The New York Diet

Bread-Obsessed Chef Jim Lahey Prefers Not to Refrigerate His Butter

Lahey chows down at Co.
Lahey chows down at Co. Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

“I think what’s happening now with food is that we’re working to find standards,” says Jim Lahey, proprietor of Sullivan Street Bakery and chief pizzaiolo at his restaurant Co. “It’s a wonderful thing to have access to, be it the perfect burger, the ideal barbecue, the best chocolate-chip cookie.” Lahey himself is responsible for setting the standard when it comes to his famous no-knead dough, a technique that’s outlined in detail in his book, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. Does he ever get sick of being surrounded by carbs all day? “I have piles and piles of stale bread in my kitchen,” he says. “It’s like a hoarding illness.” Find out what he eats besides bread in this week’s New York Diet.

Friday, May 14
I started out with many cups of coffee at home. First drip, and then a little from my Bravo espresso machine. I use Caffe Vita coffee that I get here at the restaurant, and tamp it in the filter, press the button, and away I go. I drink it with either steamed or heated milk, and muscovado sugar. It’s got to be raw, raw, raw sugar — but not too much. And not too much milk, either, so it’s a deep, almost chestnut color. To eat, some pane casareccio with unsalted butter. It’s the only bread I eat from my bakery right now. It’s 100 percent naturally leavened and it’s got a pleasant acidity; it’s a little bitter.

For lunch, I had a plate of cold roast beef, eye round sliced really, really thin, and then I piled arugula and Parmesan on top. Some olive oil, salt, lemon juice — it was like a salad. I was at my test kitchen in my home, where I like to try things out for the restaurant; we might see a carpaccio on the menu soon.

For dinner, I initially had some drinks and some toasts here at Company, and then I ended up back at home where I made this weird pasta with pesto made of sautéed onions and shallots, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan. It had fresh mint and rosemary, just picked; I have a little rooftop garden. I made a radish-and-avocado salad.

Saturday, May 15
I ended up eating the remainder of the sautéed onions for breakfast, with a very lightly scrambled egg. Of course a piece of bread, and this time only espresso — a cappuccino. Or, really in coffee-culture parlance a cortado. I think these names for coffee are utterly ridiculous, but if you had to compare it to whatever standard outfit, that’s what it was. I had three of those in my breakfast period.

I had sandwiches at the bakery during the day. I was making sandwiches and picking different things: little pieces of crispy pancetta, remainders of mangoes, meat off of the meat slicer. Just tasting things. That was my lunch.

I ate some yogurt with some granola before I went to bed; I’m a cereal junkie.

Sunday, May 16
Sunday morning I went to the bakery and I had some bomboloni, these donuts we make there. And some more bread with butter and jam, and espresso.

I didn’t eat anything all day because my son had his birthday party at Co. I made eighteen little, tiny pizzas for eighteen tiny, special people and baked them all off for them. I picked a bunch of little bits and pieces of pizza here and there, an eggplant this, an eggplant that.

I ended up having a very light dinner at Co. with two friends, just toast points and salad and a couple of pieces of pizza, small ones, maybe an eighth of a whole pizza — the Popeye, the asparagus, and I think the stracciatella. Like not even a quarter of a pizza in total — really very small slices. I didn’t really eat that much.

Monday, May 17
Breakfast was bread and those same two cups of espresso, a little bit of yogurt and honey, and some fresh farmers’ market strawberries. I ate a whole pint, from farmer Bill Maxwell. We’re slowly integrating the strawberries into the menu, but they’re like a precious commodity right now. Getting the ones that are worth serving fresh is hard.

I was in the kitchen all day, and I made a scrap salad with artichoke pieces, roasted beets, arugula, some cheese, whatever scraps of meat I found. I dressed it with lemon juice and salt and olive oil.

That night I went to this party on a rooftop in Chelsea. I ate hearty food: salami and mozzarella cheese made into a napoleon, some pigs in a blanket. I had a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. When it’s beautiful out, when it’s warm out, that’s my drink. After that I ended up going to Wolfgang’s, where of course I had steak — a porterhouse. If it’s dry-aged I like it medium rare. We had onions and tomatoes on the side. I was craving meat, and I just didn’t feel like going all the way to Peter Luger — it’s so, so far away.

Tuesday, May 18
My typical breakfast: a hunk of bread, a little butter, and Sarabeth’s berry jam that I have in the refrigerator. But I leave my butter out — I hate cold butter. Nothing’s worse than butter that tastes like a refrigerator.

I had a Cuban sandwich from the bakery, and then a half of a beet sandwich. All afternoon, I was tasting salumis, checking out the difference between stuff from the West Coast versus the stuff we have here. There’s not really a geographic divide; it’s really just the style of the maker, and also obviously the quality of the meat.

For dinner, I had an enormous, a ginormous, green salad from local lettuces from the farmers’ market. It was double size, absolutely gigantic. I added some raw anchovies in salt, shallots, vinegar, pepper, olive oil, and just the smallest smidgen of mustard. It was exactly what my body needed. And then before I went to bed that night I had two medium bowls of granola and yogurt, and also had some chocolate cake. They were these bad chocolate tarts that didn’t come out well at the bakery, so rather than throw them away I brought them home. Really, they were more like cookies than cakes because they were overcooked. Still, they were nice to eat.

Wednesday, May 19
More bread with butter and jam. Two coffees.

I had a meatball pizza and an artichoke salad at the restaurant.

For dinner, I ended up going to Nougatine, where I had some eggs and caviar, a duck à l’orange, and a green-pea soup. Everything was magnificent. Of course, a molten chocolate cake for dessert. It’s like the most imitated dessert of all time, but here at the source it’s really amazing. This is one of those things where you have to have it there. I had a glass of Champagne and one glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I wanted to be able to eat the next day, so I tried not to overeat there.

Bread-Obsessed Chef Jim Lahey Prefers Not to Refrigerate His Butter