Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ruhlmann: a Hidden Hot Spot in the Middle of Town

With the major success and heavily publicized ventures of Chef Laurent Tourondel—BLT Steak, BLT Prime, BLT Fish, and BLT Burger—it is surprising that his current role as Executive Chef for Brasserie Ruhlmann is being kept under such wraps in the press. His delicious artichoke vinaigrette and shoestring fries seem to be a secret kept amongst those who work in the area.

Without a doubt, at least half of NBC Studios must call the gorgeous outdoor table array their cafeteria. Everyday, hordes of suits take their lunches in the Ruhlmann patio that looks into Rockefeller Center.

Artichoke vinaigrette.
Salade niçoise.
Roast chicken and shoestring fries.
At night, the tables beneath the umbrellas are still crowded, as those in the know head to the Midtown spot to feast on Tourondel’s fantastic brasserie fare. The usual suspects all show up on the menu: beef bourguignonne, mussel’s marinieres, onion soup, and paté, but Tourondel is using his characteristic magic to chant his diners.

On a recent evening, I devoured a billowy salade niçoise. A bed of delicate Bibb lettuce elevated a mound of tuna, anchovies, haricots verts, tomatoes, eggs, olives, and potatoes to an art form. The salade was simple, but each component was expertly prepared: both fish were glazed with just enough olive oil, haricots had a snap, juicy slices of tomato, creamy hard boiled egg, piquant olives, and potatoes that were fashioned into small medallions.

An addition of basil leaves made for a refreshing bite to balance the saltiness of the olives and anchovies. It is a prefect lunch for ladies who need to dine with the suits but don’t want to wind up with a burger and fries.

Tourondel’s roast chicken, a specialty of the house, though unwieldy on its cast iron platter, makes for a fantastic entrée. Half a chicken is crisped with precision and served with a small salad, broiled tomatoes, and a heap of garlic and rosemary shoestring fries. The meal is hearty without being heavy—completely appropriate for all those summer nights that you’ll be dining on their patio.     

I wrangled a few top-secret recipes from the kitchen at Ruhlmann: in case word of the stealthy celeb chef and the European patio breaks too soon and scoring a table requires month-in-advance reservations. Here, the celebrity chef’s delicious salade niçoise and ambrosial roast chicken are revealed.

Brasserie Ruhlmann Salad Niçoise
Serves 4

2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves removed and kept whole
12 oz oil packed Italian Albacore tuna
12 haricot verts, blanched and cut in half
6 fingerling potatoes, boiled and cut into slices
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
2 vine ripe tomatoes, cut into 6ths
20 pitted Niçoise olives
12 white anchovies
4 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Divide the lettuce leaves evenly among 4 bowls. Gently break up the tuna into smaller chunks and place on top of the lettuce. Evenly divide the harticot verts, potatoes, red onion, egg quarters, tomatoes, and olives among the salads. Garnish with the anchovies and basil.

Combine the vinegar and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the salad. Serve immediately.

Brasserie Ruhlmann Roasted Chicken
Serves 4

2 whole roasting chickens, 3 1/2 lbs each
1 cup sugar
1 cup salt
2 bay leaves
8 warm cups water
2 celery sticks
2 cloves garlic
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons herbes de provence

Put sugar, salt, bay leaves and water in a large non-reactive container and stir until fully combined. Allow the brine to fully cool and the place the chickens in the covered container and refrigerate overnight.
Remove chickens and pat dry. Stuff the chickens with the celery, garlic and thyme. Truss the chickens, season with salt and pepper and brush with the melted butter.

Place chickens on a roasting dish and put in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 325 degrees. Baste frequently for 45 minutes or until the juices of the chicken run clear when the thigh of the chicken is pierced with a knife. During the last 15 minutes of the cooking process add the herbes de provence to the basting juices to add flavor to the basting juices.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes. Using a large knife cut chickens in half down the middle. Serve immediately with watercress.

– Jill Donenfeld

"When not scooping the latest for NYSD, Jill Donenfeld heads up The Dish's Dishes, a personal chef and catering company founded for those who crave delicious food without the hassle of making reservations, ordering in, or turning on the oven. For more information on how to get your first DISH, check out