Making tasty dishes with a chef as guide


January 17, 2007|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun reporter

Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen

By Charlie Palmer

A Man & His Meatballs

The Hilarious but True Story of a Self-Taught Chef and Restaurateur

By John LaFemina with Pam Manela

Regan Books / 2006 / $27.95

"Hilarious" might be a stretch, but this memoir/cookbook will be surprisingly absorbing for anyone who's idly dreamed of starting a restaurant.

John LaFemina tells an entertaining tale of New York entrepreneurship. A jeweler, he got into the restaurant business as an investor, then an owner and only then decided to master the art and science of cooking.

He attacked each project with verve and hubris, forcing his wife and business partner to taste-test multiple versions of the meatballs that would become the signature dish at his Lower East Side restaurant, Apizz.

The 75 recipes that follow LaFemina's story include lots of short ribs, pastas, fish and the aforementioned meatballs. A simple green bean-and-parmesan soup caught our eye; while it was inconvenient to keep flipping from the ingredients list on one page to the recipe on the next, the soup made for a rich, delicately flavored appetizer.

Garlic-Studded Pot Roast and Fondant Fingerlings

Serves 6

1 beef chuck roast, about 4 pounds

10 cloves garlic, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, diced

1/2 cup mushrooms, washed and halved

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 bottle dry red wine

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean

Using a paring knife, make 1 1/2 -inch slits in the beef and press a garlic clove into each one. If the cloves don't fit, halve them, but make sure they're in deep. The roast will shrink as it cooks, and if the garlic is too close to the surface it will be squeezed out and burn.

Season the meat liberally on all sides with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat and sear the roast all over; turn the heat down after a few minutes so the meat develops a nice, thick crust. Remove roast from pan.

Add the butter to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes longer. (The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid, which will deglaze and cool the pan.) Cook until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to color, then sprinkle in the flour and stir to incorporate it.

Return the roast to the pan, pour the wine over it and add the thyme and bay leaf. Cover the pan and simmer the roast over low heat until fork-tender, about 4 hours (or cook it in a 325-degree oven for the same amount of time).

About 20 minutes before the pot roast is done, add the potatoes, pushing them down into the pan juices. When the roast is done, remove it and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, turn heat to medium and reduce pan juices by about half to make a sauce. Remove from heat and discard thyme and bay leaf. Skim fat from the sauce and serve with roast. Offer sea salt on the side.

Adapted from "Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen"

Per serving: 788 calories, 80 grams protein, 43 grams fat, 15 grams saturated fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 219 milligrams cholesterol, 393 milligrams sodium

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.