JP chef dishes on his New England cookbook

January 17, 2014
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A son of New England, Jamaica Plain resident and renowned chef Daniel Bruce recently came out with a cookbook based on the region he grew up in.

From traditional regional fare, such as New England lobster and clam boil, to the more complex, such as cumin-rubbed roasted pork tenderloin with pear ginger compote, the cookbook has a vast array of recipes.

“If someone is able to put two or three dishes [from the cookbook] into their repertoire, I think the book has been a success,” Bruce said about his book, which is titled “Simply New England: Seasonal Recipes That Celebrate Land and Sea.”

Bruce is the executive chef at the Boston Harbor Hotel downtown, where he oversees its acclaimed restaurants Meritage and the Rowes Wharf Sea Grille. He also founded the Boston Wine Festival there and operates other wine festivals in California and Washington, D.C.

Bruce said he has no favorite recipe from the book, although he enjoys the soups because they are “fun to make.” But, he said, his son, who is attending college, has two favorites: scallion, tomato and cream cheese eggie and the “melt in your mouth” meatloaf, which is inexpensive and has generous portions. Bruce said the two recipes make his son “a big man on campus” with his friends.

Bruce grew up in New Hampshire and Maine in a family that often lived off the land and water, hunting and fishing for meals. He started in the restaurant industry as a teenager cleaning pots and dishes and worked his way up.

Bruce went to the culinary school Johnson & Wales University in Providence. He spent time in Italy fine-tuning his craft before landing a job at the famous restaurant Le Cirque in New York City. Bruce was eventually lured back to Boston by the general manager of the Boston Harbor Hotel, where he has been for more than 20 years.

Bruce said he always knew he wanted to be a cook, as he has a strong passion for it. He said he “loves the connection” he makes with people when it comes to food. Bruce said everyone has a personal history when it comes to food, such as remembering smelling the aromas coming from the kitchen while their mom or grandmother cooks.

Bruce, who is also the founder of the Boston Wine Festival, says he has no immediate plans to open a restaurant in JP, but that he is always keeping his “eyes and ears open.”

He said he loves the JP restaurant scene. His favorite restaurants include JP Seafood Café, as the whole family can agree to go there, and Tres Gatos, as it has some great dishes and he knows both the owner and chef.

The cookbook is available at local bookstores and online retailers.

With the NFL playoffs underway, here’s a Patriots-friendly dish from the cookbook you can serve to eat while watching the big game. Bruce made his “Patriot Chicken Wings” on the TV show “Live! with Regis and Kelly” in 2002, two days before the Patriots won their first Super Bowl.

Ingredients: 24 chicken drummettes, 1 cup maple syrup, ½ cup New England lager beer, ¼ sambal or red chile paste (add more if you like your wings spicier), 3 tablespoons malt vinegar, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 3 tablespoons water, 1 bunch scallions, ends removed and chopped, for garnish.

Directions: 1.) Preheat the over to 450 degrees; 2.) In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the chicken drummettees and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. 3.) In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup, lager, chile paste, malt vinegar and salt to a slow boil; 4.) Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and whisk into the maple syrup mixture. 5.) Place the wings in a large bowl and toss with three-quarters of the glaze. Place the wings onto a buttered cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, or longer if you prefer crispier wings; 6.) Sprinkle the wings with the chopped scallions and serve the remaining sauce for dipping.

Chef Daniel Bruce. (Courtesy Photo)

Chef Daniel Bruce. (Courtesy Photo)