NYU Alumni Magazine Spring 2008


DIY Haute Cuisine

Florence Fabricant shares recipes, tips, and trends from New York’s best chefs

by Andrea Crawford

The New York City restaurant scene has had such an influence on Florence Fabricant’s life that when she speaks of her love for the “kitchen,” it’s difficult to distinguish between the one at home and those in restaurants. As The New York Times food writer explains in her latest book, The New York Restaurant Cookbook: Recipes From the City’s Best Chefs (Rizzoli): “Do I go out to dinner or light a stove? No contest for some people, but a dilemma for me.”

But Fabricant’s ninth cookbook offers a compromise: restaurant-caliber food that one can make at home. Published earlier this year, the book is a revised and updated edition of one that appeared six years ago and is as much a snapshot of the city’s vibrant dining scene at a particular point in time as a compendium of recipes. “The hip, downtown, casual dining scene, particularly in Brooklyn and the East Village, has ramped up and has in some measure infiltrated other neighborhoods,” says Fabricant (GSAS ’62). Most important, though, the food is changing. “The general quality is continuing to improve and there’s more experimentation than ever,” she says, nodding to the use of more locally produced food options.

In this edition, 30 new recipes—from the chefs of such newcomers as Momofuku, Telepan, Lunetta, and The Grocery—appear alongside classics from Bouley, Babbo, Carnegie Deli, the Four Seasons, Pearl Oyster Bar, and more. One new addition, chicken potpie from the Waverly Inn, the author says, is probably the best you’ll ever taste.

Fabricant has mediated the concoctions for domestic use. “I took these recipes, and I wrestled them to the ground,” she says. “Many had to be pared down, slimmed, and trimmed to accommodate a home cook’s needs, abilities, and lack of staff.” Wine pairings (or other drink suggestions) accompany each entry, and Fabricant sprinkles the text with simple but important tips she has learned from her years of observing professionals.

Adventurous home cooks have long been interested in replicating what they discover while eating out. And although some chefs have been more likely to keep their secret sauces secret—prompting some diners to smuggle samples out for analysis—others have willingly shared them, long before today’s emphasis on celebrity chefs and their preponderance of cookbooks.

“When it comes to any kind of new food product, it’s the chefs who discover them, by and large, it’s in the restaurants that people eat them, and then they want them at home,” Fabricant says. “We would not have arugula in supermarkets were it not for restaurants.”

photos © Noah Kalina

david chang, one of several chefs featured in the book, owns four nyc restaurants, including momofuku ssam bar (above left). ramen (above right) is one of chang’s signature dishes.