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Getting to the root of a good lunch in N.Y.

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Sandy D'Amato | The Kitchen Technician Getting to the root of a good lunch in N.Y.
Posted: Apr. 20, 2008 After I had worked at Le Veau D'Or in New York City for about a year, Roland the chef decided it was not so bad having an American around (I was the first American he had ever hired). He decided to bring on another "American foreigner" into this strictly French kitchen. I immediately felt bad for Richard, the new guy. He came with good credentials, having worked for a year at a small bistro in Paris. Although he wasn't fluent, his command of the French language was pretty good, well beyond my pat "Oui chef" and "Non chef" exchanges that I considered conversations. The reason I felt bad was the nonstop verbal hazing he was getting, which brought me back to my first weeks on the job. The difference was when I started, most of what I assumed were insults really didn't have much sting because I didn't understand them. For Richard, each tirade was visibly deflating. As the only two Americans in the kitchen we became quick friends and I tried to keep his spirits up after each verbal lashing. On our days off we would try to visit a new restaurant with a cuisine that neither of us had ever tried. Richard lived off 2nd Ave. on the lower east side of Manhattan - rents there were dirt cheap, and he didn't have much money. His apartment was situated between a methadone clinic three doors away and the Hell's Angels clubhouse on the other side. I always felt a bit safer meeting him during daylight. The upside of this neighborhood was a great amount of inexpensive ethnic food: northern and southern Indian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian and Ukrainian. We met at a small Russian place and Richard had an avalanche of pelmeni, exquisite tasting tortellini-type stuffed dumplings in a pool of gorgeous limpid broth. I had the shchi, a hearty beef and root vegetable cabbage soup/stew affair that was layered with rich, hauntingly deep flavors. Along with a good helping of homemade bread, for less than two bucks we were stuffed.

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Getting to the root of a good lunch in N.Y. - JSOnline

This became a farewell lunch, as Richard said he was moving back home to Massachusetts to work. He just couldn't take it anymore: living in a hell-hole, along with the verbal abuse from the chef. As much as I tried to convince him it would get better, he countered with "You're just lucky you don't understand a lot of French." I was sad to lose a friend, but we did have a great last supper. Sanford S " andy"D'Amato, chef/co-owner of Sanford Restaurant, 1547 N. Jackson St., Coquette Cafe, 316 N. Milwaukee St., and Harlequin Bakery, is a James Beard Award winner. For more information, visit

RECIPES Shchi (Cabbage Root Vegetable Soup)

Makes 1 gallon Seared brussels sprouts (see recipe) cup clarified butter 1 pound rutabaga (1 large or 2 medium), peeled and cut brunoise (see note) 1 pound celeriac/celery root (1 large), peeled and cut brunoise 1 pound yellow beets (4 medium), peeled and cut brunoise1 pounds onions (2 large), peeled and cut brunoise 2 pounds cabbage (about 1 head), halved and cored, each half cut into 8 even pieces, then cut into -inch strips 2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 to 5 large cloves) 1/3 cup tomato paste 2 bay leaves 3 sprigs fresh savory 2 sprigs fresh thyme 3 sprigs fresh marjoram 3 quarts homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium beef stock cup cider vinegar 2 tablespoons dry mustard 3 tablespoons kosher salt 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Sour cream for garnish

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Getting to the root of a good lunch in N.Y. - JSOnline

Fresh dill fronds for garnish Prepare brussels sprouts. Set aside. Set a large soup pot over medium heat. Add clarified butter. When butter is hot, add rutabaga, celeriac, beets and onions and cook, covered, sweating for 10 minutes while stirring every few minutes. Do not let vegetables brown. Add cabbage and garlic and continue sweating for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, bay leaves and fresh herbs that have been tied together with kitchen string. Cook 3 minutes. Add stock and simmer 25 minutes. Combine vinegar and dry mustard and add to mixture along with the 3 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. To serve, remove and discard bundle of herbs and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish each serving with dollops of sour cream, a bit of the seared brussels sprouts and a sprinkling of dill fronds. Note: Brunoise refers to vegetables that are finely diced or shredded.

Seared brussels sprouts:

1 pound brussels sprouts, cored and separated into individual leaves 2 large shallots, peeled and finely diced cup olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Pinch of ground nutmeg 3 tablespoons cider vinegar Place a large saut pan over very high heat. Toss brussels sprout leaves with shallots and oil. When pan is very hot, add the brussels sprout/shallot mixture, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, toss leaves quickly to just lightly sear and then deglaze pan with cider vinegar. Immediately remove leaves from pan and let cool. Use as garnish for soup. Archives When in Rome, do as the taste buds would Cranberry tart brings meal to a sweet close Hazelnuts roasting set the heart afire Hearts melt when cheese meets bread Squash dumplings fit the season and senses Bikers in Italy take to wheels of cheese 2,000 filets gave me the willies Follow taste buds, not chef Fishing for fond memories Shrimp dish good enough for jumbo billboard Right ranch can make salad, day perfect Dramatic service won't upstage veal piccata Yes, folks in Milwaukee want to eat good food Ring dinner bell for Asian chops Grill tuna for a quick dinner
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Getting to the root of a good lunch in N.Y. - JSOnline

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