times until garlic is finely chopped.
2. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and continue processing until a smooth paste forms, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 45 seconds or so. You want the wet, finely chopped garlic mixture to end up with a texture similar to mashed potatoes. Pinch it between your fingertips, and it should no longer feel gritty. (If you don’t blend the garlic enough at this stage, it won’t become fluffy and emulsified later.)
3. With the food processor running, start incorporating 1 cup oil, drizzling it in at a slow, steady stream. Once the oil is incorporated, slowly add another 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Repeat this step with another 1 cup oil, then another 2 tablespoons lemon juice. By the end, the mixture should have a fluffy consistency.
4. With the food processor running, alternate adding 1/2 cup oil in a slow, steady stream, then 1 tablespoon lemon juice. This should happen twice. Next, with the food processor running, add the remaining 1/2 cup oil in a slow stream until totally incorporated, then do the same for the ice water.
5. Once finished, transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toum will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.
(Recipe from Samy Eid of Phoenicia)
Tagliatelle With Prosciutto and Butter
Felix Trattoria, Venice, California
At its best, Felix is electric.
On a busy Friday or Saturday night before the pandemic, customers flocked in droves to the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles for some of the best handmade pasta in the country. All 100 seats were filled by an eclectic mix of locals, tourists and, as in most buzzy California restaurants, celebrities. (The chef, Evan Funke, counts Jay-Z and Beyoncé as fans.)
The music was intentionally familiar — some James Brown or ’90s hip-hop, occasional trap or classic rock — but never too loud, lest it disrupt the olfactory experience. Funke, 41, considers the scent of the restaurant even more welcoming than the vibe.
“If the track pulls too hard, none of those beautiful aromas can weep into the dining room,” he said. “When you walk into Felix, you can smell the orecchiette Pugliese, the Genovese and the Bolognese. You smell the pizza, the salame piccante. It’s this one amazing perfume that is the cumulative effect of everything that’s going on in the restaurant.”
The seating hugs the heart of Felix, an open kitchen where cooks used to knead, cut and fold up to 75 pounds of pasta on a typical day. Funke said his pasta laboratorio “isn’t just built as theater and conversation piece”; its true purpose is to connect pasta-maker and guest. For Funke, the act of making pasta is not only about preserving a rich history of more than 2,000 years; it’s also about hospitality. “That connection is really important to me,” he said.
After Mayor Eric Garcetti halted dine-in service across Los Angeles, Funke struggled with the decision that faced everyone in the industry: to close, or pivot to a new business model. Two days later, the restaurant celebrated for ornate, delicate handmade pasta was serving takeout.
“I have people on my staff that live paycheck to paycheck, just like every other restaurant in the United States,” Funke said. He described his staff as an extended family. “We stayed open so our staff could put food on the table.”
But adapting a fine-dining restaurant for takeout is a challenge. There is no way to control the temperature and structure of cooked pasta for delivery. “I’m a student of consistency,” Funke said. “In this business, if you’re not consistent, you have nothing.”
Instead, the restaurant created pasta kits, pairing 14 or 15 fresh varieties — eight or so made fully by hand, and the rest extruded — with pesto Genovese, arrabbiata and other classic sauces suited to each size and shape, and providing careful instructions for cooks to prepare the dishes at home. Down to one full-time and one part-time pasta-maker, Felix is still producing more than 65 pounds of pasta daily.
While the open kitchen was a draw for customers, it also allowed the staff a window on its audience. “That’s why we do it, to see the reaction of our guests, to feel that they’re satisfied.” Funke said. “We’ve been reduced to these 90-second interactions when people pick up, and that’s literally what’s been sustaining us as a group.”
— Alexa Weibel
Recipe: Tagliatelle With Prosciutto and Butter
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3/4 pound handmade fresh tagliatelle or store-bought tagliatelle
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish, if desired
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until frothy and golden, about 1 minute. Add half the prosciutto in one flat layer. Cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer cooked prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining prosciutto, leaving it in the skillet, and remove skillet from heat.
3. Season the boiling water lightly with salt. When the salt dissolves, add the tagliatelle and cook until toothsome and slightly undercooked, 2 to 4 minutes or according to package instructions.
4. Just before your pasta is ready, return the skillet to the heat and warm over medium. Do not drain the pasta, but use a slotted pasta fork or tongs and transfer the cooked pasta directly to the skillet. Working quickly, add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and swirl vigorously to emulsify, jostling the pan at the same time, and cook just until sauce is silky, about 1 minute.
5. Divide the pasta among shallow bowls, sprinkle with pepper and remaining prosciutto and serve immediately, along with more Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.
(Recipe adapted from Evan Funke’s pasta cookbook, “American Sfoglino,” Chronicle Books, 2019)
Brennan’s, New Orleans
Bananas Foster is a dessert prepared tableside, over a live flame, as well as a source of dining-room drama — and potential danger. The fire that rises off the pan can be seen tables away, stoking anticipation even in diners who have just started on their appetizers.
“The challenge with bananas Foster is to keep the flame low,” said Ralph Brennan, who grew up eating the dish at Brennan’s. “When the pan gets real hot, there can be a mini-explosion. I can remember one incident where they singed a lady’s fur coat.”
The dessert was invented in 1951, when Owen Brennan, the restaurant’s founder and Ralph Brennan’s uncle, requested a special dessert for an important guest. Ella Brennan, Owen’s sister, collaborated with Paul Blangé, one of the early chefs at the Brennan family’s original restaurant, and a headwaiter. Their creation became a kind of family heirloom that’s now served all over New Orleans.
“My aunt came up with this idea to use brûléed bananas,” said Ralph Brennan, 68, now an owner of Brennan’s. “My grandmother had the habit of brûléeing bananas at home. Back in the day, the Port of New Orleans was one of the biggest importers of bananas into the United States.”
Bananas Foster can now be found in many forms in the city: bananas Foster cakes, sundaes, bread pudding. But there is no substitute for the original, live-action version, spooned over melting vanilla ice cream.
Brennan’s has been closed, and its hourly staff laid off, since the government issued stay-at-home orders in March. No date has been set, but Ralph Brennan is looking forward to reopening — and resuming the bananas Foster tradition.
“It’s part of the cinema of dining,” he said. “The flaming of an item in a dining room is so rarely done these days. I can’t tell you how many people sit there with their phones and take a video of the making of the dessert.”
— Brett Anderson
Recipe: Bananas Foster
Total time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 1 banana, peeled, halved lengthwise and crosswise
- 1 teaspoon banana liqueur
- 1 ounce light rum (80- to 90-proof)
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Melt butter and sugar in a small frying pan. Add banana pieces and sauté over medium heat until lightly browned, turning pieces once. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Remove pan from heat.
2. Add liqueur and rum to pan. To flambé, carefully light sauce with long-reach lighter. Spoon flaming sauce over the banana pieces until flame is extinguished.
3. Serve warm banana pieces and sauce over vanilla ice cream.
(Recipe adapted from Brennan’s by New York Times food editor Jane Nickerson in 1957)
Country Club Bakery, Fairmont, West Virginia
Chris Pallotta is not about to divulge the recipe for his bakery’s signature pepperoni rolls. But he did say that “the bread dough is probably the most important part of it.”
Pallotta, 42, doesn’t run just any bakery. He owns Country Club Bakery, in Fairmont, West Virginia, an Italian bakery opened by the man credited with first selling the rolls commercially, Giuseppe Argiro. The snack is the unofficial state food of West Virginia, a yeasted shelf-stable roll that at Country Club Bakery envelops three pencil-size pepperoni sticks.
Country Club sells the baseline standard for a pepperoni roll, said Candace Nelson, the author of “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” You can find pepperoni rolls just about anywhere in the state — bakeries, restaurants, school cafeterias, grocery stores and gas stations — but according to Nelson, “the pinnacle is the fresh, hot-from-the-bakery pepperoni roll.”
There are those who believe that the roll is best made with stick pepperoni, as it is at Country Club, and others who spread slices through the roll “like you would cards if you were doing a magic trick,” said Ronni Lundy, the author of the Appalachian cookbook “Victuals.” Ground pepperoni has a following, too.
Cheese, while initially controversial, has been embraced by many. But purists still want their rolls the way Country Club makes them: without. Some dip them in marinara sauce, and others slather them with mustard, Lundy said. “I am absolutely certain that there has to be a secret cult somewhere that puts ranch dressing on it,” she said.
The pepperoni roll wasn’t always so manifold. Argiro began selling his rolls sometime between 1927 and 1938, Nelson said, but it is likely that the wives of Italian immigrant coal miners were making them long before they were sold commercially. It was a way to combine the two foods that many miners took down to the shafts, a perfect lunch to eat with one hand in the cramped darkness.
Its portability and long shelf life have made it a popular wedding favor, and road trip and tailgate snack.
Country Club has been allowed to operate as an essential business during the pandemic, and the bakery continues to make as many as 4,200 pepperoni rolls a day. Pallotta, who bought the shop from the Argiro family in 1998, said supermarket orders had picked up as restaurant demand collapsed. “Our business is pretty steady,” he said.
At his bakery, the rolls are about the size of a hot dog bun, made of an Italian bread dough. “When you bake it, the grease from the pepperoni infiltrates the whole roll,” he said.
That pepperoni juice is the secret to finding the tastiest roll, Lundy said, offering the advice she was given at a food conference a few years back: “Pick it up and look at the bottom, and if it’s got red grease on the bottom, that’s a better one. That one’s going to be permeated with the pepperoni flavor.”
— Sara Bonisteel
Recipe: Pepperoni Rolls
Total time: About 2 1/2 hours
Yield: 6 rolls
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 individual packet)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup, sorghum syrup or honey
- 2 3/4 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more as needed
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 (8-ounce/225-gram) pepperoni stick or 6 ounces pepperoni slices
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1. Add the warm water to a measuring cup. Stir in the yeast and syrup, then let stand for 5 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, salt, 1 teaspoon oil and yeast mixture. Pulse several times on low to combine, then knead on low until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
3. Grease a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil. Use floured hands to remove the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer it to the greased bowl. Cover the bowl using a damp towel, and let the dough sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise.
4. As dough rises, prepare the stick pepperoni (if using): Cut the pepperoni into 2 (5-inch) lengths. Cut each piece lengthwise into 3 slabs, then cut each of those slabs lengthwise into 3 even batons, forming a total of 18 pieces, each 5 inches long and about 1/3-inch wide.
5. Lightly spray or oil a baking sheet. When the dough is ready, use floured hands to remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a floured surface. Cut it into 6 equal portions, about 4 ounces each, and roll them into balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Spray or lightly oil the top of each ball of dough and cover the baking sheet lightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 20 minutes.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dough. Using floured hands, remove a dough ball and place it on a floured work surface. Either roll or stretch the dough into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. (Be careful not to make the dough too thin, or it will be hard to roll up the pepperoni.)
7. Set a 6-inch edge of the rectangle facing you. Starting about 1 1/2 inches from the short edge closest to you, place 3 pepperoni sticks crosswise on the dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each stick.
8. Take the dough edge closest to you, fold it over the first pepperoni stick, adhering the top layer of dough to the bottom layer of dough, and then proceed to make 2 more folds away from you to enrobe the remaining 2 pepperoni sticks. If using slices, imagine separating your dough into thirds by creating 2 crosswise rows of pepperoni, each overlapped like a spread of cards, 6 pepperoni slices wide. Fold the dough closest to you over the first row of pepperoni slices, then fold up the dough to cover the second row of pepperoni slices, so the pepperoni and dough form alternating layers.
9. Return the roll to the baking sheet, setting it seam-side down. (Resist the urge to tuck in or fold over the shorter ends.) Repeat this process with the remaining dough balls and pepperoni sticks or slices.
10. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and bake until golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with any remaining butter. Let cool completely before serving.
(Recipe from the chef Travis Milton and featured in Ronni Lundy’s cookbook, “Victuals,” Clarkson Potter, 2016)
Pork Roast With Roasted Jalapeño Gravy
Taqueria del Sol, Atlanta
Taqueria del Sol is a small chain of laid-back restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee known for vibrant Mexican food with a charming Southern accent. Turnip greens laced with chile de arbol, shrimp and grits with jalapeño-tomato salsa and fried chicken tacos are just a few of the dishes customers have fallen for since Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank opened the first of seven locations in Atlanta in 2000.
To food-world insiders, the Taquerias are considered some of the country’s first fast-casual restaurants, not quite fast-food and not quite full-service dining. Hernandez, 65, who learned to cook from his grandmother while growing up in Mexico, created the menu, and Klank, who has an engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, developed and employed efficiency measures. To their devoted customers, however, the restaurants are known for a small-town feel and menus that rarely change — a soothing balm to their patrons, especially during the pandemic.
“It’s very much an anchor of the community,” said Susan Puckett, a regular customer and a co-author with Hernandez of “Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen.” She lives a short walk from the Taqueria del Sol in Decatur, Georgia.
“When it first happened, we didn’t want any of our favorite restaurants to close, but we thought, ‘God forbid anything happens to Taqueria,’” Puckett said. Seeing cars drive in and out of the parking lot, a sign that business is doing well, has relieved her fears. “It gives us a lot of comfort knowing that it’s still there.”
The transition from a dine-in restaurant to a bustling takeout joint has been relatively seamless for Hernandez and his staff. This is likely because of the counter-service system they already had in place, but also because of how they responded to the shutdown. “They’ve recreated themselves in a way that still feels like Taqueria,” Puckett said. “Other places are trying really hard, but it’s not the same.”
After giving employees two weeks off, they emptied the Decatur dining room of tables and set up an assembly line for food preparation. Staff members have their temperature taken before every shift, and wear gloves and masks. With more than 60 tequilas available, customers can order to-go cocktails in a plastic cup, or buy a bottle of Taqueria’s famous margarita mix to make their own at home. “We are doing really, really well,” Hernandez said.
As of April 27, Georgia restaurants were allowed to open dining rooms with a limited capacity of no more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet, but Hernandez has no plans to reopen anytime soon.“We won’t open at 50% capacity,” he said. “Catering the dining room is more complicated than to-go, and we have the most wonderful customers on the planet. We want to protect everybody, not just our employees.”
— Margaux Laskey
Recipe: Pork Roast With Roasted Jalapeño Gravy
Total time: 1 1/4 hours
Yield: 8 servings
For the roast:
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless pork loin, with a good layer of fat on it
For the gravy:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 2 jalapeños
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 cups pork stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Mix together salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion. Place the pork on a rack set in a roasting pan and sprinkle the roast with the spice mixture, rubbing it lightly so it adheres to the meat.
2. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. If the fat begins to get too dark, tent with foil.
3. While the roast is cooking, make a roux for the gravy by melting the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and whisk vigorously until smooth. When the mixture thins and starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking slowly, until the mixture smells nutty and toasty and is still light colored. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside and let cool.
4. When the roast is done, cover and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 450 degrees. Place the jalapeños in a small pan, brush with oil and roast for 6 minutes, or until soft. Remove the stems and some or all of the seeds and membranes, depending on how hot the peppers are and how hot you want the gravy. Dice the jalapeños.
5. Place the half-and-half, stock, salt and jalapeños in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the roux and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking continually, until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Stir in a little more roux if needed to reach the desired thickness and, if desired, any accumulated juices from the roast. Slice the roast, cover in gravy and serve.
(Recipe from Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol)
Cinnamon Crunch Banana Bread
Bakesale Betty, Oakland, California
Like the Mona Lisa and the Cronut, lunch at Bakesale Betty in Oakland, California, generates a line long before opening time. Alison Barakat, the baker who took over this storefront on a busy corner of Telegraph Avenue in 2005, sells basic treats like strawberry shortcake and ginger cookies and just one sandwich: fried chicken with jalapeño coleslaw on a brioche bun.
It’s a perfect combination, especially eaten at one of the rickety ironing boards set up on the sidewalk as makeshift tables. When the line gets especially long, Barakat sometimes comes out in her signature blue wig, distributing cookies and calm.
She closed the bakery on March 14, days before a lockdown took effect in the Bay Area. She has three young children to look after, but she also wanted to pause and think through the future of the business. “We’ve been in even more dire financial straits than this,” she said. (Bakesale Betty has expanded and contracted before.) “I want to be the local business that embraces change, and gets out in front of it.”
Barakat was born and raised in Sydney, where she started working in professional kitchens at 18. (She’s 46 now.) She worked in the early 2000s as a line cook at Chez Panisse, where she got her first taste of American fried chicken.
“It was like I never wanted to eat anything else,” she said.
Bakesale Betty was born as a stand at the North Oakland Farmers Market, where Barakat refined her baked goods with small twists like adding a crunchy cinnamon topping to banana bread. The shop finally got its big break last year: Alongside other local food businesses like the Filipino snack specialist Sarap Shop and Hot Dog Bills (home of the burgerdog), Bakesale Betty was selected as a vendor at the Golden State Warriors’ new arena in San Francisco, which opened last fall. But the NBA suspended all play on March 11, and there is no decision yet about resuming the season.
The original location has reopened on weekends only, baking seasonal pies like strawberry and apricot for pickup. Like many California restaurants, it is relatively well positioned for a permanent switch to outdoor-only dining. But if social distancing becomes a way of life, Barakat said, she worries that a key component of the experience that she created will be lost. “It’s all about the social experience when you’re in the line,” she said.
— Julia Moskin
Recipe: Cinnamon Crunch Banana Bread
Total time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling
Yield: 1 (9-by-5-inch) loaf
For the batter:
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) honey
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (from 2 to 3 medium bananas)
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) warm water
For the topping:
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) brown sugar, preferably light brown or Demerara sugar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment or wax paper, leaving enough paper hanging over the sides to lift the cake out after baking. (This will prevent the topping from breaking when removing the bread from the pan.)
2. Prepare the batter: In a medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a sturdy whisk, beat together oil, eggs and honey until smooth. Stir in bananas and warm water. Add dry ingredients to egg-oil mixture and stir to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon, using your fingers to break up any lumps. Sprinkle evenly over batter.
4. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes. If topping shows signs of burning, reduce heat to 325 degrees.
5. Remove to a rack and let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Use the edges of the paper to lift the cake up and out. Place on a rack (leave the paper on) and let cool before slicing and serving.
(Recipe from Alison Barakat of Bakesale Betty’s)
Southern Macaroni and Cheese
Stingrays, New York City
Millie Peartree lost her restaurant in November, months before the rest of the industry felt the impact of COVID-19.
Her loss felt singular, the shuttering of her business unfair. Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food had built up a community in the Bronx, nourished it and received critical acclaim, but after a city inspection found unauthorized gas plumbing work in the building, gas service was cut, and the restaurant could no longer operate.
“It was one of those situations where, you know, you cry it out, you get upset, pick up the pieces and put things back together,” Peartree said.
Thanks to the support of friends and community — and pure perseverance — Peartree found a space a few blocks away in the Fordham neighborhood, put in an offer and was about to sign a new lease in early March, shortly before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued stay-at-home orders. Fearful of what the restaurant business might look like in the coming months, she decided not to sign, which she counts as “a blessing in disguise.”
Instead, Peartree teamed up with the Harlem restaurant Stingrays to sell takeout soul food, and created what she calls her Essential Meals program. Largely funded by donations from customers and corporations, that operation prepares food in the Stingrays kitchen to serve essential workers across New York City.
She has distributed macaroni and cheese, jerk chicken and other soul food fare to employees at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and other overwhelmed medical centers. She is also feeding members of her own Bronx community, including transit workers, police officers in the 52nd Precinct’s domestic violence unit, postal workers and even the morgue staff at Lincoln Medical Center.
Peartree’s original restaurant exuded warmth, from the Edison light bulbs and rustic wood walls to the food on the plate. And that food is just right for this moment: nourishing and nostalgic, comfort in a bowl.
Her fish fry was “old school,” she said. “It wasn’t a hybrid of anything, and people really appreciated that. We weren’t doing béchamel sauces, we weren’t doing macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs on top; we were doing traditional Southern mac and cheese, Lowcountry collard greens, simply cornmeal-crusted fish.”
Her updated menu is “kind of like a soul food Chipotle,” Peartree said. “It’s sweet, spicy, everything you want in a comfort meal.” She still serves her staples — the mac and cheese, hoppin’ John rice, jerk chicken — in a bowl, with an assortment of selected sauces and sides.
“You cannot let fear stop you from doing your passion, or what’s right,” she said. “If every doctor or nurse, every essential employee was scared to go outside, we wouldn’t have groceries, we wouldn’t have health care, we wouldn’t have mail. You have to put your fears aside to help other people.”
— Alexa Weibel
Recipe: Southern Macaroni and Cheese
Total time: 35 minutes, plus cooling
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 4 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar (about 16 ounces)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 2 cups shredded Colby Jack (about 8 ounces)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions until a little under al dente, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Add cooked macaroni, 2 cups extra-sharp cheddar, melted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and stir until well combined.
3. Add half the macaroni mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish in an even layer. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups Colby Jack evenly on top. Spread the remaining macaroni mixture on top in an even layer. Cover with aluminum foil, transfer to the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
4. Remove from oven. Carefully remove and discard the aluminum foil. Top the macaroni mixture with the remaining 2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Colby Jack. Broil on top rack until cheese is browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. (The broiled cheese can go from golden to burnt fairly quickly, so keep a close eye on it.)
5. Remove from oven and let cool until the macaroni and cheese is fully set, 10 to 15 minutes. (The mixture may first appear jiggly, but it will firm up as it cools.) Serve warm.
(Recipe adapted from Millie Peartree of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food)
Carne Asada Cheese Fries
Piper Inn, Aurora, Colorado
When Jed Levin’s grandfather opened the Piper Inn in 1968, customers would fly in for lunch. Farmers landed their Piper Cub crop-dusters at the nearby airstrip and walked over for a simple meal.
Now, the place sits amid big-box stores in Denver’s sprawl, ranks of Harley-Davidsons fill the parking lot and the menu is decidedly eclectic. “There isn’t a single item that doesn’t have a story behind it,” said Levin, 36, who now runs the place with his father, Rich, and sister, Piper.
At first, the restaurant served diner staples like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot hamburger (a patty on a slice of white bread, topped with gravy; you eat it with a knife and fork). The first cook who left his mark on the menu was a guy from Buffalo who put the place ahead of the curve as a local destination for hot chicken wings in the 1970s.
That’s also when the inn gained a reputation as a biker-friendly bar. (Colorado, with its smooth highways and mountain views, is an international destination for motorcycle riders.) Benny Armas, who went on to start the Capitol Hill institution Benny’s in Washington, added chiles rellenos and enchiladas while he was in charge.
In about 1984, Kenny and Marcia Mah, a couple who had immigrated from Guangzhou, China, took over the kitchen and added a separate, successful Chinese American menu. They stayed for 37 years. As the menus gradually fused, the Piper Inn became known for — and still serves — the Mahs’ Chinese hot wings, pork fried rice and wonton soup, alongside tacos, Buffalo wings, BLTs and Bud Light. And the crowd is also famously diverse.
“It’s a quintessential Colorado mix and the most welcoming place,” said Patricia Calhoun, the founding editor of Westword, an independent online newspaper, who has lived in Denver since 1977. “There are people who love the danger of the open road, people who live in the suburbs but like the idea of the open road, and people whose idea of a taste of danger is a spicy hot chicken wing.”
When Jed Levin moved back to Denver to join the family business after a decade in Los Angeles, he added made-from-scratch soft tacos and the dish that has pulled in a new generation of food lovers: carne asada fries (a California-Mexican classic most easily described as nachos, but with French fries instead of tortilla chips). Fries smothered in green chile gravy are a regional classic in Colorado and New Mexico, so it wasn’t much of a leap to Piper Inn’s plate of crinkle-cut fries topped with grilled steak, beer cheese sauce, chopped onion and cilantro.
Under the coronavirus lockdowns, the restaurant is serving takeout food only, and Levin said that, to his surprise, he is doing close to a normal volume of business. When the restaurant closed on March 17, all 24 employees, including family members, were furloughed; when federal Paycheck Protection Program funds came through in April, all but one were rehired. The near-term goal, he said last week: “al fresco dining in our parking area.”
— Julia Moskin
Recipe: Carne Asada Cheese Fries
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
For the carne asada:
- 3/4 pound skirt steak or flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- For the beer cheese:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
- 1/3 cup beer (preferably a lager or other beer without a pronounced flavor)
- 2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar (about 8 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1. Add steak to a medium bowl, and toss with the lime juice, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Let marinate at room temperature while you prepare the remaining components.
2. Prepare the beer cheese: In a medium saucepan, melt the cream cheese over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Add the beer in a slow stream, whisking until smooth. Let the foam die down, about 1 minute, then decrease heat to low and add the cheddar cheese one handful at a time, whisking until smooth before adding the next. Once you’ve integrated all the cheese, whisk in the Worcestershire, mustard, garlic powder and paprika. Season to taste with salt, cover and set aside, off heat. (Makes 1 1/4 cups.)
3. Prepare the garnish: In a small bowl, stir together the onion, cilantro and lime juice. Set aside.
4. Make the carne asada: Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high. Add the meat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and the sauce reduces to a glaze, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Arrange cooked fries on a serving platter in an even layer, and drizzle beer cheese on top to taste. Top with the carne asada and onion-cilantro mixture. Serve with lime wedges, and crema, if desired.
(Recipe adapted from the Piper Inn, Denver)
La Scarola, Chicago
Armando Vasquez was a small and skinny 14-year-old when he came to the United States from Mexico in 1983, and found a job as a dishwasher at a diner in Carmel, New York. He started helping out in the kitchen, and jotted down recipes and prep notes in a notebook.
“I was this tough guy from Mexico who didn’t know how to cook,” he recalled recently. “But I could read the tickets, so I started working the line and taught myself to cook.”
When the head cook quit, Vasquez took over.
For years he worked at the restaurant and cleaned offices to cover living expenses and send money home to Mexico. In 1991, he moved to a Chicago suburb, where he hoped the lower cost of living would offer some relief. He worked at several restaurants including an Italian-American place where he learned to cook the classics, to which he sometimes applied his own special touches. (“I may have been the first person to add chipotle peppers to pasta,” he said.)
In 1998, he and Joseph Mondelli opened La Scarola, a two-room Italian American restaurant in Chicago. They had four employees and a used stove they’d bought for $50. “We put it together with a rubber band, basically,” Vasquez, 52, said of the restaurant. “If you look closely at the walls, you’ll see that they’re crooked because we built the walls.”
Twenty-two years later, they have 30 employees, and the still-crooked walls are covered with photographs of Vasquez posing with local celebrities and politicians. Before closing for dine-in service on March 17 because of the coronavirus, the restaurant was a bustling red-sauce joint known for generous portions of traditional dishes like chicken Vesuvio and penne alla vodka.
Upon closing, Vasquez’s main concern was keeping the 18 of the 30 employees who wanted to continue working. La Scarola offered local delivery and curbside pickup, but without liquor sales, it wasn’t making enough to pay them.
In late March, Vasquez got a call from a man in Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, who wanted to know if La Scarola would deliver there. It’s a half-hour drive away, but Vasquez said he would if the man could find 10 other people in town to place an order. He got 40. Customers posted pictures of their meals on social media, and requests from nearby towns flooded in.
La Scarola now delivers a few times a week to the suburbs. Vasquez chooses the towns based on the requests he gets on the restaurant’s social media accounts. Customers text their orders directly to his personal phone, and he delivers to a parking lot for pickup. The service has been so popular that he has had to cap the number of orders at 40.
For now, Vasquez has landed a $322,000 federal loan and can pay his staff, but he is still not turning a profit. Asked about reopening with fewer seats to maintain social distancing, once Illinois allows it, Vasquez was not optimistic.
“It won’t make sense to open,” he said.
— Margaux Laskey
Recipe: Chicken Vesuvio
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 3 large russet potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds), scrubbed, halved lengthwise, then cut into long 1-inch-wide wedges
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Chopped Italian parsley, for serving
- Crusty bread, for serving
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss the potato wedges with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes out in an even layer. (It’s OK if some overlap). Bake, tossing gently once halfway through cooking, until the edges begin to brown, and the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but are still quite firm, about 30 minutes. (They’ll finish cooking with the chicken.)
2. While potatoes roast, prepare the chicken: Season the chicken with salt, pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon oregano. In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Working in batches if necessary, cook the chicken, skin-side down, until it is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the butter and garlic to the skillet and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant and just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and wine to the skillet, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes, then gently stir to combine. Place chicken on top of the cooked potato mixture, skin-side up. Drizzle any reserved chicken juices on top.
4. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn on the oven’s broiler function, and broil until the chicken skin is golden brown and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately, with plenty of the pan juices spooned over the chicken and potatoes, and crusty bread on the side.
(Recipe adapted from La Scarola, Chicago)
Perched on a bluff above Lake Union in Seattle, Canlis restaurant is an elegant midcentury vitrine. The view out over the glinting water is as much a part of a meal as any dish. As is the live piano player, who fills the room with everything from Sinatra to ethereal arrangements of Led Zeppelin and Jay-Z.
Under normal circumstances, this setting and the James Beard award-winning menu have made Canlis a go-to for occasion dining.
“I would say half of our dining room every night — or more than half — is filled with people who can’t afford dinner, meaning that they’ve saved up, they’ve borrowed a suit,” said Brian Canlis, 42, who runs the restaurant with his brother Mark, 45. “It’s a big deal. When the bill comes, it’s a significant moment. They’re not just sliding their black card across the table. It’s actually those people that make me love running this restaurant.”
Canlis said he most enjoyed “serving this wide-eyed couple on their first night away from the baby, who walk in insecure and having them walk out realizing this is their place, forever.”
This spirit of welcoming has been part of Canlis since his grandfather Peter Canlis opened the restaurant in 1950. “He wanted it to feel like you were dining in his home,” Brian said. “When you walk in there is a fireplace, not a host stand. You don’t get greeted by a maître d’. You get greeted by someone standing at the fire.”
Over decades, Canlis became a Seattle institution, settling into a menu of 20th-century fine-dining favorites — beef teriyaki, salmon steak, vichyssoise, crème brûlée and the trademark Canlis salad — albeit with a Pacific influence.
In 2008, the Canlis brothers took over operation of the restaurant from their parents. That year, they brought in Jason Franey from Eleven Madison Park. The menu was overhauled, becoming mostly a prix fixe format, and many of the old favorites fell away. In 2015, Brady Williams, came from Roberta’s, in Brooklyn, to take over the kitchen; last year, he won the James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest, with dishes like “haiga rice simmered in a brown butter dashi with Dungeness crab, preserved strawberries and hazelnuts” and sea bream with “crisped scales, fig leaf curry, peppers and husk cherries.”
Today, Brian Canlis said, “The only old thing on the menu is the salad.”
And lately, you can get the salad delivered. Under Seattle’s lockdown order, the restaurant has been delivering community-supported agriculture boxes, bottled cocktails and family-style meals — as many as 600 a night — with servers repurposed as drivers. So far, the restaurant, which had significant cash on hand for a planned kitchen renovation, has kept its whole staff.
And while the fireplace and mesmerizing view of the lake can’t be delivered, it turns out that the hallmark piano performances can — by way of a live YouTube stream.
“We just have our piano player, on a camera, taking requests,” said Canlis, who added that the performances have had thousands of concurrent viewers. “They put it on their big TV and they have dinner. We were shocked at how much people loved the piano livestream. And it’s also jobs for our piano players.”
— Brian Gallagher
Recipe: Canlis Salad
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 2 heads of romaine, outer leaves discarded, chopped
- 4 bacon slices, chopped
- 1 cup cubed fresh Italian bread
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1. Wash the lettuce in cold water, dry thoroughly and put in the refrigerator to chill.
2. In a large pan set over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until it is nearly crisp, then remove to a bowl. Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat, then add the bread cubes to the pan and toss to coat. Bring heat to low and toast, tossing the bread occasionally with a spoon until it is crisp. Remove to another bowl.
3. Make the dressing. Place a whole egg in its shell into a coffee cup, then pour boiling water over the top. Allow the egg to cook for 60 seconds, then remove it. Rinse with water until cool. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil, then crack the coddled egg into the bowl and whisk again, vigorously, to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.
4. In a salad bowl, combine cold lettuce, scallions, mint, oregano and the reserved bacon. Toss with enough dressing to coat the lettuce, then top with the tomatoes, the croutons and a goodly shower of cheese.
(Recipe adapted from Canalis, Seattle)
New England Clam Chowder
Eventide, Portland, Maine
For people who love eating out, oyster bars — like steakhouses and pizza joints — are a beloved subset. At single-subject restaurants, the goal isn’t to boggle your mind with a tasting menu or a spherified vegetable: it’s to satisfy you with a particular combination of taste and tradition.
At a good oyster bar, you can be sure that each bite will bring a chilling blast of brine, an immediate protein rush, and — with touchstones like tiny forks, halved lemons, cold white wine and cracked ice — a satisfying hit of ritual.
Even though Portland, Maine, is a great restaurant city and a major hub for Atlantic seafood, until Eventide opened in 2012 there wasn’t a local raw bar that served dry rosé as well as draft beer, or offered crusty bread instead of crackers in a rustling cellophane bag. The city needed “an oyster bar, a New England seafood shack and a sushi bar,” said Andrew Taylor, 39, one of the restaurant’s chef-owners (the other is Mike Wylie, 38). “We tried to do a combination of all three, but with solid technique.”
Like fan favorites Maison Premiere in Brooklyn and Petit Marlowe in San Francisco, Eventide pushes all the vintage-oyster-bar buttons, complete with marble counters, tin ceiling and a chalkboard with dozens of shellfish varieties. But it also has an overlay of Japanese flavors and New England tradition that produced its stellar chowders.
Strictly traditional Maine chowder is made from just four ingredients. The base is clams, because the brine they throw off when steamed open provides liquid for the soup. Then all that’s needed is potatoes for starch, cured pork for salt and fat, and milk for creaminess. (Most cooks now use whole milk or heavy cream, but the longtime default through winters and on fishing boats was canned evaporated milk.)
Fish chowder is also popular in New England, but it needs a little more help, which is where Japanese dashi comes in at Eventide. “I’m sure 95% of people wouldn’t know it’s there,” said Taylor, who runs Eventide and the neighboring restaurants Hugo’s and the Honey Paw with Wylie and a partner, Arlin Smith, 37. (They opened a satellite Eventide in Boston in 2017, to welcoming reviews.)
Dashi is the basic liquid used in Japanese cooking. It is brewed from kelp and water (and sometimes dried fish and mushrooms), producing a taste of pure oceanic umami. It’s like seawater, but with depth. Dashi, kombu and nori, different forms of seaweed, underlie a number of Eventide’s dishes, including fish chowders. “Shellfish and seaweed are part of the New England flavor profile too,” Taylor said, referring to traditional clambakes. (To be clear, no one eats the seaweed at a New England clambake.)
Shipments of Eventide’s signature lobster roll, which puts a fluffy Chinese bao in the place usually occupied by a hot dog bun and bathes the lobster meat in brown butter instead of plain melted butter, have kept the kitchen open even after the restaurant closed in mid-March. (It is gradually reopening, and taking orders via Instagram.)
Like many businesses in Maine, Taylor said, Eventide will have to bring in real money this summer — not half-capacity money, or takeout-and-delivery money — in order to survive. “That’s how it works here,” he said. “We build up a war chest over the summer, and use it to pay off debt for the rest of the year.”
— Julia Moskin
Recipe: New England Clam Chowder
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 12 cherrystone clams, rinsed clean
- 12 to 16 ice cubes
- 1 packet ( 1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin powder
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced chives (about 1 ounce)
- 1/2 pound russet potatoes (about 1 medium potato), peeled, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Crushed black pepper to taste
- 2 cups chopped white or yellow onion (about 1 large)
- 1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, about 4 slices
- 6 potato chips, finely crushed
1. For clams and clam-broth jelly, fill a 6-quart pot halfway with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and boil over high heat. Immerse 4 clams for 15 to 20 seconds, and remove. Working over a small bowl, shuck the 4 clams with a short sharp paring knife, reserving liquid they release. Reserve shelled clams in another small bowl. Return any stubborn clams to boiling water for a few seconds. Repeat, cooking 4 clams at a time, using all 12. Drain any accumulated clam juice into clam juice bowl, cover clams with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, pour 1 1/2 quarts cold water into a large bowl and add ice cubes. Strain clam juice into another small bowl. (You should have about 1 cup; add water if necessary.) Pour 3/4 cup clam juice into small saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat until it simmers. Soften unflavored gelatin in remaining clam juice. Pour hot clam juice over gelatin, and whisk until it dissolves. Set bowl of clam juice and gelatin halfway into ice-water bath, whisking often, for about 5 minutes, as the gel begins to set. Remove bowl when juice is barely set, but not firm.
3. For chive oil, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan until just smoking; remove from heat. Add minced chives and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve. Let cool for 10 minutes, purée in a blender, strain through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter, and reserve.
4. For potato purée, boil 4 cups water in a small saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and potatoes, and cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving boiling water, and mash potatoes in medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 6 tablespoons potato water, blending with an immersion blender or food processor until potatoes are a thick paste. Add 2 tablespoons cream, stirring, until potato is consistency of thickened cream. Thin further, if necessary, with potato water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm, or warm before serving.
5. For onion jam, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chopped onion in a medium skillet over medium-low heat and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is very soft, but not caramelized, about 15 minutes. Purée in a food processor with 1 tablespoon olive oil until smooth; season with salt to taste and reserve. Keep warm or warm before serving.
6. For bacon cream, lay bacon in a cold, medium skillet, and fry over medium-high heat, flipping several times, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup cream to pan with bacon still in it and turn off heat under pan. Allow to rest 5 minutes; remove and reserve bacon strips from pan. Chop bacon finely, for use as a garnish. Keep cream warm but not hot, whipping to a froth in a bowl just before serving.
7. Assemble servings in 6 small shallow bowls. Spoon 2 tablespoons warm potato purée into each bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of warm onion jam, slightly off-center. Spoon 1 tablespoon bacon cream around edge of purées. Place a room-temperature clam in center of bowl. If clam broth jelly has solidified, pulse it with an immersion blender or whisk it until it is a loose gel, and spoon 1 teaspoon directly over clam in each bowl. Drizzle chive oil over dish. Garnish with reserved diced bacon and with pinches of crushed potato chips.
(Recipe from Eventide, in Portland, Maine)