Teaching My Friend Jonathan How To Cook

The idea of me teaching someone how to cook a few years ago would’ve been pretty laughable. I am, after all, The Amateur Gourmet, not The Gourmet Who Knows Enough About Cooking To Teach Others How To Do It (try loading that into your browser).

But, lately, I have to say, I’ve kind of hit my stride as a cook. I’ve been doing this now for over a decade and I cook meals at home about ten times a week (including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners), and after spending so much time in the kitchen, I guess you do get to a point where you’re more of an authority than not-an-authority. Which is why, when my friend Jonathan talked about wanting to learn how to cook, I said I’d be happy to teach him. I didn’t think he’d actually take me up on it. But then he did take me up on it and, this past Sunday, he was coming over at five PM to learn how to make some stuff. Suddenly I was cast in the role of cooking teacher. This was a lot of pressure!

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My Roast Chicken Secrets Revealed

A year or two ago, I got rid of my roasting pan. Not because I’m anti-roasting pan, or because I needed the space, but because I realized that my roasting pan had a non-stick surface and that I’d been scratching it up with a metal spatula over the years and that there was a teensy, tiny chance I’d been exposing myself and my loved ones to carcinogens whenever I roasted a chicken and that we’re all going to die and it’s all my fault.

So these days, when I roast a chicken, I rely on my largest cast iron skillet. Frankly, I think it works better. And I riff on the beloved Thomas Keller roast chicken recipe, the one I’ve been making for the past eight years, combining assorted root vegetables and potatoes and garlic in the bottom of the pan with a splash of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, and then topping it with a chicken that I stuff with thyme and garlic, also rub with vegetable oil, before sprinkling with lots of salt and pepper. Only, I’ve been much bolder with a certain ingredient to really make my roast chicken shine. Can you guess what it is?

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Grapefruit, Blood Orange, Campari Sorbet

I once wrote a post on here called Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party that was mildly controversial. Craig’s sister Kristin was offended that I included “boneless, skinless chicken breasts,” so on my next visit to Washington State, she cooked up a Chicken Piccata that really put in me in place.

And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.

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Introvert’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Broccolini

People who meet me are often surprised when I describe myself as an introvert. On the surface, I come across as outgoing, exuberant even, but secretly I find human interaction to be very exhausting. Craig, on the other hand, finds human interaction to be incredibly stimulating. Not a surprise, then, that he describes himself as an extrovert. (We once read an article that said that introverts lose energy when they’re around people and that extroverts gain energy when they’re around people, and that made total sense to us.)

And yet, nothing is ever so completely black and white. Despite being mostly introverted, I still enjoy going out (especially to restaurants, surprise surprise) and despite being mostly extroverted, Craig can really enjoy a night in. Which is why, last Saturday when he flew back from New York, we had to have a discussion about our evening. A group of friends were going out and we were invited. I bought ingredients to make a delicious dinner. Craig’s ideal evening was for me to make the dinner and then for us to go out with these friends. My ideal evening was to make the dinner and to lay on the couch watching Project Runway. Ultimately, I gave Craig a choice: (1) we could go out and meet these friends, but if we did that, I’d want to go out to dinner first so I wouldn’t be smelly and also so I’d be motivated to go out; or (2) I could make this delicious dinner, but then we’d have to stay in. Craig puzzled it over for a second and then chose the only acceptable option considering that I’d gone shopping and that I’m his husband and really he’d been away for a week so of course he’d want to stay in, Option 2.

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Love Is Like A Frito Pie

I had some very special guests coming over this past Wednesday and so I spent the weekend before that trying to figure out what to make. My first destination was the top shelf of my cookbook collection, where, as you now know, I keep the books I’m most excited to cook from these days. The book that I reached for was Nancy Silverton’s Mozza at Home which, I’ve come to believe, is Nancy Silverton’s best cookbook.

I own all of Nancy’s books–from her iconic Breads from the La Brea Bakery to The Food of Campanile (which she wrote with her then-husband, Mark Peel)–but this one is really geared towards the home cook, much more so than the others. Sure, it’s nice to know how she makes her sourdough bread (and I made that recipe once from Breads from the La Brea Bakery, almost a decade ago, creating a wild yeast starter with grapes and flour and water in an open Tupperware container… my roommate Lauren wasn’t thrilled), but it’s even better to know how she feeds her actual friends who are coming over for dinner. And as I flipped through the pages, I suddenly found my answer in the least likely recipe you’d ever expect to find in a Nancy Silverton cookbook: her version of Dean Fearing’s Frito Pie.

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Everybody Loves Romano Beans

Recently on Twitter, someone named @Bobby Tweeted: “The worst writing online is those quirky 17-paragraph preambles recipe bloggers post before telling you what to put in your fuckin lasagna.”

You might think that a Tweet like this (which has over 12,000 likes and 3,000 RTs) might enrage someone like me who spent over a decade of my life writing quirky seventeen-paragraph preambles before telling people what to put in their f-ing lasagna, but actually, I totally agree with this Tweet. In fact, this Tweet speaks to why I kind of gave up food blogging two years ago. The writing seemed besides the point; I was just becoming a resource for recipes rather than a person whose words mattered. In a screenplay or a script for a TV show, every word matters; in fact, sometimes you get into hour-long discussions with producers or actors about one or two words that you feel strongly about. So when the writing on food blogs started to feel disposable, I lost interest. What’s the point of writing on here if no one really cares about what you’re saying?

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A Trip To Bologna By Way of Rossoblu in Downtown L.A.

My friend Toby spent a summer in Bologna during college and over the past few weeks (months?) he’s been talking to me about going to this new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A. called Rossoblu that cooks food from the region. “Yes, we should totally go!” I said in that tone that suggests that there’s a good chance this will never happen. Mind you, I love Toby and I loved the idea of going to a new Italian restaurant in downtown L.A., but the logistics seemed a little tricky. For starters: driving downtown, that’s not fun. Plus I make a lot of pasta at home, did I really need to pay for it at a restaurant? And reading about it online, it sounded very heavy (fried bread? lots of meats and cheese?). But then it was Toby’s birthday and I said, “We should go to Rossoblu!” in a tone that suggested I really meant it. So last night, we finally went.

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You Know You Want To Stir Ricotta Into Your Pasta

You’re going to start calling me a broken record on here. In fact, me saying that “I’m a broken record on here” feels like something I’ve said before.

Essentially, I’m going to hit a few of the same themes in this post I’ve been hitting lately: (1) watching cooking shows on PBS; (2) going to McCall’s Meat and Fish. Let’s start with PBS. I watch all of the cooking shows on PBS to get ideas and recently I was watching one I’ve never watched before, Nick Stellino’s show. He’s a jovial Italian man who speaks with a thick Italian accent and with lots of enthusiasm for the food he makes. Recently, he was extolling the virtues of his wife’s pasta. Her trick? She stirs ricotta in at the end. I made a mental note to try that someday. That someday happened on Tuesday night.

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