A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Food Network’s Atlantic City Wine & Food Festival for a story I was writing for Toque magazine, a new, thoughtful online mag about all things edible and the people who make them. Now, despite the fact that AC is a mere two or three hour drive, I’d actually never been before because, eh, gambling… it’s not really my thing. Or my husband, Dan’s, for that matter. Case in point: In a “when in Rome” moment, I sunk $20 into a video poker machine that I lost entirely within three minutes. Ugh. I just don’t see the appeal.
Anyway, as it turns out, I was kind of digging Atlantic City. The beaches seemed pretty clean, the wide, long expanse of boardwalk held charms old and new, and, more importantly, the hotels had a ton of great things to offer food-wise. Who knew? It was kind of like the Vegas model, with lots of high-end or just cool eateries and shops, just not in the middle of a freaky desert, but instead with gorgeous ocean views. Nice!
This month sees the release of a brand-new coffee table-ish tome called The Seven Stars Cookbook: Recipes From World-Class Casino Restaurants. On the one hand, it could truly be the kind of thing you just ogle over, with its super large trim size, hard-bound cover, and gorgeous food-porn photos, but it’s actually more than just a pretty face. There are some great recipes from a multitude of Harrahs-owned spots from Vegas to AC to New Orleans to Biloxi to St. Louis, and, oddly, lots of succinct chef advice for being a big winner at home entertaining, like Chef John Maltby’s 10 commonsense tips for “cooking locally wherever you are,” like:
- Talk to older people in your neighborhood about what foods they grew up with and how they were prepared.
- Learn about the herbs and spices traditionally used in your area and use them to make your own dishes.
- Talk to your local butcher about locally grown livestock and which is best.
True enough. I recently got into a chat with my local meat cutter and he turned me on to a nearby pig farm that works with heritage breeds and farms organically. Local, small purveyors are always a good compass for great food—not the kind of advice I'd expect from a casino-bound chef.
As it turns out, this book also helped me make quick use of the tomatoes I keep hoarding this summer, unable to turn down any donation from friends or family with overflowing gardens or pass by their cheery, bright red forms at the farmers’ market—and the recipe was from my new love, Atlantic City. These caramelized tomato chips will hang on for a good week, which is great because I’m out the next few nights and if I don’t do something with them, they’ll go bad by the weekend. Now, we’ve got a cool snack for the drive out to the beach this holiday weekend. Sweet! Speaking of, a couple of tips: 1) Chef Maurizio Demarco’s recipe calls for a judicious use of sugar to get the caramelizing going while you get them roasting, which I adhered to. However, next time I make them, I think I’d like to accent the flavor with a tiny bit on salt on each slice, too—it’ll really bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes; 2) Cut them thin! Chef Demarco calls for an eighth of an inch, and he means it—any thicker, and you won’t get that nice, crunchy quality.
We're getting down to the wire! Got any good, unusual tomato recipes you care to share?
Tomato Confit Chips a la Arturo’s, Atlantic City
1 tsp olive oil
1 large tomato (about 5 inches in diameter)
1 tsp sugar
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat [my sister Linda got me one of these for Christmas last year; it’s fab for baking]. Brush the paper or mat with olive oil. Add the tomato slices in one layer. Lightly sprinkle the sugar on top of the tomato slices. Wait for 10 seconds, then turn them over. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until caramelized and semi-crisp. Remove from the oven and, using a metal spatula, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool completely. Serve immediately, or store the chips in an airtight container for up to a week, placing a paper towel between the layers.
Amy Zavatto has been writing about wine, spirits, and food for ten years. Her work appears in Imbibe, Gotham, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, among others. She is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bartending and the co-author of The Renaissance Guide to Wine & Food Pairing.