Strolling past the vegan ramen and fancy PB&J vendors that have taken up residence in Grand Central Market, it’s tough to imagine Angelenos a century ago visiting the butcher and the baker, then boarding Angels Flight back to their homes on Bunker Hill (it was a suburb back then). Over just the last five years, the market has experienced explosive growth, with an influx of gourmet and high-end vendors, which came with a share of controversy in the midst of the ongoing gentrification of downtown. At the same time, residents embrace the market as one of the city’s most interesting intersections of cuisine and culture.
What it all boils down to is that it's an excellent place to eat.
To celebrate the market's centennial, owner Adele Yellin and creative director Kevin West wrote and curated The Grand Central Market Cookbook, which is released on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
“I thought the cookbook would be a collection of diverse recipes from our vendors, but it is much more than that now,” Yellin says. “It’s a richly written 'oral' history of the market. The cookbook is as complex and varied as the market itself.”
The pages are filled with photographs, historical anecdotes, interviews and recipes from vendors that attract winding lines on weekends. To name a few: The Slut, coddled eggs and potato puree in a Mason jar from food truck–turned–mini empire Eggslut, cinnamon ice cream from Santa Barbara chain McConnell’s and spaghetti with Sunday gravy from Knead & Co.
“It’s really an honor to be a part of this,” Knead & Co. chef Bruce Kalman says. “I feel as though this recipe represents my Jersey roots, which is where my love for cooking started. Spaghetti and meatballs with Sunday gravy is like tradition for me, much like Grand Central Market is full of tradition.” (Find Kalman's recipe below.)
Almost every current vendor (as of the book’s publishing deadline) is represented in the book, including businesses that don’t normally serve hot dishes at the market. Longtime mole vendor Chiles Secos, which sells imported spices, beans and grains, contributed two entrée recipes to the book: duck flautas with dates and mole ajonjoli, and linguine with lamb sausage and mole.
“The duck flautas was a dish that chef Carlos Salgado from Taco Maria came up with when we collaborated for the Lucky Peach event in February 2016,” owner Claudia Armendariz says. “The linguine with lamb sausage and mole poblano I dreamt up in my kitchen one night for dinner.”
Boiling down Grand Central Market’s chefs, vendors and flavors into a single volume was more straightforward than one might think, co-author West says.
“We went to each vendor, explained the book, and asked for recipe ideas that best represented his or her stall’s offerings,” he says. “It was tough to whittle down the great ideas until we found a balance everyone liked, but the whole process was, in another sense, surprisingly easy as a creative collaboration.”
West says the goal of the book was to curate recipes that represent each vendor while being realistic for home cooks. “For instance, Horse Thief BBQ didn’t contribute their recipe for smoked brisket, because how many people have a smoker in their kitchen? What they contributed instead was their Nashville Fried Chicken Sandwich and their banana pudding — things you can make at home.”
He says he sometimes sought out a specific recipe — such as the grilled pork with celery leaves from Sticky Rice. “That dish isn’t on the regular Sticky Rice menu but it occasionally shows up as a special,” he says. “I’ve always loved it, so I pleaded with Sticky Rice owner David Tewasart to share the recipe.”
The authors say they can't single out a favorite recipe in the book. Yellin says that's like asking her to choose her favorite child.
Says West: “It’s like asking what’s your favorite stall at Grand Central Market. I’ve eaten at all the stalls — many times — and there’s something to crave at every single one.”
Vendors have come and gone since the book’s publishing deadline, and both West and Yellin say they hope to create future volumes.
“Grand Central Market has evolved over time,” Yellin says, “by embracing the present while respecting the past.”
Spaghetti with Sunday Gravy
Knead & Co. Pasta Bar & Market
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh oregano sprig
3 fresh basil sprigs, tied in bundle
½ pound pork shoulder
½ pound beef chuck
½ pound beef shank, cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small yellow onion, diced
¾ cup dry red wine
2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
3 pounds spaghetti, prepared according to package instructions, for serving
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Serves 12 to 15
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the oregano and basil, and fry until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the herbs to a paper towel–lined plate to drain, reserving the oil in the pot.
Season the meats generously with salt and black pepper. Increase the heat under the Dutch oven to high. Working in batches, add the meat and cook until deeply browned, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a tray. Add the chili flakes, garlic and onion to the pot, and season with salt and black pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 6 to 8 minutes, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
Return the reserved herbs and meat to the pot. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven to cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and let cool at room temperature for about an hour.
Remove the herbs and discard. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and chop finely, then return it to the sauce and stir to combine. Place 3 cups of sauce in the bottom of a very large serving bowl. Add the prepared spaghetti, and toss to coat. Add more sauce, if needed. To serve family-style, ladle more sauce over and top with grated Parmesan.
Reprinted from The Grand Central Market Cookbook by Adele Yellin and Kevin West. Copyright © 2017 by Grand Central Market. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.