Making his dream become a reality

Book: Friends of Patrick Clark, the first superstar black chef, pay honor to his memory with the publication of his recipes.

July 21, 1999|By Steven Raichlen | Steven Raichlen,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I never knew Patrick Clark personally.

After reading the handsome new book "Cooking With Patrick Clark" (Ten Speed Press; 1999), I sure wish I had.

Clark was a major player in the revolution that rocked the American food scene in the 1980s and '90s. He was the chef of such groundbreaking restaurants as the Cafe Luxembourg, Metro and Odeon in New York. His stint at the Tavern on the Green is credited with raising that Central Park landmark to its current glory.

Clark also was the first black chef to achieve superstar status and as such has served as an inspiration and role model for a new generation of African-American chefs.

"Being the most famous and respected black chef in the U.S. was a huge responsibility for him, and one he gladly accepted," says Marcus Samuelsson, chef of Aquavit in New York and winner of this year's James Beard Rising Star Chef Award.

The irony is that a man universally acknowledged as having such a big heart also should have had heart problems. Two years ago, coronary disease forced him into the hospital. He died last year waiting for a heart transplant. He was 42. He left behind his wife, Lynette, and five children.

He also left behind a culinary legacy and hundreds of friends in the food business. One of those friends is Charlie Trotter, winner of the 1999 James Beard Outstanding Chef Award and owner of one of the best restaurants in North America, Trotter's in Chicago. Trotter wanted to pay tribute to his fallen friend, and he wanted to help raise money to assure the education of Clark's children.

Chefs accomplish more in a day than most of us can in a fortnight. They also can be maddeningly frustrating when it comes to writing down their recipes. Clark achieved many dreams in his life, but one was left unfulfilled: He always wanted to write a cookbook. When he died, he had put only a handful of recipes on paper. What followed was the painstaking work of piecing together a lifetime of culinary creativity.

Trotter began by gathering the many newspaper and magazine articles that had been written about Clark -- a valuable source of his recipes. Trotter also scrutinized Clark's menus and interviewed his former sous-chefs. Indeed, two of them, Donnie Masterton and Stephan Moise, flew to Chicago for the photo shoots and helped fill in the blanks that inevitably result when you try to capture a chef's food for a cookbook. Cooking schools where Clark had taught, like Degustibus in Manhattan, uncovered more Clark recipes.

Teams of cooking students at the Culinary Institute of America and the California Culinary Academy pitched in for the recipe testing, as did Clark's friend Samuelsson. Trotter made available his culinary studio in Chicago for the photo shoot, and photographer Tim Turner took the stunning photographs.

The result: a cookbook tribute that would have made Clark proud. And all royalties from the sale of the book go to the Patrick Clark Family Trust, a nonprofit fund created to assist in the education of Clark's children.

The first half of "Cooking With Patrick Clark" features dishes he created during his two decades in some of the nation's top kitchens. Through them emerges the portrait of a chef with a superb sense of flavor, innovation and style. Clark could truffle and foie gras with the best of them.

His Baked Potato Custards (flavored with 5 tablespoons of black truffle juice) and seared foie gras with sweet-sour quince recalls his apprenticeship with the illustrious Alain Ducasse in France. (Clark also worked in London.)

But he was equally at home doing uptown versions of the comfort foods and regional American dishes we all love: Barbecued Prawns With Corn Relish, Lobster and Corn Bisque, and Roasted Clay Pot Chicken are examples, as is the following recipe.

Prepare wet rub: Sift together paprika, Old Bay Seasoning, chili powder, sugar, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper into mixing bowl. Stir in vinegar to make paste. Rub ribs with paste, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Unwrap ribs and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees 3 1/2 hours without turning. Remove ribs from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make barbecue sauce: Combine onion and 1/4 cup orange juice in blender and puree to smooth paste. Transfer mixture to heavy saucepan and stir in remaining ingredients plus remaining 3/4 cup orange juice. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and gently simmer sauce until thick and richly flavored, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat your grill to high. Grill ribs top side down until fat starts to sizzle, 2 to 3 minutes. Invert ribs and brush with barbecue sauce. Cook for 1 minute. Turn ribs over again, brush other side with sauce and continue cooking 1 minute. Cut each rack of ribs into 3 or 4 rib pieces and transfer to platter for serving. Serve remaining barbecue sauce on side.

Note: This recipe will make more sauce than you need for the ribs. The extra sauce will store up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Patrick Clark's Barbecued Ribs

Serves 4

WET RUB:

1/4 cup paprika

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 slabs pork spare ribs (about 3 pounds)

BARBECUE SAUCE:

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 cup fresh orange juice

2 cups ketchup

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind paste optional)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pub Date: 07/21/99

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