Recipe Off-Roading

What Dorie Greenspan Cooks for Dinner After Baking Cookies All Day

And why she never makes roast chicken the same way twice.

June 24, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Welcome to Recipe Off-Roading, where the recipe isn’t in charge—you are. In this series of articles, we’re celebrating how cooks take liberties in the kitchen, whether that’s substituting an ingredient, adapting a technique, or doubling the salt (because you’re wild like that). So buckle up and let’s go for a ride.

If I want a wonderful recipe for chocolate chip cookies, I ask Dorie Greenspan. And if I want a wonderful recipe for cherry crumb tart or mocha-marbled bundt cake or even butter-poached scallops, I ask...Dorie Greenspan.

Let me guess: you do too.

The author of 13 cookbooks—most recently, Everyday Dorie—and winner of five James Beard Awards (yep, five), Dorie’s recipes are famously reliable, encouraging, and delicious. They’re also free-spirited, with countless “Playing Around” postscripts, telling readers how to substitute ingredients and change up instructions.

That’s why I couldn’t wait to talk to her for our Recipe Off-Roading series, all about ditching the rules in the kitchen. Do bakers ditch rules? And what does Dorie make for dinner after testing a bunch of cookie recipes?

Here’s all that and more. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

EMMA LAPERRUQUE: After spending all day recipe developing baked goods and desserts, what's your go-to not-recipe for dinner?

DORIE GREENSPAN: I have a few go-to not-recipes. One is a vegetable soup made with whatever I’ve got. It goes something like: Sauté onions, garlic and—if you’ve got it and want it—celery, a sprigs of herbs, and maybe some ginger. Pour in about six cups of broth. Drop in a pound or so of cut-up vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, and broccoli. Add a potato if there’s one around and you want a thicker soup. Simmer until the vegetables are mashable. Puree, or don’t. Soup, bread, salad, and cheese makes dinner.

I’ll also spatchcock a chicken and roast it in a cast-iron skillet. I’ll soften some butter with herbs and spices and run it under the bird’s skin or, if I’m in a hurry, on the skin, tuck garlic and onions and whatever I’ve got under the bird, add some wine and broth and slide the set-up into a hot oven to cook through.

Editor’s note: Want the full recipe? Check out Dorie’s latest book, Everyday Dorie!

EL: What are some ways you like to riff on roast chicken?

DG: I don’t think I ever make the same seasoned butter to go under or over the bird’s skin. It all depends on what’s around and who’s coming for dinner. My husband doesn’t like things too spicy, but if he’s not going to be at the table, I’ll go for a harissa or hot sauce blend. If I’ve got a few small potatoes or some carrots or leeks, I might add them to the skillet. And sometimes I’ll boil down the liquid to make a pan sauce, but most of the time I won’t—I’ll just encourage everyone to dunk bread into the skillet and enjoy.

EL: Do you have a go-to not-recipe for dessert?

DG: I have several go-to not-recipes for dessert, but my most favorite is an ice cream sundae. It can be as simple as a couple of scoops of ice cream with some crunchies in between, or it can be a tower of ice cream, nuts, fruit (dried or fresh), sauce, and whipped cream. My Salted-Chocolate Hot-Fudge Sundae is one of my signature desserts. The basics are:

  • Ice cream
  • Hot-fudge sauce—I make my own since it keeps forever in the fridge, but store-bought works
  • Chunklets of dark, salted chocolate—you can chop up a favorite chocolate bar, but I make these myself by melting chocolate and salt, letting the chocolate harden and then chopping it and stowing it in the freezer for sundae days
  • Toasted nuts
  • Whipped cream

That’s the fully-loaded version, but you can swap or omit any of the elements, add berries, sneak in some cracked pepper to go with the salt, make a different sauce. It’s just a template, which is why I love it.

EL: A lot of people are hesitant to riff on baking recipes, but I love how your cookbooks encourage people to get creative. What advice would you give to aspiring dessert recipe off-roaders?

DG: Baking recipes are most riffable if you just fiddle around the edges. Keep the basic recipe and think about changing a spice, adding fruit or nuts, substituting a small part of the flour for cocoa or almond meal or whole wheat flour, or using a different size pan. Change the frosting on a cake. Make a pie with different fruit, or a different crust, or only a top crust, or use the filling to make a crisp or a cobbler. If you hold on to the bones of the recipes, you’ll be just fine. You’ll also end up with a dessert you can call your own, and that’s a pretty great thing.

More Dorie Recipes!

What’s your favorite recipe by Dorie Greenspan? (Okay, okay, you can pick more than one.) Tell us in the comments.
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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Terri S. July 15, 2019
Dorie's World Peace Cookies are my all-time favorite cookie, and I will not make a stew without consulting her "go-to" beef stew recipe(s). Fantastic! I have two Dorie Cookbooks (Around my French Table and Everyday Dorie) and refer to them often for a recipe or ideas. I do love her casual approach (play around) and her stories. Thank you Dorie!
tastysweet July 16, 2019
I just had to laugh after reading Dori’s article on her Milanese Crispy chicken.
She apparently had a fire after trying to make frozen French fries. I believe she was a young gal at the time. She did what I did.
When I was first married, I was bored while my husband was watching football. I had made homemade fries before, so why not do them.
Being impatient, I poured the oil in the pot and covered it. Took off cover, just like she had and puff. My husband heard that poof, ran in the kitchen, took off his robe he just got as a present, and covered the pot and thru it out in the driveway.......forgetting he had no clothes on and the neighbors were in their driveway across the street😂😂😂. We had thank heavens no damage except we were up most of the night cleaning cabinets and walls. Haven’t fried ff since.
Carol L. July 12, 2019
I love the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good from Around My French Table. I’ve been making it for years. Now our tradition is to make it Christmas morning pop it in the oven on the delay bake. We go to the movies and when we come home the house smells great and we are treated to a Delicious dinner.
Lindsay S. July 12, 2019
I was just coming on here bc I’m making her Milanese crispy chicken and salad for dinner, though I think I have it memorized now! The whole family loves it.
Ann T. July 12, 2019
Is there a recipe for the soup - tomato? - pictured at the top of this article? It looks like what I always want tomato soup to be.
Jlyka34 July 15, 2019
Ann T. July 15, 2019
Thank you!
Lisa B. June 30, 2019
There are so many! Old favorites: for sweet, the apple cake in Around My French Table; for savory, the asparagus with eggs. New favorites: the new gougere recipe, and the acorn squash with harissa sauce.
Green R. June 25, 2019
I really like her Western Frittata for a quick and satisfying luncheon offering or for dinner.
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
I'm with you on the frittata for quick and satisfying. Add salad and be happy - love recipes like that. xDorie
Mary A. June 24, 2019
Probably the two recipes I go back to most are (unsurprisingly) World Peace cookies and Corniest corn muffins (the latter is actually my favorite, though).
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
WPC forever! Glad that you like the Corniest Corn Muffins so much - I just used a variation of the recipe to make a cornbread and it was perfect. xDorie
Happygoin June 24, 2019
I have a Dorie recipe (I don’t even know the name) for a big cookie you break up. I can make it without the recipe by now. It’s just buttery goodness, especially when made with French butter. (Aw I want some)
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
I have a feeling you're talking about the Salted-Butter Break-up Cookies from Around My French Table. Love them too! If you like them, I think you might also like my Sbrisolona (recipe in Dorie's Cookies) - another break-up cookie -xDorie
Karen S. June 24, 2019
I have a few favorite recipes from Dorie. World peace cookies, warm weather vegetable pot-au-feu and the one I use most of all is her sweet tart dough. I even use this dough to make Christmas cookies!
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
I love what you love. WPC, of course, and the sweet tart dough gets a work-out chez moi. I'm so glad that you found - and like - the vegetable pot-au-feu . I think it's a sleeper! xDorie
Susan G. June 24, 2019
Dorie’s latest chocolate chip recipe in EVERYDAY DORIE is a real winner. I make these at least twice/month!
Two T. June 24, 2019
Me too!
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
YAY! It's a fun cookie, isn't it? I loved that I could make a small change in a classic and end up with something with its own delicious character. So happy you like it. - xDorie
Dorie G. June 28, 2019
Two T - Me too, too!