Comfort food is Sarah Wade’s specialty.
The chef opened her first restaurant, Stillwater, in August of last year, bringing chicken fried rib eye, blue cheese biscuits, and smoked pork macaroni and cheese to the former Townsman space that straddles Chinatown and the Financial District. Before coronavirus flipped the world upside down, diners could find the restaurant’s bar packed with locals ordering cocktails and “cold tea,” while dining room tables overflowed with deviled eggs, chicken wings, and flat patty burgers.
We need comfort food now more than ever. Since the dine-in ban went into effect, Wade has offered takeout on Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a limited brunch menu available on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (delivery is also offered via Grubhub and Caviar). The former “Chopped” champion shared how her restaurant’s new service model is going, and passed along her recipe for a classic comfort dish: ricotta dumplings with marinara sauce (yes, they’re available for takeout).
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How are you holding up?
Keeping positive and continuously sending positive vibes. I’m using this to-go opportunity, especially through our third-party delivery companies, to create new customers for when we reopen.
What do you miss most about being in your restaurant right now?
The staff! They are our family, and not seeing them is tough. I also miss the buzz of a busy Friday night dinner service with the ticket machine constantly running, calling orders, getting sweaty, seeing happy customers leave, and listening to a loud bar.
How has takeout/delivery been going? What challenges have you had to face pivoting to this service model?
Takeout is going well. We are thankful for the neighborhood and community surrounding us and supporting us. It took a couple of days to get acclimated to where to place to-go boxes on the line to make things flow, but we figured it out pretty quickly.
What can locals do to help the restaurant industry right now?
Continue to order out, and order from the local businesses. Leave a tip, which people have been so amazing at doing thus far. Explore the healthier options of a restaurant’s menu… I may tout our mac and cheese because it is delicious, but we have nice and filling salads and a great veggie burger if you need to lighten it up.
What has been a constant in your fridge/pantry as you’ve been cooking more at home?
Eggs! I love them scrambled with whatever else I can find in the fridge after a long day. I like to poach eggs and put them on a quick pasta dish.
Tell us about this recipe.
This is a variation of our ricotta dumplings, which we do with roasted hedgehog mushrooms and pearl onions in a marsala sauce. I love the oven tomato sauce because it coaxes such a nice flavor out of the tomatoes. The dumplings are a fun project for the afternoon and, seriously, they are so fluffy and creamy and delicious.
Ricotta dumplings with marinara sauce
For the marinara sauce:
5 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
5 basil leaves
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
For the dumplings:
2 cups ricotta
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
For the marinara:
Put all the marinara ingredients in a pie tin or any other dish with sides. Cover with foil and put in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, then pour into a sauce pot. Mash up everything with a whisk and let simmer over medium heat until the dumplings are ready.
For the dumplings:
Mix together all the dumpling ingredients (except for the flour) in a mixing bowl with a spatula until smooth. Add the flour, then stir until just combined. Using a small cookie/ice cream scoop, no bigger than 1.5 inches, scoop balls of the mixture onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. If you don’t have a cookie scoop ,you can use two spoons and form into small football shapes. Let these rest until the marinara is simmering.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook dumplings in batches, about seven to eight at a time. Let them boil for five to six minutes, then transfer directly into the marinara sauce. Once everything is cooked, serve immediately. Top with more grated Parmesan cheese.