A self-trained cook turned James Beard Award–winning chef, Gabrielle Hamilton opened Prune on New York’s Lower East Side fifteen years ago to great acclaim and lines down the block, both of which continue today. A deeply personal and gracious restaurant, in both menu and philosophy, Prune uses the elements of home cooking and elevates them in unexpected ways. The result is delicious food that satisfies on many levels.
Highly original in concept, execution, look, and feel, the Prune cookbook is an inspired replica of the restaurant’s kitchen binders. It is written to Gabrielle’s cooks in her distinctive voice, with as much instruction, encouragement, information, and scolding as you would find if you actually came to work at Prune as a line cook. The recipes have been tried, tasted, and tested dozens if not hundreds of times. Intended for the home cook as well as the kitchen professional, the instructions offer a range of signals for cooks—a head’s up on when you have gone too far, things to watch out for that could trip you up, suggestions on how to traverse certain uncomfortable parts of the journey to ultimately help get you to the final destination, an amazing dish.
Complete with more than with more than 250 recipes and 250 color photographs, home cooks will find Prune’s most requested recipes—Grilled Head-on Shrimp with Anchovy Butter, Bread Heels and Pan Drippings Salad, Tongue and Octopus with Salsa Verde and Mimosa’d Egg, Roasted Capon on Garlic Crouton, Prune’s famous Bloody Mary (and all 10 variations). Plus, among other items, a chapter entitled “Garbage”—smart ways to repurpose foods that might have hit the garbage or stockpot in other restaurant kitchens but are turned into appetizing bites and notions at Prune.
Featured here are the recipes, approach, philosophy, evolution, and nuances that make them distinctively Prune’s. Unconventional and honest, in both tone and content, this book is a welcome expression of the cookbook as we know it.
Reprinted with permission from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton, ©2014. Photos by Eric Wolfinger; photo of Gabrielle Hamilton by Melanie Dunea. Published by Random House. Please support your local bookshop or purchase through our affiliate links with IndieBound and Amazon.
FRESH SHELL BEAN RAGOUT WITH CARDOONS AND MINT
Yield: 4–6 orders
2 pounds shell beans—see if we can get a few varieties in addition to borlotti and cranberry, and ask for those picked young if he has them
1-2 pounds cardoons
4 cups Chicken Stock (recipe in Prune)
1/3 pound butter
Mint—one large bunch
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shell the beans and measure your yield—it’s usually a little less than half of what you started with in weight after you shuck. Eight pounds of shell beans yields a shy four pounds of shucked beans, approximately.
Trim the tops and bottoms and shave off the leaves of the cardoons until you have good substantial stalks to work with. Take care with the little prickles and also wash your hands immediately after handling to remove the intense bitter film they leave on your skin. Switch out your cutting board as well for a new clean one after you have finished the cardoon prep.
Cut directly across the stalks in 1/4″ to 1/3″ slices.
Clean and yield an equal amount of cardoon as your shell bean yield.
Boil plenty of salted water in pot large enough to hold the cardoons.
Blanch the cardoons for a couple of minutes and drain.
Taste a slice to determine how profound the bitterness is.
If it’s still tremendously off-putting, boil more fresh water, season with salt, and do a second blanch.
More or less, you want equal parts shell beans, cardoons, and chicken stock to start with.
Melt a healthy slab of butter slowly in a sauteuse, and add the blanched cardoons.
Stir until coated and glossy.
Add the shell beans and stir and heat through until glossy.
Just cover with chicken stock and bring to simmer.
Chop a generous amount of mint and stir in.
Add another healthy slab of butter and stir in.
Season with salt and pepper and simmer until beans are cooked through, cardoons are tender, and their high bitterness is tamed, 20–30 minutes.
Stir in another big handful of freshly chopped mint just before serving.
The butter is there to tame the high bitter of the cardoon, not put it to sleep entirely. Please keep the ratio of butter to chicken stock such that the final dish is brothy but rich and full-bodied, and that it allows the cardoon to retain some of its personality. It shouldn’t be challengingly bitter; just pleasantly bitter.
CORNMEAL POUND CAKE WITH ROSEMARY SYRUP, CANDIED ROSEMARY, AND POACHED PEAR
For the cornmeal pound cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 pound butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Set oven to 325°.
Prepare pans with spray, then parchment, then spray again and light dusting of flour on top of the parchment.
Use whisk attachment and beat butter in mixer until creamy.
Add sugar and salt, beat on high for 3–5 minutes. Let it get fluffy and opaque and nearly white and scrape down sides a couple of times during beating.
Add vanilla to eggs, then add eggs one at a time, more or less, to the creamed butter and sugar with the motor running on medium high.
Scrape down sides with rubber spatula and make sure all is incorporated a couple of times during the adding of the egg. Keep it light and fluffy; 3–4 minutes.
While butter mixture is creaming, whisk together the equal parts flour and cornmeal and turn out onto a full sheet of parchment.
Lift the parchment by the two long sides, creating a convenient chute, and add the flour mixture to the butter, 1/3 at a time, with the motor running on low.
Again with the rubber spatula! Please make sure you scrape down the sides and incorporate all of the material after each addition.
Neatly pour/spoon the batter into the prepared pan or pans.
Spread the batter around with an offset spatula to make a smooth top, and tap the pans a few times gently to let the batter settle evenly in the pans.
Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Test for doneness with a wooden skewer— the crumb of this cake is coarse enough that the wooden skewer is fine, preferred even—don’t use the metal testers.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool on rack. Peel off parchment during the cooling.
For the pears poached in rosemary syrup:
6 Forelle pears, 1 day short of perfectly ripe
A few black peppercorns
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3 branches rosemary
1 cup Riesling
3 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Peel the pears in long gliding strokes, from stem to bottom, with a very sharp vegetable peeler, held like a paring knife. Don’t chip away at them with short ugly strokes.
Leave stems intact if you can swing it; it looks better on the plate.
Combine the water, wine, sugar, vanilla, rosemary, and peppercorns in stainless steel heavy-bottomed saucepot, large enough to just contain the pears.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
Add the pears and cover with a double circle of parchment cut to the same diameter as the pot, and cover with a lid one size too small for the pot.
Poach the pears for just 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted at the deepest center of the pear meets little—but some—resistance. To test the doneness, go up through the bottom and use a cake tester so you don’t leave such a big hole from the wooden skewer.
Remove from the burner and let the pears cool in the syrup, keeping in mind that they will continue to cook from the residual heat.
Take care with your cooking time so that the pears can cool—and “cure”—in the syrup, like we do with all of the syrup-poached or candied fruits here. But if you’ve accidentally taken them too far, remove the fruit with a slotted spoon—and set them on a baker’s drying rack over a ½ sheet pan—and get them in the walk-in quickly to cool down. Make sure they have some room around them for the cold air to circulate.
Rapid cool the syrup in an ice bath, return the fruit to the syrup when both are cool, and store in the syrup.
For the candied rosemary:
6 beautiful branches rosemary with thin leaves, not the tight bushy kind, 4″ in length
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup granulated white sugar (check first to see if there is rosemary-scented superfine from previous batch and use that instead if so)
Superfine sugar for dredging and storing
Thoroughly mix together sugar and water in small saucepan and set over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer.
Add rosemary sprigs and, without stirring, allow to simmer for just a few minutes, no more than 5. We want the syrup perfumed with the rosemary but the branches to retain their color, which will brighten in the hot syrup.
Remove from heat and with a fork retrieve rosemary sprigs from syrup, draining well.
Make sure the rosemary is sticky but not dripping; you want the sugar to adhere in a light dusting and not like heavy snow weighing down the boughs of a Christmas tree.
Drag sticky rosemary spears through a good pile of superfine sugar, completely coating each sprig, and set them to dry on a baker’s rack.
When completely dry, pack sprigs in superfine, and keep airtight. The rectangular take-out containers are good.
If the basement prep area is too humid, take them upstairs to pastry station and let them dry there. Otherwise they don’t dry properly and they look amateur.
Reserve rosemary syrup for finishing the pound cake. And save the superfine for next batch of syrup.
On the plate:
Slab of cornmeal pound cake, approximately as wide as your thumb, cut in half on the diagonal.
Stack halves artfully.
Place pear beside pound cake, stem up.
Spoon substantial amount of rosemary syrup over pear, and allow to pool up a bit on the plate. Not swimming or drowned but generous.
Garnish with a candied, sugared rosemary sprig.
Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune restaurant in New York’s East Village and the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. She received an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon Appétit, Saveur, House Beautiful, and Food & Wine. She has also authored the 8-week Chef column in The New York Times, and her work has been anthologized in eight volumes of Best Food Writing. She has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and the Food Network, among other TV and she has won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef NYC. She currently lives in Manhattan with her two sons.