James Beard Award-winning Chef Andy Nusser
When we asked Andy Nusser, chef and partner at Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, to share his favorite kitchen tool, we had our suspicions that his choice might run into some money. Though this James Beard Award-winning chef spent five years heading up Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s iconic Babbo, Nusser came into the spotlight as the mind behind New York City’s Casa Mono and Bar Jamon. There, surrounded by gleaming red Berkel ham slicers and haunch after haunch of elite Iberean hams, Nusser drew inspiration from his youth spent on Spain’s Costa Brava.
Surely, we figured, Chef Nusser, who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson with his wife, Patty, and their two children, will show off some $10,000 Ferrari of ham-slicers, or maybe even—à la Tarry Lodge—a wood-burning oven built by imported Italian artisans.
Actually, what Nusser really loves is his bog-standard Donvier yogurt maker, a plastic, gadget-aisle basic that retails for less that $50. He laughs at our stunned gasp. “I make my own yogurt because it’s just too easy!” he says. “Once I saw the secret—six cups of scalded milk, two tablespoons of yogurt—it became impossible to buy the other stuff. Yeah, there are a lot of good yogurts available now, but once I saw how cheap it is to make, I was hooked. Plus, that store-bought yogurt will never be as fresh as your own, and you can be assured that it has zero additives. I’ve always got some going at home, so that my family can just reach in the refrigerator and grab something delicious and healthy.” The downside? “Remembering to keep making it.”
We recall our own mother’s yogurt maker, back in the days of macramé and Love, American Style reruns. Says Nusser of his ‘70s childhood, “My mother was really cheap. She always made her own yogurt. In fact, I used to envy the other kids with those waxed cups of Dannon… I probably spent too much time doctoring her homemade yogurt to taste exactly like theirs.”
Thankfully, Nusser has evolved from stirring gobs of jam into Mom’s homemade yogurt. Look for Nusser’s fabulous, three-course yogurt tasting menu, all emanating from his humble Donvier yogurt maker.
â—† 6 cups whole milk
â—† 2 Tbs yogurt (preferably homemade, but any plain yogurt with live cultures will do)
Heat the milk until scalding, then set aside until temperature drops to 102°F to 104°F. Whisk in the yogurt, and pour mixture into yogurt-maker containers. Place the containers into yogurt maker, and follow manufacturer’s directions to complete the process. When yogurt is finished, refrigerate.
Crab with Piquillo Peppers
â—† 1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
â—† 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
â—† 2 stalks celery, diced
â—† ½ cup homemade yogurt
â—† Salt and pepper to taste
â—† 8 canned piquillo peppers, drained
â—† 1 head frisée lettuce
â—† Lemon juice
â—† Olive oil
In a bowl, mix together the first five ingredients. Stuff mixture into the piquillo peppers, and serve on frisée lettuce dressed with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil.
Roasted Lamb Chops with Mint Yogurt
â—† 1 tsp ground cumin
â—† 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
â—† 1 cup homemade yogurt
â—† 2 racks of New Zealand lamb
â—† 1 lb fresh spinach leaves
â—† 2 cloves garlic, sliced
â—† Zest of one lemon
â—† ¼ cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 500°F. Fold cumin and mint into yogurt. Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large, oven-proof sauté pan and sear lamb racks on all sides. (This will take about 10 minutes.) Place sauté pan containing racks in oven and roast for 15 minutes.
Remove racks from pan and set the meat aside. Replace the sauté pan on the stove. Allow lamb to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add fresh spinach and sliced garlic to the sauté pan. Sauté until the spinach is wilted; drain the spinach and set aside.
Pool minted yogurt on the center of the plate. Place a spoon of wilted spinach on top of the yogurt. Carve lamb racks into four pieces each, and place two chops on each plate. Garnish with lemon zest and olive oil, and serve.
Black Mission Figs with Yogurt and Aceto Manodori
â—† 2 cups homemade yogurt
â—† 8 Black Mission figs
â—†Aceto Manodori aged balsamic vinegar
Spoon ½ cup of yogurt into each of four small bowls. Top with quartered figs and splash with a generous drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
The Donvier Yogurt Maker
Nusser’s not particularly brand-loyal when it comes to his yogurt makers. “All you need is a simple incubator that keeps the culture at a constant temperature. We’ve probably gone through several brands through the years, but this Donvier was a gift from my mother—and she’s made her own yogurt for as long as I can remember.” Donvier’s Yogurt Maker is available for $44.99 at Chef Central (45 S Central Ave, Hartsdale, 914-328-1376). This model makes up to 1.5 liters of yogurt in eight separate cups and features an LCD digital display with an electronic timer and automatic shutoff.
Photography by Andre Baranowski
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer whose CRMA Award-winning Eater blog appears at westchestermagazine.com.