In the kitchen with Dorie
This much seems clear: Nobody doesn’t like Dorie Greenspan. Her cookbooks are treasured. Her legions are growing, as she long ago tapped into the power of the blogosphere. She already has 900 members of a cook-along club for her newest volume: “Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2010), whose reviews have been two snaps up. (It will be included in our cookbook roundup Dec. 1.)
In public appearances, Dorie’s warmth fills the room. She has earned first-name status, and so I'll dispense with journalistic style of last name on second reference. She loves Paris with an enthusiasm that’s infectious and joyous, and even non-Francophiles can fall under her sway.
What few folks get to see is the way she moves in the kitchen – especially when it's one of hers (New York, Westbrook, Conn., Paris). Does she have less-than-endearing quirks, or swear a blue streak when the breads don’t rise?
I got to spend a few hours with Dorie in The Post’s kitchen last week, which yielded small revelations:
She can prep and talk at the same time, which is harder than it seems, all the while professing a lack of organizational skills.
She owns at least six mixers, standing at the ready among the places she lives.
Her denim apron is Paris fashion that was too voluminous for her slim profile. She had it tailored, with darts.
She can cook with her sleeves down, and the cuffs remain clean.
She speaks to food, literally. Coaxes the cheese to mingle nicely, compliments the cream. It’s not unlike listening to gardeners who caress their plants with encouraging words and end up with lush foliage. I may have to give that a try.
Mid-recipe, she addresses the pages of her cookbook in the third person, approaching them as Everycook: What did the author mean at this step? Are we supposed to be looking for a certain consistency? It’s a reality check, even after publication, that the directions are clear and helpful. (An erratum already found and noted in “Around My French Table” was painful, she says.)
When she tests recipes, she makes the thing, tastes it, makes it again and writes it up. Then she gives the recipe to a friend to try.
She’d rather we all go metric. Dorie says the world wants it. (I’m almost convinced.)
She seasons meat after it has been seared in the pan, because she doesn’t care for the taste of burned pepper and believes early salting draws out the moisture.
A cookbook doesn’t have to have photos to be good. New books she’s keen on include Melissa Clark’s “In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite” and Mark Bitterman's “Salted.”
Dorie’s a woman of a certain age, or rather, it's an age she prefers not to divulge. (Once she finally told me, I admit I don’t understand the withholding of fact. It’s not as if she’s in danger of being eclipsed by a newer model.)
Even her gripes are charming. (That last aside was borderline, but I realize this observation strays into sycophant territory.) It’s the way she delivers the pronouncement. The lilt in her voice, the insult, precisely enunciated and damning, the words so well chosen.
With time constraints in mind, we chose to make her Fresh Orange Pork Tenderloin (this week’s Dinner in Minutes), her Top Secret Chocolate Mousse (cheekily named, as it comes from the back of a bar of Nestle Dessert Chocolate), and her Savory Cheese and Chive Bread, a one-bowl quick loaf that is adaptable and delicious.
I had baked ahead for photo purposes, and watched carefully as she assembled her dough. The best you can say about a recipe is that it turns out as intended, and that is the case with this quickbread, in terms of texture and baking time and the book's “Bonne Idee” suggestions for ingredient variations. (Hint: When she mentions a certain type of blue cheese or says “toasted walnuts are a must for this one,” heed the instruction.) A thick, fresh slice of the bread is rewarding, but after the loaf dries out for a day or two, a slice toasted with butter is even better.
The hours passed too quickly. She was off to a reading – not something she’s used to doing, she says. But listening to Dorie through the afternoon made me wish she would publish a series of cook-along audio files. The comforting voice of her books, with her unmistakable delivery, would sell like hotcakes.
-- Bonnie S. Benwick
Savory Cheese and Chive Bread
Makes one 8-by-4 1/2-by-2 3/4-inch loaf (8 servings)
Serve with aperitifs, with a salad for brunch, or lightly toasted and buttered.
MAKE AHEAD: The loaf can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or wrapped well and frozen for up to 2 months.
From Greenspan's "Around My French Table."
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (depending on what cheese you're using)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (may substitute a pinch of cayenne pepper)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 generous cup (about 4 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyere, Comte Emmental or cheddar cheese
2 ounces Gruyere, Comte, Emmental or cheddar cut into very small cubes (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 bunch chives, minced (1/2 cup; may substitute thinly sliced scallions)
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted (optional; see NOTE)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Use butter to grease an 8-by-4 1/2-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pan, preferably Pyrex.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt to taste and the pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl for 1 minute, until foamy, then whisk in the milk and oil.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture; use a sturdy flexible spatula or wooden spoon to gently mix together until moistened, then stir in the grated and cubed cheese, the chives and walnuts, if desired, to form a thick dough. Transfer to the loaf pan and spread to make the dough even on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes, then run a round-edged knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the loaf. Turn it out and cool right side up before cutting and serving.
VARIATION: For a heartier loaf, add the following ingredients: 5 strips of crisped, drained bacon, crumbled; 1 cup of moist dried pears (about 3
NOTE: Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Shake often to keep the nuts from burning.
Per serving: 300 calories, 12 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
Bonnie S. Benwick
| October 21, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Books, Recipes | Tags: Bonnie S. Benwick, Books, recipes
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