I’m a terrible dancer, though I enjoy dancing. In college, I was in a production of A Funny Thing Happened to the Way to the Forum (I played Hysterium; such typecasting) and learned the box step. That’s the extent of my dancing prowess. Give me a bouncy Sondheim score and a solid square of dance floor, and I’m there.
Back in my blogging bigshot days, publishers would send me free cookbooks. For me, that was better than having Ed McMahon show up at my door with a giant check. I love cookbooks. I have stacks and stacks of them in my kitchen right now because there’s not enough room left on my shelves. (“Maybe you should pull out the ones you don’t use and sell them?” says my well-meaning but delusional husband. “I USE ALL OF THEM!” I reply.)
So imagine my delight the other day when an advanced copy of Gregory Gourdet’s new cookbook, Everyone’s Table, showed up at my door. I’ve been a fan of Gregory’s since he first appeared on Top Chef, and I was really rooting for him when he came back for the All Stars season. Now he’s a judge — a much more comfortable role, I imagine — and it’s great to hear him thoughtfully and gently weigh in on everyone’s dishes.
She urged me to take more chances on recipes that I’d never made before and when we finished I looked at all of the cookbooks in my collection that I hadn’t been using. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m guilty of buying cookbooks on a whim (see: the piles of cookbooks everywhere in our apartment) and the first one that caught my eye was the Kachka cookbook, winner of the 2018 Piglet tournament of cookbooks. I’ve had Kachka for two years and never cooked from it. I flipped it open and immediately landed on the recipe I knew I had to make: short rib borsch.
Remember the end of The Goonies, when the Goonies reunite with their parents and they’re rattling off all of the things that happened to them on their adventure? And Data says, “The octopus was very scary,” even though there wasn’t an octopus, though technically there was an octopus, it was just cut from the movie?
That’s how it feels to tackle an epic recipe. And when it comes to epic recipes, the reigning queen on my bookshelf is Nancy Silverton. Her Frito Pie — which was a three day process — is still one of my proudest culinary moments. That recipe, like the one I’m about to tell you about, comes from her Mozza at Home, a cookbook that doesn’t get enough praise, possibly because it’s affiliated with a restaurant, even though it’s one of the best cookbooks on my shelf. (Put it on your list.)
We’re about to find out. See, I had this idea of buying cookie tins and making a whole assortment of holiday cookies to bring to friends around L.A. a la Melissa Clark’s latest NYT piece. But then I thought: it’s Covid, am I really going to drive all over L.A. dropping off cookies when there’s a stay-at-home order? Plus: if I’m going to make a full assortment of cookies, isn’t that a lot of butter and a lot of time and, honestly, wouldn’t I be better served making the cookies for myself and taking pictures and telling YOU about them? I’m a terrible person; good thing people don’t read this part anyway.
There’s been some debate about whether or not you should serve salad at Thanksgiving.
My stance? A traditional salad — with wan lettuce leaves from a bag, dried cranberries (the most clichéd Thanksgiving salad ingredient), and toasted pecans — is a pretty depressing thing to see on the table, TBH. But, as I get older, my body does crave some kind of crunchy vegetable situation if I’m going to eat a lot of heavy food (turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc). So what’s a Thanksgiving chef to do? Enter the shaved Brussels sprout salad.
There used to a website called “Is It Iced Coffee Weather?” that would tell you whether you should drink hot coffee or iced coffee on a particular day.
I’d like to build a similar website for oats. For me, it’s either overnight oat weather or hot oatmeal weather. Right now, in L.A., we’re on the cusp. Yesterday, the weather was in the 80s; this morning, it was in the 50s. Usually I make my decision the night before: if it’s hot oatmeal, I put a cup of steel-cut oats in a pot, cover with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover so they’ll cook up in ten minutes the next morning. Last night, though, I opened my refrigerator and saw a mostly-empty yogurt container. That was the universe telling me it was time to overnight oat.
Back in the before time, in November of 2018 to be exact, the chef Nancy Silverton hosted a grilled cheese night at Republique here in L.A. Republique — one of the best restaurants in L.A., if not the best (see here) — is the site of Nancy Silverton’s iconic restaurant of yore, Campanile. There, with her then-husband Mark Peel, Nancy would have a regular grilled cheese night which was especially popular because of the bread she used, from her own La Brea Bakery which was next door.
So this grilled cheese night harkened back to the original grilled cheese night and Nancy’s signature grilled cheese — The Nancy — was offered on the menu. I ate it and delighted at the combination of onions (which I remembered as being caramelized but now see were marinated), grainy mustard, and lots of Gruyère.