Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, L.A. chef Matt Molina applauded the ricotta gnudi at Torrisi Italian Specialties in New York. What’s inspired the Torrisi guys to clean their plates?
Who: Torrisi Italian Specialties chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, and sous-chef Aaron Israel
What: Lamb pastrami
Where: Char No. 4, New York
When: December 2009
“We’ve been opening the restaurant for the past year, so we’ve barely had the chance to eat out. But we went down to Char No. 4 around Christmastime — it was just before we opened, and we wanted to get out and say hello. The chef, Matt Greco, was doing a whole baby pig that night. It was very good, but we all kind of thought that the lamb pastrami was something we can relate to, since we have a deli here [at Torrisi]. It’s a lamb shoulder that he puts in a brine and is cooked like a regular pastrami in a smoker — Matt named his smoker, it’s called Gus. It’s smoky, a little salty, a little sweet, seasoned perfectly, cooked perfectly, sliced nice and thin.”
Char No. 4 chef Matt Greco explains the appeal:
“When I was a sous-chef at Cafe Gray, I was doing a bunch of curing, and Chef [Gray] Kunz said, ‘do you think we could make a lamb pastrami?’ and I was like, sure Chef, we can do that. So I made it and asked him what he wanted to do with it, and he was like ‘I don’t know.’ That was right before we closed. When we opened Char, I thought, I need to do something with this.
I was mainly going for the idea of the classic elements of a pastrami sandwich, so it’s traditionally coated with black peppercorn and coriander seed. We make an aïoli with the pickling spice, and we also have coriander and black peppercorn there in the aïoli. There are pickled onions, which we pickle with mustard seed and black-onion seed. We serve it with a couple pieces of grilled rye bread, and some fresh micro-cilantro, which ties in with the coriander aspect.”