Chicago chef Stephanie Izard came to New York’s Financial District last Wednesday to party. The fête was organized exclusively for American Express Platinum and Centurion card members to celebrate her newest cookbook Gather & Graze, which had come out the evening before. “For our first really big book event, I thought I’d take over a home and have a casual party–no big deal–with 75 of my best friends,” says the James Beard Award-winning chef and American Express Global Dining Collection chef-partner who owns the celebrated Chicago restaurants Girl & The Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat. “The point of Gather & Graze is that you gather with your friends and family, put out a bunch of food and just hang out,” she says.
The hangout spot was a sprawling private duplex 32 stories above the Hudson River. Izard and her team took over the open kitchen while guests mingled throughout the stylishly designed rooms, munching on the buffet and passed offerings including spiced lamb ribs, halibut tacos, and coconut-braised beef cheeks, all of which are featured in the new cookbook. “The easiest recipe, but still very cool and impressive, is the shrimp toast,” says Izard, explaining that you simply put shrimp into a food processor with soy sauce, fish sauce, and a little egg white and spread it over toast. Her tostado variation—also in the book—was a hit with guests. She explains that most of the 120 recipes come from the menus of her restaurants, but they’ve been simplified and tested using ingredients that could be store-bought. “Even when I’m cooking at home, I’m never like ‘I think today I’ll make my own beef stock so that tomorrow I can braise some meat,” says Izard. “So we made the recipes realistic for anyone to cook at home.”
There were many other treats from the cookbook prepared throughout the night, including a textured strawberry gazpacho that riffs on the traditional chilled tomato soup (Izard adds Thai chile to give it a kick and smooths it over with avocado, so there’s only a subtle hint of sweetness). Her Szechuan-style sausage skewers were perfectly tender, allowing for the lamb to melt in your mouth with an explosion of flavor from the shallots, garlic, and Szechuan peppercorn, among other spices, that she blends into the meat. And her tofu noodle salad with fermented tofu vinaigrette was an unexpected hit for those who don’t typically go for the beloved vegetarian staple (check out the recipe in a book excerpt below). To accompany the full bar, Izard served her Modus Mandarita cocktail from the cookbook, where she mixes a citrus IPA with tequila to create a distinct style of a fully balanced margarita. “With American Express, we like to figure out something cool we can do just for cardholders as things are happening naturally in my life, like writing my second cookbook,” says Izard. “I like a good party, and this book creates one pretty easily on its own.”
Tofu Noodle Salad with Fermented Tofu Vinaigrette
"I buy tofu noodles from Jenny Yang at Phoenix Bean, a tiny tofu kitchen on the north side of Chicago (it’s seriously amazing how much tofu she pumps out of that place). She gets her soybeans from local farmers growing them the good old-fashioned way (no GMOs or pesticides) and then makes the most magical, delicious tofu. For these noodles, she cuts extra-firm tofu into thin strips—like linguine, but a little chewier. And they are naturally gluten-free and high in protein! They’re great right out of the bag in cold salads or tossed into stir-fries. You can substitute rice noodles, but it’s worth trying to find Jenny’s—or a similar product—in your area.
For this salad, all you do is toss the noodles with some simple grilled veggies—whatever’s at the market—and my very favorite vinaigrette. It’s salty, pungent (in a good way), and savory and makes this salad a great one for meat-eaters."
1 cup fresh shiitake mushroom caps
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
½ (6-ounce) jar fermented tofu in chile (I like the Lao Gan Ma brand)
½ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon yuzu juice
½ tablespoon sambal oelek
1 (24-ounce) package soybean noodles, dry-packed
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced baby summer squash
½ cup Pickled Fresno Chiles (recipe follows)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, tor
¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves, torn
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Toss the shiitake mushroom caps with 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and season with a pinch of salt. Spread the mushrooms on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool, then slice into quarters.
Combine the fermented tofu, vinegar, remaining ¼ cup canola oil, the sesame oil, yuzu juice, and sambal oelek in a blender and blend until well incorporated and thickened.
Toss the noodles, shiitakes, sprouts, red cabbage, squash, pickled chiles, and herbs with the dressing.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Chef Stephanie Izard is a partner of the American Express® Global Dining Collection, a benefit for Platinum Card® Members offering access to reservations around the world, exclusive culinary events and special experiences at celebrated restaurants. To learn more, visit americanexpress.com/globaldiningcollection.
By Invitation Only® is a benefit that gives Platinum Card® Members access to extraordinary experiences - from sports, fashion, and fine dining to entertainment and performing arts. These unique experiences are customized for Platinum Card Members and are typically not available to the general public. For information and reservations, call 1-800-321-RSVP (7787), 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST. For a listing of upcoming events, visit americanexpress.com/byinvitationonly.