“I dedicate my work every day to the colleagues I lost on 9/11” – chef Michael Lomonaco.
Michael Lomonaco loves food and people. But it was an act of hate that pushed him into the spotlight: the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.
Michael was executive chef of Windows on the World: a restaurant once on top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Following the attacks, he helped raise $23 million for the families of foodservice workers killed that day. Those included 79 of his staff working the morning shift and a hot dog vendor on the ground outside. I interviewed him in May 2002.Today, Michael is chef/owner of Porter House Bar and Grill, an elegant steakhouse on the fourth floor of the Time Warner building overlooking Central Park. It was named one of America’s Best New Restaurants by Esquire magazine the year it opened in 2006.
Here are two excellent recipes I found in Michael’s 2004 cookbook “Nightly Specials” dedicated to his “friends and co-workers at Windows on the World who were senselessly taken from us on September 11, 2001.”
I have made both of them and there couldn’t be a more heartfelt, delicious dedication.
Chicken with Mustard Sauce
New York chef Michael Lomonaco modelled this on one of his favourite classic bistro dishes: Steak Diane. He calls it “a paragon of quick cooking that finds steak swathed in a cream sauce mightily seasoned with mustard and enhanced with cognac.” He recommends roasted garlic mashed potatoes as a perfect accompaniment because the potatoes will soak up the sauce. Or serve it with fries and an ice-cold Belgian beer. It is now one of my go-to chicken recipes.
2 tbsp butter
Four 8-oz/250g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, slightly pounded, flattened
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp chopped shallots or onion
½ cup brandy, apple brandy, pear brandy or bourbon
½ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1½ cups chicken stock
½ cup whipping (35%) cream
3 tbsp minced fresh chives
Heat butter in wide, heavy skillet until it begins to melt and foam. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to skillet; brown over medium-high heat on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate; cover with foil to keep warm.
Add shallots to skillet; cook over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat; add brandy, scraping up browned bits from skillet. Cook a few minutes. Add wine, raise heat to high and bring it to a boil. Whisk in mustard; cook about 1 minute. Pour in chicken stock; cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
Stir in cream and bring just to a boil. Stir in chives. Return chicken to skillet; cook over medium-low heat until sauce thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
Makes about 4 servings.
Mom’s Italian-American Meatloaf
Michael: “We all have memories either of great or terrible meatloaf meals from childhood. My mom’s meatloaf is a fond food memory. It was always moist and juicy, with a touch of Italy from the tomatoes and pecorino Romano cheese. It also passed the test of any respectable meatloaf: it made good sandwiches the next day.” I’ll second that emotion. I used 1½ pounds each of ground beef and ground pork. Michael adds options: “Lay some raw bacon strips over the loaf before baking. (This was one way my mother made her meatloaf extra special.) Add some sautéed mushrooms to the pan during the last 20 minutes of cooking.”
1 lb/500g ground beef
1 lb/500g ground pork
1 lb/500g ground veal
1 cup milk
1 cup bread cubes (3 or 4 slices Italian country bread, crusts removed)
½ cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp dried oregano
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for greasing
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine ground meats in large bowl.
Add milk to a shallow bowl; add bread. Let soak, then squeeze into a paste. Add soaked bread to meat and work them together as though you were kneading dough. Add cheese, garlic, onion, eggs, oregano, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and knead again until well incorporated.
Oil large roasting pan with olive oil. Form meat mixture into a large loaf in centre of pan.
In bowl, combine canned tomatoes, tomato paste and 1 cup water; pat mixture evenly over meatloaf. Scatter carrots and celery in pan around loaf.
Place meatloaf in oven; bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out warm, about 1½ hours. If the loaf begins to look dry while cooking, tent it with aluminum foil. Remove pan from oven; let meatloaf cool slightly. Slice into servings, put 1 serving on each plate and spoon pan juices and vegetables over and around it.
Makes about 6 servings.