Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home

Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home

by Marcus Samuelsson


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The award-winning celebrity chef and New York Times best-selling author unwinds at home, sharing 150 relaxed, multicultural dishes
For two decades, Marcus Samuelsson has captivated food lovers with his brilliant culinary interpretations. Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and trained in European kitchens, he is a world citizen turned American success story. Not only was Samuelsson the youngest chef ever to receive three stars from the New York Times, he is also a five-time James Beard Award recipient, a winner of Top Chef Masters, and a judge on Chopped. Chosen by President Obama to cook the first state dinner, he is now a charismatic TV host.

In this book, the chef who former President Bill Clinton says “has reinvigorated and reimagined what it means to be American” serves up the dishes he makes at his Harlem home for his wife and friends. The recipes blend a rainbow of the flavors he experienced in his travels—Ethiopian, Swedish, Mexican, Caribbean, Italian, and Southern soul. His eclectic, casual food includes dill-spiced salmon; coconut-lime curried chicken; mac, cheese, and greens; chocolate pie spiced with Indian garam masala; and for kids, peanut noodles with slaw. This is an inside glimpse into how one of the world’s top chefs cooks in his home kitchen for those nearest and dearest to him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470940587
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 10/21/2014
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 513,587
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MARCUS SAMUELSSON’s restaurants include Red Rooster and Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem and American Table at Lincoln Center. He is a judge on ABC’s The Taste and the author of Aquavit, The Soul of a New Cuisine, and the best-selling memoir Yes, Chef.

Read an Excerpt



I'VE KNOWN SEVERAL HOMES. THERE IS MY CHILDHOOD HOME IN GÖTEBORG, on the west coast of Sweden, where I learned to roast chicken with my grandmother Helga and where childhood fishing trips with my dad and uncles gave me a lifelong love of seafood. As a boy, being out on a fishing boat with the men in my family made me happy and grateful to eat anything and everything we caught.

There is New York City, the city of many neighborhoods where I live and work. Here's where I discovered the basement grocery stores of Chinatown and the spice shops of Little India on Lexington Avenue and the smells of kimchi and barbecue in Koreatown. And where, on the streets of Harlem, I discover more every day — like our new farmers' market.

And there is Ethiopia, the land of my birth. I can still remember the shock of my first sniff of berbere, the spice mix that Ethiopians use in everything. I visit Ethiopia every year now, but I learn much more about the food from my wife, Maya. She not only teaches me how to make dishes, but also why we eat them.

Every dedicated home cook is a compendium of influences that start from childhood. What I think is interesting is that we're at a moment when our home cooking styles not only reflect our childhood, but the increasing diversity of our adult lives as well. In addition to my three homes, I worked in Switzerland and France. I cooked on cruise ships that ran from the Caribbean to St. Petersburg. And I travel for work and for play. All of these experiences have had an effect on my food. And on my soul.



Salmon with dill is the Swedish equivalent to American meat loaf. When I was growing up in Sweden, it was the weeknight dish that every family had almost every week. I still love the simplicity of this dish, although I now kick up the heat a few notches with a few dashes of chile powder. I love to pair this salmon with Raw Kale Salad; the mix of kale and root vegetables makes a salad that's not only healthy, but restaurant-level impressive.

This cooking technique will give you salmon that's creamy, almost custardy. If you prefer it more well done, leave it in the skillet for a few more minutes.

4 tablespoons olive oil Juice of 1 lemon
1. In a mini food processor, blend 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, mustard, dill, garlic, chile powder, coriander, cumin, and ¼ teaspoon pepper into a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl.

2. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and brush half of the paste on the fillets. Cook for 4 minutes, then add the butter. Continue to cook, spooning the oil and butter over the salmon, for 2 minutes. You'll see the color changing as the salmon cooks from the bottom. Flip the salmon and brush the remaining paste onto the other side. You just want the heat to kiss the salmon on this side, so take it out after a few seconds. Let the salmon rest for a few minutes before serving.



Mackerel is the fish I caught the most when I was a kid. I'd ride out in the boat with my dad and Uncle T. They'd drop the anchor, and we'd set out the four rods on each side of the boat. I always used to wonder, "How do they know where the fish are?" but soon I'd be running from one side of the boat to the other, reeling in mackerel. It was a great job for a kid like me; it kept me busy. But I have to admit that taking the fish off the hook intimidated me. We'd usually catch thirty fish. We'd eat ten for lunch, Uncle Torsten would smoke ten, five would go to the neighbors, and I'd have five to sell — that was my pocket money.

I love the fattiness of mackerel, and I'm game for any recipe that pairs it with salty and citrusy components. Add honey to soy sauce and lime juice and you have a glaze reminiscent of teriyaki. I introduced this dish, which speaks so much to me of home, to Maya. We turn to it whenever we want to make a quick but impressive dinner.

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1. Position an oven rack 6 inches from the heating element and preheat the broiler.

2. Stir the soy sauce, honey, lime zest, lime juice, sesame seeds, and sesame oil together in a small bowl.

3. Put the fish, skin side down, on a baking sheet and brush with the soy-lime mixture.

4. Broil until almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. It should have just a little give when you prod it and the surface will be caramelized and sticky — like a toffee. You can serve the mackerel immediately or at room temperature. Broiling fish isn't a good time for multitasking. Pay attention, and keep your eye on the fish.



Catfish is like an old jazz standard. It's familiar — and you think you're kind of tired of it. Then you hear someone play it in an entirely new way, and you remember that it's a standard not because someone famous wrote it, or because someone famous sang it. It's a standard because, at the heart of it, there's something universal and true and good. Catfish has been part of the home cook's repertoire for hundreds of years. It's as popular in Europe and Asia as it is in North America and Africa.

My favorite way to prepare catfish is to steam it. Steaming is quick, and it adds some elegance to this common fish. (You can buy a stack-and-steam pot or a bamboo steamer in most kitchenware stores, Chinese markets, and online.) But what really sets this recipe apart is the citrus-soy vinaigrette; it infuses the delicate fillets with a bright, slightly spicy, Asian flavor.


1 garlic clove, minced

4 (6-ounce) catfish fillets Peels from the garlic and ginger Shells from the lime and orange Coarse sea salt

1. Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a jar, cover, and shake vigorously. Strain the solids through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the solids and liquid.

2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the solids and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the reserved liquid, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Set aside to cool.


3. Place 1 inch of water in the bottom of a steamer, along with ginger and garlic peels, lime and orange shells, and sea salt to taste. Cover the steamer and bring the water to a boil. Remove the lid, lay the fish on the steamer racks, making sure the rack is elevated above the water, and cover again. Steam until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 4 minutes.

4. To serve, plate the fish and drizzle with the vinaigrette.



I learned about layering flavors watching my grandmother roast chicken; layering textures came later. Here the sweet bourbon glaze reinforces the natural sweetness of the shrimp, while tender, silky spinach provides the counterpoint.

If you can find them, use head-on shrimp. Eating them with their heads on changes the whole dining experience. It makes it more of a feast. I grew up eating crayfish and shrimp this way in Sweden, holding the heads in our fingers and sucking what we called "the good stuff."

Whatever shrimp you cook, eat them with your fingers. This is not the time for refinement.

12 jumbo (U10) shrimp, peeled, tails left on
1. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, paprika, and salt to taste in a large bowl.

2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the shrimp in batches and sauté until pink and curled, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter.

3. Add the bourbon, honey, and butter to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the baby spinach, mint, basil, and lemon juice. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Spoon the spinach and any glaze in the pan over the shrimp and serve.



Thanks to my Swedish passport, I was able to visit the magical island of Cuba a few years ago where I stayed with a family. The husband was a lawyer and doctor who rented rooms in their home; the wife ran a paladar — a family-owned restaurant where tourists can find real Cuban food. I had a long bus trip planned for one day, and she made me this sandwich for the road. The toasty, buttery bread, the salty ham, the tangy mustard and pickles. For a more hearty meal, serve the sandwich with a cup of Pickled Tomato Soup.

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1. Preheat a gas grill to high.

2. Spread 2 tablespoons of the softened butter on the bottom half of the bread and the mustard on the top. Layer the ham, cheese, and pickles on the buttered side and top with the mustard-spread bread.

3. Smear the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on the exterior of the bread and wrap the sandwich completely in aluminum foil. Press down firmly on the sandwich to flatten it.

4. Place the wrapped, flattened sandwich on the grill and top with a couple of bricks, a cast iron skillet, or any other heavy, heat- resistant object. Close the lid and grill the sandwich for 5 minutes. Flip it, weight it again, and grill for 5 minutes on the other side.

5. Using tongs, remove the wrapped sandwich from the grill and take off the foil. Return the sand-wich to the grill and grill until the outside is crisp and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

6. Carefully take the sandwich from the grill and cut it at an angle into small triangles. Place the sandwiches on a large platter and serve them hot.



I had the amazing opportunity to cook fish tacos with tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams in a cooking demo. We dusted snapper with a smoky-tomatoey spice mix, fried it, and topped it with an heirloom tomato, mango, and avocado salsa. This is a pretty simple dish to demo, but I couldn't stop thinking about the wobbly table we were working at and the hot oil and how I didn't want to see the pot knocked over onto Venus or Serena the day before the U.S. Open. But we pulled it off without a hitch, and I could relax and enjoy these flavorful tacos.

Use what heirloom tomatoes you can find, but think about a variety of colors and flavors, from Black Galaxy to Green Zebra to Sun Gold to Brandywine.


1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl.


2. Rinse the chopped onion in a small strainer under cold water and shake off the excess water. Put the onion in a bowl and add the tomatoes, mango, jalapeño, and herbs. Stir to combine. Fold in the avocados (gently, to preserve their texture) and lime juice. Taste and season with kosher salt — about ½ teaspoon.


3. Pour about 1 inch oil into a cast iron skillet. Add the garlic and heat to 350°F.

4. Dredge the snapper strips in the fish spice, patting off the excess, and place on a plate.

5. Fry the fish in batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a skimmer or slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

6. Heat the tortillas in a hot, dry skillet until pliable and browned in spots, about 20 seconds a side.

7. To serve, break the snapper up with a fork. Pile onto the tortillas and top with the salsa. Serve immediately with lime wedges.



Although I'm not a Southern chef, soul food has had a tremendous influence on me. My mentor Leah Chase has been a legend in New Orleans for more than seven decades now. From her I've learned that the best soul food not only tastes good, but also makes you feel good. I start by layering the garlic powder and celery salt you'd usually find in fried chicken coating with smoked paprika and the Ethiopian spice mix berbere for an uptown edge.

Traditionally, this steak would be served with heavy sides: some mac and cheese, buttery mashed potatoes, and some greens cooked with a ham hock — and gravy. Pairing it with a salad of arugula and tomatoes makes it not only an easier weeknight meal but a healthier, more balanced dish. And the smoky Caesar dressing is my nod to that ham hock in the greens.


1. Combine the egg yolks, mustard, liquid smoke, garlic, and anchovies in a blender and puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the ½ cup olive oil and the lime juice in a slow, steady stream and blend until emulsified, about 1 minute. Set aside.


2. If using uncooked steak, place a grill pan over high heat. Season the steak with salt and white pepper or whatever spice blend you like. Brush the steak with olive oil and grill until medium-rare, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the grilled or leftover steak into thin strips.

3. Whisk the egg and egg white together in a shallow bowl. Put the panko, cornstarch, berbere, smoked paprika, celery salt, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and white pepper in another shallow bowl and whisk to combine.

4. Dip the steak strips into the egg, then dredge them in the seasoned panko, coating them completely. Set the breaded steak on a rack.

5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Working in batches so you don't overcrowd the skillet, fry the steak until the breading is golden brown. Drain on another rack while you finish cooking the remaining strips.


6. Toss the ingredients together in a large bowl.

7. Divide the salad among four dinner plates and top with the steak. Pass the dressing at the table.



One of the favorite cooking segments I've ever done was cooking this dish on Good Morning America with Michelle Obama when Robin Roberts first returned from her battle with cancer. What could be more exciting than preparing this Asian- inspired stir-fry with two strong women whom I truly admire?

If I can, I make the marinade, slice the beef, and chop the broccolini in the morning to make my job in the evening quicker. I love the slight bitterness of broccolini, which cooks much more quickly than broccoli. Serve with some soft flatbread so you can scoop the stir-fry up with your fingers.


1. Combine the orange juice, sesame oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the flank steak, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

2. Drain the steak, reserving 2 tablespoons of the marinade and discarding the rest. Mix the reserved marinade with the cornstarch to make a slurry.

3. Heat a wok or a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil, onion, and curry powder and stir-fry until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the flank steak and stir-fry until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the marinade slurry, tomatoes, and soy sauce; bring to a boil and stir-fry until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro and parsley. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.


4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccolini, bring back to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Drain.

5. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, curry powder, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the broccolini, lime juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chiles, and scallions and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is hot and the flavors have melded, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the beef stir-fry.


Excerpted from "Marcus Off Duty"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Marcus Samuelsson Group LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Comforts of Home,
Friends & Family,
Special Days,
Street Food,
Playing with Fire,
Cooking with Kids,
Sides & Condiments,
Something Sweet,

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Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
ann-meyer More than 1 year ago
Just LOVE this cookbook.  I have so many chef cookbooks I believed I would use often but found I was not as excited about the end results  as I had expected to be. I have enjoyed, as have my friends, many of Marcus' hits in this cookbook.  I have added it to my list of a-bit-unique gifts to select for cooking-loving friends.  It can be purchased and given with confidence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a 51-year-old man who just started cooking THIS YEAR, and I'm loving this cookbook!  The recipes offer multiple choices for every course, lots of different simple ethnic foods (I'm looking forward to trying his take on Cuban sandwiches), all at easy-to-moderate levels of complexity.  Any decent American kitchen, apt. or house, will have all the cooking receptacles, herbs and spices he calls for (I do happen to have berbere, which is in one recipe, while it's great that he explains alternatives to everything--I wish I'd had his guidance on how to substitute for kaffir lime leaves, with a Thai recipe four months ago!), and the dishes are fun to cook and eat.  (I'm doing the grilled sweet potatoes with spicy ketchup this weekend.  If I've got the time, I'll do the corndogs with shrimp salad, too.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the book has too many complicated recipes with many ingredients for at home use. I collect cookbooks and have many and this one I won't keep. I'll be selling it for sure.