In the cookbook “A Place at the Table,” chefs from all over the world are gathered together under one cover. You’ll flip through to find the likes of Dominique Crenn of France, Michael Solomonov of Israel, Marcus Samuelsson of Sweden and Ethiopia, and a host of other foreign-born chefs, who have carved a place for themselves in some of America’s top kitchens. As immigrants, they have brought to America a taste of their home, making this country the diverse, illustrious place it is today.
That sentiment is embraced by José Andrés, who writes in the forward: “Each of the chefs profiled in this cookbook has seen what I see: A vibrant multicultural community that comes together every night to make and serve the best food they possibly can, from the dishwashers to the line cooks to the bartenders to the head chef. It is deeply inspiring, and deeply humbling, to be a part of this community.”
Turn the pages of this cookbook and you’ll find over three dozen chefs featured, who have provided an intimate look at their path from immigrant to American chef, coupled with one or two recipes that highlight their home country’s cuisine. You’ll read about Argentinian corn empanadas doused in fiery jam and South Korean spicy pork lettuce wraps, Mexican coconut ceviche and a New Zealand banana layer cake.
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Read on for an excerpt featuring Carlo Lamagna, a Filipino chef who now resides in Portland, Oregon, who dreams up dishes for his restaurant MAGNA. Here, he shares Filipino recipes that his mother and father used to make him when he was growing up, each replete with an intimate backstory. His dad’s pork adobo may seem simple, but to him embodies the story of his youth. And in his mom’s egg noodles—flush with Dungeness crab and peppers—stars the most revered ingredient of Filipino cuisine: freshwater crab fat, something he used to harvest as a kid.
A Place at the Table, $26.73 on Amazon
From “A Place At The Table: New American Recipes From The Nation’s Top Foreign-Born Chefs” © 2019 by Gabrielle Langholz and Rick Kinsel. Photography © 2019 by Levy Moroshan. Published by Prestel.
Carlo Lamagna’s childhood spanned Canada, the Philippines, and Detroit. He felt like an outsider in Detroit, and then felt the same upon returning to the Philippines, where he didn’t speak the language and was mocked as an amboy.
When Lamagna began his culinary career, he focused not on the Filipino foods he grew up eating, but instead on classical European techniques, an approach that has evolved over time. Today, he believes Filipino cuisine is undergoing a shift in achieving widespread popularity in the United States, and predicts an arc like that of Chinese, Indian, or Thai cuisine. His own menus, which draw on Filipino flavors interpreted through his fine cooking skills, have won him both James Beard attention and a rising star reputation, with Plate naming him a 2018 Chef to Watch.
Lamagna’s love of Pacific Northwest seafood means that bay octopus, crab, and salmon are at the center of his menu at his restaurant, MAGNA. For his Twisted Filipino pop-up series, he created dishes using classic techniques and new flavors, starring such ingredients as Dungeness crab, pork skin, nasturtiums, and mushrooms cooked in banana leaves. Beyond the stove, he is committed to cultivating work environments that help chefs and staff thrive.
“I firmly believe that immigrants are the backbone of this country. I work with many people all here to make their lives better. Now more than ever, it’s important to me to represent my culture, my identity, the Filipino people, and I do that with food,” Carlo says. “We live in trying times, but I think people will come together and use what tools we have to represent what’s best. And the way I know how to do that is through cooking, through food. So I invite everyone to my table.”
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Mom’s Noodles Recipe
This is a play on the crab noodles my mom always made when I was growing up. The highlight of this dish is the freshwater crab fat, which is the liquid gold of Filipino cuisine. I used to harvest it as a kid, which was a painstaking process, but you can buy crab fat at Asian and Filipino markets. At my restaurant in Oregon, I make a version that stars local Pacific Northwest ingredients, especially our famous Dungeness crab, which I cook for its fat. It’s quite delicious.
Egg Noodles with Dungeness Crab, Crab Fat, and Peppers
- 3 1⁄2 cups (455 g) all-purpose flour 3⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 g) bread flour
- 6 ounces (170 g) egg yolk (about 9 large egg yolks)
- 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1⁄4 onion, minced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced 1 (1-ounce / 30-g) piece fresh ginger, minced
- 10 ounces (280 g) crab fat (taba ng talangka)
- 2 cups (480 ml) chicken stock
- 1 fresh serrano chile
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3⁄4 pound (340 g) picked Dungeness crab meat
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Jimmy Nardello pepper (or other Italian frying pepper), cut into rounds and seeds removed
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced Nasturtium leaves and flowers (optional)
- Microgreens (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, sift together the all-purpose and bread flours. Add the egg yolks, water, and salt and knead with the hook on low speed for 10 to 15 minutes or until a dough forms. Loosely cover and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Using a pasta maker, roll the dough until 1⁄8 inch thick (0.25 cm) or even thinner. Cut the dough into 10-inch-long (25 cm) pieces then cut it into 1⁄8-inch-wide (0.25 cm) noodles. Make the noodles shortly before you mean to cook them.
- In a large, deep saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the crab fat and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until caramelized. Add the chicken stock and serrano chile and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by a quarter. Let cool then discard the chile and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles for about 2 minutes or until just tender. Drain the noodles and add to the crab sauce. Add the crabmeat and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the noodles to bowls, top with the thinly sliced pepper and scallions and optionally, nasturtium leaves and flowers plus microgreens, and serve.
Pork Adobo Recipe
When I first started cooking, I didn’t make Filipino food, but my dad was adamant that I should. He passed away in 2009, and his pork adobo recipe remains very special to me. It’s the Filipino national dish, and everyone cooks it a little differently. My dad’s version is tart, with extra vinegar (use less if you prefer). He also always waited to add the soy sauce until the very end, so it wouldn’t become bitter during the dish’s long simmer. It’s a simple meal, but to serve it is to share a story. Today I consider it my role as a chef to introduce people to Filipino food and culture the best way I know how, and to make the Filipino people proud, the way my dad wanted me to. This is a flexible recipe that will work with different cuts of pork, including shoulder, spareribs, pork belly, and neck bones, or a combination of cuts. It’s even better the day after it’s prepared.
My Dad’s Pork Adobo
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds (1.4 kg) boneless pork shoulder, cubed
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns 8 cups (1.9 liters) chicken or pork stock
- 2 cups (480 ml) distilled white vinegar, or less, according to preference
- 11⁄2 cups (360 ml) soy sauce Steamed white rice, for serving
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the pork shoulder in a single layer and cook, turning, for about 5 minutes or until browned all over. Repeat to brown all the pork shoulder and transfer it to a plate, but leave the saucepan on the heat. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Return the pork to the saucepan, add the chicken or pork stock and the distilled white vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 11⁄2 hours or until the pork is tender and the liquid is reduced by three-quarters. Add the soy sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes or until pork is fork-tender. If you prefer a drier style of adobo, add the soy sauce earlier so it reduces further. Serve with steamed white rice.
Header image courtesy of Levy Moroshan