Backyard Paella

Plus: A Shrimp & Rice Bowl, Radicchio Pasta, and a Trip to Perle.

Hey everyone,

What a food week it’s been! So much to tell you about… including the paella you see above. But let’s start with a few cool things I’ve been working on lately.

First: I made my newspaper food section debut last week! The Washington Post ran my story: How to Host a Post-Vaccine Dinner Party, with THREE original recipes (including a lemon pudding with blueberry whipped cream). Click here to check it out.

Second: I made a new video for my YouTube channel which you can watch here. It features Japanese rice, shrimp with garlic and ginger, and a purple cabbage salad.

Third: I have the coolest guest on Lunch Therapy this week… Celia Sack, who owns and runs Omnivore Books in San Francisco! We talk all about her favorite cookbooks (including which ones she’d save in a fire), growing up in SF, coming out during the AIDS crisis, and how she got into collecting and selling cookbooks. It’s a great talk; you can listen to it on Apple Podcasts here or watch it on the Lunch Therapy YouTube channel, below:


Now back to your regularly scheduled newsletter.

So… we have this neighbor, Arturo, whose dog Frankie is friends with Winston and Arturo has this friend, Felicia, who’s also our neighbor, who recently discovered my Instagram and invited us over on Saturday to hang out in her pool while Arturo cooked up a Spanish feast. Sounded good to me!

Here’s Felicia showing off an artichoke she grew:

And here’s Arturo showing us how to assemble a homemade Spanish tortilla on bread with roasted peppers marinated in vinegar.

There were so many great nibbles, including these chorizo cantimpalito (mini sausages glazed in cider….)

But the main event was the paella, which Arturo made right in front of me in a huge paella pan over a gas burner. He started by cooking chicken pieces, then adding mirepoix…

…to pick up the brown bits. Then there was the rice, and a seafood stock that he made himself, and finally shrimp and clams. The finished paella was so good — better than the one we had in Spain! — and he even achieved that essential crust on the bottom, called socarrat.

They say good fences make good neighbors; but I think good paellas make good neighbors. Thanks for a swell night, Felicia and Arturo!

On Thursday, last week, I made dinner for my friends Ian and Brendan, testing some of the recipes from the Broadway cookbook I’m working on with my friend Gideon. So I can’t tell you the names of these recipes, but there was braised pork…

…with homemade BBQ sauce and coleslaw. And then there was this frozen key lime pie for dessert, which is such a good recipe; I’m really proud of it. Sorry, you have to wait for Fall 2022!

The next night, we hosted our friends Stephen and Stefan, and I made a pasta recipe I can actually tell you about in this newsletter.

What was it? Strozzapreti with bacon, garlic, radicchio, Balsamic, and Parmesan.

It seems really fancy, but it’s a cinch to make. Just cut 4 to 5 strips of bacon into lardons, add to a pot with a splash of olive oil (to help it render), turn up the heat, and when the bacon starts to look golden, add 5 cloves of sliced garlic.

Then, just as the garlic turns golden, add a big pinch of red chili flakes and 2 heads of radicchio sliced thinly.

Stir all around and allow the radicchio to wilt down with the bacon and garlic (you can add a pinch of salt here, but not too much, as the bacon’s salty).

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water and a minute before it’s supposed to be finished according to package instructions, lift it into the pan with the radicchio, bacon, and garlic. Stir all around, add a splash of Balsamic vinegar, and then, off the heat, add lots and lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

Stir all around, taste to adjust for Balsamic and cheese, then serve in warm bowls with more cheese on top. It’s just that easy.

Last night, we went to a new restaurant in Pasadena called Perle with our friends Ben and J.

Bill Addison raved about this place in the L.A. Times and Ben had been meaning to try it, so here we were, and wow oh wow did it live up to the hype.

Here are J and Ben at the table (wow, there are a lot of gay couples in this newsletter).

French food is hard to pull off — there’s so much technique involved — so I was dazzled by how easy Perle made this dinner look. We started with a charcuterie board filled with house-cured meats and sausages and pâté.

Craig had the French onion soup, which I sampled, and ooh la la was it good.

Of course, I had to get the snails, so here’s my escargot which was buttery and garlicky but not too over-the-top, which I appreciated.

For my entree, I had the bouillabaise which was wildly generous with how much fish it contained (including lobster!?!).

And then we all shared this tarte tatin for dessert which came to the table still warm.

This was the kind of unfussy, unpretentious French food that gives French cuisine a good name. Can’t recommend this restaurant enough: Perle is a pearl.

Now for some links that caught my attention recently:

That’s all for this week folks!

As a reminder, the Monday newsletter is free and the Thursday newsletter is for paid-subscribers only. This past week, I wrote an essay: “What I Know About Wine.” If you’d like to get the Thursday newsletter too, here’s the discount code:

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Until next time!

Your friend,