My wife complains about two things when I cook. First, that I basically take over the kitchen, stealing all the kitchen towels, which drives her absolutely bonkers. Second, that I’m a slave to recipes.
I steal all the kitchen towels, usually with one tucked in to a belt loop, and others on the counter within my reach at all times. As for my recipe slavery, what can I say? I don’t feel comfortable enough in my own culinary skin to improvise just yet. So, I look to cookbooks, and those in the know to direct me along the way.
The newest addition to my shelf (and to the shelf of one lucky person next month [stay tuned!]) is a cookbook called I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes, written by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park in NYC. This well written cookbook provides an intimate look at those putting the work in to the ingredients which make their way in to big city kitchens every day. I checked in with Chef Humm about I Love New York. We touched on the inspiration for writing the cookbook, his favorite ingredients, and some of his favorite stories that he discovered in the process.
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Foodie Journal: Obviously fresh, local ingredients can serve as
inspiration for a dish. What is it about what you’ve been able to find in NY
that made you decide you wanted to release an entire cookbook based on local
New York product?
Daniel Humm: I’ve always
looked to seasonal ingredients and flavors as a source of inspiration for my
food, but when I took the time to explore where these ingredients were coming
from, I was amazed. In visiting farms and farmers all over New York, I found
that this region has some of the lushest agriculture I had ever seen. Not only
that, the people that were cultivating this land had such inspiring stories and
a dedication to this craft that is simply unmatched. Once I had seen just a few
of these farms and once I had met just a few of these farmers, I realized that
there was plenty more to explore. People so often think of New York as a
concrete jungle, a metropolis of skyscrapers and taxis and bright lights, but
New York is also home to ice cold waters brimming with spectacular seafood and
rolling hills of fruit trees and deep black soil ideal for growing root
vegetables. In writing this book, we wanted to show this New York.
FJ: Of all the ingredients you’ve discovered, are
there any that you enjoyed working with in particular?
DH: I love the
ingredients that people may not be so used to working with, like sunchokes and
salsify. But I’m also very partial to carrots and oysters. It’s hard to pick
FJ: One of my favorite parts of the food world is
the stories and the history that come along with it. You obviously had a
glimpse in to that by reaching out to the farms in New York. Do you have a
favorite story that you happened to come across in the process?
DH: There are so
many stories that I gathered during this process, both ones about the history
of New York foods and agriculture and also more personal ones from the farmers
themselves. One of my favorites is about the history of oysters in New York. In
talking to Mike Osinski of the Widow’s Hole Oyster Company, I learned that
oysters have long been a significant part of New York’s history. At one point,
Ellis Island was even called Oyster Island. But overfishing and pollution
obliterated New York’s plentiful supply, so much so that when the famed Grand
Central Oyster Bar opened, they didn’t even serve New York oysters. Thanks to
people like Mike, there’s been a resurgence in oyster farming in New York, one
that we’ve come to embrace at Eleven Madison Park where every meal begins with
FJ: Eleven Madison Park is known to be true fine
dining destination — To get to that level clearly means that the chefs and
cooks know a lot of technique, and have had a lot of training. Can you talk a
little about how you managed to simplify the recipes so that they’d be
approachable for cooks of any skill level?
DH: For this
cookbook, we wanted to develop recipes that were specifically designed with the
home cook in mind, recipes that would require no special equipment or
hard-to-find ingredients, recipes that truly highlighted the seasons and the
bounty of the region.
FJ: If you had to pick one recipe from “I Love
NY: Ingredients and Recipes” to cook, what would it be?
DH: That’s a tough
one—I truly love all of them. But if I had to pick just one, it would be Milk
and Honey. It’s a flavor combination that is truly nostalgic for me and one
that we’ve worked with at both Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad. It’s truly a
wonderful, comforting dish.
Daniel Humm is executive chef of Eleven Madison Park, a three-Michelin star restaurant that was ranked 5th best restaurant in the world by The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy in 2013, located at 11 Madison Avenue in New York City. The cookbook I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes is available for purchase on Amazon.