RECIPES: Chef Gavin Kaysen Shares Faves

Photo: Nightline Platelist: Gavin KaysenThomas Krakowiak/ABC News
Chef Gavin Kaysen?s crispy duck egg.

Click HERE for the "Nightline: Platelist" profile of chef Gavin Kaysen.

Tomato, Avocado & Red Onion Salad

Falcinelli loves to say that this salad "makes gazpacho in your mouth." It's funny, because there are no avocados in gazpacho, but true because the experience of eating it—it's all lush and creamy with super-fresh tomato flavor—is gazpacho-like. The sting and the acid from the raw onion keep it from going flabby.

Serves 4


Platelist: Gavin KaysenPlay
Platelist: Gavin Kaysen

2 large ripe tomatoes

1 small (or ½ medium) red onion, thinly sliced

Fine sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 Hass avocados

Freshly ground black pepper


1. Core the tomatoes and slice into wedges. Combine with the sliced onion, a large pinch of salt, and the olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Gently toss, and divide among four serving plates.

2. Halve, pit, peel, and slice the avocados and divide among the four plates. Sprinkle the avocado with a small pinch of salt and drizzle each plate with a little olive oil. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper just before the salad goes to the table.

Meatballs the Sputino Way

Serves 6, Makes 18-20 meatballs


4 slices bread (2 packed cups' worth)

2 pounds ground beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped flat- leaf parsley

¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup pine nuts

1½ teaspoons

fine sea salt

15 turns white pepper

4 large eggs

½ cup dried bread crumbs

Tomato Sauce

The Spuntino Way

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces.

2. Combine the bread with all the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order they are listed. Add the dried bread crumbs last to adjust for wetness: the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.

3. Shape the meat mixture into handball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they're cooked through. (At this point, you can cool the meatballs and hold them in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for the future.)

4. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

5. Dump the meatballs into the pan of sauce and nudge the heat up ever so slightly. Simmer the meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn't one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it's time to eat.

Cavatelli with Sausage & Browned Sage Butter

Serves 6

Franks' note: This is one of our most popular dishes. It's renowned as a hangover curative among the people we work with and the 10-to-1 favorite for what a guy will order on a first date. (His date will almost always order the Sweet Potato Ravioli in Cheese Broth on page 110. It just works out that way.) Two small but important notes on this otherwise very easy recipe: the sausage must be precooked so it can be cut into coins; cutting it into coins is advantageous because sliced sausage has more surface area to brown, and browned sausage is better. Also, the sauce is browned butter. It's a stage of doneness, something we were taught in cooking school: beurre noisette. It should be visibly browned, with a hazelnut-like aroma. Don't skimp on the browning.


1 pound hot Italian pork sausage (4 to 6 links, depending on the size of the sausage)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 to 10 sage leaves (fewer if they are very large, more if they are very small)

Freshly ground white pepper

Ricotta Cavatelli (page 100)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1½ teaspoons

fine sea salt

15 turns white pepper

4 large eggs

½ cup dried bread crumbs

Tomato Sauce

Cooking Directions:

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it well.

2. Meanwhile, put the sausages into your widest sauté pan with 1/2 inch of water and turn the heat to medium. After 10 minutes, flip the sausages over and simmer them for another 5 minutes (replenish the water if it threatens to boil off). After 15 minutes, the sausages should be firm and cooked through. Remove the sausages to a cutting board (discard the water) and slice them into coins just shy of 1/2 inch. (You can do this an hour or even a day ahead of time if you like.)

3. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. After a minute, add the sausage coins in an even layer and let them cook, untouched, unstirred, unfussed with, until they're deeply browned on the first side. (If there's not enough room to brown all the sausage in one pan—which there will very probably not be—split it between two pans or brown it in two batches and use an additional tablespoon of butter.) Flip and brown them on the B side. The browning is integral to the ultimate depth of flavor of the finished dish—don't stint on it. When the sausage is browned, remove it from the pan (a plate lined with paper towels is a nice place to hold it) and return the pan to the burner.

4. Keep the heat at medium-high and add the sage, the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, and a few twists of white pepper. Stir the butter and scrape at the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, it should stop foaming and start to take on color. That's when you should drop the ricotta cavatelli into the boiling water. Continue to cook the butter until it's deeply browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes more, which should be just about how long the cavatelli takes to cook.

5. Do not drain the cavatelli too thoroughly. The water clinging to the pasta will give the sauce body. Add it to the butter sauce along with the sausage and stir.

6. Add the cheese, stir again, and portion the cavatelli among serving plates. Scatter each with a couple of pinches of parsley. Serve immediately.

At the restaurant we bake the sausages ahead of time, but simmering the sausage, as in this recipe, is faster when you're cooking for just a few people. If you're making cavatelli for a crowd, cook a baking sheet's worth— probably 3 or 4 pounds of sausage—by lining the links up on the baking sheet, adding a good splash of water, and baking them at 350°F until they're cooked through, about 30 minutes. Slice the cooked sausages into coins