I was probably predisposed to have a certain amount of affection for I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes
. I do indeed love New York. Some of my finest fine dining experiences in New York have been at Eleven Madison Park, which is where authors chef Daniel Humm and GM Will Guidara ply their daily, delicious, trade. And the book itself features many of the growers and purveyors that I get my own groceries from at the Greenmarket each week.
The book is subtitled “a moment in New York cuisine” but the tome itself was conceived while the pair were in Paris. “We were drinking Manhattans in a Paris hotel bar” writes Guidara in the book’s intro “when Daniel first told me that he wanted to write a book about New York cuisine. It was a statement prompted by an ongoing conversation the two of us had been having, reflecting on trips we had taken over the past few years, to Lyon, Paris, Tokyo, Piedmont, discussing how in each of these places, there is a collective pride in place — each city’s cuisine a celebration of its home.”
But it is much harder to define a specific New York cuisine, since the city brims with so many culinary traditions and cuisines from cultures around the world. Once you get beyond bagels, cheesecake, pizza, hot dogs and egg creams — most of which have roots somewhere else — it becomes difficult to identify a food as being particularly New York.
Humm and Guidara decided that a local cuisine had to start by celebrating local ingredients. New York is so often defined by cities and skyscrapers, its easy to forget that the NYC itself is built on farmlands and that in the not so distant past, the harbors were so filled with seafood that Pearl Street earned its moniker because it was paved with discarded oyster shells which glistened like pearls in the sunlight. And while there are no longer fruit trees on Orchard Street, there are farms and apiaries on rooftops in Manhattan, working farms in Brooklyn and Queens, and the surrounding area is one of the greatest agricultural regions in the world, producing fruits, vegetables, seafood, game and fowl. “This book, then, we realized, had to be not only a collection of recipes but also a collection of the ingredients that comprise them and of the incredible men and women who work tirelessly to make their existence a reality “explains Guidara.
Humm came up with a list of his 55 favorite local ingredients — all but one, lobster, procured or produced within 150 miles of Manhattan — and they set out to tell the stories of each purveyor. The 511-page book reads like a love song to local New York farmers, purveyors and products: the ricotta making ladies of Salvatore Bklyn; Mike Osinski’s Widow’s Hole Oyster farm in Greenport, Long Island; the supremely butterfat filled dairy from Battenkill Valley Creamery; the produce from Paffenroth Gardens.
Humm and Guidara are the authors of a previous cookbook, the sleek and stunning Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook
, which was as impractical for home cooks as it was inspirational. I loved Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook
, but the number of times that I cooked from it since I finished reviewing it? Exactly two. This time around, the authors have set out to make everything attainable for the home cook, as they explain in the intro. “Our recipes, while designed in our restaurant kitchen, are meant to be cooked at home. While there are some that will require an abundance of time and tenacity, there are many that will yield almost instantaneous results.” Good intentions indeed, but the proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the milk jam with brioche à tête.
An initial read through gave me pause. Term like espuma pop up more than once. Dehydrating, freeze drying and other terms more common to pro kitchens than home pantries appeared. And many dishes call for multiple sub-elements and preparations. What could be more home cook friendly than roasted carrots? Well, these particular carrots call for 6 elements to be prepped along the way, including a sauce, a cumin oil and a (completely inspired) carrot duck skin crumble. A garlic soup calls for blanching the garlic six times, and a simple sounding beef tartare requires the better part of a day for the consommé to be ready, the radishes to pickle, and the mayo to be handmade to then be used in the Pommery mayonnaise.
While none of these dishes could be mistaken for 30 minutes meals, the recipes are clear, thoughtful, not completely crazily complicated and resulted in some truly stunning dishes coming out of my tiny apartment kitchen in exchange for just a few hours of attention. Maybe not something that you will whip up when you come home from work on a Wednesday, but realistically doable for a weekend meal or special occasion. And where there is complexity, there is also simplicity. Glazed beets with bone marrow and horseradish involves five multi-stepped components, but the beet chapter also includes a baby beet salad with chevre and fennel which requires a multitude of ingredients but only a few minutes of hands-on time, and a recipe for roasted beets in salt crust which involves a mere 3 ingredients and 3 steps to attain an aromatic side that is sweet, savory, and seasoned from within. Plums and ricotta, (which is totally worth the effort) involves eight elements, including a particularly lush DIY ice cream, a plum sorbet, an apricot tuile and a tarragon inflected ricotta, but an upside down plum cake is scarcely more difficult than a recipe you may have inherited from your grandmother — and perhaps exponentially more delicious. I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes
manages to hit that all too rare sweet spot for restaurant cookbook — it is equal parts aspirational and achievable.