In two weeks–the week of August 11th–you’ll have the chance to cook with Gramercy Tavern’s chef, Michael Anthony (a longtime friend of Blue Apron). Sure, his beloved, award-winning 20-year-old restaurant is located New York City–but you get to travel there without ever leaving your kitchen. (Sign up by August 6th to be sure you get a delivery!)
On the menu: Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Roasted Baby Zebra Eggplants & Fennel Salad.
The Blue Apron recipe is inspired by one Michael Anthony included in The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. The dish makes use of seasonal zebra eggplant, prepared in two different ways, as well as ripe tomatoes and fresh fennel. All that vegetable-centric goodness gets topped, at the end, with a crispy piece of chicken.
We spoke with Michael Anthony and our own Chef Matthew Wadiak about cooking in restaurants, cooking at home, and his affection for eggplant in our behind-the-scenes video:
Since you’ll be bringing restaurant dining home with this recipe, we wanted to hear more about how Michael Anthony cooks when he’s not on the job. So we asked the chef a few questions about how his cooking changes once he walks out the door of Gramercy Tavern.
Blue Apron: What are the hurdles to re-creating restaurant-style food at home?
Michael Anthony: On a daily basis, whether we’re cooking in a beautiful kitchen like this or folks are cooking at home, you can turn an ordinary day into a celebration. The difference between cooking at home and at a restaurant is really about the number of hands and the number of pans.
At home, wearing a white jacket for a living doesn’t get me a free pass for getting dinner on the table on time and having to clean up all the mess. I really cook in the same spirit, with ingredients that are grown close to home – most of them we’ve picked from the green market or from our favorite local farms -and cooked them simply, quickly. With three daughters, I have to make sure everyone is smiling. And then after dinner is finished, I want to be sure I’ve used one pan to cook dinner in, not four or five as might happen in the restaurant where we have a professional dish-washing team.
BA: What are a few tips from the restaurant kitchen that do translate to the home kitchen?
MA:We want people to know that cooking is not a spectator sport, that it’s fun, manageable. The backbone at Gramercy Tavern is about cooking food that’s distinctive to this particular place and celebrating the changing seasons. We share this philosophy with Blue Apron. And if we’re doing anything right, we’re sharing enthusiasm for cooking, so folks who come in and eat a variety of great vegetables, well-chosen fish and seafood, amazing meats from around the region, it encourages them to want to cook more often at home. It only adds to the dialogue of good cooking and good eating.
BA: So many home cooks revert to the meat-at-the-center of the plate mindset. Take us through the process of planning a home-cooked meal that’s centered around one of the “meatiest” vegetables: eggplant.
MA: Eggplant is one of my favorite things in the world to eat. I discovered loving eating eggplant mostly as an adult, when I lived in Japan. I never knew eggplant could taste so soft and sweet. I grew up in an Italian American family, where we were used to eating eggplant in heavy preparations in parmesans, roasted. My grandfather’s favorite thing to eat was pickled eggplant. When I moved to Japan I discovered that lightly roasted soft sweet medium sized eggplant are some of the most luscious things to eat. Now, more than ever, across the United States, they’re easy to find. We grow a wide variety. Baby zebra eggplant are really a treasure; when you see them arrive in the kitchen, they’re very easy to cook, they’re healthy. For all those reasons I love eating eggplant.
BA: Anything else Blue Apron chefs should know about the meal you created for them?
MA: I’m hoping that the Blue Apron customers’ response, when they open their boxes and see this ingredient, is one of amazement. I like to hold those eggplant up and show my three daughters, and say, “look what we got here!” I hope people have fun discovering a fast, easy way to cook eggplant.<