Executive Chef, Felina, Ridgewood
“People in hospitality spend a minimum of 60 hours a week at work,” says Bucco. When that gets pulled out from underneath you, it’s hard to put your finger on your identity. “I’m not used to being home,” says Bucco, who lives with his wife, Ellen, and three sons, 11-15.
“It’s a little scary. I’m trying to fill the hours of my day. I’ve cut the grass three times, cleaned the garage and played a lot of wiffleball with my sons.”
“I’ve got plenty of projects to keep me busy,” he added, “but my concern is, when does the restaurant industry come back?” Bucco serves on the board of directors of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association. When we spoke in late April, he said people were hoping there might be some restricted level of reopening this summer, June being “optimistic.”
When Felina was open, Bucco would cook dinner on his days off, but now he’s cooking every night. Of his spicy pulled beef, he says, “This dish is flavorful, great for the kids—they love the crunch and salt.”
Spicy Pulled Beef with Crispy Tortillas and Pico de Gallo
Serves 4 (two-day prep)
2 pounds boneless short ribs or similar cut, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 carrots (diced)
3 stalks celery (diced)
2 large red onions (diced)
1 head of garlic (cloves peeled and crushed)
2 rosemary twigs
2 pears (peeled and diced)
1 can crushed tomatoes 28 oz
4 ounces red wine (Pinot Noir, if possible)
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons Talula’s hot sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon cooking oil (canola)
1 cup cooked beans
2 red bell peppers (julienne)
1 large white onion (julienne)
4 small flour tortillas (see below)
1. Preheat a sauté or deep braising pan. Season cubed beef with salt and sear in canola oil, turning to brown evenly. Remove from pan, reserve.
2. Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, pears and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, till golden brown, then add crushed tomatoes. When tomato liquid has thickened, add red wine. Reduce wine by half, then add soy sauce, hot sauce, mustard, honey and stock. Turn down flame, add seared beef and simmer, covered, for 4 hours.
3. Remove beef from cooking liquid, reserve. Strain liquid of all solids, discarding vegetables.
4. Add beef back to liquid. Let it cool, covered, and sit for 24 hours.
5. The following day, remove beef from liquid. Using a fork, pull beef apart. Add back to liquid and reheat. In a separate pan, sauté red pepper and onion. Cook just until the vegetables soften. Season with salt and add to the pot. Add the beans to the pot. Adjust with salt and keep warm.
4 small flour tortillas
1. Using a sharp knife, cut tortillas into thin strips.
2. Heat canola oil in a sauté pan. Add tortilla strips. Fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt. Serve with the braised beef. Optional add-ons: rice, guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese
Pico de Gallo
3 plum tomatoes (diced)
2 limes (juiced)
1 ounce cilantro (chopped)
1 jalapeño pepper (brunoise)
1 small red onion (brunoise)
Mix all ingredients together. Season with salt, reserve.
PLATING & OPTIONAL ADD-ONS
Using the crispy tortillas as a base (birds nest), top with braised beef and pico de gallo. Optional add-ons include rice, guacamole and sour cream.
Chef/co-owner, Common Lot, Millburn
The challenge for Ryan and his wife, Nadine, “is keeping a two-year-old entertained.” That would be Oskar. “He’s gotten involved with my planting cauliflower” in the backyard, Ryan says. “When the parks were open this spring, we spotted ramps coming up. Oskar wasn’t the biggest help; he was more stepping on them than picking them with us.”
Like his folks, Oskar is an adventurous eater, if not yet as discriminating. “Anything in arm range, he’ll taste, then give some to the dog,” Ehren says. “We taught him to share, and he’s taking it literally.”
“Under lockdown, I’ve been cooking with Oskar in mind. In this recipe, he loves helping make the pita. It keeps him busy, and he loves seeing the end result, which helps make him want to eat it.”
Fresh Pita with Roasted Cauliflower
250 grams all purpose flour
50 grams whole wheat flour
2 grams salt
2 grams sugar
5 grams olive oil
2 teaspoons dry yeast
230 grams warm water
1. Whisk yeast into warm water and mix well. Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, pour in olive oil, mix a little.
3. Add the yeast/water mixture to the dry Ingredients and knead dough around 10 minutes. Use hook attachment in your mixer, if you have one.
4. Left dough rest 2- 3 hours or until doubled in size. Then cut into 10 equal portions.
5. Roll out to form discs about 2 cm thick. Rest discs 30 minutes.
6. Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Add some pita discs, cook until they puff up, about two minutes, then flip, cook another two minutes. Flip to original side, cook one minute, flip, cook one minute and remove. Continue until finished.
1 head cauliflower
3 grams ground cumin
3 grams ground coriander
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 380. Combine the spices, salt and pepper.
2. Place cauliflower on a roasting tray, drizzle it with a good amount of olive oil, then sprinkle with the spice/salt mix.
3. Roast about 45 mins. Rotate cauliflower a few times while cooking. It should be nice and brown. When you remove, it should still be a little firm. It will continue cooking while you plate it. Drizzle with fresh olive oil, a little lemon juice and fresh salt. Serve with butter if you like.
Chef/owner, The Hill, Closter
Pollinger’s wife, Christine, had the idea of organizing the family into a formal kitchen brigade of chef, sous chef, server and dishwasher. She, Ben and kids Catherine, 11, Caroline, 14, and Nate, 16, switch jobs each day, executing a dinner menu they work out a week in advance. “I’m always there to offer guidance,” says Pollinger. “It’s been a good way to give the kids a little understanding about life. They’ll have the resources to cook when they’re on their own.”
Does he balk at being dishwasher? “Not at all. It’s really the backbone of any restaurant. Nine out of 10 chefs will tell you they’d rather the line cook call in sick than the dishwasher.”
The beauty of shakshuka, he says, “is that it’s pretty simple and shows you can do something with eggs other than make an omelet or scramble.”
2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes, pureed in a blender or food processor or beaten fine with an egg beater or, in a pinch, a whisk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, diced small
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
1 fresh red chili, minced
1 teaspoon coriander, ground fine
1 teaspoon cumin, ground fine
1 piece clove, ground fine
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek, ground fine
2 tablespoons water
3 sprigs thyme, tied in a bouquet
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Salt to taste
2 cups blanched fresh green chickpeas, or cooked chickpeas, or green peas if unavailable
1 cup feta cheese
1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked and cut in a chiffonade (or left whole if desired)
2 packs 6-inch white pita bread
1. Add olive oil to a 6-8 quart pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, peppers and red chili, sweat until cooked with no color.
2. Put coriander, cumin, clove and fenugreek in a small bowl, add water. Mix with spoon to make a paste. Add to pot, cook, stirring regularly, until spices are aromatic.
3. Add tomato and thyme, bring mixture to a boil, then simmer until sauce reduces by about 1/4.
4. Add smoked paprika and red chili flakes, season to taste with salt.
5. Add green chickpeas to sauce, heat through.
6. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer ¾ of the mix to a 12-inch frying pan or a 9×13 Pyrex dish. Crack eggs evenly into sauce, taking care to not break yolks.
7. Add remaining sauce to dish, covering egg whites but leaving yolks exposed.
8. Crumble feta and divide over dish, leaving yolks exposed.
9. Place dish in hot oven and cook until whites are set and yolk is still runny, about 12-14 minutes. Check doneness by lightly shaking casserole: whites should be set, yolks should still be jiggly.
10. Remove from oven. Divide cilantro over dish. Warm pitas on oven racks two minutes. Serve in wide bowls with pita bread.
(Note: In season, you can substitute 4 pounds ripe fresh plum tomatoes and peel them in lieu of canned tomatoes.)
Chef/owner, Zeppoli, Collingswood
After initially shutting down, Baldino decided to do weekend takeout “to look out for my staff as much as I could.” As for his own cooking at home, “I live alone, I’m a bachelor,” he says. “I have a very small kitchen, so I’m limited in what I can do, but I have an expansive library of cookbooks, probably two to three hundred. This recipe is an old favorite of mine.”
Escarole and Beans
2 heads escarole, cleaned, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 Arbol chile
1 bay leaf
4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
15 cracks black pepper
1 quart (500 g) cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stalk
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 tablespoon salt
30 cracks black pepper
1 Arbol chile
4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Sesame Semolina bread, for serving
1. Cover beans in water, soak overnight. Drain and add to a large pot with the remaining ingredients. Add 1.5 quarts (1420 ml) fresh water. Cover pot and simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaf, chile and herbs. Reserve at room temperature.
2. Wash the escarole well in cold water, removing all sand and dirt. Drain in a colander.
3. Combine sliced garlic, chile, bay leaf and half the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until the garlic is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the cleaned escarole, salt, pepper, and 1 quart (947 ml) of water. Cover and raise heat to medium. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour until greens are very tender. By the end, there should still be enough liquid in the pot to just cover the greens. Remove the chile and bay leaf and reserve at room temperature.
4. Combine the rest of the olive oil, the chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped parsley in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the beans and the escarole with all their remaining cooking liquids and bring to a simmer. Cook until the mix is creamy and soupy, about 5 minutes. Garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve with grilled bread.
Chef/owner, Restaurant Nicholas, Red Bank
As the chef of a fine dining restaurant, “It always cracks me up when someone looks in my cart at the supermarket and says, ‘I can’t believe you eat Frosted Flakes,'” Harary says. “Truth is, I don’t, but my kids do. Normally, I cook dinner for the kids once or twice a week, but now I’m cooking every night, and the challenge is finding things they like while not boring me to death. I have found that the kids will eat anything as long as cutlets are involved.”
Pork Schnitzel with Potatoes
4 12-ounce pork chops, pounded thin and left on the bone
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon German mustard
2 pounds baby white potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon German mustard
Salt and pepper
4 handfuls baby arugula
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Dress potatoes with olive oil, water, salt and pepper.
2. In a covered and well-sealed roasting pan, roast potatoes in oven at 425 degrees. Make sure the pot is not too large or the water will evaporate too quickly. I use this method as it steams the potatoes while roasting them. Should take about 35 minutes. Once they are done, add the mustard and toss.
3. While potatoes are roasting, whisk eggs and milk together. Place flour in a separate open container. Place bread crumbs in another open container.
4. Season pork with salt and pepper, then evenly spread mustard on pork. Dip each chop in flour, then egg, then finally in bread crumbs. Pan fry in grapeseed or canola or other high-temperature oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel
5. Once all chops are browned, place in oven for about 5 minutes. I serve mine pink.
6. Dress salad with olive Oil and lemon juice and place over the cutlets. Serve with potatoes on the side.
Executive chef, Restaurant Latour, Hamburg
“Most chefs don’t cook at home,” she says. “But now I’m going to the grocery store a lot. Everybody’s hurrying, but I’m just strolling along, looking at everything, really enjoying it.
“The following is one of the best ways to cook fish—the bag keeps all the flavors beautifully intense. It’s simple, quick and has a very easy clean-up. I live at the beach and find comfort and inspiration in it every day.”
Fish in a Bag
8 anchovies in oil, finely chopped
2 tablespoon parsley leaves, finely chopped
100 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
10 grams capers
60 grams mixed olives (I used castelvetrano and kalamata)
130 grams vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
185 grams organic asparagus, ends trimmed and cut in half
145 grams organic potato, sliced 1/8″ thick
230 grams (2 pieces) fresh fluke or whatever is freshest that day
10 littleneck clams
10 grams soft herbs for garnish (I used flat leaf parsley and dill)
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees
2. First make the anchovy butter: Combine the butter, chopped parsley, anchovies and pinch of salt in a mixer until well incorporated. Put onto parchment paper and roll into a log and set in the refrigerator. You will have plenty of this butter left over; it is great to use as a flavor bomb in anything you cook: can put in scrambled eggs, on top of a steak or simply spread on toast.
3. Now make the little parcels of love: cut parchment paper in large rectangle and begin the build. The goal is to keep everything at a size that will cook evenly, all while creating the most delicious natural sauce within itself.
4. Lay down 6 slices of the potatoes in the middle of each parcel and season with salt and black pepper. Then put the asparagus on top.
5. Put 5 littleneck clams onto the asparagus, then arrange your olives, capers and tomatoes – keeping it all as tight as you can.
6. Place your fish on top of the layers, and top with a tablespoon of the anchovy butter, a pinch of salt, black pepper and tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
7. Now your parcels are ready to be secured. The goal here is to prevent any heat or steam from escaping, so fold up all the sides and secure, keeping the cut side up, so as to not let any of the juices escape the parcel.
8. Transfer the parcels to a baking sheet, and cook for 35 minutes.
9. Remove from oven. Cut open the bag. Top with fresh herbs and serve with fresh lemon.
Executive chef, Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen, Morristown
“I haven’t had this much time off since eighth grade,” says Capella, 30, of the last school year in which he didn’t have a summer job. “It’s a scary and nervous feeling. Not doing anything but grocery shopping and walking the dog is tough. I’ve been cooking dinner for my girlfriend every day. We live together, and she’s a vegetarian. This risotto recipe beautifully highlights spring and summer vegetables.”
Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Artichoke
1 large Spanish onion
8 cloves garlic
1 head fennel
3 artichokes, cleaned
20 asparagus spears
100 grams maitake mushroom
100 grams grey oyster mushrooms
100 grams lions mane mushrooms
1 cup Arborio rice
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white wine
75 grams butter
40 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano
5 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons parsley cut in chiffonade
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 court bouillon to poach artichokes
1. Slice half the onion, 4 cloves of garlic and the head of fennel. Sweat the vegetables in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pot with a pinch of salt, covered, until soft (no color).
2. Add 1/2 cup wine and 1 cup vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, adding the thyme. Add the cleaned artichokes to the simmering liquid and poach until tender about 12 minutes. Once tender set aside.
3. Blanch and shock the asparagus spears in heavily salted boiling water. (To blanch a green vegetable bring salted water to a boil, add the vegetables and cook while boiling for approximately 3 minutes.) Transfer asparagus to ice water to stop the cooking process.
4. Roast the mushrooms in a heavy-bottom saute pan or cast-iron skillet. Bring 2 tablespoons of oil to a light smoke and add mushrooms. Sear on both sides, then add 10 grams butter. Brown for 2 minutes and remove mushrooms to a paper towel.
5. Once all the vegetables are prepared, start the risotto. In a large sauce pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the other half of the onion, cut into small dice, and the remaining 4 cloves of garlic, chopped. Saute until translucent and add the uncooked rice. Toast the rice while mixing for 3 minutes.
6. Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce till pan is dry. At this point, begin adding vegetable stock, one cup at a time. It’s important that the rice is kept at a constant boil the entire time it’s cooking.
7. By the time you get the entirety of the stock into the rice, the rice should be al dente and the majority of the liquid should be evaporated. At that time add grated cheese and remainder of butter while stirring the rice vigorously. Add parsley and serve.
8. Reheat vegetables in a small pot with a tab of butter. Portion risotto on plates and top with the vegetable.
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