Chefs of the Times: More Than 200 Recipes and Reflections from Some of America's Most Creative Chefs Based on the Popular Column in the New York Times


Like any artist, a great chef relies on that mysterious impulse called inspiration - as well as a deep understanding of the basics and a flair for experimentation. This probing, far-ranging cookbook takes readers inside the minds and kitchens of 23 of the most inspired and revered chefs in America today. It illuminates how they think and demonstrates a suprising truth: spectacular cooking can be done at home. Only a great chef could have created these recipes-but re-creating each dish at home is a piece of cake, ...

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Like any artist, a great chef relies on that mysterious impulse called inspiration - as well as a deep understanding of the basics and a flair for experimentation. This probing, far-ranging cookbook takes readers inside the minds and kitchens of 23 of the most inspired and revered chefs in America today. It illuminates how they think and demonstrates a suprising truth: spectacular cooking can be done at home. Only a great chef could have created these recipes-but re-creating each dish at home is a piece of cake, using the clear recipes in this book.

Sample for yourself the genius of Jean-Georges Vongerichten through his Shrimp Satay with Oyster Sauce and move along to Alfred Portale's Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon with Potato-Garlic Gratin, Amy Scherber's Decadent Chocolate-Cherry Rolls, and Philippe Conticini's Banana Croque Monsieur. Visit the chef's kitchen to learn how these dishes were born and why everyone loves them at first bite.

Culled from the popular column in The New York Times, this world-class collection will delight anyone who admires great food, and anyone curious about the fabulous cooks who devote their lives to inventing it, perfecting it and sharing it with us, one plate at a time.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
How does a great chef turn an idea into a recipe? The New York Times has explored this creative process with many chefs in a weekly column since 1997. This collection from that column features 250 recipes, as well as reflections by the chefs on the dishes' origins, and it's great fun to read.

In the personal essays that precede each recipe, the chefs take you behind the scenes from the moment of inspiration (a childhood memory, a classic that needed a tweak, an ingredient that needed a boost) to the many moments of revision en route to the signature dish. We get the "aha" moments (the ice cream cone that inspired Thomas Keller to serve salmon tartare in little cornets) as well as the "oops" moments (the wonderful mistake that resulted in Jean-Georges Vongerichten's most popular dessert, a warm, molten chocolate cake).

Most of the chefs are New York-based -- like Daniel Boulud of Daniel, Wylie Dufresne of 71 Clinton Fresh Food, Rick Moonen of Oceana, and Diane Forley of Verbena -- but there are notable exceptions like Thomas Keller of The French Laundry in California's Napa Valley, Michel Richard of D.C.'s Citronelle, and Chicago's Charlie Trotter.

All the chefs were instructed to revise a signature dish, if necessary, so it could work in the home kitchen. There are fancy dishes and simple ones, from appetizers to desserts, but all look incredibly tasty. I am especially happy to have the recipe for the Spiced-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Amy's Bread. This is possibly the world's best grilled cheese sandwich, and it's available at Amy's Bread in the Chelsea Market, right across the street from Barnes & -- and, now, in my home. (Please call ahead.) (Ginger Curwen)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312284473
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2001
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 7.72 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michalene Busico is the editor of the Dining In/Dining Out section of The New York Times.

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ITALIAN PORK FROM AN AMERICAN OVEN -- Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar and Grill, New York City)

When my family and I vacationed in Cortona recently, we shopped in the local market, where we would buy sandwiches of sliced pork on warm focaccia for lunch. The pork was moist, had its own distinctive taste, and was thoroughly infused with the inviting flavors of the herb-covered Tuscan countryside. I was determined to recapture those flavors back home in New York.

To compensate for the subtle flavor of American pork, I wanted to use assertive flavors as a marinade and crust. Fennel had to be the main ingredient, as it is in Italy, and to that base I added onion, garlic, and the herbs that evoked memories of Tuscany. The challenge was to get this flavor into the pork and to keep the pork moist.

Where there's fat, there's flavor, so I chose a pork rib roast with a layer of fat on it. I first covered the fat with the chopped fennel and herbs; they promptly fell off in the oven. In my next attempt I pureed the ingredients in a food processor and then patted them on to the meat. They stayed put, and their flavor seeped into the meat as I let it marinate in the refrigerator. This crust also kept the roast moist as it cooked. The first bite took me back to Cortona.

Yield: 6 servings
Time: 3 hours

Fennel-Crusted Pork with Warm Apple and Quince Compote
1 4-1/2-pound pork rib roast, chine bone trimmed to 1/4" thick
Kosher salt
1 cup chopped fennel (including some of the feathery tops)
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground white pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
2 large Rome or Cortland apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 large quinces, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup apple cider
Freshly ground white pepper

  1. Using a sharp knife, score a crosshatch pattern on surface of roast. Rub skin with salt to taste and place pork in a roasting pan. In bowl of a food processor, combine chopped fennel, onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano. Pulse to chop. Scrape down sides and add fennel seeds and coarsely ground white pepper. Pulse until mixture is very finely chopped.
  2. Pat fennel mixture onto surface of roast to form 1/4-inch crust. Cover roast and pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° F. Remove roast from refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Discard plastic wrap and roast pork until internal temperature reaches 150° F for a pink center (or adjust cooking time according to taste). Begin to check temperature after 1 hour 30 minutes; cooking time will vary according to initial temperature of roast. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  4. While roast is resting, prepare compote. Place a large skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add ginger and stir until it softens but does not color. Add apples and quinces, and raise heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft and mixture is lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in cider and reduce slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. At this point apples will have consistency of applesauce, and quinces will be tender but still hold their shape. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and keep warm.
  5. To serve, place slices of roast and crust on each of 6 plates and serve with warm compote.

HERE'S HOW TO COOK: DO IT YOUR WAY -- Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter's, Chicago)

When I first started cooking, in college, I thought following a recipe was like following a math problem. These days, it's almost the opposite: I know you can always get more than one result. My hope is that you take my recipes and make them your own.

That is especially true of this main course. Lamb shanks are marinated for two days in the complex flavors of a curry-apricot-mustard sauce, then braised for six hours and served whole over a pool of creamy, garlicky grits. In the restaurant I might take the meat off the bone, mix it with black truffle, and serve it with a little grits cake, and maybe with cubes of pickled lamb's tongue. Here I've streamlined the dish, and you can make it even simpler. You can use veal shanks or short ribs. You can marinate them for only twenty-four hours, with different spices in the sauce or with some chilies. You can serve the meat on a big platter rather than on individual plates. You can use polenta or grains instead of grits.

The sauce, easily made in a blender, uses dried apricots for sweetness and acidity, curry power for spice, and a touch of mustard for heat. The meat should be bathed in the sauce as it marinates so that it takes on maximum flavor. After browning, the shanks are braised with peppers, onion, and garlic in a low oven as slowly as you can do it. The meat will literally fall off the bone, and you can then glaze it with the apricot sauce and crisp it in the oven. The cooking liquid can be reduced to serve as a sauce to soak the grits. I use fresh Anson grits from Charleston, South Carolina. I season them with sautéed onions and pureed roasted garlic, cook them with stock and water, and finish them with half-and-half. To make them even more robust you can fold in some sautéed mushrooms. Or whatever you choose.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes, plus 24 to 48 hours of marinating and 5 to 6 hours of braising

Braised Lamb Shanks with Apricot-Curry Sauce
3/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1-1/2 teaspoons hot curry power
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 lamb shanks (12 to 16 ounces each), bones cracked
3 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 stalks celery, cut in 1 1/2- inch chunks
1 Spanish onion, peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded , and diced
8 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 servings creamy, garlicky grits

  1. In a blender, combine apricots, curry powder, vinegar, mustard, and 1 cup water. Puree until smooth, about 3 minutes. Place lamb shanks in a glass or other nonreactive dish and add apricot sauce. Turn to coat lamb well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, turning meat occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 275° F. Place a large, deep, heavy sautée pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. Remove lamb from marinade, reserving liquid. Brown lamb, turning often to prevent burning. Transfer to a platter. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to pan and add carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place lamb shanks on vegetables and add thyme sprig, bay leaves, peppercorns, and all but the 1/2-cup marinade. Add water to come up almost to top of pan. Lay a sheet of parchment paper over pan and carefully transfer to oven. Braise until meat is so tender it almost falls off bone, 5 to 6 hours.
  4. Remove pan from oven. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a baking sheet and brush with remaining marinade. Raise oven temperature to 300 degrees and return lamb to oven to crisp. Strain cooking liquid into a sauté pan, discarding vegetables. Cook over high heat and reduce by four-fifths.
  5. To serve, spoon grits onto each of 4 serving plates. Lay lamb on top and spoon some cooking liquid around and over. Garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.

MY GREATEST MISTAKE -- Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean Georges, New York City)

The most popular dessert I have ever created started out as a mistake. About fourteen years ago I regularly served a small rich chocolate cupcake as part of a petit fours platter. It was a ridiculously simple recipe but easy to overcook. One day I overcompensated and removed the cakes from the oven far too early. I would have realized that in a second but got distracted before I had a chance to check them. By the time I turned around, someone else had cut into one, and the hot, undercooked interior had spilled out onto the plate. After I was done screaming, I realized the effect was beautiful.

Since then my warm soft chocolate cake has been on all my menus without exception, and more than half our customers order it. They are easy to bake at home. The only trick lies in the timing. When I baked them in a home oven last week, they were done in exactly 12 minutes, but since the timing is precise and all ovens are different, I suggest that you practice on a batch before preparing them for guests. All you have to learn is the look the cakes have when they are done: The outer rim is thoroughly cooked like a brownie, but the center remains jiggly and quite runny, like a properly cooked custard. Since you serve them immediately, they have no time to firm up.

We often serve these cakes with coconut sorbet, but a good vanilla ice cream is wonderful, too.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Warm, Soft Chocolate Cake
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little for molds
2 teaspoons flour, plus a little for dusting
4 squares (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, ramekins, or similar containers. Tap out excess flour. Either in a double boiler or small saucepan, gently heat butter and chocolate together until chocolate is almost completely melted. In the meantime, beat eggs, yolks, and sugar together with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
  2. Beat melted chocolate and butter together. While still warm, pour into egg mixture, then quickly beat in flour until combined.
  3. Divide batter among molds. (At this point you can refrigerate desserts for several hours, until ready to eat. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)
  4. Bake molds on a baking sheet for 12 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.
  5. Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of mold; cake will fall out onto plate. Serve immediately.

Copyright ©2001 by The New York Times

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