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Well hello there,
If you're anything like me, you're sick of Thanksgiving content (even though the big day's tomorrow). There's only so many ways to cook a turkey and every year food magazines rehash the same recipes over and over again with subtle tweaks that make them seem entirely new. As for me, I'm perfectly happy to go to a buffet with my parents at their golf club in Boca Raton, Florida where you get the Thanksgiving Greatest Hits with none of the fuss. And that leaves plenty of room to concentrate on far more exciting gastronomical ventures, like Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Everyday Dorie.
There aren't many people in life that you can genuinely describe as "magical," but Dorie Greenspan is definitely one of them. I first met her when I lived in New York and she was serving up her butter-rich sables at a food event in the Chelsea Market. I'd never tasted a cookie quite like it--it was just butter, sugar, and flour with a little salt--but it was positively sublime; sweet and creamy and light all at once. Dorie took a shine to me and pretty soon I'd run into her in the West Village and she'd invite me to join her and her husband and their son at their table at the now-defunct Blue Ribbon Bakery. No matter the context, she makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Dorie's recipes reflect that same magical spirit. They're instantly inviting but also sophisticated. And her latest book is maybe my favorite of the bunch because these are the real, everyday dishes that Dorie makes for her family and friends. I decided, on Saturday, to cook three dishes out of the book for my friends Harry and Cris; it was a very belated birthday dinner for Harry (his birthday was six weeks ago) but this meal more than made up for it: they went crazy for every course. And Cris is French, so you know his standards are tres high.
So without further ado, let me show you what I made.
What I've Been Cooking:
1. Caramel-Pear Five-Spice Upside-Down Cake.
This recipe (which is the lead photo in this newsletter, in case you want to see the dramatic finish) was such a thrill to make, I can't wait to make it again. It's basically a tarte tatin, something that always terrified me, but of course Dorie makes the whole process a cinch. You warm the cake pan in the oven on a baking sheet while you make your caramel.
Then, when the caramel's a darker color than that, you add lemon juice (careful! it spatters), pour it into the warmed cake pan and swirl it around. On top of that, you add two sliced up pears. (Yes, she uses pears instead of apples because that's what makes Dorie Dorie!)
The greatest part, though, is the batter which you make insanely fast in the food processor. Just pop in your dry ingredients (including Chinese five-spice powder, which gives the cake an elusive, seductive taste), Canola oil, eggs, and some yogurt, blitz them all together, and there you go.
Pour the batter on top of the pears, pop everything into the oven, and in less than hour your apartment will smell amazing. Then comes the stressful part. The flipping. I was very methodoical in my cutting around the rim to make sure it'd detach. Then I flipped everything, including the baking sheet and Silpat, on to my cake stand.
When the moment came (I captured it all in my Instagram stories) there was a small moment when I thought the cake wasn't going to come out. So I slapped the pan a few times with my oven-mitted hand and then lifted and voila: the gorgeous cake you saw at the top.
And how it tasted! That caramel flavor gives everything a smokiness and a depth. Harry was a very happy birthday boy indeed.
2. Bourbon-Roasted Pork Loin with Apples and Onions.
Someone recently asked me if there's anything I'm afraid to cook and I answered, "Expensive roasts." It's true: the stakes seem so high when you go out and buy a big impressive piece of meat. I tend to stick to chicken and pasta (in case you couldn't tell from all of the chicken and pasta in my newsletters).
But because it was Harry's birthday, and because there was such an enticing recipe in Dorie's book, I decided to make a pork loin for the big dinner. I called my regular butcher, McCall's, but they couldn't get a three-pound pork loin until Tuesday. So I decided to call Gwen, Curtis Stone's meat restaurant and butcher shop on Sunset Boulevard, where we went once for Craig's birthday. Sure enough, they had a reasonably priced pork loin ready to be picked up in just a few hours. So I made my way to Gwen and purchased a pork loin so beautiful it could basically cook itself:
I mean, seriously: a piece of meat that beautiful would be almost impossible to screw up.
And Dorie's recipe does the total opposite; it elevates it to something out of this world. Here are the key ingredients:
From left-to-right: Bourbon, grainy mustard, honey, brown sugar, and Sriracha.
You mix those together, in Dorie's secret proportions, and rub the mixture all over the pork. She says to marinate it for a maximum of eight hours, so that's exactly what I did. When it's time to cook, you simply take it out of the container you marinated it in and place on top of a bunch of onions and apples that you've sauteed in a Dutch oven.
Into a 375 oven it goes and it comes out when it reaches an internal temperature of between 135 and 140 degrees (it pays to have a probe thermometer for a recipe like this). Hello, gorgeous.
Let that rest for a little bit, then slice and serve with the apples and onions (see top image), and it's basically the ultimate fall meal. Take that, Thanksgiving turkey!
3. Salmon Rillettes.
But the dish that had everyone going nuts (even Winston, the dog) was the first one that I served: Dorie's salmon rillettes.
We actually had Dorie's version of these rillettes in her Paris apartment last year when Craig and I journeyed to France and she invited us over for a cocktail with her husband Michael before our dinner at Verjus. Dorie served hers in an elegant little jar; I served mine in a bowl that I brought back from Spain, but the effect was the same: they're impossible to stop eating. It's basically the ultimate salmon dip.
The process, I'll admit, seems a little strange when you're doing it. You poach a fresh fillet of salmon in white wine with two scallions and a slice of lemon.
Once poached (mostly off the heat), you refrigerate the fillet while you get on with the rest.
That entails beating the white parts of the scallion, a shallot, and lemon zest into two tablespoons of softened butter.
Then you chop up a bunch of smoked salmon...
...fold that into the butter. In a separate bowl, you mix together mayonnaise (just 1/4 cup), mustard, capers, and lemon juice.
Finally, you add in the cooked salmon, and fold in the butter mixture, along with a bunch of chopped dill (I left out the cilantro), and it kind of looks like cat food when you're done.
But man oh man, if people didn't gobble this up. When Craig talked to his parents the next day, he kept raving about the salmon rillettes. He even searched in the refrigerator to see if there was any left (there wasn't). So if you try one thing from this cookbook, make the salmon rillettes for your next dinner party. You won't regret it.
(I served it with baguette slices that I brushed with olive oil and toasted in a 400 degree oven.)
4. Caesar Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs.
This isn't a Dorie recipe (and I made this before romaine was illegal), but one of our favorite restaurants, Blair's, sprinkles toasted breadcrumbs on their Caesar salad, so, the other night, I made a Caesar for our friends Lucas and Matt and decided to give it a try. I had leftover white bread from the previous week, so I just cut off the crusts...
I pulsed the insides in the food processor...
Then tossed into a skillet with a glug of olive oil. My goal was to cook it slowly on medium heat until they turned deep, dark brown, without burning. I think I did ok!
Once there, I sprinkled with salt and set aside. Then, when the Caesar was done (here's my recipe), I sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top. Look at the happy customers.
5. Seafood Pasta.
This meal was actually another belated birthday meal, this one for Matt.
So I decided to make the pasta extra special by adding seafood. Basically, I just made a spicy tomato sauce with canned cherry tomatoes (they sell them at McCall's here in L.A.) and, at the very end, added the raw shrimp to the hot sauce to cook (it takes just a few minutes). Meanwhile, in a skillet, I seared the scallops until they were golden brown on one side. If you're patient, they'll detach naturally when they're ready; if you're not, you'll get some tears. I think you can tell where I succeeded and where I failed.
Remove the shrimp from the tomato sauce, and set the scallops aside. Cook your pasta (I used fresh bucatini, which they also sell at McCall's) in plenty of salted water, then add to the pot with the shrimp-enriched tomato sauce.
Toss all around until the pasta absorbs the sauce. Twirl on to plates, top with the seafood, and sprinkle with plenty of parsley. It's definitely a crowd-pleaser, though a little stressful for the chef.
Where I've Been Eating:
1. Lunch at Gwen.
Since I was going to Gwen to get the pork loin, I decided to grab lunch there too. What a great secret: such a fancy, high-end restaurant has such a great, reasonably priced lunch. I ordered the tuna sandwich and out came what you see above; lovingly made with hard-boiled eggs and served onx truly delicious bread, with, what I believe to be, house-made potato chips and a pickle. I'm definitely going back.
2. Little Dom's.
I met my pals Lewaa and Damir on The Real O'Neals three years ago and they're both continuing to take Hollywood by storm. We decided to catch up over dinner at Little Dom's, which is the ultimate L.A. watering hole (well, at least on the east side).
Lewaa and Damir had pizza, but I decided to go big and order the steak.
I liked the Parmesan and arugula underneath.
3. The Fat Dog.
There are very few places that you can take your dog for lunch in L.A. The Fat Dog is one of them.
I took Winston there on Thursday and ordered a burger because I suppose I'm going through a red meat phase? (This may be related to losing almost ten pounds during my stomach saga in October).
Winston didn't get any, but he had fun ogling the chihuahua at the next table.
Links & Things:
[This is just a friendly reminder to freshen up your wintery spices, especially your cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg... and if you've never grated whole nutmeg, you're in for a treat. It's especially good on top of homemade eggnog!]
* The 2018 Eater Holiday Gift Guide (I kind of want everything on it?), Eater
* Pie Queen Nicole Rucker’s Fairfax Restaurant Feels Like an LA Touchpoint (love Nicole, so excited for her!), Eater LA
* Los Angeles Times Names Two Restaurant Critics To Replace Jonathan Gold, New York Times (so happy for Bill Addison; I’ve met him a few times and he’s the nicest guy)
* Take It From A Butcher: A Turducken Really Isn’t Worth The Trouble, The Washington Post
* I Found The Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It, Thrillist.
* Jellied Cranberry Sauce is the Best Part of Thanksgiving, Buzzfeed (Note: I wildly disagree with this.)
* 10 of the Best Pizza Slices in N.Y.C., The New York Times
Craig took me to the premiere of The Favorite on Friday night, starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, and if you haven't seen the preview for this, you're in for a treat: it's wicked good fun, and surprisingly moving too. But my favorite movie of the year has to be the one I saw by myself last Thursday since Craig saw it already: Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. I loved every second of this movie. It features so many of my favorite things: book stores, cats, gay people, the West Village (including Julius, one of our favorite gay bars there). But the story is so good and moving; I'd tell you my favorite scene, but I don't want to spoil it (it involves smell). Definitely check it out, if you haven't already.
Otherwise, I just started reading William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade since he passed away last week and I've always meant to read this legendary book. He has a such a charming, winning voice.
Ok, folks... this was quite a newsletter! And not one recipe for turkey.
Have a great Thanksgiving and let's catch up next week, OK?