NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Michael Lomonaco had been determined to start over in New York City since the Sept 11 attack that destroyed the Windows on the World restaurant where he was executive chef.
The 52-year-old New York native was not at the restaurant that was located at the top the North Tower of the World Trade Center because he had decided to order reading glasses before going to work that morning.
After the attack he helped to raise more than $20 million for families of people who had worked and died at the restaurant. He has also kept busy with writing, teaching and doing television work.
Lomonaco, who has been known for his creative update of American cuisine since his days as the head chef at ‘21’ in the early 1990s, opened his interpretation of the American steakhouse, Porter House New York, in 2006 to wide acclaim.
He spoke to Reuters about recovering from tragedy and his love of cooking.
Q: What has been your motivation after 9/11?
A: “I said to myself on Sept 12th that I will continue to work in the restaurant business in New York because it’s what I want do and what my friends want me to do. It’s really a tribute to my colleagues, my co-workers, my friends whom I lost that day.”
Q: What does your new restaurant mean to you?
A: “I think in general many of us (from Windows) have really gotten on with our lives, picked up the pieces, rebuilt and have been able to construct new chapters so Porter House is really a new chapter in my life.”
Q: What is your view on grass-fed versus corn-fed beef?
A: “Beef is primarily finished on corn toward the end of the process of raising beef. The corn puts a higher degree of marble and fat, which is what results in prime beef. Most of the cattle are fed part of the time on grass. The argument has died down because corn-fed beef grades prime because of the marble and because of the tenderness and texture.”
Q: Seafood features prominently at Porter House. Why?
A: “I think a great balance to a great steakhouse is also great cuts of fish cooked and prepared with the same gutsy, generous feelings that we associate with great prime beef.”
Q: What do you cook when you are home?
A: “I like to make a roasted chicken, a pasta dish, homemade pizza or a big salad with grilled meats or fish in it. I also cook a lot of home-style Italian dishes that I and my wife grew up with.”
SEA SCALLOPS WITH WILTED LEMON SPINACH (Serves 4 to 6)
1 pound large sea scallops (about 10 scallops)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons small capers
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound spinach leaves, well washed in several changes of
cold water, drained, and squeezed of excess liquid
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degree F.
2. Dust each scallop with flour and season with salt and pepper.
3. Put the butter in a 10- or 12-inch oven-proof saute pan and melt it over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the scallops to the pan, and brown them, approximately 2 minutes. Turn the scallops over and add the shallots and capers to the pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a saute pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and lemon juice and saute until the spinach is just wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Season the spinach with salt and pepper. Transfer the spinach to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep it warm.
5. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the skewers from the scallops and arrange the scallops over the spinach. Spoon the shallots and capers over the scallops and serve.
Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney