When Michelle Obama came to Gramercy Tavern for lunch, young cook Sophie Brickman wasn’t ready—she hadn’t read up on current events to make conversation, and given that her belt was made up of plastic wrap twisted through her belt loops, she wasn’t really dressed for the part either. Read her charming story about how a great kitchen kicks into high gear when VIPs arrive, and afterwards, treat yourself to the dish the First Lady had for lunch that day, this intense, thoughtful rendition of a pasta classic. It's definitely restaurant-food, with lots of careful steps most home cooks would never think to do, but it's fabulously delicious.
Gramercy Tavern’s Spinach Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Garlic
Adapted from chef Michael Anthony
Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as an appetizer
8 ounces fresh fettuccine, spinach flavored if possible
4 teaspoons garlic oil (see below)
4 generous handfuls mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (use any variety – crimini, shiitake, or foraged hen of the woods)
8 - 12 cloves garlic confit (see below)
4 tablespoons green garlic or scallions, shaved in thin rounds
1 cup basic mushroom stock (see below)
4 teaspoons garlic puree (see below)
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups spinach, loosely packed, stems removed
4 tablespoons minced shallot
4 teaspoons butter, cold, in chunks
2 teaspoons grated parmesan, plus more for serving
Chopped fresh herbs (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, heat the garlic oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan until shimmering. Add mushrooms in one layer and sear without stirring. When the undersides are browned, turn and brown on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lower heat to medium, add garlic confit and green garlic and cook until tender, about 1 minute.
- Add the mushroom stock and reduce by ¼, about 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Once sauce is reduced, add garlic puree and lemon juice and stir to combine. Turn off heat and reserve.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another large pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add spinach and shallots and cook until spinach is completely wilted. Add a couple tablespoons water or stock if necessary to keep it moist while sautéing. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, then strain.
- While the pasta is cooking, reheat the mushroom sauce over medium heat and whisk in the butter to form a creamy sauce.
- Toss pasta, mushroom sauce, grated cheese and herbs (if using) until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Divide spinach between bowls, and divide pasta on top. Spoon any extra sauce over, and finish with a few ribbons of grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
Grapeseed or olive oil, to cover.
- Put garlic cloves in a small sauce pan and cover with grapeseed or olive oil.
- Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until garlic is soft.
- Store, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use, up to three days.
Makes ½ cup
½ cup peeled garlic cloves
¼ cup whole milk
Salt, to taste
- Place garlic in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Strain and repeat four times.
- Return to pot and add milk, and water to cover if necessary.
- Simmer until fork tender, about a half hour.
- Cool slightly, transfer to a blender, and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate until needed, up to three days.
Simple Mushroom Stock
Makes 1 quart
4 cups sliced white button mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper
- Place mushrooms in small saucepan and cover with water. Add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Simmer over low heat, half-covered, for an hour.
- Strain mushrooms out, taste and adjust for seasoning, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to one week.
More (and more user-friendly!) recipes from Gramercy Tavern: