Superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who celebrates his 40th year of cooking in 2013, reveals his most-requested dish, his go-to 100-year-old cookbook and a brilliant technique for chopping garlic.
What’s your most requested recipe?
This would definitely have to be the Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado and Spicy Radish, Ginger Marinade. It has been on the menu at Jean-Georges for the past six years and each week it’s one of our top sellers. I think it’s the texture and combination of flavors that people really crave.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
Gastronomie Pratique, by Ali-Bab. A scientist and philosopher, Henri Babinski, wrote it more than 100 years ago, and was way ahead of his time. He gives every technique from making raspberry lemonade to vinaigrettes to soufflés. He even shows you how to make oysters en gelée using natural gelatin—gelatin made from boiled pig’s feet, not gelatin leaves or agar-agar. Everything he did is so technical and precise, it’s amazing. Everyone always cites Escoffier, but Escoffier just codified a cuisine that already existed. This was something new, and much more interesting. It’s hard to find, though; I wish someone would bring it back into print.
One technique everyone should know?
How to chop a clove of garlic: Slice a peeled garlic clove in half lengthwise. Set the clove halves cut sides down on your chopping board, and turn your knife sharp side up. Using the blunt edge of the knife, “mince” the clove halves as you would mince them with the sharp blade: Using your finger as a guide, working your way from the tip to the root end, use the blunt edge to smash the garlic against the board. Flip the smashed clove halves over, flip your knife over and use the sharp edge to chop the clove halves finely, working in the opposite direction, from the root end to the tip. They’ll come out perfectly chopped, as if you pulverized them in a blender. To chop them that finely using only the sharp blade, you’d have to chop them a long time.