The Dish: Chef David Tanis

The Dish: Chef David Tanis

Chef and food writer David Tanis grew up with a love of cooking and often tried his hand at recipes he saw in the New York Times. Later while at college in California, he found himself more often in the kitchen than the library and eventually ended up working for Alice Waters in the early days of her influential Chez Panisse. It was the beginning an association that lasted for a quarter century.

He now lives in New York, where he's best known as the author of several acclaimed cookbooks, including his latest: " David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient," published last October.

Here are some of Tanis's signature recipes: 

Roast chicken with whole garlic heads


1 organic free-range chicken (about 4 pounds), at room temperature 
Salt and pepper 
1 small bunch thyme 
1 small bunch rosemary 
A dozen heads of garlic, trimmed for roasting whole 
1 cup dry white wine or water 


1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Season the chicken generously inside and out with salt and pepper, then massage the skin to distribute the seasoning evenly. Put the thyme and rosemary into the cavity, then put the bird in a shallow earthenware baking dish or roasting pan. Tie the legs together if you wish. Surround with the garlic heads and add the wine to the dish.

2. Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for 45 to 60 minutes more, until the juices run clear when a thigh is probed with a paring knife. The bird should be well browned and the garlic soft and caramelized. Remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve and transfer to a warm platter. Surround with the garlic heads and serve the garlicky pan juices separately.

Indian pan-fried cauliflower


3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter or vegetable oil
1 small cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons grated fresh turmeric, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
A 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and slivered or finely grated
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 serrano chiles, or to taste, finely chopped
1 pound fresh English peas, shucked (about 1 cup), or 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
2 or 3 scallions, slivered
Cilantro sprigs for garnish 


1. Put a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ghee, and when it is hot, add the cauliflower. Stir occasionally as the cauliflower begins to color, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue stirring until the cauliflower is half-cooked, about 5 minutes; lower the heat if necessary to keep it from browning too quickly.

2.  Tilt the pan to expose a small pool of hot ghee and add the cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, and kaffir lime leaves, if you have them. When they begin to sizzle in the oil, add the ginger, garlic, and chiles, stir well, and then add the peas, if using, along with a sprinkle of salt. Cover to let the cauliflower (and peas) steam until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the slivered scallions and cilantro, and serve.

Onion and bacon tart

Dough ingredients

1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted, or olive oil 

Topping ingredients

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 large onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/8 inch thick Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1/4 pound thick-sliced smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-wide lardons
4 ounces fresh ricotta
1/2 cup crème fraîche
A splash of milk if needed


1. To make the dough, pour the water into a medium bowl and stir in the yeast. Stir in 1/4 cup of the flour and let the mixture get bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes. (You can made the dough with a stand mixer if you like.) 

2. Add the salt, melted butter, and the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and stir until the dough forms a rough ball. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Or transfer the dough to a zippered plastic bag and let rise in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.)

3. To make the topping, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the caraway seeds and garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Put the bacon in a small pan and cover with 1 inch of water. Simmer for 2 minutes, then drain and cool. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Punch down the dough, transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead into a smooth ball. Let relax for a few minutes.

5. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 12-by-17-inch baking sheet lined with parchment. Stretch the dough to an elongated oval about 11 inches by 15 inches.

6. Mix the ricotta with half the crème fraîche and dab spoonfuls of the mixture evenly over the dough. Spread the cooked onions over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Top with the bacon, scattering it evenly. Drizzle the tart with the remaining crème fraîche. (Beating the crème fraîche with a fork should loosen it enough for drizzling; otherwise, thin with a little milk.)

7. Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes, turning the baking sheet around if necessary for even cooking, until the crust is well browned. Cool on a rack for a few minutes and serve warm, or let cool and serve at room temperature. 

Spinach greens with mustard dressing 


1 garlic clove, grated or minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper
2 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide lardons
2 bunches young dandelion greens (about 3/4 pound), stems trimmed
Salt and pepper
4 soft-center hard-cooked eggs
Shavings of gruyère cheese  


1. To make the vinaigrette, put the garlic, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Fry the lardons gently in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, until golden-they should be crisp but with some give. Blot on paper towels. 

3. Put the greens in a large salad bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Dress with half the vinaigrette, tossing to coat, then add more as needed. Arrange the greens on individual plates and distribute the bacon among the salads. Cut the eggs in halves or quarters and season with salt and pepper, then garnish each salad with a halved egg. Add shavings of gruyère, if using.

Excerpted from David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books).