Hooray for Hamersley
The end of the year was also the end of an era for fans of Gordon Hamersley. The Boston superchef, one of the first to bring contemporary cuisine to this city of baked beans and chowdah, closed the doors of Hamersley’s Bistro for the last time in late October and left me mourning one of my favorite restaurants of all times. It also left the city of Boston going through withdrawal --- what would life be without Hamersley's famed Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley?
I first wrote about this South End bistro in 1987, the year it opened across the street from its final home. The neighborhood was a much grittier place in those days; Hamersley’s was one of the forces driving the gentrification of what is today a beautiful, stylish, user-friendly quarter.
For 27 years Hamersley could be found in front of the stove every night, dressed in his trademark blue Red Sox cap, actually cooking during an era when many chefs became globe-trotting stars with nary a smudge of olive oil on their aprons.
He worked with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison in L.A.way back in the late ‘70s, and Lydia Shire when he moved back to Boston, and he won every chef and restaurant award there is at some point in his career. (Photo from Boston magazine.) Yet for all his celebrity, Hamersley was happiest cooking in the restaurant he ran with his wife, wine connoisseur Fiona Hamersley; cooking at home with his family; and sharing his time and expertise with aspiring chefs, food writers and assorted non-profit organizations.
So what are we fans going do about his farewell? We’re going to cook up our favorite Hamersley signature dishes in our own kitchens, thanks to “Bistro Cooking At Home.”
And that means Hamersley’s Roast Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley. The foodie blog Serious Eats called it “the most well documented dish in the city.” And at the Bistro’s last dinner service more than 150 orders --- rubbed with a shallot-mustard-herb marinade, par-roasted, set atop chicken stock, topped with slices of fresh lemon and, finally, popped into the oven to finish --- were cooked and served with roasted onions and crisp potato wedges.
But there are other yummy candidates for our memorial dinners, too. To flip through my copy of the cookbook is to find stained pages surrounding Risotto with Butternut Squash and Maple Syrup; Chicken Piperade; Grilled Flank Steak with Coffee and Black Pepper Marinade (out of this world); Crispy Polenta Triangles with Chanterelles and Asiago….and, in my opinion, the best dish in the book, and the best rack of lamb in the world: Sear-Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Curry, Date, Chile and Almond Crust. (Photo by Bon Appetit.)
But don’t be silly and limit yourself to these triumphs. Buy the book right now, forpetesake, and celebrate the genius of Gordon Hamersley for years to come. Available at Amazon.com.