Make-ahead apps, room-temperature recipes: Entertaining tips from a pro

October 29, 2018

(Courtesy Ellen Silverman)

Make a weeknight dinner feel like a party (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — Dorie Greenspan’s first experience in the kitchen didn’t result in a well-executed meal — just a big fire.

At 12, Greenspan, now a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, attempted to make french fries for a group of friends — on the stove and in a pot of oil.

“When I lifted the lid, the oil was like what you see in movies of wild, crazy, genie-like fires or something. It was all around the edge of the pot and up in a beautiful pointed flame, and then it was on my parent’s cupboards and the ceilings,” Greenspan recalled.

The incident killed the young chef’s culinary curiosity for the time being, and kept her out of the kitchen until she got married. But once she got back in, she never left. Last month, Greenspan released her 13th cookbook, called “Everyday Dorie.” It’s a collection of go-to recipes the part-time Parisian, part-time New Yorker makes for her family and friends.

Those expecting advanced tutorials and complicated creations are in for a surprise. Greenspan said over the years, her cooking — even when it comes to entertaining — has become simpler and more practical, and her latest book is a reflection of that.

Take, for example, her recipe for gougères — a cheese puff-like appetizer. Greenspan said she makes the savory snack all year long, and keeps the dough in the freezer so she can bake them off at a moment’s notice.

“I use a cookie scoop and scoop [the gougères] out into little rounds — and you can pop those scoops into the freezer. Just put them on a sheet tray, put them in the freezer. When they’re firm, put them in a bag,” said Greenspan, adding that the puffs can be baked directly from frozen.

“If you come to my house tonight, right before I think the doorbell is going to ring, I’m going to bake gougères for you and serve them with white wine. … They’re so simple; they’re so delicious, and they make a Tuesday night dinner feel like a party, so I always have those.”

“There’s the satisfaction of making something, and then there’s the satisfaction of being able to share it with someone — share it with your family, share it with your friends. I think that makes home cooking really worth doing,” said Dorie Greenspan. (Courtesy Ellen Silverman)

Next to the gougères in Greenspan’s freezer are homemade pie crusts, tart shells, rolls of cookie dough (Greenspan’s “world peace” cookies are a cult classic) and other prepped pastry to help her pull off a last-minute fête.

“My freezer looks like a party ready to happen,” Greenspan said. “Any time you can get a jump on something, it makes it so much easier and you feel so much better.”

Hot isn't always best (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

Another trick of Greenspan’s, when it comes to entertaining, is to serve foods that can be enjoyed at room temperature. Her recipe for oven-charred, tomato-stuffed peppers (which she unabashedly claims as her favorite in the new book) is a perfect example of something that can be made ahead and enjoyed hot, warm or at room temperature.

“It’s one of these dishes where in a way, it’s kind of the spirit of my new book. It’s versatile, it’s easy, it’s satisfying, it’s comforting, it’s surprising. I mean, it’s just peppers and tomatoes but it’s really pretty great,” Greenspan said.

The approachable recipes (all made with ingredients that are easy to find in the grocery store) and suggested substitutions in “Everyday Dorie” can help alleviate the anxieties that plague home cooks leading up to holidays. But most importantly, Greenspan hopes the book encourages beginners to get into the kitchen — with a little more success than her first crack at cooking — and to stay there.

“There are so many reasons to cook at home,” Greenspan said.

“There’s the satisfaction of making something, and then there’s the satisfaction of being able to share it with someone — share it with your family, share it with your friends. I think that makes home cooking really worth doing.”

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