BE INSPIRED by Chef Todd English

On my trip NYC this past summer, I visited the Todd English Food Hall (TE Food Hall) at the iconic Plaza Hotel. When I first heard about the TE Food Hall, I thought to myself, “how cool must it be to have a Food Hall named after you?”. In response to my rhetorical question, I say “pretty cool”.

If you know anything about Chef Todd English, you’ll not be surprised that The Plaza Hotel decided to embark on this partnership with him. His culinary empire includes restaurants across the United States, multiple cookbooks, a housewares line and an Emmy-nominated travel show. Reflecting his love of travel and affinity for Italian cuisine, the TE Food Hall offers an incredible array of meal and snack options (to read more about the meal experience at TE Food Hall, check out NYC’s Best Kept Secret – Todd English Food Hall at the Plaza Hotel). I learned that some of his biggest fans include the likes of Martha Stewart and George Clooney and anything George likes, I like.

Curious about his culinary preferences and passion for food, I reached out to learn more about him. Here’s my rapid fire Q & A with Chef Todd English:

Q: What is your favourite meal?

A: I don’t eat pasta like I used to, but a good plate of Spaghetti will always be a favorite of mine.

Q: What is your go-to or favourite recipe when entertaining at home?

A: My homemade Tomato Sauce!  I’ve made it thousands of times and it always does the trick.

Q. What inspires you in your work?

A: I am really inspired by art in all of its forms. I love painting and sculpture, but I am especially inspired by color. I look for anything that captures my senses and makes me pause for a moment.

Q: Of the various aspects of your career/job, what are you most passionate about?

A: I am incredibly passionate about traveling.  I love to learn and experience new things and culture.  I take what I learn from each travel experience and try to put my own spin on it when I recreate the dish in my kitchen.  I also try to keep the origin of the dish while enhancing and altering the flavors.

Q: What has been one of the biggest challenges of your career?

A: (The) restaurant business, as we know, isn’t an easy one.  I am always challenging myself to keep things new and fresh.

Q. When it comes to entertaining, what are your must-dos?

A: Always have a good chilled bottle of champagne, lots of great friends and family around you and, of course, delicious food prepared.

When I asked for a tasty and easy recipe to try at home, this is what he shared:

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs with Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from Cooking in Everyday English, by Todd English

Serves 4

For the meatballs

1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound ground veal
¾ pound ground chuck
¾ pound ground pork shoulder roast (Boston butt)
3 cups soft fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup Todd’s Spiced Ketchup (see recipe below)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 20 cubes, 1-inch each
8 cups cherry tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium-size sauté pan set over medium-high heat, cook the onion and garlic in olive oil for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Let cool completely for about 30 minutes.

Add the veal, chuck, pork, breadcrumbs, parsley, ketchup, eggs, oregano, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the onion and garlic mixture. Mix the ingredients using your hands. Shape meat mixture into 2-inch-round balls around each of the mozzarella cubes. Place the stuffed meatballs onto a lightly greased rack in a broiler pan.

Bake the meatballs in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until meat is no longer pink inside. Remove the meatballs from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 500°F.

Toss the tomatoes, olive oil and salt in a bowl. Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake at 500°F for 15 minutes or until blistered.

For the Spiced Ketchup (Makes about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large white onions, diced (about 4 cups)
1 can diced San Marzano tomatoes, 14½ ounces
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground allspice

In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the onions turn a caramel color.

Stir in the tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and allspice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by half. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool completely. Pour the mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Cover and chill thoroughly.

To serve, transfer meatballs to a serving bowl, top with tomato mixture and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

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