The Easiest Winter Cocktail

The problem with any cocktail or cookbook is always where to begin. With dozens of options in front of you it seems impossible to choose. But this is the beauty of the new book Be Your Own Bartender. It really starts with just the idea of ‘what should I drink tonight?’ and takes it from there. Through questions and flowcharts it will get you where you need to go. Do I want something light or heavy? Is it cold outside? Am I drinking alone? This book has you covered.

The delightful authors are two of the best experts around- Carey Jones and John McCarthy. The cocktail-loving duo know how to approach cocktails from both the geekiest cocktail side and the simplest consumer perspective. It’s a book for anyone who loves to drink and hates making decisions.

We got them both over to make an easy but perfectly balanced winter treat- the Gin Gingerly!

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Martina McBride Is a Country AND Cooking Sensation

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’re not supposed to be able to sell 14 million albums AND be a great cook. But alas, that’s what you get with Martina McBride. The country music superstar just happens to also be an accomplished cookbook author and her second book, Martina’s Kitchen Mix, was recently released.

Martina came by the kitchen to share a little bit about her book as well as one of her recipes. She was so sweet we might even forgive her for being good at everything.

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What Exactly is a Pu Pu Platter?

I grew up with an American lens to Chinese food. In Charleston, where I was raised we had Chinese food that mirrored a lot of other places across the country, with its own unique dishes. When I moved to New York I started to learn more about more traditional versions of Chinese food but it also gave me an appreciation for the unique sub-culture that is Americanized Chinese cuisine.

One of the best things to me - and apparently, one of the most American - was the Pu Pu Platter. It was a dish that any children who grew up in the latter third of the last century would find familiar. It had everything you could want - fire, spinning and lots of choices.

But as our culture tried to move towards greater authenticity in different cuisines a lot of these stalwarts fell by the wayside. It had been a long time since I saw a Pu Pu Platter on a menu until I recently had dinner at Kings County Imperial. So I just had to sit down with Chef Josh Grinker to get his thoughts and to really hash out the special place of this uniquely multicultural dish

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The Trick to Lattice Pie Crust

I grew up with a grandmother who was all about pie, and she was particularly adept at the perfect pie crust. It was always a lattice and she made it look so effortless.

But of course as I got older and tried doing it on my own I started to feel that there was a lot of effort behind the effortless. I needed someone to take the fear out of my lattice. And Vallery Lomas was just the best possible person.

You might recognize Valerie as the winner of the Great American Baking Show. She has an awesome blog Foodie in New York that is a party-lovers’ dream. Vallery came over to show me her lattice crust secrets and she had so much advice. From the best way to cut the pie crust to the tricks to hide any imperfections I feel like I am ready to take on any pie now.

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The Lighter, Brighter Take on Egg Salad

Certain concepts seem to be stuck in another time. Egg salad always feels that way - a bit heavy and a bit basic with the tweaks in herbs or spices never feeling quite large enough to shift the genre. But that’s where Cal Peternell comes in. His recipes always have the feel of something you should have been making forever but are actually his own special spin. His newest book, Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta, is a delight and is full of semi-vegetarian recipes that all fit that bill. I fell in love with his Salsa Rustica because it feels like a breath of fresh air to the egg salad mold. It serves the same purpose but without any mayo and ingredients to give depth and new life.

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A New Way to Cook Mussels

Some restaurants never fail you and that’s how I feel about Huertas. The Spanish spot has both classics and creative twists but they are always perfectly executed flavor bombs. So I could not have been more excited to learn that the duo behind the restaurant - Jonah Miller and Adler - were writing a book.

The New Spanish is as delightful and creative as Huertas. The book is illustrated with drawings on photos that give you enough whimsy to make you want to take a stab at Spanish cooking. And it has recipes that run the gamut from simple to complex.

Jonah came over to showcase one of the easiest classic recipes, a take on marinated mussels. At Huertas they celebrate conservas - or canned food. While we might balk at it in the US, in Spain this preservation method is beloved and we wanted Jonah to come make the case for it. His recipe for these mussels is the kind of thing you’ll make over and over again, perfect for parties or snacks or just topping a bit of bread.

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The Spaghetti Dish You Can't Live Without

When I first moved to New York, my mother-in-law made sure to pass along a lot of her local ingredient knowledge. With seafood there was one constant: Citarella. She would travel over 20 blocks to get her fish at Citarella because to her there was nothing better.

So when Joe Guerrera- Citarella’s founder and original fishmonger - came out with a book, I knew it was going to be great. The title is succinct perfection: Joe Knows Fish. I had to have Joe over and he decided to share one of his easiest recipes, Spaghetti Vongole. It starts with good pasta and very fresh cockles or littleneck clams. But it’s one of those recipes that takes only a few ingredients and makes something magical.

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Alex Guarnaschelli's Lemon Ginger Cocktail

Every party needs a good cocktail to start and it shouldn’t be made in a vacuum separate from the food. Instead it should all flow together like different elements to the same meal.

Alex Guarnaschelli - chef at Butter and a judge on Food Network’s Chopped - is of the same mindset, which is why she included an entire section for cocktails in her book The Home Cook. So when we had a chance to catch up with her I wanted to get her chef’s perspective on a good cocktail to serve to kick off a party. Her take is a classic and simple lemon ginger concoction that goes perfectly with easy bar snacks.

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