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Recipe Inspirations from Benu's Corey Lee

Corey Lee aims to make Benu San Francisco's most refined restaurant. F&W tackles his recipes.

These days, when even star chefs are busy launching casual restaurants, opening a formal place is a gamble. That's why all eyes are on chef Corey Lee at San Francisco's new Benu.

Lee, who spent eight years at the French Laundry in Napa Valley and also cooked at other three-star restaurants around the world, has created an unapologetically ambitious menu that includes everything from tagliatelle in a sauce made with what he calls "pristine chicken livers" (soaked for 12 hours in milk) to squab stuffed with Chinese dates and pine nuts.

He clearly isn't afraid to mix global flavors, or to use esoteric ingredients like snapping turtle. Here, F&W simplifies his best recipes to make them doable by home cooks—even ones who don't often venture out to white-tablecloth restaurants.


Chef Way: Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

chef way Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

© Eric Wolfinger

At Benu, Corey Lee makes fresh tagliatelle to serve with his creamy chicken-liver sauce. Before sautéing chicken livers, Lee soaks them in milk for 12 hours to mellow the flavor.


Easy Way: Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

easy way Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

© Anson Smart

To simplify the recipe, skip the time-consuming process of making pasta and buy fresh. Home cooks can opt to soak the chicken livers in milk for one-hour.


Chef Way: Salad Emmanuelle

Chef way watercress salad

© Eric Wolfinger

Verjus: Lee's Salad Emmanuelle is served with a tangy gelée of verjus (the juice of unripe grapes). Lee compresses endive with ascorbic acid, sugar and salt, creating crunchy green sheets.


Easy Way: Watercress Salad with Verjus Vinaigrette

easy Watercress Salad with Verjus Vinaigrette

© Anson Smart

F&W's adaptation is made with a simple verjus vinaigrette and chopped endive.


Chef Way: Sautéed Squid with Fried Eggplant

chef Sautéed Squid

© Eric Wolfinger

Big-Fin Squid: At Benu, Lee uses big-fin squid, a rare type imported from Japan. It's much thicker than ordinary squid and has a very fresh, briny flavor.


Easy Way: Sautéed Squid with Fried Eggplant

easy Sautéed Squid

© Anson Smart

Buy squid from any fishmonger and score it with a sharp knife like Lee does; this will help it cook quickly and evenly in the pan, keeping it tender.


Chef Way: Squab

chef Squab

© Eric Wolfinger

Chefs love cooking with squab, which is relatively hard for home cooks to find. Lee sautés the breasts and confits the legs, a time-consuming process.


Easy Way: Grilled Quail with Goji Berries and Pine Nuts

easy Grilled Quail

© Anson Smart

Semiboneless quail is fairly easy to find at butcher shops. The entire bird cooks in just five minutes on the grill, so the meat stays very moist.


Published December 2010
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