A Summer Feast for Todd and Jim


So remember that time that Jim Parsons and his partner Todd Spiewak made my rainbow cookie cake for Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his partner Justin Mikita? Well, since then, Jim and I have been e-mailing and trying to figure out a time for him and Todd to come over for dinner. We finally picked a date–Saturday, August 30th–and we each spent the time leading up to it in different ways: I went to the Pacific Northwest and ate Dungeness crab on a beach; Jim went to the Emmy Awards and picked up his fourth trophy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. At last, the dinner was upon us and it was time for me to cook.

I had two lines of thought concerning what to make: the first was that I could make food that reflects Jim’s background (he’s from Texas) and rumors that he enjoys eating Tex-Mex. This led me to my Homesick Texan Cookbook collection–I now have both terrific books–and though the recipes I picked from them looked absolutely great, I realized I’d be violating one of my main dinner party rules if I made them: cooking stuff you’ve never cooked before. So I filed those away for Jim and Todd dinner #2.

Instead, I focused on my second line of thought concerning what to make: seasonal summer stuff that I like to eat. (End of August, start of September and October is prime time for tomatoes, corn, etc.) The menu that I came up with started with Jasper White’s Corn Chowder (post to follow)…


…and ended with a nectarine blackberry crisp infused with vanilla bean brown butter (that’s what you see in front of Todd and Jim in the lead picture; I’ll also blog that later this week).


In between, for the entree, I combined my go-to dinner party recipe–spicy spatchcocked chicken–with an heirloom tomato panzanella salad inspired by the one in April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig.


I’ve gotta say, this turned out pretty killer; maybe because of the technique I used making it? I did the chicken my normal way–with a spice mix of toasted coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, pequin chiles, and black peppercorns ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle and sprinkled all over the chickens (backbones removed) with lots of salt hours before roasting–but the tomatoes I did a bit differently. Basically, I cut them into wedges and the cherry tomatoes into halves and marinated them in a dressing made with minced garlic and anchovies, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. The salt drew out the moisture from the tomatoes so by dinner time, the tomatoes were sitting in a pool of flavorful tomatoey liquid. That’s when I took my big chunks of sourdough bread–coated in olive oil and toasted in the oven until golden brown–and stirred them into the tomato mixture right before serving, so they soaked up all that tomatoey goodness. It’s a great thing to do this September when tomatoes are at their best.


As for the dinner itself, we all hit it off together smashingly. Turns out, both Todd and Jim have been reading me for years–which is super flattering, especially when they told a story about seeing me on an airplane and being too nervous to say hello! (Well, I guess I am kind of famous.) The best part, though, is that we all had good friendship-energy and this is probably the last time I’ll hang a lantern on our hanging out in such a dramatic way. But it’s not every day that one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood reveals himself as a fan of your food blog and comes over with his delightful partner for dinner, which is why I wrote this post all about it. Now, let’s talk about corn chowder.