Since the opening of his Harlem hotspot Red Rooster in 2010, chef Marcus Samuelsson has been busy. He’s made regular television appearances, he’s opened more restaurants in locations such as Sweden and Bermuda, and this month, he is releasing a new cookbook, Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem. EBONY chatted with the top chef to discuss his book and what he’s stewing up for the season.
EBONY: What should we expect to see in your cookbook?
Marcus Samuelson: This book is a deep dive into Harlem and the story of Red Rooster—how the restaurant came to be and how the neighborhood constantly inspires me. Readers can, of course, expect recipes but will also get an intimate look at life in Harlem with beautiful photography and narratives by icons like Dapper Dan, Lana Turner, Nate Lucas, Thelma Golden and others. The book celebrates life in this culturally rich neighborhood through food, music, style, and art. Making this book was a blast, and I hope people enjoy it as much as we did creating it.
EBONY: Does your family have any fall traditions?
MS: Growing up in Sweden, fall for us was all about preserving the late-summer harvest. You spend the summer doing a lot of fishing and then late summer picking fruits and vegetables to preserve in early fall, including berries and mushrooms. It’s a fun tradition.
EBONY: What’s a dish considered a must-have in your family during the fall season?
MS: Growing up, turkey was big in my family in the fall, especially the first week of November. We would make turkey soup or roasted turkey stuffed with apples and prunes.
EBONY: We love a good soup during these cooler months. As a chef, what’s your favorite thing about them?
MS: They are so versatile, and soups always taste better the next day. I think about my grandmother cooking dumplings with carrots and fall vegetables, then being so excited to visit her a couple days later to eat the soup and to know it’s even more delicious than the first day. Soup is awesome like that.
EBONY: Soups seem relatively easy to make, but what’s the biggest tip home cooks should keep in mind when preparing a soup?
MS: Soups really need a great stock. This is your chance to be creative. You can use leftover fish or chicken from the day before to make a good, strong base. You can also puree in any stone fruit or vegetables that you have and make your stock thicker. Try it with apples, pears or sweet potatoes. If you want something more like ramen, try mixing chicken and fish stock together—it’s untraditional cooking that creates the best depth of flavor.
Lentil Soup with Ham
¼ cup chopped shallot
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 ½ teaspoons chopped seeded jalapeño c
9 ¼ cups of water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 pound black beluga lentils
2 fresh curry leaves or 1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Coarse kosher salt to taste
3 cups chopped (½-inch) leftover baked ham
Put shallot, ginger garlic, jalapeño and ¼ cup of water into a blender. Puree to make smooth paste. Melt butter in a stockpot over medium-low heat. Add paste and cook, stirring often, until water has cooked off and butter starts to separate from paste, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put coriander, cumin, cinnamon and curry powder into a small skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spices to pot and cook for 5 minutes, so they can bloom. Add remaining 9 cups water, lentils, curry leaves and thyme and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender 25-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and season with vinegar and salt to taste. Discard curry leaves and thyme and ladle out about half the soup. Puree remaining soup with an immersion blender. Return the rest of the soup to the pot and stir.
Put ½ cup chopped ham into each soup bowl, ladle in soup, and serve.
Nina Reeder is a professional journalist who has worked as senior editor at Upscale magazine and contributed to publications and outlets such as EBONY magazine, AOL.com, Marriott Hotels, BMWK and more.