In choosing a greatest hits collection of Times recipes dating back to the 1850s for her new The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Amanda Hesser took on a daunting task. Just as daunting was the challenge administered to 11 local chefs at Sunday's Ultimate Potluck Cocktail Brunch, produced by SF Food Wars, celebrating the launch of said cookbook. Each was asked to select a single recipe from among Hesser's 932 pages to interpret outside, in Ferry Plaza, for a crowd of a few hundred.
Asked about the decision to prepare Joyce Goldstein's pickled salmon, one of four dishes the Aziza crew took on, chef Louis Maldonado confessed his love for Goldstein. Bridget Batson of Gitane told us that mackerel is one of her very favorite things, so she chose to riff on smoked mackerel on toast. One problem: Her fishmonger had no mackerel, so Batson had to go with trout. Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano was eager to show off his cheese-making skills ― he prepared ricotta crostini with fresh thyme and dried oregano. "I learned how to make ricotta when I cooked at NOPA," he said. Nakano ditched the dried oregano in favor of tobacco leaves, which he'd found at the Saturday market. If it wasn't for the mild nicotine buzz (and the fact that Nakano tipped us off), we would have never guessed.
Jake Godby from Humphry Slocombe prepared Indian pudding. "It's seasonal, it's homey, and it's my style," Godby said. Poached pears with brandy and red wine was anything but Elisabeth Prueitt's style. The Tartine Bakery owner said she was intrigued by the idea of poaching with brandy. "I've never done it." Prueitt admitted she was happy that it rained on the day of the event. "Poached pears are so nice in damp weather," she told us.