We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.
It's finally arrived, the day we've all been waiting for: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook has hit the shelves. You'd be hard-pressed to find a home cook who doesn't revere Deb Perelman -- and/or wish to chat on the phone about recipes with her. With the 100-plus recipes in her new cookbook (mostly new, with a few old favorites from her blog), Deb's signature chatty style and simple, home-run (and Genius!) recipes comes in print form for the first time.
We talked to Deb about her tripartite cooking influences, her famously tiny kitchen, and more:
1. Describe your all-time favorite meal.
This is where I'm probably supposed to bring up that one time at Per Se or something equally luxurious, but I tend to obsess more over smaller things that I miss, like this casual place we used to go to in Chelsea back when we lived there. Anyway, we'd always drink Sancerre and someone would order escargot and I'd always order this incredible crisp artichoke salad with pistachios and manchego. And we'd always split the roast chicken and the jus, the sauce, was the kind of thing you'd drink with a straw, if everyone at the restaurant promised they would look away at the same time. They had the most perfect bread, the most perfect butter, and the fries, I swear, they were fried in horse fat or something equally un-P.C. and I don't care because they were my platonic ideal of pommes frites and we've missed them terribly since the place got new owners/menus/is no longer worth mentioning. Sigh.
2. How was the book publishing process different from blogging? (Would you do it again?)
I wanted so much for it to be the same because I've been food blogging for six years and I can do this! I've got this! But it wasn't. I think there's a certain amount of panic that sets in for first-time cookbook authors, this idea that the stakes are raised which leads to forgetting everything they know well. Or maybe that was just my experience. I think overtested some recipes; it's a guarantee that on the sixth round, you'll do something that makes the recipe fall apart and you'll pull your hair out and wonder why you were crazy enough to think you should write a book. Again, probably just me! And it took forever -- almost three years beginning to end, at least double the time it would have taken me to put the same amount of original recipes on the site. Finally, it's difficult to put the amount of things you can squeeze into a blog post (8 large photos, 4-paragraph stories, recipes with three headnotes and two footnotes) onto a bookpage. Impossible, actually.
3. What (or who!) are some of your cooking influences?
I'd say they're equally divided into thirds: seasonal/Americana, French with a little Italian, and Jewish/Eastern European. Whenever I try to stay in one area, it doesn't work and I make hamantaschen that are closer to little free-form pastry tartlets, and beef bourguignon turns into a mushroom stew with a Strogonoff-like dollop of sour cream at the end.
4. Your kitchen is tiny. Like, teeny tiny. Do you think having an enormous space would change your cooking style? If you had a magic wand, what's one change you'd make to your current setup?
It's weird because the longer I work in a small kitchen, the less it bothers me. I am not sure at this point that it would change my cooking style, or at least my approach to cooking. I think in the back of my mind I'll always have that alarm that goes off when a dish requires more than two pots or bowls or expects that your oven has room for three trays because even if your kitchen were big enough to accommodate all of that, who'd want to make a big fuss over a recipe? And although I'd like a fridge that doesn't freeze things in the back and a big open kitchen that wasn't adjacent to my son's room (he will wake up if we so much as reheat spaghetti after he goes to bed), I still think my kitchen could be a lot worse. There's a dishwasher. There are bright white cabinets (which make the place feel brighter and bigger than it is) and a cute checkerboard floor. The counter is hideous in person but looks kind of cool in photos. And there's a window, my room has a view! I can pretty much handle all of the negatives because of that.
5. What is one dish in the book that you're really proud of, and why?
Oh man, you're going to make me pick a favorite child, aren't you? Just because it's fall, I'm obsessed again (re-obsessed?) with the apple cider caramels. I made them on such a whim and I knew the process (boiling four whole cups of fresh apple cider down to 1/2 cup of syrup, before adding the butter/brown sugar/cinnamon/sea salt/cream) was crazy but even now when I try them, I still can't believe I pulled it off. They look just like any other caramel, but they taste intensely like my idea of fall bliss.
Want to win a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook? (That is, if you didn't pre-order a copy already...) Answer the question below in the comments section of this post by Tuesday, November 13th at 2pm EST:
What's your favorite SK recipe of all time?
We'll pick 5 random winners and contact you by email -- best of luck!