While working with Jamie Deen, Andrea Goto learns the spoon is mightier than the pen.
I’m a writer, not a cook. I can unhinge dangling modifiers all day long, but the smoke alarm doubles as my dinner bell. So when my friend Jamie Deen asked me to help him write his first solo cookbook, I thought I was being punked. Luckily, Jamie has enough cooking know-how to compensate for my kitchen incompetence—that, and a really good sense of humor.
Jamie Deen’s Good Food (Kyle Books) is the culmination of months we spent together talking (and tasting) everything from cheddar biscuits to chipotle mayo. Through Jamie’s good-natured insistence, I learned that Swiss chard was not, in fact, a cool way to describe a Chardonnay from Central Europe, that couscous is pasta—not sand—and that his jelly salad is the culinary equivalent to crack. I also learned a lot about Jamie, including the fact that he spent a summer making sandwiches at the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and that if he hadn’t become a cook, he would’ve been a writer.
In the end, we’re both very proud of this gorgeous book that is decidedly “Jamie.” It captures his candid voice and the thoughtful way he prepares his family’s food and lives his life. The bonus for me was learning a few tricks of the trade from my Southern sensei along the way:
» Forget butter; everything is better with bacon. That is, unless it’s one of Jamie’s three flavorful compound butters. A dollop of fragrant, blackberry-infused butter on a thick steak? Yes, please.
» Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Soda cracker salad sounds like it could double as wallpaper adhesive, but I promise you’ll eat your words—and more than your share of this zesty dish.
» It’s all in the garnish. Beautify gingery butternut squash bisque with sliced green apple and some sour cream and give roasted tomato soup even more savory substance by topping it with grilled-cheese croutons. Homemade pickled red onions add a dose of flavor to sandwiches and salads—and they’ll last a month in the refrigerator.
» Don’t get lost in translation. Not one for “fancy talk,” Jamie explains that ratatouille is little more than sautéed vegetables and that dumplings, gyoza, gnocchi and pierogi all basically boil down to the same thing: delicious balls of dough.