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Chef's Day Off

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Tom Colicchio
CRAFT, GRAMERCY TAVERN

Dream Weekend: I love working in the kitchen at home and asking people to join in and help. You know, grab a knife and chop something. And just really enjoy the table. And usually it involves a few bottles of wine. Affairs to Remember: My hot-pepper party. There's a farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket who has just the most incredible peppers. Roasted hot peppers, puréed hot peppers. Braised short ribs with hot peppers, roasted striped bass with hot peppers. And I had to have starch to cool everything off: mashed potatoes, polenta, pasta, and bread. Dress Code: On a weekend, especially on a Sunday afternoon, if you have to put a jacket on and go somewhere, that's horrible.

Bruschetta of Clam Ragout With Pancetta

6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (or other unsmoked bacon), cut into 1/2 inch-by-2-inch strips

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

4 roasted tomato halves, coarsely chopped (sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil can be substituted)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 dozen Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed

4 cups mustard greens, shredded

3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 loaf peasant bread (or other non-sourdough crusty bread), sliced 3/4-inch thick

Place the pancetta in a pot large enough to hold the clams. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of fat. Increase the heat to medium, and add the garlic and shallot. Sauté until fragrant (about 2 minutes), stirring occasionally; then add the roasted tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute more. Add the wine, and allow it to reduce until the pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes.

Add the clams and about 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Once opened, remove the clam shells from the pan with a slotted spoon or metal tongs, discarding the shells. Add the clams back into the tomato mixture, and stir in the greens. Cook until the greens are just wilted, about 3 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, brush or drizzle slices of bread with olive oil, and grill or brown them in the oven. Apportion the ragout onto the toasted or grilled bread using a slotted spoon, top with pancetta, and drizzle with oil. Serve immediately.

Cyril Renaud
FLEUR DE SEL

Dream Weekend: We take a boat off Jones Beach in the evening to fish -- you can see the sun going down under New York City. Affairs to Remember: Once, we re-created La Grande Bouffe, that movie where people spend a weekend eating and drinking themselves to death. The Creative Chef: After I left La Caravelle, I started painting. Now I'm also doing sculpture -- sometimes I melt the metal on the barbecue in the backyard.

Marinated Roasted Rack of Lamb

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bunch fresh lemon thyme, leaves finely chopped

1 bunch silver thyme, leaves finely chopped

3 racks of lamb, French-cut (ask your butcher to do this)

Mix together the mustard, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl, and stir in the lemon and silver thyme until combined. Place the racks of lamb in a roasting pan, and, using a brush, coat the lamb with the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours), brushing regularly with marinade.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Heat a little oil in a heavy-bottomed nonstick sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Pan-sear racks of lamb, one at a time, on all sides.

Place the racks in the roasting pan, brush with remaining marinade, and roast in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, brushing with the marinade several times to create a dark coating, until the internal temperature reads 120 to 125 degrees (for medium rare). Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with grilled zucchini and fresh corn with baby basil (recipe below).

Grilled Zucchini and Fresh Corn With Baby Basil

6 small zucchini and yellow squash

Fleur de sel and white pepper

Kernels from 18 very fresh bi-color ears of corn

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch fresh baby basil

2 teaspoons butter

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then make several shallow slashes in each cut side. Season with salt and pepper, and coat all over with olive oil. Barely cook the zucchini on a hot grill pan (do not allow them to get soft). Slice into 1/2-inch chunks.

Bring 3 tablespoons of water to a boil in a saucepan, and whip in the butter until emulsified. Add the corn, and heat gently (do not bring to a boil; you want the kernels crunchy and barely cooked). Stir in the baby basil, fleur de sel, and pepper. Add the zucchini to the corn, and heat briefly.

Place the salad on a platter, and serve immediately with the lamb.

Tom Valenti
OUEST

Dream Weekend: Fishing on the Beaverkill -- sometimes we'll find some wild watercress. We cook in the afternoon, and get back on the river toward dusk. Partying Smart: It's all about front-loading. Sometimes we put a turkey on the grill. When we come back in three hours, it's done. Traveling Rations: We bring cheeses, chopped liver, whitefish salad: They remind us that we do indeed have to return to New York at the end of the weekend.

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Strawberry Purée

1 and 1/2 cups cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk (milk can be substituted)

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

1 cup crème fraîche

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

Strawberry purée:

1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled (raspberries, peaches, or blueberries can be substituted)

1 tablespoon sugar or to taste

1 teaspoon lemon juice or to taste

Panna cotta: Pour the cream, milk, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla bean into a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the crème fraîche. Scrape the vanilla bean to remove remaining seeds. Pour the cream mixture through a strainer and add the gelatin to the hot mixture, stirring until it has dissolved.

Pour evenly into 6 molds or martini glasses, or into a 1-quart souffle dish. Chill to set for at least 3 hours.

Strawberry purée: Put two thirds of the strawberries in a food processor, and purée until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, purée again, and, depending on the ripeness of the fruit, adjust sugar and lemon juice to taste. Strain though a fine sieve to remove seeds (optional).

Unmold panna cotta onto a plate, and pour about 2 tablespoons purée around each serving. Garnish with remaining strawberries.


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