July 22, 2013

Michael Anthony's Gramercy Tavern Cookbook

Chilled corn soup.
Outside the air was shimmering with heat and humidity but inside the private dining room at Gramercy Tavern it was all chill, from the refreshing corn soup to the lemon verbena granité. The occasion was a recent lunch introducing The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, written by executive chef Michael Anthony.

The book, to be released in October, is a handsome collection of recipes, mini-profiles and stories published by Clarkson Potter. Union Square Hospitality group founder and co-owner Danny Meyer writes in his introductory history of the restaurant that he visualized his second restaurant as "the love child of Taillevent and Union Square Café," a combination of the casual spirit of the first and the elevated services and fine dining of the second.

Watermelon and beet salad.

Anthony told his lunch guests that he strives for the simplicity of home cooking at work, noting, "If we have the courage to cook at the restaurant the way we cook at home then we're a success. It's the opposite of what you would think." 

Anthony cooks at home for his wife and three daughters, and says he's excited about joining the Norwich Meadows Farm CSA and cooking from its offerings.

Flounder with marinated cucumbers and yogurt sauce.
I wondered if any of Anthony's experiences cooking in Japan made it into his book. He does write memorably about his impoverished days as a young cook living on the far outskirts of Tokyo and befriending a middle-aged Japanese woman. She dragged him to meetings of her "culture club," where he traded English lessons for instruction in both Japanese and Japanese home cooking, and "excursions with their straw-hat hiking club."

"Japanese people eat an amazing variety of carefully prepared foods every day, but that kind of home cooking hardly ever finds its way to Japanese restaurants in the United States," writes Anthony. He lists a few of key ingredients from those Japanese ladies' home kitchens that he loves most, and that have made their way into his pantry, including the very practical bottled shiro dashi, a mix of dashi (the basic building block of Japanese cuisine, a broth made of bonito flakes and dried seaweed), soy sauce, saké and other seasonings.  He likes to use shiro dashi to season fish and sauces.

Lemon verbena granite with blueberry sorbet.

The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook includes Anthony own dashi recipe, used in the book for a dish of halibut and radishes in beet dashi.

Now, says Anthony, he's fascinated with Korean cuisine. I'm looking forward to seeing how those influences might eventually appear on the Gramercy Tavern menu.