Top Chefs’ Tips & Recipes
by: Kevin Stanton
Chef Gabriel Frasca
Straight Wharf Restaurant is much like a ship. Walking through the dining room on a summer evening conjures the feeling of being on an austere ocean liner. People are dressed in fine clothes and service goes smoothly without a
hitch. Fine French wine is poured while you look out to the harbor, every now and then you hear a boat whistle. But, take one step through the double doors into the bar around 10 p.m. and the feeling is more like that of a pirate ship.
What better way to start a meal on a ship than with oysters? Chef Gabriel Frasca’s East Coast oysters on the half shell with Campari Italian ice have all the components to excite your palate and prepare you for the next course.
The salinity of the oysters plays perfectly with the bitterness of the Campari and the bright pop of the grapefruit juice. While it is referred to in this recipe as Italian ice, on the island of Sicily it is called a granita.
This season marks Frasca’s 15th at the helm of Straight Wharf. The kitchen has always been where he feels most comfortable.
When asked if the kitchen has always been a central part of growing up, he said, “It is funny for me to think of that question in literal terms, because we were always in the kitchen.
So yes, food and the practice of cooking were a large part of our practice and tradition, but, more pointedly, it was just a space that my friends and I felt comfortable in. My mother was a very diligent and adventurous cook who was always neatly clipping recipes she wanted me to try, and with me, a grazer with a voracious appetite, she certainly had a willing audience.”
While most people associate Straight Wharf with fine dining, Frasca fondly remembers the first dish he cooked.
“When I was in kindergarten, a classmate’s mother, a caterer, did a series of cooking classes for kids,” he said. “And while French toast became my go-to, and morning-glory muffins followed soon after, my first triumph was a bold take on English-muffin pizzas, which I now realize hewed far closer to a deconstructed tomato soup and grilled cheese than anything that should ever be called a pizza.”
Oysters with Campari Italian Ice
When choosing oysters for this dish, the brinier the better. The salt will hold up well against the Campari. I also implore you to do the juicing of the citrus yourself. Simple syrup is just that, an easy 1-to-1 combination of water to sugar. Heat the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, and let cool before using.
- 1 cup fresh pink-grapefruit juice 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup Campari
- 3/4 cup simple syrup
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper 2 dozen fresh East Coast oysters Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon thinly-sliced chives
- In a large bowl, mix the grapefruit and lemon juices, Campari, simple syrup, shallot, salt and pepper together. Pour into a shallow, flat metal pan and freeze overnight.
- When ready to serve, use the tines of a fork to scrape the ice into layers so that it resembles shaved ice, taking care to scrape all the way down to the bottom (the mixture will separate during the freezing process).
- Put the shaved ice into a pint container and return to the freezer while shucking the oysters. Once the oysters are shucked, spoon the Campari ice over each oyster and add a dash of olive oil and a pinch of chives.
- Reserve any excess ice in the freezer for later use.
Chef Michael LaScola
Chef Michael LaScola has an extensive house-made charcuterie program at his restaurant Proprietors Bar & Table, but by a happy accident one of his most popular menu items is a broccoli dish.
“The broccoli was made by pure accident. It was supposed to be a Thai sausage dish. One of my cooks at the time mistakenly added lime juice instead of lime zest and they were ruined. It was a special and we had the set already prepped for it. We had a lot of broccoli in house that we use for staff meal, so we subbed it out fried and it was a hit. I can’t take it off the menu. This place literally runs on broccoli now,” LaScola said.
The dish seems very simple: fried broccoli, peanuts, spicy sambal and some fresh herbs. It has become LaScola’s new modus operandi.
“I have adapted many styles over the years, but asIgrowolderItryto focus on less is more, with only three flavor elements per dish,” he said.
With the restaurant scene ever-changing and your typical diner being a little more adventurous these days, what most piques his interest is seeing another chef’s creativity.
“The one thing about this biz is that there is always something someone is doing that you would never think of,” he said. “It pushes me to constantly try to do something new.”
LaScola grew up in a big Italian household where Sundays were for massive family meals.
“Every Sunday we would go to my grandparents’ for dinner and my grandmother would have a huge spread from pastas, polenta, fish, (and a) big pot of Sunday sauce,” he said.
“It was a big family with five uncles and one aunt with their spouses and kids. Those were special times.”
You can feel the echoes of those Sunday suppers while sharing small plates at Proprietors, not only in the food, but also in the atmosphere.
Fried Broccoli with Sambal Vinaigrette and Peanut Sauce
- 1 head broccoli
- Dredge of 50 percent cornstarch, 50 percent rice flour 2 cups buttermilk
- Cut broccoli into florets and soak in buttermilk.
- Coat evenly with dredge.
- Fry in oil at 350 degrees F. until crispy.
- Coat in sambal vinaigrette. Dot with peanut sauce.
- Garnish with mint, cilantro, peanuts and scallion.
- 3 tablespoons sambal 1/2 cup rice vinegar 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger
Combine in a blender on high until smooth.
- 1 cup of toasted peanuts 2 cups water
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 red onion, minced
- 1 bunch scallion bottoms only, chopped 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons ginger
- Place all ingredients in a medium saucepot on medium heat.
- Cook until peanuts are soft, adding more water if needed.
- Purée in a blender until smooth. Chill.
Chef Mayumi Hattori
Chef Mayumi Hattori grew up alongside her grand-
mother in the kitchen. The first dish she remembers cooking, Tortilla Española, was something her grandmother taught her.
“I was 6 years old and my grandmother taught me how to carefully slice potatoes on the mandoline,” Hattori said. “I watched in awe as she confidently flipped the pan onto a plate to unveil this golden disk. It was just four simple ingredients – potatoes, onions, olive oil and eggs – and just about the most perfect thing to eat at any time.
Cooking tortilla always brings me home to that day. It was a staple in our house. We always had one on the counter. It’s my comfort food.”
Food isn’t just something to eat, it is an emotion, a taste memory, Hattori said.
“Most of my early memories revolve around the kitchen, trying to help, tasting and most likely just getting in her way,” she said of her grandmother. “She was the eldest of seven, growing up in war-torn Spain, so the sentiment of making sure everyone had enough to eat was of utmost importance and was passed down to me. It’s how you showed you loved.”
Hattori’s style of cooking is greatly informed by her grandmother’s Spanish roots, but also from the food culture of her Japanese father. You can add to that potent mix one more element: Growing up in Los Angeles.
“Growing up in LA exposed me to much more, insane tacos and Mexican food, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Greek, Turkish, just to name a few. There were so many immigrant communities showcasing their dishes from home and we drove around devouring it all,” Hattori said.
“Through that, the use of spices and herbs was something that they all shared and that became ingrained in me.”
A spice blend that tends to span across a large part of the Mediterranean and the Middle East is za’atar. It is both a blend and an herb, belonging to the same family as oregano and thyme. The dry herbs are usually blended with toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt.
Although it is typically used as a condiment on top of hummus or olive oil, it can also be used to season meats, like Hattori’s za’atar spiced chicken with avgolemono sauce.
“The dish actually started with the sauce,” she said. “It’s avgolemono, a Greek chicken soup or sauce, bright and tangy with lemons and thickened with eggs. It’s creamy and comforting without any dairy. I think the dish actually touches on a lot of familiar flavors for most people. The sumac in za’atar has a tart and balanced lemony flavor, and a roast chicken rubbed down with lots of herbs is a common practice.”
Za’atar Spiced Chicken with Avgolemono
The most important task in this recipe is to get your hands on a pasture-raised chicken. The flavor is sublime on its own, and the gentle marinade on this only enhances it. There isn’t much you can do if you start with inferior ingredients.
At the restaurant, we would debone the chicken entirely for ease of eating, and the benefit of starting the chicken in a pan skin- side-down before finishing it in the oven. The result was delightful golden-crisp skin (and a grease-splattered kitchen).
But at home I prefer to spatchcock it before oven-roasting. Spatchcocking simply means removing the backbone and butterflying the bird so that the breasts and legs cook at the same time. You sacrifice some of that crispy skin, but the meat is more tender and delicate and, I promise, its every bit as delicious. Plus, the clean-up is easier.
3-1/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced or grated on a microplane
1 large (organic) lemon, finely zested and juiced
3 tablespoons za’atar (Ambrosia on Nantucket has a personal favorite blend)
1 tablespoon kosher (Diamond Crystal) salt
2 cups chicken stock or bone broth, homemade preferred for best flavor
3 whole eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of picked tender herbs: parsley leaves, tarragon, sprigs of dill and some mint. You could do just one or a combination of what you have on hand
Optional to serve: blanched asparagus, snap peas or other lovely spring vegetables, braised kale or escarole
To make the marinade, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon and zest, za’atar and half the salt in a bowl to make a bit of a paste. Set aside.
Next, spatchcock the chicken. Using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken by cutting along each side of the spine. Open up the bird and lay it breast-side-down on the cutting board. Press firmly with your hands along the cartilage of the breast bone to slightly flatten the chicken. The purpose is so that it lays flat, so don’t press too hard. Season the bird with the reserved salt on both sides. Allow it to sit a few minutes to allow the salt to penetrate, then spread the marinade generously on both sides. Use every last bit.
Marinate the bird in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to 24 hours.
An hour before you’re ready to cook the bird, take it out of the refrigerator and allow it to come up to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Arrange the chicken on a foil-lined sheet pan, skin-side-up. Remember to tuck the wing tips under the breasts. Roast the chicken for about 45 minutes or until the breast meat reaches 150 F. and the thighs cook to 175 F. Remove the bird from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
While the chicken is roasting, make the lemon sauce. In a saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. In a medium- sized bowl, whisk together the eggs with the lemon juice until smooth. Ladle into the bowl about a half-cup of hot broth while whisking to combine. You’re tempering the eggs, bringing up the temperature slowly, so the eggs don’t scramble. Repeat one more time. Then add the mixture back into the saucepan. Staying at a low temperature, continue to slowly stir the mixture (I prefer to use a silicone spatula) until it begins to thicken. Do not boil. This will only scramble the eggs. It will usually take a few minutes to thicken up. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can make the sauce a day in advance, but remember to only slowly and gently heat it in order to avoid scrambling the eggs.
To serve, carve the chicken and serve with the lemon sauce spooned underneath. I like to gently warm all sorts of crisp, tender green vegetables and spoon the sauce over them. Simple steamed rice or roasted potatoes make a lovely accompaniment as well. Shower the whole thing with lots and lots of herbs.