The Dish: Chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini

During Andrew Carmellini's time at Cafe Boulud and Madison Square Park, Carmellini won two James Beard Awards, a three star review from the New York Times and his first Michelin star. Despite his long list of personal accomplishments, it's his food at restaurants Locanda Verde and The Dutch that shine the brightest.

Today, with nine restaurants and bars, he is one of the most prolific restaurateurs in the country.

Here's how to make some of his signature dishes: Rack of lamb glazed with citrus and vinegar, spaghetti squash with sage and walnuts, brussels sprouts with pancetta and pecorino, his grandmother's ravioli, root beer cake and epice & pomme.

Rack of lamb glazed with citrus and vinegar

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients for the lamb

2 tsp whole fennel seed (or 1 tsp ground)

Juice of 2 lemons

Juice of 2 oranges

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp harissa or crushed red pepper flakes

2 full racks of lamb, about 2 to 2.5 pounds each (plan on 4 bones per person)

1½ tbsp salt

½ tsp coarse-ground black pepper

Ingredients for the glaze

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup vin cotto (if you can't find vin cotto, up the balsamic vinegar to 1 cup)

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

½ tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions

1. Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over low heat until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes. (If you're using the ground fennel, don't toast it.)

2. Blend the fennel seeds (or ground fennel), lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, olive oil and harissa or red pepper flakes in the blender on medium until combined, about 30 seconds.

3. Place the racks of lamb in a large container and pour the mixture over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours--the longer the meat rests in the marinade the better, up to 8 hours.

4. Turn the broiler or grill on to high.

5. Remove the lamb from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature on the counter, at least 30 minutes. Reserve the marinade.

6. Season the lamb on both sides with the salt and pepper, place it on a roasting rack, and put it under the broiler, on the middle rack, or on the grill with the cap of fat facing down.

7. Broil the lamb until the fat cap starts to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue broiling as it browns, about 2 1/2 minutes more. Flip the lamb racks over and continue broiling until the fat on top has started to caramelize and render, about 5 more minutes.

8. Turn the oven to 400°F. Remove the lamb from the oven, brush it with the marinade on both sides, and then return it to the oven. Cook until your desired level of doneness: about 20 to 25 minutes for medium-rare (or 115°F on a meat thermometer). Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest on the roasting rack for 20 minutes, so the meat becomes tender and juicy.

To prepare the glaze

1. Combine the balsamic vinegar, vin cotto and red pepper flakes in a small pot over high heat and allow the mixture to reduce by half, about 8 minutes. (Be sure to ventilate the kitchen well while you do this.)

2. Remove the pot from the heat; add the chopped rosemary and mix to combine. The glaze should taste sweet, sour, spicy and herby all at once.

To finish the dish

1. Cut the chops between the bones.

2. Brush the lambs with the vinegar glaze and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti squash with sage and walnuts

Serves 6 or so, depending on the size of your squash

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp coarse-ground black pepper

5 tbsp butter

15 fresh sage leaves

½ cup shelled walnuts, roughly chopped

1 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Place the squash on a cutting board. Using a large, very sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them.

3. Place the squash halves on a roasting rack and season with ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Place 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 sage leaves in the hollowed-out core of each half.

4. Bake the squash on a tray on the oven's middle rack until the flesh is just soft--about 1 hour (or longer--it all depends on your oven). Remove the squash and let it cool until you can work with the flesh comfortably, about 15 minutes.

5. Using a fork, scrape the meat of the squash away from the skin, so that you get fluffy spaghetti-like strands. Reserve these and discard the skins, unless you're saving them for the presentation (see below). The squash will hold at this point up to a day ahead of time, in an airtight container in the fridge.

6. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the walnuts. Toast the nuts and allow the butter to bubble, about 1 minute.

7. Add the sage leaves. When he leaves release their aroma and begin to crackle in the pan (about 1 minute), add the squash and stir to coat it with the flavored butter. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat until the squash is warm, stirring frequently so the flavors get inside the squash. Season with the rest of the salt and pepper.

8. Serve on a large plate or platter, topped with the cheese. Or if you're going for that fancy '70s-hostess-style thing, serve the squash inside its own skin.

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and pecorino

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

1½ pounds (about 1½ pints) Brussels sprouts

1 heaping cup diced pancetta

1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp coarse-ground black pepper

½ cup grated pecorino

Directions

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

2. Prep the Brussels sprouts: cut the stem end off each sprout, pull off any brown leaves, and cut it in half lengthwise.

3. When the water boils, blanch the Brussels sprouts for 2 to 3 minutes, until they're bright green but still have some good crunch on 'em. Remember: they're going in the pan, so don't overdo them here.

4. While the Brussels sprouts blanch, put together an ice-water bath: a big bowl of ice cubes and cold water.

5. Pull the Brussels sprouts out of the pot with a spider or a slotted spoon, and plunge them right into the ice-water bath, to stop the cooking process. Once they've cooled down, drain them and lay them out on a paper towel to dry out a little.

6. Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in a larger saucepan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring it every 30 seconds or so to stop it from sticking, until it begins to render and crisp up.

7. Stir in the onions and keep cooking, stirring and shaking the pan to keep things from sticking, for another 2.5 minutes or so, until the onions start to caramelize and color.

8. Pour the pancetta and onions into a bowl, leaving a little of the pancetta fat in the pan (make sure there are no onions left). Put the pan back on the heat, add the Brussels sprout, and cook them in the fat for about 2.5 minutes, until they start browning up, moving them around with a wooden spoon every so often so they cook evenly.

9. Add the onions and pancetta back to the pan, season everything with salt and pepper, and let it all cook together for about 2 minutes, stirring things up and shaking the pan so nothing sticks or burns, until the Brussels sprouts and the bacon have caramelized and the flavors have come together.

10. Pile everything onto a big serving plate and scatter the grated cheese on top. Serve this right away.

My grandmother's ravioli

Makes about 50 ravioli, serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

For the filling

½ pound veal stew meat, cut into 1½-inch cubes

½ pound beef short ribs, cut into 1½-inch cubes

½ pound pork butt, cut into 1½-inch cubes

1 tsp salt

½ tsp coarse-ground black pepper

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup roughly chopped bacon, in pieces about ½ inch (about 3 ounces)

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 small carrot, sliced

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

1 beefsteak tomato, cored and roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup dry red wine

2 bay leaves

2 cups chicken broth

2 egg yolk

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

A pinch of nutmeg

1 recipe pasta dough for ravioli (see recipe below)

For the sauce

3 cups basic tomato sauce (see recipe below)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp butter

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions for the filling

1. Place the veal, beef and pork on a large plate and season the meat all over with the salt and pepper.

2. Heat the olive oil on high heat in a large pot. Add the meat and cook until it's browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the bacon, onion, carrot and celery and cook together until the vegetables soften and begin to brown -- about 5 minutes -- stirring occasionally so nothing sticks.

4. Add the tomato, smashed garlic clove and tomato paste. Stir everything together so that all the ingredients are glazed with the tomato paste, about 1 minute.

5. Add the flour and mix it well, so that the meat and the vegetables are coated. Cook the starchy flavor of the flour out a bit, about 2 minutes.

6. Add the wine and the bay leaves and mix well. Allow the liquid to reduce by three quarters, about 2 minutes.

7. Add the chicken broth. With a rubber spatula (or a wooden spoon), carefully scrape down the sides of the pot above the mixture, so that any bits that have landed on the sides don't burn and flavor the filling. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the meat has broken down into little bits, most of the liquid has reduced, and the mixture looks like a thick, delicious, fragrant stew -- about 2½ hours. Check the mixture periodically as it cooks to make sure it doesn't come up to a hard boil. (It's important to make sure that the mixture is really not wet but just moist when it's done. There should be just a little liquid in the bottom to glaze up the meat.)

8. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. When the mixture has cooled, you have three options:

A. Use your hands to squeeze the meat bits up and break everything apart (including the vegetables). This is exactly what I do if I'm making these at home and didn't want to dirty up a piece of equipment. It's like working with very messy clay.

B. Use a food processor, pulsing till the mixture is coarsely ground.

C. Put the filling through a meat grinder using a large die.

When you're done, the filling should look as if it's been roughly chopped.

9. Add the egg yolks, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg and mix everything thoroughly with your hands, kneading it so that the mixture looks like a rough dough.

10. Form the filling into little balls, about 1 tablespoon's worth (or ½ ounce) for each one.

11. Put the balls of filling in the fridge on a plate covered with plastic wrap, and cool them for at least 1 hour, so the filling gets nice and cold and will retain its shape when you put it in the pasta. The filling will hold in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Directions to make ravioli

1. Remove the ravioli dough (see recipe below) from the fridge and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. With a wooden rolling pin, roll the dough out into a square or a rectangle, so that it fits inside your pasta machine.

2. Flour the pasta to prevent stickiness and roll it through the pasta machine. Cut the resulting sheet of dough in half (so the final sheet doesn't get too long). Roll the pasta through the machine again, reducing the setting. Repeat until the dough is thin enough to allow you to see the outline and color of your hand through it, but not so thin that it gets fragile; it should feel like a piece of velvet. At this point, run the dough through the machine once more without changing the setting.

3. Make an egg wash by beating the egg together with 1 tablespoon of water.

4. Cut the pasta lengthwise into 3-inch-wide strips and brush the egg wash all over the pasta with a pastry brush so that it's evenly covered.

5. Remove the ravioli-ball filling from the fridge. Place the balls at 1-inch intervals along the middle of the strip of pasta. Fold the dough lengthwise over the tops of the filling balls and pinch it shut at the open edge with your fingers. The dough should be grainy with flour on the outside when you fold it over; if it's not, sprinkle on a little more flour so the top isn't sticky.

6. Using two fingers (one on each side of the filling ball), press the pasta dough down around the filling balls, so that they're sealed in (they look a little bit like sand dunes poking up from a desert when you're done).

7. Cut the ravioli using a fluted pastry cutter or pizza cutter (if you don't have one, you can use a knife, but it won't give you that good-looking ravioli edge). The trick is to press your fingers down next to the ravioli ball and cut on the outside of them, pressing the cutter hard so the edge is clean.

8. If you're not serving the ravioli right away, you can freeze them at this point (they'll keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container). But if you're moving on, put them on a plate and proceed directly to cooking.

Directions for the sauce and finishing the dish:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

2. Drop in the ravioli and cook until they bob to the surface and float, about 2 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, warm the basic tomato sauce (see recipe below) in a large pan on the stove over medium heat until it reaches a very slow bubble.

4. Drain the ravioli, but do not rinse them; you want all that stickiness so the sauce will adhere.

5. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the ravioli. Toss everything together well, so that all the ravioli are well coated with the sauce. Add the olive oil, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil, and mix well. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Basic tomato sauce

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

For the base

12 beautifully ripe beefsteak tomatoes (about 5 pounds), washed, cored, and scored; or 10 cups (about 2½ 35-ounce cans) good-quality Italian canned tomatoes -- I like San Marzano
1 heaping teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

For the flavored oil

1 head garlic

1¼ cups extra virgin olive oil

1 packed cup basil leaves, washed, with stems on

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

To peel the tomatoes:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Wash and core the tomatoes, then cut an X in the bottom of each so the skins loosen as they cook.

3. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. They're ready to come out when the skins start to shrink split, and wrinkle; don't leave them in too long, or the tomatoes will start to cook. You'll probably have to do these in batches to avoid overcooking. Remove the tomatoes with a spider or strainer and immediately plunge them into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

4. Once the tomatoes have cooled down, pull the skins off with your fingers.

To prepare the sauce:

1. Cut the tomatoes in half widthwise. Squeeze out the seed, and juice and discard. (This step is crucial. The key is to bring the sauce to the right consistency as quickly as possible, to preserve the fresh, bright tomato flavor. The more liquid there is, the longer you have to cook the sauce, and the less fresh and tomato-y it will taste.)

2. Roughly chop each tomato half into about 8 chunks-or if they're ripe enough, you can just pull the tomato halves apart into chunks with your fingers.

3. Place the chopped tomatoes in a large pot with a wide surface area. (If you're using the same pot you blanched the tomatoes in, be sure to cool it down-you want to start with a cold pot.) Top the tomatoes with the salt. The salt is absolutely integral to the recipe. It goes in at the beginning of the cooking process to help draw the moisture out of the tomatoes so it can evaporate. If you cut down the amount of salt, the sauce won't work.

4. Turn the heat to medium and let the tomatoes cook down at a lazy bubble, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. This'll take 45 minutes to 1¼ hours, depending on season, ripeness, and the general quality of your tomatoes; 30 minutes for canned tomatoes. As the tomatoes cook, use a ladle to remove excess water. (The amount of excess could be anywhere from a cup to a quart, depending on how ripe the tomatoes are, but the sauce should be tomatoes and liquid, not tomatoes floating in liquid.) Smash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they cook so that the sauce gradually becomes smoother.

To prepare the flavored oil:

1. Cut the top off the garlic head so that the skin stays on but the tops of the cloves are exposed. Combine the garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, and red pepper flakes in a small pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as you hear the basil leaves "crack" (the sound is almost exactly like adding milk to Rice Krispies), take the mixture off the heat and reserve.

To finish the sauce:

1. When the sauce is reduced by half to two thirds and is thick but still bright red, strain the oil into the pot and stir to combine.

2. Cook the sauce for about 10 more minutes at a lazy bubble. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking. When the oil and tomatoes have completely emulsified and the sauce look "whole," turn off the heat and stir it up a bit in the pot with a masher or a hand blender set on low.

Pasta dough for ravioli

Ingredients

6 cups "00" flour, plus more for flouring work surface and dough

1 tsp salt

7 whole eggs

5 egg yolks

2 tablespoons olive oil

    Root beer cake

    Makes one 10-inch cake, serves 8

    Ingredients

    For the cake

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for the pan

    1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

    One 12-ounce bottle (1 1/4 cups) root beer

    ½ cup molasses

    ½ tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda

    3/4 cup dark brown sugar

    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

    One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane or on the finest side of a box grater (1 teaspoon)

    2 tsp vanilla extract

    1 large egg

    1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

    1 1/4 teaspoons ground star anise

    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

    1/2 whole nutmeg, grated (or 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg)

    Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    ½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

    For the root beer glaze

    3/4 cup heavy cream

    1 tbsp sassafras bark (or 1/2 tsp sassafras extract; see note at bottom*)

    2 cups powdered sugar

    Pinch of ground star anise

    Pinch of ground cardamom

    1/4 tsp kosher salt

    1/4 whole nutmeg, grated (or about 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg)

    Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

    Directions

      To make the cake

      1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

      2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cake pan well with some of the butter.

      3. Cut out a piece of parchment paper so it fits closely into the bottom of the cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment, and then grease the parchment with more butter.

      4. Shake 1 tablespoon of the flour into the cake pan, and shake it around so it sticks to the butter. Tap out any excess flour that doesn't stick to the parchment or to the sides of the pan.

      5. Pour the root beer and molasses into a deep medium-sized pot, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. (You need those high sides because the baking soda will froth up very high, and you don't want it to spill over! So make sure there's some meaningful space between the liquid and the top of the pot.)

      6. Pull the pot off the heat and whisk in all the baking soda, so it froths up. Then put the pot right in the fridge to cool down a little.

      7. While the root beer mix is cooling down, whisk the brown sugar, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, ginger, and vanilla extract together in a mixing bowl. The mixture will be a little chunky at this point.

      8. Crack the egg into the bowl and whisk well. The egg is what makes everything come together smoothly: you should have a thick paste. Set this aside.

      9. In another mixing bowl, combine rest of the flour with the baking powder, star anise, and cardamom. Grate in the nutmeg and lemon zest, and add the salt and pepper. Whisk everything together so it's well combined.

      10. Take the root beer mixture out of the fridge. Pour a third of the flour mixture into a large mixing bowl; pour in one-third of the root beer mixture, then one-third of the sugar paste. Whisk everything together slowly (so it doesn't splash everywhere), and then add another one-third of the flour, another one-third of the root beer, and so forth, until everything is combined in the bowl. (The mix doesn't need to be completely and smoothly combined until the last of the wet and dry mixtures are in the bowl.) You should have a very wet, almost liquid batter.

      11. Pour the batter into the cake pan, put the pan on a cookie sheet (to catch drips and splashes), and put it on the middle oven rack.

      12. Bake the cake for 45 minutes without opening the oven at all (this cake will sink if you shake it up while it's baking). Check it: the cake should be high and dark brown, with a little bit of spring-back when you touch it (but not too much--it's a very moist cake). If it's not quite ready, rotate the pan and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes before checking it again. The whole baking process shouldn't take longer than 55 minutes, even in a slow oven.

      While the cake is baking, make the glaze

        1. Whisk the cream and sassafras together in a small pot, and bring it up to a boil over medium-high heat.

        2. As soon as it boils, pull the mixture off the heat, pour it into a glass or ceramic container (something that won't crack from the heat), and put it in the fridge. Let the mixture cool for about 30 minutes while the sassafras steeps into the cream, so you have a nice root beer flavor.

        3. In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, star anise, cardamon, and salt. Grate in the nutmeg and lemon zest, and whisk everything together.

        4. Strain the cooled cream through a fine-mesh strainer into a small mixing bowl (so the sassafras pieces don't end up in the glaze).

        5. Gently whisk 1/2 cup of the cream into the powdered sugar mixture, holding back the last 2 tablespoons to see if you need it. If the mixture is dry and not coming together as a glaze, add more cream. Whisk the mixture well, until you have a shiny, thick liquid.

        To finish the cake

        1. When the cake is ready, pull it out of the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

        2. Flip the cake out of the pan onto a serving plate.

        3. Spread the glaze thickly on top of the warm cake with a spoon. The glaze will melt and drip down the sides as you slather it on.

        4. You can serve the cake as soon as it's cooled to room temperature--but like all spice cakes, it's even better the day after you make it. Store it covered at room temperature.

        *Note: Sassafras is key in the glaze. I buy it at Kalustyan's, the mind-blowingly-good spice shop on lower Lexington Avenue in New York. If your local specialty store doesn't stock it, you'll be able to get it online--I found it on Amazon. You can substitute extract if you can't get your hands on the bark. I also give a substitute for fresh nutmeg here--but if you can find it, the fresh-grated stuff is way better than the powdered kind.

        Epice & pomme

        Ingredients

        1.5oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

        .5 oz Groult 8 Year Calvados

        .5 oz Aperol

        .25 oz Allspice Dram

        Directions

        Stirred, strained over a large 2x2 ice cube. Garnished with a cinnamon stick.