Charlie Palmer's American Fare

Everyday Recipes from My Kitchens to Yours


By Charlie Palmer

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Award-winning chef and restaurateur, Charlie Palmer, is back with a book about favorite American recipes he loves to share with family and friends.

Palmer has been at the forefront of great American food since the ’80s. Fresh local ingredients, bursts of flavor, and preparation with ease have been the hallmark of his cooking over the years, and this collection includes the best recipes he cooks at home and his restaurants. Included will be over 100 recipes that any cook can make with ease-from Charlie’s Famous Corn Chowder with Shrimp to Cheese Strata to Prosciutto-Wrapped Zucchini to Baked Lemon Chicken; plus snacks like Crispy Chickpeas and desserts like Double-Trouble Chocolate Chip Cookies, Lemon Shortbread and Fig Crostata. Along with personal reflections on food and family from one of America’s own top chefs, this cookbook will help every family with delicious, easy dinner ideas.


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IT SHOULD COME AS no surprise that cooking is a rewarding profession. Seeing people's satisfaction as they put fork to mouth has remained one of the most sincere joys I've experienced in my thirty-five-year career and throughout my life. But I've come to realize two very important things about cooking: First is that the time I have spent cooking for my family has been the most rewarding. I'm incredibly fortunate to have four sons and my wife, Lisa, all of whom appreciate food and sharing time together around the table. Second, I take a huge amount of pride in teaching the young cooks and culinary students in my restaurant kitchens. Things have come full circle for me in that respect. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1979 and am now currently the chairman of the board of trustees of that school, helping to improve the quality of the education we provide to those young cooks every day.

When I began my culinary adventure in 1974, I had no idea of the magnitude of cuisines and products that would come to play in the invention of "new" American cooking or how they would impact the everyday American diet. Of course, I didn't know that I would become the father of four boys or have the opportunity to live in New York City, the most exciting city in the world, as well as Sonoma County, California, one of the most beautiful and agriculturally productive areas of the country. It is the combination of all these things that has broadened my own understanding of the evolution of cooking in America and the importance of the American family table.

I feel pretty lucky to continue to be inspired both by the diverse team of young chefs who work in my restaurants and by the inquiring minds of my sons. My own creativity is sparked by the integrity, intensity, and joy of their young palates. They are often the ones who lead me to new products, new growers, new flavors, new textures, and to dishes I would never have had the opportunity to taste. There is nothing more exhilarating than getting back on the line with the young guys in one of my restaurants or watching my sons devise a dish of their own without asking my advice.

So much has changed—in such a short time—in the way America eats. When I opened Aureole in 1988 just after the country's financial meltdown known as Black Monday, everyone thought I was crazy. But I felt that diners were ready to eat in a different way, experiencing flavors and textures with a mind open to adventure. I was right, but I had no idea where this audacious venture would take us. Flash-forward twenty-five years, and things are still rapidly changing both on the menu and at the bar. Serious beverage programs now include craft cocktails and beers and wide-ranging wine lists that offer bottles from the smallest producers to the more mainstream winemakers.

Fine dining is a way of life now that didn't seem possible only a few years ago. More people eat out nightly than ever before. Restaurant clientele is varied and smart. The food shows on television have made for a very informed dining public. Dress has become more casual and manners relaxed. More wine is served and interesting cocktails have to be on the menu. In our restaurants we continue to push boundaries, serving innovative, creative, and delicious food and offering the refined service that knowledgeable diners expect.

When I came out of culinary school in 1979, nobody was talking about farm to table, environmentally sound agricultural practices, or sustainability in the kitchen. Growing up in upstate New York I knew that many people lived off the land, but I'd never put that lifestyle together with fine dining. However, I found myself in the first wave of American chefs who wanted to break barriers by embracing those ingredients native to the United States and traditional recipes that had often been overlooked, as French cuisine had a strong hold on fine dining. I quickly discovered that local and sustainable was part and parcel of this new outlook.

After I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, I worked for the famed French chef Jean-Jacques Rachou at his acclaimed restaurant in New York City and then went on to work with the esteemed chef/restaurateur Georges Blanc in France. It was Rachou's demand for fresh, quality ingredients, as well as my experiences at Georges Blanc, where farmers and local culinary artisans would daily present their wares at the back door of the kitchen for the chef's approval, that awoke in me the possibilities of using the agricultural bounty of the United States in innovative American recipes. It radically changed my perspective to know that American cooking could easily transform itself into American "cuisine." That perspective has stuck with me over the years as I've opened restaurants and hotels throughout the U.S., always looking toward the future and how I could do things better and more progressively in my kitchens, dining rooms, and, later, as a parent.

I spent a great deal of time formulating ideas of how I, as a trained chef, could use the experiences I had accumulated to help transform American dining. Once I manned my own kitchen, as chef-owner of Aureole, my first step was to research small, local, dedicated producers whom I could support by featuring their products on the Aureole menu. It was then that my style of cooking (which I eventually termed Progressive American) developed: using local, artisanal products and small farm producers to reinterpret classic European cooking for the American table.

In recent years I have found that almost every city, town, and village has a local farmers market, and farm stands dot roadsides all across America as well. These are the places where locals and weekenders gather, and from which their meals are often created. Often they are a great locale for meaningful communication, the one spot where gossip is passed with impunity. Building relationships with farmers and producers can be done almost anywhere in the country; this makes the food you eat an even more personal experience. Throughout this book I will share some of the purveyors that I use, but I urge you to get to know all of the hardworking farmers and craftspeople in your area. The markets I visit now all have some of the essence of the old Les Halles: spectacular produce, freshly caught seafood, farm-raised game, innovative cheeses, breads even more seductive than those Parisian loaves of my early years, and, of course, their fair share of local characters.

From thinking locally, it has not been a far leap for me to begin to look at how products are being brought to market and how I could establish practices in the kitchen that would keep the environment safe for my family. And if you have children, you know how aware of the environment they are. In California, waste and water are far more regulated than they are in New York City, but I still try to follow some basic rules in my restaurants and at home in both areas.

Although locally sourced products continue to be a focus, there are many other aspects to address as we try to live a sustainable culinary life, one that ensures that we will have something valuable to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

At home, each of my four guys looks at food and the environment in a different way; Courtland, now well into his university years and cooking for himself and others, sees the larger picture—food, wine, conversation—as a way to establish his own culinary identity with friends; Randall, son number two, is simply interested in eating and enjoying those foods he wants to eat; Eric and Reed, the twins and the youngest, are struggling with the idea that they might want to be in the business of food. They are the quickest to ask, "How did you learn about food?" Or, "Did your mom cook like you and did she teach you how to cook?" They want to know why and how I went to the Culinary Institute of America and what it meant to me. It's easy to see how much they miss their older brothers around the table and wait anxiously for the college breaks that bring them back home. To the twins, Sunday dinners just aren't the same without their bros.

My wife, Lisa, and I, like many parents, are not always home every night to cook. Cooking and managing my restaurants takes me all over the world and my daily work demands full attention to kitchens all across the country, but since the birth of my first son I have always managed to get home, if only for a few minutes, on most evenings; and no matter the challenge, weekends will find me in my own home kitchen. It is interesting that my boys think of me cooking for them nightly, and I think this is because the comfort of sitting together at the end of the day enjoying conversation and good food overshadows those missed nights.

So how does a family meal progress? Before doing any planning, I start by asking everyone what they feel like eating and then putting together what Courtland calls a drop-down meal. We decide on the protein—and with boys it has usually been a meat—which will be the foundation of the dinner. Then I work out the starch, vegetable, and salad. I don't on a daily basis add a dessert; that I save for weekends or special occasions, unless it's our family staple, Oatmeal Cookies (here).

Among the favorite main dishes at home are Mustard-Crusted Rack of Lamb (here); Crispy Lemon Chicken Cutlets (here); and my Grilled Tri-Tip Steak (here), all main courses that can also be found in a restaurant setting. At home and in my restaurants, I generally choose vegetables based on their season, which will send me out to a local farm in Sonoma or to the farmers market in New York City. Starch can be sticky rice, roasted potatoes (one of my favorites), a light pasta, or the boys' most-requested Double-Stuffed Potatoes (here). I always try to have a salad: coleslaw, butter lettuce with a lemon vinaigrette, or whatever lettuce might be just popping up in the garden. Throughout the years, rather than always sticking to the traditional, I have tried to introduce new flavors and ethnic twists into our at-home meals as a way of bringing other cultures and flavors to the table, much as I continue to do in my restaurants.

I am often asked—by my sons and by young chefs and customers—how I come up with new recipes. I generally answer, "I've been at this for a long time, so over the years I've learned what tastes good and what ingredients complement each other." But even the most educated palate needs constant exposure to a broad intersection of the culinary world. For me that means everything from diner breakfasts to sushi to ramen to taco trucks to four-star dining at restaurants all across the world. This doesn't mean that I will copy a dish that I've experienced, but I will use my own palate to combine these new flavors or presentations with those from my past to create something that I hope will be totally new, yet still delicious. And sometimes an accident happens where flavors or combinations I am experimenting with meet head-on; fireworks occur and a wonderful dish I hadn't imagined is born.

Wine is as much a part of our family table as it is in my restaurant dining rooms. The grapes for my Charlie Clay Russian River Pinot Noir grow right in my front yard in Sonoma. I host an annual event, Pigs & Pinot, where pork and pinot lovers from around the world gather at my hotel and restaurant, Hotel Healdsburg and Dry Creek Kitchen, to raise money for charity. Along with my Charlie Clay wine, I have two wines created exclusively for my restaurants and wine shop, Next Vintage: Iron Horse Aureole Cuvée, Green Valley; and Limestone Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley. My son Courtland says, "As we have grown up, wine has more and more become essential to a family dinner, and more specifically to the hours leading up to it. Wine has become interesting to all of us, as we are able to differentiate varieties and flavors. We have been encouraged to taste wine for its flavor, not for its alcohol; we therefore see it as an exciting complement to our meals." I find this same sentiment true for our diners all across the country.

For my family, all of this is a continuum of our family table, and I am extremely proud that Lisa and I have prepared the boys for this new culinary world. Even now as they enter their late teens and early twenties, we continue to find time for as many dinners together as possible. Perhaps this is because I can then relax around the table with Lisa and the boys and get to know them in a very different way than when we watch them play sports, or achieve at school, or make new friends as we travel. Whether at home or in a restaurant setting, preparing great food and sharing delicious wine allows each of us to express ourselves in a very personal way. I believe that it is the shared table that has helped shape them into who they are today. The restaurant table is simply an extension of this shared experience as I continue to welcome diners to our tables all over the country. Whether cooking for your family or in a restaurant, I hope that in my recipe collection of American fare you will find dishes that you will want to make your own. This is how new and progressive cooking evolves.

Charlie Palmer

Spring, 2015



On restaurant menus soups and salads are offered as a first course, but at home they stand alone. Almost all of these could be considered a full meal with a little bit of variation here and there. There are so many variations that it has been difficult to choose just a few that we enjoy around the family table. Both soups and salads offer ample opportunity to use leftovers and explore your own creativity. Don't like a particular green? Use a green you do like. For instance, as popular as kale currently is, I don't care for it raw and would never put it in a salad, but I like it cooked and in soups. If shrimp is not a favorite, try crab. Well, you get the idea—improvisation is the key to great soups and salads.

Charlie's Corn Chowder with Shrimp

The Best Potato Soup

Summer Minestrone with Mint Pesto

Red Onion Soup

Hearty Kale Soup

Next Day Chicken Soup

Yellow Eye and Chorizo Soup

Chopped Salad

Three Favorite Coleslaws

A Real Chef's Salad

Slow-Roasted Beet Salad

Warm Pork and Lentil Salad

Smoked Chicken Spring Salad with Rye Berries and Sweet Peas

Salmon Salad with Spinach, Pea Shoots, and Artichokes


Cooking corncobs in milk and stock infuses this chowder with an intense corn flavor, a no-longer-secret technique that originally made this soup a namesake. If you would like to add a little heat to the soup, add some chopped chile pepper and garlic along with the leeks and bell pepper. The shrimp is not necessary, but it adds some heft and some sophistication to what is normally a home-style soup. Leftover soup can be pureed and served chilled with a swirl of heavy cream or yogurt.

Serves 6

10 ears corn, shucked

6 cups whole milk

2 cups chicken stock or canned nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth

¾ pound slab bacon, diced

1 cup chopped well washed leeks (white and some of the light green part)

½ cup diced red bell pepper

3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, flat-leaf parsley, or cilantro

6 jumbo or 12 large cooked shrimp with tails on (see Note)

Using a chef's knife and working with one at a time, cut close to each ear of corn to slice all of the kernels from the cob. Place the kernels in a mixing bowl and set aside. Reserve the cobs.

Combine the milk and stock in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the cobs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is infused with corn flavor.

Remove the pot from the heat and, using tongs, remove the cobs and set them aside until cool enough to handle. Do not discard the broth.

When the cobs are cooled, working with one at a time and holding the cob upright in a large shallow dish, carefully scrape all of the residue from them with the edge of a knife. Discard the cobs and add the scrapings to the broth.

Fry the bacon in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until all of the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a double layer of paper towels to drain.

Pour off most of the fat from the frying pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Return the pan to medium heat and, when hot, add the leeks and bell pepper. Fry, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a double layer of paper towels to drain.

When the vegetables are well-drained of fat, transfer them to the broth. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the reserved corn kernels and again bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 6 minutes or just until the corn is barely cooked.

Remove about 2 cups of the chowder from the pot and place in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to a thick puree. Pour the puree back into the chowder and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the chowder from the heat and stir in the reserved bacon along with the herb of choice. Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve piping hot in large shallow soup bowls with 1 jumbo shrimp or 2 large shrimp in the center of each bowl.

Note: You can also add an additional ¾ pound chopped raw shrimp to the soup after you have pureed the 2 cups. The 5-minute reheat will cook the shrimp perfectly.


The combination of potatoes, leeks, and bacon has always been at the top of my flavor chart—both growing up in upstate New York and as a chef trained in the French style. My mom called it "warm-up potato soup," which is exactly what it did on a cold, snowy winter's day. As a young chef in France I learned about vichyssoise, a more refined version of my mom's warm-up that can also be served chilled. Either way—hot or cold—potatoes and leeks combined with a hint of smoky bacon is, to me, a terrifically satisfying dish.

Serves 6

½ pound slab bacon, diced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 leeks (white part only), well washed and sliced crosswise into chunks

2½ pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed

5 cups chicken stock or canned nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth

3 cups half-and-half

Salt and pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley

Fry the bacon in a frying pan over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a double layer of paper towels to drain.

Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes or until the leeks are very soft and fragrant but have not colored.

Add the potatoes along with the stock and half-and-half and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, remembering that the bacon will add a bit of saltiness. Lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for about 18 minutes or until the potatoes are about to fall apart. At this point you can, if you wish, puree the mix in a blender or food processor for a smoother, creamier soup.

Whether left chunky or pureed, add the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved bacon along with the dill. Serve immediately in large shallow soup bowls.


Having grown up in upstate New York, where there are long winters and a short growing season, I still am amazed at the year-round bounty of California farmers. So although this soup has summer in its title, I can now make it almost all year long in Sonoma, while folks in the East have to wait for warmer weather. While a winter minestrone is a heavy soup with root vegetables and pasta, this is a minestrina, a thin soup with a light broth and barely cooked vegetables that say local and sustainable in a bowl. The pesto is not absolutely necessary, but it does add a whole new dimension to the soup.

Serves 6

3 large (about 1 pound) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and cut into pieces

10 cups vegetable stock or canned, nonfat, low-sodium vegetable broth

1½ cups fresh cranberry beans

1 cup finely diced carrots

½ cup finely diced Vidalia or other sweet onion

Salt and pepper

¾ cup finely diced yellow squash

¾ cup finely diced zucchini

¾ cup fresh English peas

¾ cup fresh corn kernels

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Mint Pesto (recipe follows), optional

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process to a smooth puree.


On Sale
Apr 28, 2015
Page Count
288 pages

Charlie Palmer

About the Author

Charlie Palmer is the award-winning chef who is known for Aureole in NYC and Las Vegas, Charlie Palmer Steak in DC, Boston, and Las Vegas, among 14 restaurants he owns, in addition to two hotels in California. He has established a growing collection of food-forward wine shops, a group of award-winning boutique hotels, currently in California, and he has mentored some of the most creative of America’s new chefs such as the Voltaggio brothers, Michael Mina, and Gerry Hayden. He has recently introduced his first fast-casual restaurant DG (Damn Good) Burger in the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California. Charlie is also an ongoing guest on NBC’s Today show as well as frequently seen on other national television shows.

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