spuntino: comfort food (new york style)

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A sizzling New York cookbook, from Russell Norman, the bestselling author of POLPO

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  • 2 Brunch

    Russell Norman Photography by Jenny Zarins

  • First published in Great Britain 2015

    Copyright 2015 Russell NormanPhotography 2015 Jenny Zarins

    The moral right of the author has been asserted

    No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews

    Bloomsbury Publishing Plc50 Bedford SquareLondon WC1B 3DP

    bloomsbury.com

    Bloomsbury is a trademark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

    Bloomsbury Publishing, London, New Delhi, New York and Sydney

    A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

    ISBN 978 1 4088 4717 6

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    Design by PralinePhotography by Jenny ZarinsEdited by Susan FlemingIndex by XXX

    Printed and bound by XXX in XXX

    [FSC logo]

    [Oven temperatures?]

    IntroductionBrunchWest Village, Greenwich Village, Meatpacking District on footSpuntini & ToastsPizzetteLittle Italy, Nolita, Soho on footSalads & DressingsSlidersLower East Side, Chinatown, Tribeca on footFish PlatesMeat PlatesWilliamsburg on footDessertsDrinks

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    To be set

  • 12 13Brunch

    My love affair with New York started many years before I first visited the city, through the cop movies and bad TV shows of my 1970s childhood. From afar, the place was mesmerising and I became increasingly intrigued. I had never thought of a city as a character before, but here was one that seemed vital, visceral, assured, arrogant, cultured, dangerous, sexy and elegant all at once. By the time I finally landed at John F. Kennedy Airport in 1999 I was well on the way to full-blown obsession. On the flight I had felt disproportionately nervous, but not because of the usual flying jitters. I realised I was apprehensive about finally meeting the long-term object of my long-distance infatuation. In the cab from the airport, as the iconic skyline loomed, all I could hear in my head was Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue, Woody Allens choice of soundtrack for Manhattan. What chance did I have? I was totally smitten.

    My first encounter with New York did not disappoint. It is, after all, the ultimate city. It is electric, seemingly generating its own energy, and when you are there, you feel like you are at the centre of the universe. Subsequent visits only served to reinforce my feelings. If anything, as I became more familiar with its topographic, gastronomic and cultural landscape, New York City revealed itself more fully and filled my heart more completely.

    But New York is a city of many layers. Its neighbourhoods and communities differ vastly depending on where you find yourself, and I quickly found my comfort zone. The glitzy society world of the Upper East Side black-tie-benefit bashes and Fifth-Avenue shopping trips was not what I had in mind. I identified with the city of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection or Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver: gritty and muscular with more than a modicum of nostalgia. To be honest, I was only really interested in what was happening downtown below 14th Street where the canyons of tall buildings gave way to a cityscape that was more intimate and villagey and where the grid starts to go wonky. Occasionally I would venture across the East River into Williamsburg.

    As my tourists sensibilities evolved, I learnt to see the city as a native might; not looking up in awe at the skyscrapers, bright lights and monuments, but with a horizontal gaze, appraising the streets, the sidewalk, the people, the shopfronts, the doorways, the windows and the businesses behind them. I also started to think about how I might possibly capture something of New Yorks intangible mojo, bottle it up and bring it across the Atlantic.

    The idea for the restaurant first came to me on a research trip to NYC in 2009. I was amused that the origins of many classic American dishes were, in fact, Italian. Meatballs, pizza, macaroni cheese. I wondered whether a scruffy small-plate joint serving strong cocktails and Italian/American comfort

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  • 24 25Brunch Brunch

    Candied Bacon

    This is a preposterous snack that combines the unholy trinity of fat, salt and sugar in one hit. You really cant get more sin into such a small package but, likewise, you probably dont need telling how ridiculously tasty it is.

    Now, with that warning out of the way, it is only fair to further warn you that this recipe uses a blowtorch. I am aware that this is not a standard bit of kitchen kit but theyre not too expensive these days and theyre so handy for a variety of tasks, not least for making that perfect crme brule.

    For four as a snack:12 slices of smoked streaky baconMaple syrupCaster sugar

    Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

    Lay a sheet of baking paper on a roasting tray and place the streaky bacon in regimented rows next to each other. Cover with another layer of baking paper and place a second roasting tray onto the top to create a press. Roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Then lower the temperature to 150C/Gas 2, remove the upper tray and top layer of baking paper and roast for another 15 minutes. When the bacon looks evenly brown and crisp, remove from the oven and pat dry with kitchen paper.

    Allow the rashers to cool for 10 minutes and then brush them with maple syrup. Leave them to dry for 1520 minutes. Dust with caster sugar and, using a blowtorch, caramelise the sugar on top. Repeat for the reverse.

    Let them cool again and serve the rigid rashers upright in a short glass tumbler.

  • 30 31Brunch Brunch

    Truffled Egg Toast

    This is a sinful little dish with a killer combination of crunch, egg, cheese and truffle oil. When served, it looks like a square fried egg, the Fontina replacing the egg white, and was inspired by a trip to a tiny but perfectly-formed sandwich shop in the West Village, now sadly closed. The cooking equipment, so far as I could tell, consisted of six panini presses. But they rattled out an extensive menu, including the open truffled egg sandwich to which our dish is an homage.

    The best bread for this, by the way, is one of those square white farmhouse loaves which you should buy uncut.

    Makes one toast:1 x 3cm thick slice of square white bread80g grated Fontina2 medium egg yolks1 teaspoon truffle oilFlaky sea salt and black pepper

    Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

    Lightly toast the slice of bread on both sides. Place the slice on a baking tray and, with a very sharp knife, cut a shallow well into the centre of the bread, about 5cm square. To do this you cut the edges and push down the centre. Remember, this is a well, not a hole. It is important that you do not cut all the way through the bread. Distribute the grated Fontina evenly around the bread rim of the well. Mix the yolks together and pour them into the well. Place the tray into the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the cheese melts.

    Take the toast out, give the runny yolks a stir, drop the truffle oil evenly onto the surface and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper.

    This really needs to be eaten immediately, while it is still singing, so-to-speak.

  • 36 37Brunch Brunch

    Mac & Cheese

    Whether you call it Mac & Cheese (US) or Macaroni Cheese (UK), this is one of the worlds supreme comfort dishes and it has an incredibly wide appeal. President Thomas Jefferson famously served it at a White House banquet in 1802, and it has seen a remarkable return to gastronomic favour in the early years of the twenty-first century. At SPUNTINO we present our Mac & Cheese in individual cast-iron pans served piping hot straight from the oven. We have held competitions for the longest strings of melted cheese from pan to mouth; the combination of Parmesan, Fontina and mozzarella makes for some seriously stretchy, stringy forkfuls.

    For six:250g macaroni pastaFine salt 250ml whole milk450ml double cream175g grated Parmesan 250g grated mozzarella the cheap, hard kind1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard2 leeks25g butter2 garlic cloves, finely choppedFlaky sea salt and black pepper75g panko breadcrumbs see page 0085g grated Fontina

    Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta and some fine salt, and stir. When the water boils again, turn down to a medium heat and follow the instructions on the packet, usually simmering for around 11 minutes. Drain when al dente.

    Once cooled, transfer the drained pasta to a large mixing bowl and add the milk, the double cream, 125g of the Parmesan, half of the mozzarella and the Dijon mustard. Mix together thoroughly and leave to soak for 2 hours.

    Meanwhile, trim the leeks by removing and discarding the green tops and the roots, and finely chop. Wash the chopped leeks thoroughly to get rid of any grit. Place a medium pan over a low heat, melt the butter and very gently sweat the leeks with the garlic, 4 large pinches of flaky sea salt and a good pinch of black pepper. After about 10 minutes the leeks will have a translucent, glossy appearance. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Once the leeks have cooled, drain off any lingering fluid and add them to the soaking pasta.

    Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining Parmesan and set aside.

    Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Add the grated Fontina and the remaining mozzarella to the pasta mixture and combine well. Transfer the mix to a large baking dish and cover with the breadcrumb and Parmesan mix. Bake in the preheated oven till golden brown and bubbling, for 2530 minutes if using