Mark Peel's restaurant, Campanile, needs no introduction. It's been featured in magazines and newspapers virtually since the day the doors opened, and for good reason. Chef Peel's cooking has always been about collecting the elements of classic recipes and redistributing them in unusual, and often offbeat ways. While Campanile is nominally an Italian restaurant, the delicious dishes frequently have influences that range across the classic cuisines of Europe, all based on the freshest ingredients available to the kitchen.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Family Dinner; Campanile's Monday night meal. A tradition in Los Angeles, the Campanile Family Dinner is a three-course meal, served family style, naturally, that revolves around a specific theme. These dinners, and the recipes developed for them, have created such a demand that Chef Peel knew it was time to give everyone a chance to enjoy them. Thus was born New Classic Family Dinners, simply a great cookbook full of time-tested recipes that are simple to prepare, yet deeply satisfying. I've chosen a pair that will make for a delightful late winter or early spring dinner.

Chef Mark Peel

Mark Peel is the owner and executive chef of Campanile restaurant, a Los Angeles favorite for 20 years, and winner of the 2001 James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award. He has worked in France at La Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins and in the U.S. at Maxwell’s Plum, Michael’s, Chez Panisse and Spago. In 1989, he opened both La Brea Bakery and Campanile with business partner Nancy Silverton, where he has earned such accolades as Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef, six James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef, and the 2005 California Restaurant Association Chef of the Year.
Buy: New Classic Family Dinners
Click here to download a printable PDF file of this recipe. Makes 4 servings

For some reason, Americans don’t use leeks as much as Europeans do. This classic French bistro dish may change your habits. Leeks are sweet, tender, and only mildly oniony; I love their gentle flavor and their pale, translucent green color. This works best if you have a baking pan that the leeks fit snugly into in a single layer. It will keep for several days in the refrigerator, but give it time to come back to room temperature before you serve it or the flavors will be muted.

Leeks

2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 lemon, cut in paper-thin slices, seeds removed
3 or 4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs

Topping

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and trim away all but 1⁄8 inch of the root, so that they hold together in one piece. Place in a bowl of cold water and swish to loosen the dirt, then run cold water over them, fanning the layers to wash away any dirt that may linger in between. Lay the leeks side by side, cut side up, in a baking dish. They should fit in one snug layer. Pour on the wine and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Drizzle on the olive oil and place the lemon slices over the leeks. Top with the parsley sprigs.

2. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to 450ºF, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until the leeks are tender but not mushy and are beginning to color very lightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

3. Using tongs, remove the leeks from the baking pan and arrange in a gratin dish or in a wide bowl or platter. Pour the liquid in the pan into a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Pour over the leeks. Allow to cool, or if serving the next day, cover and chill. For best results, refrigerate overnight. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

4. Press the hard-cooked eggs through a sieve or chop them very fine, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange over the leeks, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Click here to download a printable PDF file of this recipe. Makes 4 servings

One day I was looking at a large monkfish and it occurred to me that monkfish tail looks something like a veal shank. I wondered if I could use monkfish for osso buco, the classic Italian braised veal shank seasoned with gremolata and served with risotto Milanese. I tried it out, and it worked. When you order the fish, specify to the fishmonger that you want the bone in. Do not get the monkfish slices from the narrow end of the tail. Make sure they’re at least 2½ inches in diameter.

7 cups Chicken Stock (see recipe below)
Kosher salt
8 1- to 1½-inch-thick slices monkfish, preferably with the bone in (about 2 pounds with the bone, 1½ pounds without), at least 2½ inches in diameter
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups arborio or Carnaroli rice
A generous pinch of saffron (about ½ teaspoon)
½ cup finely chopped onions or shallots
1 fat garlic clove, cut in half, green shoot removed, then sliced
1 cup finely diced peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

GREMOLATA

1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
½ teaspoon finely chopped orange zest
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Place the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Season well with salt.

2. Season the fish generously with salt and pepper. Heat a wide saucepan over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. When it is hot—you can feel the heat when you hold your hand above it—add the monkfish pieces, cut side down. Work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until lightly colored, and transfer to a platter or a baking sheet.

3. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Turn the burner heat to medium and add the olive oil to the pan. Add the rice and stir constantly over the heat, until the rice begins to smell toasty, like popcorn, and the kernels are opaque. Crush the saffron threads between your fingers and stir into the rice, along with 1 teaspoon salt. Add the onions or shallots and garlic and continue to stir for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Add the tomatoes and continue to stir and scrape the pan for about 3 minutes. Reduce the burner heat to medium-low. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice.

4. Begin ladling in the simmering stock. It should just cover the rice and should immediately begin to bubble, though not too hard. If it is boiling hard, turn down the heat a bit more. Stir until just about absorbed, and add another ladleful. Stir often and continue to add stock whenever you see that there is not much left in the saucepan. Gradually the mixture will become creamy.

5. After about 25 minutes, the rice should be cooked al dente and the mixture should be creamy. Al dente means “toothy” in Italian, so it should be just firm to the tooth in the center of the grain. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Continue to add stock and cook if necessary. It should not take more than 30 minutes. Be careful not to let the rice stick to the bottom of the pan.

6. When the rice is al dente and the mixture creamy, cover the rice one more time with stock. Making sure that you can see the stock bubbling, place the monkfish fillets on top of the rice and tip in any liquid that has gathered on the platter. Cover and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Combine all of the ingredients on a cutting board and mince together. Set aside in a small bowl.

8. After 10 minutes, remove the fish and rice from the oven. The fish should be opaque and firm all the way through. If it is not, return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Take the fish off the rice. If the rice is not creamy, stir in another ladle or two of stock. Stir in the butter. Spoon the rice onto a platter. Top with the fish. Sprinkle on the gremolata, and serve.

VARIATION: Add 1 cup cooked peas or cooked pearl onions (or ½ cup each) to the rice when you stir in the final ladleful of stock.

Chicken Stock

Makes 4 to 5 quarts

You have the option of using canned chicken stock or broth in these soup recipes, but homemade stock will always taste better. The stock should simmer very slowly over low heat for about 4 hours, never boiling, and you need to skim the top regularly. A rapidly boiling stock won’t cook the chicken bones faster, it will just churn the ingredients and cause them to break up, clouding the stock and mucking up the pure flavor of chicken a good stock should have. This makes a lot of stock and requires a large stockpot. If you’re going to spend the time, you might as well make a large quantity; it freezes well, and you’ll be glad to have it on hand.

4½ to 5 pounds chicken backs, bones, and wings, trimmed of fat
4 to 5 quarts water, as needed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 large leek, sliced and cleaned
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
6 fat garlic cloves, halved, green shoots removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
A bouquet garni made with 4 sprigs each of thyme and parsley, 2 bay leaves, and ½ teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

HOW TO MAKE A BOUQUET GARNI

A bouquet garni is a bouquet of herbs and other seasonings that go into soups and stews to add flavor. I usually tie the ingredients into a piece of cheesecloth, but if your bouquet garni consists only of herb sprigs and a bay leaf, you can tie them together with kitchen string. To tie them into cheesecloth, cut a square of cheesecloth approximately 8 x 8 inches. Place the ingredients on the cheesecloth about 2 inches in from the bottom edge. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth in over the ends of the herb sprigs, then fold the bottom edge over and roll up the cheesecloth. Tie up with a piece of kitchen string, wrapping the string from one end to the other and back to make sure the packet is secure.

Another way to make a bouquet garni is to use the dark green ends of leek greens instead of cheesecloth. Wash the greens and cut two 8-inch lengths. Lay them overlapping, and place the ingredients on top. Fold the sides up and the ends in over the ingredients, then tie up with kitchen string.

1. Combine all the chicken and bones with the water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Using a ladle, skim off any foam that rises, turn the heat to low, and simmer 3 hours. Skim off the foam from time to time.

2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion, leek, celery, carrot, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook gently until the vegetables soften slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Scrape into the pot with the chicken and add the bouquet garni and remaining teaspoon of salt. Continue to simmer for 1 hour.

3. Strain the stock into a large bowl or pot through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Refrigerate overnight and lift off the fat from the surface. Transfer to smaller containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Two Dishes that make for a light yet delicious meal

Leeks Vinaigrette
For some reason, Americans don’t use leeks as much as Europeans do. This classic French bistro dish may change your habits. Leeks are sweet, tender, and only mildly oniony; I love their gentle flavor and their pale, translucent green color.

Monkfish Osso Buco with Risotto Milanese and Gremolata
One day I was looking at a large monkfish and it occurred to me that monkfish tail looks something like a veal shank. I wondered if I could use monkfish for osso buco, the classic Italian braised veal shank seasoned with gremolata and served with risotto Milanese.

Photos by: Lucy Schaeffer