50 recipes straight from primo Philly dining tables

Posted: September 14, 2012

Dine out enough, and you're likely to compile a mental list of your favorite dishes:

Dan dan noodles from Han Dynasty, edamame ravioli from Buddakan, linguine with cockles from Paradiso, salade Lyonnaise from Parc.

Would it be nice to have the recipes, and maybe the stories behind them?

April White, a food writer and communications manager of the Food Trust, offers 50 recipes, including a few cocktails, while putting the Philadelphia dining scene in context in the new cookbook Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press).

The book, illustrated with photos by Jason Varney, is a valuable snapshot of a fluid dining scene. White said she set out to interview "the people in town I had to have - the people that people are always talking about. . . . I wanted to capture the scene. We had to have great bar food. I don't have a pizza recipe, but I got tips. And we had to have a cupcake [from Betty's Speakeasy], and a really awesome burger [Good Dog]."

Getting cooperation from stars such as Marc Vetri, Jose Garces, Kevin Sbraga, and Michael Solomonov was a snap. "You don't know how generous the chefs of Philadelphia are," said White, adding that no one turned her down. Franklin Fountain initially balked at the time required but ultimately came through with home-scale recipes for hot fudge and vanilla ice cream.

White started the project in early 2011 and elected not to drop important restaurants that closed during the production.

We have White to thank for securing the recipe for chicken tikka kebab with chickpea curry, from the departed Bindi. You also can see the recipe for pappardelle with duck ragu, chocolate, and orange from James, which closed last year. (You can still enjoy the duck at Caffe Storico at the New-York Historical Society, where former owner Jim Burke is executive chef.)

Joey Chmico left Resurrection Ale House in Grays Ferry last month - well after the book came off the press - but his sought-after recipe for twice-fried chicken and kitchen tips are included.

The project began with publicist Clare Pelino, who, wearing her literary agent hat, put Varney and White together. "We both love Philadelphia food," said White, who worked with Pelino on Jose Garces' cookbook Latin Evolution. They went with Lyons Press, which publishes regional cookbooks.

White, an above-average cook who said she did not test all the recipes, says even beginners could attempt the whipped ricotta from Barbuzzo or the tacos from Guapos Tacos.

In perhaps the best experience in writing the book, White got to field-test Koo Zee Doo's pork and clams recipe. Vacationing in Portugal, with a nonexistent knowledge of Portuguese, she shopped for ingredients at Lisbon markets and prepared the dish in her rental house. "That was a big adventure," she said. "I did a pretty good job of it."

White will appear Sept. 24 at Cook, the Rittenhouse Square demonstration kitchen, with Pierre Calmels of Bibou, Peter Woolsey of Bistrot La Minette, Samuel Noh of Rouge, and Liz Begosh of Betty's Speakeasy. She also will sign the cookbook from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 30 at Head House Farmer's Market.

Cheddar-Jalapeño Corn Bread

Makes 1 loaf or 8-12 servings

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons  yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 1/4 cups light buttermilk

3/4 cup unsalted butter,  melted

3 tablespoons pickled jalapeño, diced

3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square or round pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine eggs, corn syrup, and buttermilk. Whisk to combine. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Add butter, whisking to incorporate. Fold jalapeños into batter.

3. Spoon batter into the pan and place cheese cubes on top. Press cheese into batter, using the back of a spoon to smooth batter as necessary.

4. Bake until the top of the corn bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the corn bread comes out just a little moist, about 50 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

- From Percy Street Barbecue chef Erin O'Shea

and Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press, 2012)

Per serving (based on 12): 265 calories, 6 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 414 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Dan Dan Noodles

Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 ounces ground pork

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons preserved Chinese vegetables (available at Asian markets)

1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, divided

2 tablespoons sesame paste

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons chile oil

1/2 tablespoon Szechuan  peppercorn oil (available at Asian markets)

2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 pound flour noodles

1. In a wok over high heat, heat 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil. Brown pork and garlic. Add preserved vegetables and 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce. Remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sesame paste until emulsified. Add remaining 1/3 cup soy sauce, water, chile oil, peppercorn oil, and sugar, and whisk until emulsified.

3. Cook flour noodles according to package instructions.

4. Pour sauce into an empty serving bowl, add cooked noodles, and top with ground pork. Toss tableside.

- From Han Dynasty owner-chef Han Chiang and Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press, 2012)

Per serving: 401 calories, 6 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 25 grams fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 1,385 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Chile En Nogada

Makes 6 servings

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 Spanish onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup diced dried apricot

1/2 cup diced dried pineapple

1/2 cup diced dried papaya

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 pound ground beef

Kosher salt and black  pepper, as needed

1 cup toasted slivered  almonds

4 ounces cream cheese

1 cup whole milk

1 cup chopped walnuts, divided

6 poblano peppers

1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 pomegranate, seeds only

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Saute onion and garlic until transparent. Add dried fruit, bay leaves, and cinnamon, and saute until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add ground beef and saute until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in almonds. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon.

2. In a blender, combine cream cheese, milk, and 2/3 cup walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Blend until nogada sauce is smooth and creamy.

3. Place poblano peppers on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Roast until skin comes off easily, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a clean dish towel to wipe skin off peppers. Cut a slit along the side of each pepper. Remove seeds and stuff with cooled beef mixture. Top stuffed peppers with nogada sauce. Garnish with parsley, pomegranate seeds, and remaining 1/3 cup walnuts in bands from left to right to resemble the Mexican flag.

- From El Rey chef Dionicio Jimenez and Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press, 2012)

Per serving: 629 calories, 36 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams sugar, 42 grams fat, 92 milligrams cholesterol, 131 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.

Paella Valenciana

Makes 2 servings

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

Pinch of saffron

Kosher salt and black pepper, as needed

1 1/4 cups diced Spanish onion, divided

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups bomba rice

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup julienned piquillo peppers

3 ounces chorizo, diced

10 mussels

8 cherrystone  clams or cockles

5 shrimp

2 tablespoons julienned black olives

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/4 cup  whole flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 boneless, skinless chicken  breast

1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add pinch of saffron and season with salt. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 11/2 cups, about 30 minutes.

2. In a paella pan or large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, saute 1 cup onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter. In a large bowl, combine rice, saffron chicken broth, peas, piquillo peppers, chorizo, mussels, clams or cockles, shrimp, black olives, and chopped parsley. Season with salt. Transfer mixture to pan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.

3. To prepare a vinaigrette, combine shallot, lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and sugar, and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine whole parsley leaves, tomatoes, and remaining 1/4 cup onion. Toss with vinaigrette. Place salad on top of paella.

4. Sear or grill chicken breast until cooked through. Slice and place on top of paella. Squeeze 2 lemon wedges over paella. Garnish with remaining lemon wedges.

- From Amada owner-chef Jose Garces and Extraordinary Recipes From Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press, 2012)

Per serving: 1,132 calories, 48 grams protein, 94 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 61 grams fat, 198 milligrams cholesterol, 2,214 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

Roquefort-Stuffed Burger

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Spanish onions, sliced thin

Kosher salt and black  pepper, as needed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 pounds of 80 percent lean ground beef

4 ounces Roquefort cheese,  cut into 4 pieces

4 brioche rolls, sliced in half and lightly toasted

1. In a saute pan over medium-high heat, combine butter and olive oil. Season onion with salt and pepper. When butter is melted in the pan, add onions, stirring to coat onions with oil. Let sit until onions start to brown, about 20 minutes. Stir again and add thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid released by onions is almost evaporated and onions are caramelized.

2. Preheat grill to high. Roll ground beef into 4 loose balls. Pat balls into flat patties and place a piece of cheese in the center of each. Fold the edges of each patty up around the cheese and roll back into a ball with cheese in the center. Gently flatten each ball into a patty about 1 inch thick. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Grill to medium, about 6 minutes on each side. Place burger on bottom half of bun, and top with caramelized onions and top of bun.

- From Good Dog bar chef Jessica O'Donnell and Philadelphia Chef's Table (Lyons Press, 2012)

Per serving: 726 calories, 80 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 31 grams fat, 235 milligrams cholesterol, 1,039 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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