Memorize this fact about apple pie making, and you’ll be set for life: it’s not about the recipe, it’s about your state of mind.
That nugget comes from Craig’s dad, the master of apple pie (see here), who’s said to me, in the past: “I think you’re overthinking it.” And in the past I had overthought it over and over again. But the truth is once you understand the WHY of everything, the rest takes care of itself. And that’s what helped me produce the best apple pie I’ve ever made, the one you see above.
[Sometimes I think that Craig’s dad, Steve Johnson, writes more popular posts than I do when he’s at the helm of my site. Here he is, joining the Sauce Week fray, with a Lemon-Caper Beurre Blanc that I hope he makes for me the next time I visit Bellingham. Take it away, Steve!]
Several years ago, when I was developing a real interest in home cooking, my friend and I took an evening cooking class sponsored by our local community college. The recipes and instruction were from Joe Merkling, then chef of the restaurant at the Bellwether Hotel in Bellingham. The dishes he demonstrated that evening included Panko-crusted chicken breasts with a butter sauce. The sauce we made was a classic French beurre blanc (white butter), enhanced with lemon juice, capers and parsley. It was so delicious, so decadent and so rich that when Adam Roberts, The Amateur Gourmet, invited me to do a post during “Sauce Week”, I jumped at the chance. What a perfect excuse to make a sauce that uses a whole cup of butter, heavy cream and herbs!
I don’t know if Instagram is making me seem like a good photographer or if I’m really a good photographer and I didn’t know that until I had Instagram. Either way, look at that picture I took of Craig standing on rocks the day we arrived on Eliza Island, where Craig’s parents have a cabin in the San Juans. If Annie Leibovitz saw that she’d be like, “I give up…I can’t top that!” See the purple sea stars in the foreground? That’s my favorite part. But this post isn’t about purple sea stars (though I wonder if you can eat them?); it’s about going clamming with Craig’s dad, Steve, the next day.
A few months ago–what seems like an eternity ago–Craig’s mom, Julee, asked if I’d be willing to donate a cookbook dinner for a charity auction to benefit the Whatcom Center for Early Learning in Bellingham, Washington, where she and Craig’s dad, Steve, live. I said, “Sure” and didn’t think twice about it. Of course I’d be happy to cook a dinner for charity, no biggie. Then I forgot all about it. Months passed and then Julee reached back out: the auction item was a big hit. Two couples had paid money (real money) for a meal that would be cooked by yours truly for them and four other people (they could each bring two more people) based on recipes from my cookbook SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS. This was really happening. Holy crap, what was I going to cook?
[Back in December, Craig was shooting his movie in New York and Craig’s parents came to visit the set. While we were hanging out, I received an e-mail from a company called Sous Vide Supreme offering to send me a “demi” Sous Vide machine to write about on my blog. I politely refused (don’t have the space for it in L.A.) and mentioned it to Craig’s dad, Steve. “Oh gee,” he said, “I’d love to try some sous vide cooking at home.” “Well,” I said, “I could have them send the machine to you if you’d agree to do a guest post?” Julee, Craig’s mom and Steve’s wife, interjected: “Now Steve, do we really have room for that?” Steve brushed off her worry: “Let’s do it!” What follows is Steve’s account of cooking sous vide for the first time. Hopefully this is the first in a series of Steve’s sous vide cooking adventures. Take it away, Steve!]
Every year, Craig’s dad, Steve, makes the most amazing prime rib for Christmas dinner (see here) and every year I help out the best I can, usually volunteering to make a side dish. Last year I made a gratin but this year, since mashed potatoes were already on the menu, I offered up a vegetable. At my request, Craig’s mom (Julee) bought me a bag of Brussels sprouts from the grocery store and when the dinner hour grew close, I opened their refrigerator and pulled out a bevy of ingredients to help in my enterprise.
Christmas Dinner isn’t something I ever ate growing up, being a Jew and all.
For the past few years, though, I’ve been visiting Craig’s family in Bellingham, Washington and Craig’s dad, Steve–a really excellent cook (see his apple pie)–has made some kind of roast to serve on the big night. And this year the prime rib that he made–a “well-marbled ten pounder,” he tells me over e-mail–was so juicy and flavorful, it’s entered the sphere of legend. We’ll be comparing all the prime ribs we eat from now on to this one. What made it so good? How did he do it?