November 2011

Chef’s Table

Culinary artists contemplate the can’t-miss dishes they cook at home that maintain their kitchen cred and allow time for relaxing with friends   by JENN GARBEE / photographs by BRIAN LEATART / food styling by LIESL MAGGIORE

If anyone needs an indispensable dish for entertaining—one with a ironclad gastronomic warranty to both impress guests and, perhaps more saliently, satisfy the host—it is this city’s revered chefs. After all, when the surname on that invitation is Matsuhisa or Silverton, Sunday-supper expectations are magnified well beyond everyday meat-and-potatoes fare.

But after a long workweek of menu-development sweat and onion-induced tears, chefs hardly have the time or energy to devote to elaborate home entertaining.

Still, like most of us, they crave a dish that will leave them with a few more coveted cocktail minutes to themselves: homemade olive tapenade that can elevate a simple cheese-and-salumi platter to hors d’oeuvre status, beef brisket that takes on a rustic elegance when reenvisioned as rilletes or a simple dish of baked achiote fish with just enough cultural inflection to make an impression.

For those of us who are dedicated culinary amateurs, it’s almost refreshing to know that even in the pedigreed chef’s well-seasoned home kitchen, there are those winding crossroads that periodically redefine the consummate entertainer. Take, for example, the age-old kitchen dilemma: When, in consideration of time constraints, should one forego, say, fresh anchovies and go with canned?