For years, I’ve wanted to make a ricotta cheesecake. One time, long ago, I did it in a coffee mug–I was going through a weird phase of my life, then–but that was it. I never actually made a real ricotta cheesecake.
Then, this weekend, I was supposed to bring a dessert to a dinner party. The original plan was to bring a chocolate dessert, but the day before I had a sudden change of heart. “Can I bring a ricotta cheesecake instead?” I asked the host. The host said, “Sure.” I was all set to make the one out of Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano (a wonderful book) until I told Gina DePalma my plan and she let me in on a little secret.
America’s obsession with breasts goes far beyond the pages of Maxim magazine; it’s readily apparent in the poultry section. A large chicken breast for two now costs as much as a whole chicken. And a turkey breast can run as much as $15. America: stop your obsession with cleavage and lower your head a little. See those legs down there? They’re just as meaty, ten times more flavorful and very, very cheap. How cheap? Look how much I paid for these two enormous turkey legs.
At first I wasn’t nervous. Or, at least, I told myself I wasn’t nervous. My friend Barrett Foa, who agreed to come on The Clean Plate Club, told me that his dream food guest would be Suzanne Tracht, the celebrated chef at Jar here in Los Angeles (also, a Top Chef Master). Before I knew it, Chef Tracht agreed to come over and I found myself in a position I’d never been in before: I was going to cook for a chef. I’d never cooked for a chef before. What would I make? How should I serve it? The night before the dinner, I was wide awake in bed, unable to fall asleep.
I was positively giddy about this week’s Clean Plate Club guests: Barrett Foa, who first entered my consciousness as the star of Avenue Q on Broadway and who’s now a regular on one of the most popular shows in the country (NCIS: Los Angeles) and Top Chef Master and culinary legend Suzanne Tracht, chef/owner of Jar. With these guests, we got to talk about two of my favorite subjects: cooking and musical theater! Oh and deforestation. Just kidding, we didn’t talk about deforestation. But here’s some other stuff that’s covered…
Most people who buy malt powder do so to make malteds, not homemade everything bagels. But days after making those bagels, I found myself with a perfectly good carton of malt powder and, having made a chickpea stew for dinner, I figured: “Hey, we deserve some chocolate malteds.” Here’s the thing about chocolate malteds: you don’t make them with chocolate ice cream. You make them with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Here’s a screenplay pitch (boy, I’m getting so L.A.): a young man lives for years without an oven window and then suddenly he moves into an apartment with an oven window. Are you sold yet? The oven window allows him to watch cakes as they cook so he doesn’t have to open the oven to check on them, keeping the heat trapped inside. It also allows him to watch chicken turn golden brown, vegetables sizzle on a baking sheet as they roast. Ok, ok, what if there’s a wacky neighbor played by Jack Black? A villainous oven repairman played by Vince Vaughn? You’re not sold. Fine. Maybe this works better as a memoir…