Main Dishes

Seared Scallops on Sugar Snap Cacio e Pepe

seared scallops

There are certain culinary rules that people memorize like they’re gospel, even though they’re not really rules and those who adhere to them are doing it more out of fear than logic. Case in point: cheese and fish. “In Italy, you never put cheese on fish!” No less an authority than Lidia Bastianich has disproven this on her show where she explains traditions regarding fish and cheese have more to do with geography than gastronomy. (Don’t believe me? Here’s her recipe for a seafood gratin.) Generally, I never put cheese on fish because fish is so delicate. But every so often, if there’s seafood involved with a pasta, I may sprinkle on a little Parmesan. And thus this recipe for seared scallops with sugar snap cacio e pepe was born.

Chicken and Rapini Stir-Fry

chicken rapini stir-fry

Some people collect matchbooks from restaurants, others dinner napkins. Me? I collect cookbooks from the restaurants I’ve been to. On my shelf, you’ll find a Spanish language version of the El Bulli cookbook we collected on our trip there. There are cookbooks from Prune, St. John, Mozza, Lucques, and so many others, too many to list here. One that I bought last summer was the Myers + Chang At Home Cookbook which I bought after our terrific dinner at Myers + Chang in Boston. Not only is a restaurant cookbook a great reminder of your dinner there, it’s full of recipes that’ll conjure up that meal through similar flavors, textures, smells. Like this chicken and rapini stir-fry.

Reverse-Seared Ribeyes

reverse seared ribeyes

Remember that scene in Mary Poppins where they all go up the chimney and come out all sooty? That’s what my dinner guests usually look like when I cook steak. The whole kitchen fills up with black clouds as I sear the meat in a large cast-iron skillet, flipping and continuing to cook while frantically taking the temperature to make sure I stop in time to hit medium-rare. Sometimes I get it right on the first go; other times, I serve the steak and somebody politely says: “Ummm, sorry, but is it supposed to be blue inside?” That all changed this past Saturday when I cooked my usual steakhouse dinner for our friends Marcos and John, only this time the kitchen wasn’t full of smoke and the steaks came out absolutely perfect. The secret? Reverse-seared ribeyes.

Spicy Merguez with Spinach and Borlotti Beans

spicy merguez with spinach and borlotti beans

Every so often you encounter a recipe that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. That was the case when I was thumbing through an old book in my collection: Daniel Boulud’s Braise, which he co-wrote with Melissa Clark back in 2013. This is one of those books that’ve survived many a cookbook cut because (a) braising is my favorite cooking technique (so much reward for such little effort); and (b) the recipes in it are fascinating. Like this recipe for Spicy Merguez with Spinach and Beans. It’s not that shocking to imagine lamb sausage, spinach, and beans together; but the technique is what left me shooketh.

Swiss Chard Lasagna with Gruyère and Hazelnuts

When celebrated food writer David Lebovitz is coming to dinner, you have a lot of planning to do. Do you make something fancy? Something casual? Something French? American? After lots of cookbook perusing and soul-searching, I remembered a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe I saw in The Guardian for Swiss Chard lasagna with Gruyère and hazelnuts. And I thought: “Now that’s something David won’t be expecting!”

Crispy Parmesan Chicken

crispy parmesan chicken

When Craig told me our friend Lucci was coming for dinner on Monday night, I said “great!” I figured I could throw something together, it being a Monday and all. But when Monday rolled around I was at a loss. Do I make something complex, like a stew? Do I make a simple and satisfying soup, like a ribollita? And then it came to me in a flash: Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Escarole Salad. Aka: the fanciest-looking, easiest dinner in the world.

Birthday Enchiladas

When Craig and I first started dating back in 2006, my friend Patty asked what sign he was and when he said Aquarius she weighed that against the fact that I was an Aquarius and concluded: “It’ll never work. Two Aquariuses? I don’t see it.”

Seventeen years later, we’re still two Aquariuses battling it out. And February is of course our favorite month because we both get to celebrate our birthdays. For my birthday this year, we went to Antico Nuovo and ate pasta and ice cream and had a grand old time. For Craig’s birthday this year, we went out to Kato and ate an extravagant tasting menu of exquisitely plated seafood dishes. But before that, I threw another birthday bone Craig’s way (I’m such an Aquarius) and made him a dinner he’s always wanted me to make: his mother’s enchiladas. Only I dialed them up a little and turned them into birthday enchiladas.

Chicken Sauce Piquant

chicken sauce piquant

It’s funny the things that inspire us to cook dinner. I was recently scrolling through TikTok (as one does these days) when a video popped up of Emeril Lagasse making a roux. I’ve long been curious about the process of making a true roux; from everything that I’ve read, it’s a long process — you have to stand there, like you’re making risotto, only instead of twenty minutes, it can take up to an hour. But that process of stirring flour into fat and slowly toasting it creates a base for your soup or stew or gumbo or, in this case, chicken sauce piquant, that not only boosts the flavor, but thickens things into a rich and decadent gravy.

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