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.)
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.
I’m very suspicious of tomatoes. Even in July, I raise an eyebrow when I see a beautiful heirloom: “Nice try,” I’ll say. “But we all know you’re not at your best until August at the earliest, most likely September.”
But yesterday I journeyed to Cookbook in Echo Park (you’ll be hearing about that place a lot: it’s pretty much the best food store in L.A.), and there they were: tomatoes that seemed to be peak summer tomatoes. How did I know? The colors were bright, the textures had just the right amount of give, I popped a sungold into my mouth and it exploded with sunshine.
Hi, so we’re going to Provincetown next week and I’ll be off the grid and I wanted to leave you with one more post before I go. Here’s one about two lasagnas.
Our friend and neighbor Kyle had a birthday last week and I offered to cook him a dinner. I could tell he was excited about the idea of a meat lasagna, but one of the guests didn’t eat pork, so I had two options: 1. Disappoint Kyle and make a big vegetarian lasagna (no meat!); or 2. Make TWO lasagnas, one meat, one vegetarian. I’m thinking, by the title of this post, you’ve already figured out which path I chose…
[One of my favorite people in the food world–actually, in the world period–is the brilliant writer/chef/pastry chef Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano and former pastry chef at Babbo. If you’re not following her on Twitter or reading her blog, you really should; it’s excellent. And here she is with a sauce that’ll make all of you cheese-lovers swoon. Take it away, Gina!]
When Adam approached me about making a contribution to his Sauce Week, it didn’t take long for fonduta to spring up in my head as an ideal candidate. A classic recipe from Italy’s Northwestern region of Piemonte, fonduta isn’t exactly a sauce, but more of dish itself, yet it has all the qualities of a great sauce – it naps and slicks seductively, adds richness and flavor, and is so darn good it is hard not to pour it directly down your throat.
This year, on Craig’s birthday, I had a revelation. My usual instinct to take him out to a fancy dinner on the big day (a tradition that began with an epic meal at Per Se back in 2008) really has nothing to do with Craig’s interests or wants and everything to do with my own. Who likes fancy dinners? I do, not Craig. So this year I asked him point blank if he wanted to go out for a fancy dinner on the occasion and he said he’d actually like it better if I made the dinner here at home. I have to admit, that was pretty flattering–given the option of Thomas Keller food or Adam Roberts food, Craig picked the latter. I knew I had to make this dinner special.
When you’re having friends over for dinner at 7:30, and it’s getting on in the day, time grows precious and you have to prioritize. Do you spend it shopping or do you spend it cooking? More often than not, I spend it cooking. My usual cooking routine goes: rush to Gelson’s, gather up overpriced ingredients, hurry home, make the dessert, assemble the entree, get things ready for the appetizer and drink a glass of wine while listening to “The Music Man” just as the guests show up. But last week I changed my dinner party strategy. Instead of spending most of my time in the kitchen, I spent it on the road, gathering up great ingredients to see if it made a difference. And you know what? It totally did. That strategy yielded better results than if I’d spent that same time stirring over a stove. Here’s why.
Enchiladas have come into my life in a big way. It started when Craig talked about his mom’s enchiladas in the first episode of The Clean Plate Club. That inspired his mom, a week later, to make her famous enchiladas for dinner when we were all up in Bellingham. Her recipe is hand-written on an old, barely intact index card; bacon drippings are involved (though, in a pinch, she uses butter). Here’s a picture of the card.