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.
As far as arrivals to one of my dinner parties go, last night was maybe the most dramatic of all time. I was making a chicken and sausage dish from Nancy Silverton’s under-appreciated cookbook Mozza at Home (I seriously consider it one of the best cookbooks to come out in recent years) and I’d cranked the oven up to 450, despite the fact that some of the liquid had spilled on to the oven floor. Well! That liquid sent PLUMES of smoke out of the oven, so much so that two things happened: all four smoke alarms in our apartment started going off; and the air became noxious with the scents of vinegar and burning. Which is exactly when our guests arrived.
Cookies, cookies everywhere and not a chocolate chip cookie in sight. Look, let’s be honest about Christmas cookies: they’re fun to look at but are they really fun to eat? Most of them taste like cardboard with over-sweetened frosting slathered on. While everyone tries to reproduce the cover of Bon Appetit (which is, admittedly, pretty stunning), why don’t you do what I’d do and make a batch of these comforting, hot from the oven chocolate chip cookies from one of America’s greatest bakers? As someone who makes a lot of chocolate chip cookies (Martha’s, whole wheat, Eric Wolitzky’s, ones with cranberries and oats) these may be the most wholesome and comforting I’ve yet made, partially because they’re packed with walnuts.
My life in New York was all about the newest and latest cookbooks, poring through them at The Strand and carefully calculating which ones were worth the price of purchase. In L.A., though, I’m all about finding old, tattered cookbooks at used book stores, both at Counterpoint Records in Franklin Village and Alias Books East in Atwater Village. At the latter, recently, I came upon The Campanile Cookbook which was written by two of America’s greatest chefs back when they were married: Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton. The recipe that sold me instantly is the one I’m about to share with you now.
If California falls into the ocean some day, and I find myself living back in New York, you might think that Pizzeria Mozza would be the last place I’d miss with Franny’s and Roberta’s and all the other individual pie places (Motorino, Co., etc.) that would fill that gap. You’d be wrong, though, because Mozza is a lot more than a pizza restaurant. As Amateur Gourmet reader (and Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera”) Kyle Barisich said to me recently on Twitter, “I really think Mozza is LA’s finest restaurant.” Can’t say I disagree.
If you know your pasta, you know that the image and the title here don’t match; that’s because, for some reason, they weren’t selling orecchiette the day I went to Gelson’s. I almost threw in the towel but then I thought, “Why don’t I find another pasta shape that’s kind of like orecchiette?” Which is how I wound up with the shells you see in the above photo. And the shells worked really nicely in this pretty phenomenal, though decidedly unhealthy, pasta dinner from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Cookbook.
Last year, I suffered the greatest humiliation of my life–well, except for that time I got pantsed while roller skating on a Jewish teen tour–when my Glenn Cous Cous Salad with Albert Knobs of Feta lost the Best Oscar Dish contest to Tinker Tailor Shepherd’s Pie. This was at a party hosted by my friends John and Michael; and once again, this year, they threw the same party. I had to bring another dish. THIS TIME I WOULD NOT BE DEFEATED.