After working in the fine-dining industry for almost a decade, Michael Ferraro, executive chef at Delicatessen in New York City, made a transition to something a little closer to home—comfort food with a sophisticated, international twist. The son of two Italian restaurateurs, Ferraro now serves up dishes like old-country lasagna and mac ‘n’ cheese made with ingredients such as lobster, cognac, duck confit, and truffle essence.
When we sat down to chat with Ferraro, the No. 1 thing we wanted to learn was how to make amped-up comfort food healthier—at home. His advice:
Pick a leaner protein. What’s the fastest way to cut fat from your favorite comfort food? Go after the star ingredient. For example, if you’re attempting a braised dish that calls for a fatty piece of red meat, opt for braised chicken legs (skin removed) instead. Sticking with beef? Buy a leaner cut. (See: The Leanest and Fattiest Cuts of Steak).
Think flavor over fat. When you’re working with a leaner cut of meat, replace fat with fresh, strongly flavored ingredients, such as herbs and different kinds of onions, and your taste buds won’t know what’s missing. Ferraro suggests keeping these key ingredients in stock at all times: garlic, shallots, fresh thyme, and fresh basil.
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