Chef Nicholas Elmi's rustic cacciucco on THE Dish


Chef Nicholas Elmi knows his way around a kitchen. He's been cooking since he was a teenager and has worked at some of the top French restaurants in the United States and Paris.

Special section: Food and wine

His work has paid off in a big way. Last week, Elmi came in number one on Bravo's hit show, "Top Chef."

The Massachusetts native is one of six children and learned to cook when he and his siblings took turns cooking for the family. In college, he opted out of an accounting and economics program to earn a degree from the Culinary Institute of America.

In November, Elmi opened his first restaurant, Laurel, in Philadelphia. Then, just this week, the James Beard Foundation named it a semi-finalist in the Best New Restaurant category.

Elmi joined "CBS This Morning: Saturday" and shared his ultimate dish of rustic cacciucco, a fish stew.

Rustic cacciucco

2 6 oz portions of bone in monk fish

12 little neck clams

4 oz calamari tubes cut into 1/2 rings and bodies split

12 mussels

10 ea "20/30" scallops

2 shallot sliced

1/2 fennel sliced thin against the grain

1 tsp tomato paste

1 head garlic peeled and sliced thin

1 tbl anchovy paste

1 cup vermouth

1 16 oz can of tomatoes crushed

Red pepper flake

Olive oil

2 tbl chiffonade of parsley

1.  Season and lightly saute the monkfish until golden.

2.  Add the vegetable and cook slowly until translucent. Add tomato paste and anchovy paste and sauté until fragrant, deglaze with vermouth and cook down by 2/3.

3.  Add the crushed tomato and simmer very low for about 25 minutes or until the monkfish is cooked. Remove the monkfish and reserve warm.

4.  Add a good tablespoon of red pepper flake and the clams. Simmer for 5 min then add the scallop, mussels and calamari tubes and bodies.

5.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the mussel and clams are open and the scallops are just cooked medium. Timing should work out perfectly.

6.  Finish with parsley. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with the monk fish.


1 head of broccoli broken into medium sized florettes

4 cloves or garlic sliced thin

1 shallot minced

3 oz of guanciale

1 tbl olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees in a medium high heat heavy cast iron saute pan add the olive oil. Add the broccoli, garlic, shallot and guanciale at the same time.

2.  Season with salt and black pepper and place in the oven for about 8-10 minutes.

3.  When its done the broccoli should be just cooked and the garlic, shallot and guanciale should have taken on a brown color.

4.  If not continue to cook quickly on high heat on the cooktop. Season. Toss everything together nice and serve

Fresh ricotta gnocchi with pancetta, garlic and sourdough breadcrumbs

1000 g fresh ricotta

300 g "00" flour

7 egg yolks

22 g salt

One egg

15 g minced chive

4 oz pancetta diced small

1 tbl minced garlic

1 top parsley chopped

1 tbl lemon juice

2 tbl butter

Salt and black pepper

Sourdough crouton cooked in butter until crisp.

Some reserved cooking liquid from the gnocchi.

1.  Paddle the ricotta until smooth in a kitchen aide.

2.  Slowly add the rest of the ingredients mixing on low.

3.  Once the mixture is smooth transfer to a piping bag and let rest for 1 hour.

4.  Bring a pot of water to a simmer.

5.  Cut off the tip of the piping bag and over the water pipe and cut out small dumplings of the mixture. Let cook for 2 minutes then remove and lay on a sheet tray to let cool.

6.  Saute the pancetta until it renders out and becomes crispy.

7.  Add the garlic and sauté until brown.

8.  De-glaze with a splash of the cooking water.

9.  Add a few handfuls of gnocchi and warm slowly.

10.  Add the parsley and lemon juice.

11.  Season and emulsify with butter. Scoop into a bowl and garnish with sourdough bread crumbs.

Grilled red onion with oregano and aged balsamic

4 onions cut into 1/2" pieces

Olive oil

3 sprigs of oregano

2 tbl 12 or 25 yr aged dark balsamic

Black pepper

1.  Turn the grill on medium high heat.

2.  Lightly dress the onions with olive oil and salt.

3.  Grill until lightly marked and cooked through.

4.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

5.  Drizzle dark balsamic, a little olive oil, cracked black pepper and a fair amount of picked oregano leaves and serve.

Sweet polenta with either candied lemon zest or orange marmalade

Orange marmalade or candies lemon zests

1 cup rustic coarse polenta

4 cup spring water

1/4 cup lemon juice

Zest of 4 lemons

2 tbl butter

Pinch of salt

A few bigger pinches of sugar

1.  Place the polenta and 4 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed 2 1/2-quart saucepan (preferably one with flared sides) and stir to combine.

2.  Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes.

3.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are soft and hold their shape on a spoon, about 1 hour.

4.  Whisk in the salt, sugar, butter, lemon juice and zest. Garnish with the marmalade and/or candied lemon zest.