Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home

Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home

by Michael Lomonaco, Andrew Friedman

Hardcover(First Edition)

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Have you ever wondered why restaurants have nightly specials? There are many reasons, actually, but they all have one thing in common: spontaneity. Nightly specials are a way to cook with seasonal fruits and vegetables, the catch of the day, unexpected leftovers, and spur-of-the-moment market finds. They are also a way for chefs to experiment with exciting new ingredients, develop their own signature dishes, and road-test new ideas that may eventually become regular menu features.

If these reasons sound familiar, that's because they all apply to home cooks as well.

Because there's no set menu in a home kitchen, every dinner is a nightly special. But all too often, home cooks find themselves in a rut, recycling the same meals week after week. Nightly Specials shows home cooks how restaurant and home cooking can meet. Acclaimed New York chef and host of the Travel Channel's Epicurious, Michael Lomonaco, along with award-winning food writer Andrew Friedman, offer up 125 recipes that use fresh and spontaneous ingredients to create innovative starters, salads, entrees, sides, and desserts. All the recipes are simple, loosely improvised dishes that will inspire home cooks to be flexible and remain open to each day's culinary possibilities. Best of all they can be selected at the last minute and cooked successfully in relatively little time.

No matter what the season or occasion, you'll find the perfect recipe in Nightly Specials. Toss together salads like Cool Roasted Beets with Mint or Mango and Red Onion Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. Warm up with a bowl of Curried Pea Soup with Frizzled Ginger or Moroccan Lamb Stew. Main courses include everything from quick-comforting favorites such as Supermarket Mushroom Risotto to show-stoppers such as Hacked Chile Lobster and Boneless Roast Leg of Lamb with Feta Cheese, Olives, and Eggplant. Desserts range from holiday classics such as Pear-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake to peak-of-the-summer favorites such as Plum and Peach Cobbler and indulgences such as Baked Alaska with Coconut Sorbet and Chocolate Ice Cream and Chocolate Truffles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060555627
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/02/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(d)

About the Author

Michael Lomonaco is one of America's most popular and brightest culinary stars. His long list of accomplishments includes serving as executive chef at both '21' Club and Windows on the World, two of New York's most legendary restaurants. He is the host of Epicurious on the Travel Channel, and is a regular guest on The Late Show with David Letterman and the Today show.

Andrew Friedman has chronicled the life and work of some of our best American chefs. He is the author of Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Bocuse d'Or, the World's Most Prestigious Cooking Competition and coeditor of the internationally popular anthology Don't Try This at Home. He has also coauthored more than two dozen cookbooks and memoirs with chefs including Alfred Portale, Paul Liebrandt, and Michael White, and collaborated on the New York Times bestselling memoir Breaking Back with tennis starr James Blake. Freidman writes about chefs on his Toqueland blog and interviews them on his Heritage Radio Network podcast Andrew Talks to Chefs. He lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt

Nightly Specials

125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home
By LoMonaco, Michael

Morrow Cookbooks

ISBN: 0060555629

Monkfish "Osso Buco" with Pancetta and Carrots

There are few more surefire ways of pleasing a crowd than with a playful variation on a classic dish. This is a seafood variation of osso buco (the name means "hole in the bone"), an Italian classic in which a veal shank is braised for hours. The orange zest–parsley mixture that tops each serving is a play on gremolata, the chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest that tops a traditional osso buco.

Ingredients Four 8-ounce monkfish tails (1 1/2 inches thick), on the bone
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil
1/2 pound pancetta, minced
2 medium onions, cut into small dice
1 medium carrot, cut into small dice
1/2 fennel bulb, cut into small dice, fronds reserved
2 garlic cloves
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons grated orange zest


  1. Coat the monkfish with flour and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  2. Heat the oil in a 2-inch-high, heavy-bottomed sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat. Set the monkfish tails in the pan without crowding and sear on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn themover, add the pancetta to the pan, and sear the tails on the other side for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to remove the fish and pancetta to a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.

  3. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic to the pan and sauté over high heat, stirring, to begin caramelizing the vegetables, 5 to 8 minutes. Spread the vegetables over the surface of the pan and set the fish and pancetta over them. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid is simmering, cover the pan, and simmer for 12 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, put the parsley and orange zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

  5. Transfer 1 monkfish tail to the center of each of 4 dinner plates. Top with some of the vegetables and sauce and finish with the orange-parsley mixture and some fennel fronds.

Roasted Oysters with Country Bacon

Serves 4 as an appetizer

This recipe is a take on the famous pan roast that's been served at the Oyster Bar on the lower level of New York City's Grand Central Station for decades. Many oyster lovers prefer them on the half shell, but lightly poaching them coaxes out their briny, refreshing character for a sublime, full-flavored taste.


24 fresh oysters, purchased in their shells, shucked, shells reserved (see opposite page)
1/4 pound sliced bacon
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon, plus more for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the cleaned oyster shells on a cookie sheet in a single layer and set aside.

  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over low heat. Put in the bacon and sauté until crispy and the fat is rendered, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then roughly chop it and set aside.

  3. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and put the pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, season with salt, and sauté it quickly, just until the leaves are wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer some spinach to each oyster shell and pack it down gently.

  4. Put the cookie sheet with the filled oyster shells in the oven.

  5. Add the butter to the same sauté pan and melt it over medium-high heat just until it begins to foam. Add the shallots and paprika and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the oysters and their juice and the white wine and sauté for 2 minutes, then pour in the cream. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for just a minute, or until the oysters' edges begin to curl. Add the tomatoes, parsley, tarragon, and bacon and season with pepper. Heat for another 30 seconds, then immediately remove the pan from the heat.

  6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and use tongs to arrange 6 filled shells on each of 4 plates. Spoon an oyster onto the spinach in each shell and spoon a little of the sauce over it. Sprinkle additional tarragon over each serving.

To shuck an oyster

Oysters often can be purchased shucked from a fish store, which is fine, so long as they are stored in their liquid. This dish, however, calls for oyster shells, so you'll need to shuck them yourself. (If you purchase your oysters shucked, build the dish in a wide, shallow soup plate.)

Using a towel, grasp an oyster in the palm of your hand. Press the oyster, rounded side down, on a firm surface, still holding it with the towel. Shuck the oyster by wedging the tip of an oyster knife (regular knives are too thin bladed) between the halves of the shell, at the narrow end. When the knife tip is securely wedged, rotate your wrist and the blade to pry open the shell. Slide the knife blade along the length of the shell to open it completely. Remove the oyster from the shell and reserve it, along with its juice.

If the recipe you're preparing calls for shells, from each pair of oyster shells save the one that is more concave on the inside, and discard the flatter one. Put the concave shells in a pan of cold water, scrub them inside and out, rinse, and let dry.

To peel tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Score the ends of the tomatoes, cut out the stem ends, and put them in the boiling water. After 20 seconds, use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the water and transfer them to the ice water. As they cool, the skin will begin to pull away from the flesh. Remove the tomatoes and peel them with a paring knife. Continues...

Excerpted from Nightly Specials by LoMonaco, Michael Excerpted by permission.
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