Rebecca Minkoff RM Edit

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Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen, friends and co-owners of Sorella (in Italian, sister), strive to cook like “little old Italian grandmothers.” They roll mouthwatering handmade Piemontese agnolotti like little old Italian grandmothers. And they’ve taught their staff the “hospitalian” ways of little old Italian grandmothers. But their just-released cookbook, Sorella: Recipes, Cocktails & True Stories from Our New York Restaurant (Olive Press, 2013) is decidedly young, stylish, and fun. Just take a look at the cocktail section.

We caught up with the culinary duo below, who shares their cooking philosophy and a step-by-step how-to of one of their favorite recipes.

How did the two of you end up as business partners?

We met in culinary school, became roommates, and decided we wanted to open a restaurant together.

Where does the Italian, and specifically Piemontese, influence come from?

Neither of us are Italian, we are just enthusiasts.  We like to think we were Italian in another life.  Piedmont spoke to us, we knew we wanted Italian, but decided on Piedmont after 2 days there.

How did the cookbook come about?

We were approached about it and just kinda went for it.  There were a lot of surprises in making it: it was a lot of work and not the kind of work we are used to.  The recipes were already pretty user-friendly—we like to keep things simple.

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What recipe are you most proud of?

Either the broccoli fritto [recipe included below] for its simplicity and robust flavor OR our pici with pork ragu, ricotta and pepperoncini, because it is so damn tasty and holds a dear place in my heart because Executive Chef Molly Nickerson and I invented it together right after we opened (-Emma).

Hospitality is stressed throughout the entire cookbook. Why is it so important to you?

We both grew up in hospitality, and it’s what makes the industry so special.  There’s no one formula to take care of someone, it takes a little detective work.  Throughout a customer’s experience, we have the opportunity to make their day.  Something subtle or big, but it’s powerful.

You say that “food has an amazing ability to evoke emotion”—can you expand on that?

Cooking is very personal, and your emotion can definitely affect the taste of the food.  You know when something was made with love, and you know when something was made angrily.

There is a page on fitness, which is an unusual move. Why did you decide to include this?

We both learned early on that the abuse we were doing to our bodies was aging us too quickly!  We were too young to be waking up in pain, to have bad backs…so we got healthier and both practice core strengthening workouts.  We are taking care of our spines so they stick around in our actual old age.  Exercise is a great way to breathe through the stresses of running a restaurant.

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Broccoli Fritto

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

for the batter

2 cups rice flour

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 cup ice water

1 lb. broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets

pickled pepper aioli (2 pickled habanero chiles, puréed; 1/2 cup pepperoncini, puréed; 2 1⁄2 tbsp. each liquid from pepperoncini and habanero jars; 1 1/2 tsp. sugar)

1⁄2 cup packed fresh basil leaves,

1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions:

1) Before you do anything, pour oil into a saucepan or deep fryer to a depth of 4 inches and heat over high heat to 360°F. You want an ample, stable pot of oil to work with.

2) To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and salt. Add the ice water slowly while stirring with your fingers. Lumps are just fine; they will fall off the florets. You do not want to overmix this. The final consistency should be heavy and wet like that of sludgy clay.

3) Get ready to fry the florets in batches. It is of the utmost importance that you do not crowd the broccoli in the pan. Place a handful of the florets in the batter and mix
with your hands until fully coated. Using your hands, lift the florets out of the batter. Place the battered florets in the hot oil and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. They shouldn’t necessarily color. We are not looking for a golden brown finish here. The trick to rice flour batters like this one or the type used for tempura is to fry the battered items

just until the batter crisps up and becomes a thin, light, glassy shell. Using a slotted spoon or a wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry the remaining broccoli, continuing to be careful not to crowd the florets in the pot and letting the
oil return to 360°F between batches.

to assemble

1) Place the florets in a large bowl and toss them with salt like you would French fries. Spread the salted florets in a single layer on a serving platter or plates and drizzle a good amount of the aioli on top, like covering fries with ketchup. Sprinkle the basil on top of the aioli and top that with a snowy layer of cheese. Enjoy immensely—and watch your guests freak out when they taste it.

Photo Credit: Olive Press