We spoke to Nicholas Elmi of Philadelphia's Laurel (and Top Chef fame) about his New York favorites and upcoming James Beard Foundation event, which will feature black truffles galore.
Chef Nicholas Elmi.
Is one serving of truffles ever enough? Top Chef champion Nicholas Elmi doesn't think so. His modern eatery Laurel has become a critically acclaimed hot spot in Philadelphia, and lucky for us, he's swinging by New York City. The Beard House will welcome Elmi for a luxurious black truffle dinner next week (Monday, January 23, members, $160; public, $210; tickets on jamesbeard.org). Some standouts on the truffle-filled menu include green farro with preserved citrus and truffles, truffle-crusted lamb loin with winter root vegetables, and truffle–honey yogurt sorbet with potato and malt. And of course, a selection of fine wines will flow between decadent bites.
We checked in with Elmi before the event to find out which chef he'd most love to dine with, and what he's looking forward to most about his James Beard Foundation event.
What is your favorite place to eat in New York and what do you order there? NICHOLAS ELMI: I'm going to fall in line and say Wildair. Just very well thought-out food. I order everything.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York? NE: Greg Baxtrom. He arrived thunderously at Olmstead but he is a supremely talented chef that has earned every bit of praise he has recently garnered.
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be? NE:Eric Ripert. Sustained excellence is something that is not easily achieved. And to also do it with such grace? I would bring a voice recorder and listen to our conversation like it was the Rocky theme song every day I go to work.
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene? NE: Ha. Everywhere you turn in NYC, you can find a great restaurant.
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event? NE: This will be my third event so I'm excited at the chance to actually be in the moment. I'm very pragmatic and my other two events I've basically blocked everything and everyone out and focused on the kitchen. This time I think I'll take it all in.
What kind of food does New York need more of? NE: I'm not equipped to answer that.
RECIPE: Roasted Breast of Squab with Leg Confit, Crisp Onion, Yellowfoots, Watercress, and Miso Jus
For the Squab
1 18-ounce dressed squab 1 Tablespoon duck fat 1 Tablespoon active rm 1 sprig thyme Sea salt White pepper
For the Crisp
2 white onions 2 quarts water 2 Tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt
4 fresh sprigs of water cress for garnish 1 bu. Water cress 1 gram xanthan gum
For the Miso Jus
Carcass of squab 3 shallots 1 garlic clove 1 cup chablis 1 Tablespoon white miso 1 quart roasted poulet stock
Remove the legs from the squab. Season with salt and pepper and set it to cure for one hour and rinse. In a small cryovac bag, add the legs and duck fat. Cook in a water bath at 170 for 1 hour 45 min. Let cool, then submerge in ice water to cool.
Remove the head and neck, leaving as much neck skin as possible. Stuff cavity of bird with hay and thyme. Cryovac with 1 Tablespoon of smoked duck fat for each bird. Cook in a water bath at 130 for 45 minutes. Remove from water bath and let rest 30 minutes, then shock in ice water.
Add the chopped onions, sugar, salt, and water in a tall pot. Cook down until the water has evaporated and the onions begin to caramelize well. Puree in a blender and pass through a chinois. Spread very thin on a silpat. Dehydrate at 125 for at least 12 hours.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pick the watercress leaves and blanch until tender. Shock in ice water and puree in a blender until smooth. Blend in the xanthan and puree for 1 minute. Should stand up when quenelled. Reserve cold.
In a sauté pan, bring the butter and veg stock up to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and cover cooking for 3 min. Season and reserve
In a rhondo heat oil to almost smoking, add the carcass and brown. Chop the shallots and garlic and add to color. Deglaze with chablis and reduce by half. Add the Poulet stock, and cook for 20 min. Strain and reduce until nape. Finish with miso.
To serve, sear the squab in a pan until it has color on all sides. Cook in an oven at 300 until warm. Sear the legs in a pan for color. Warm the watercress puree and garnish the plate. Slice the squab in half and arrange around plates with yellow foot mushrooms. Garnish with onion crisp and watercress sprigs. Garnish with sauce.