With a résumé that includes five James Beard awards, Dorie Greenspan has become fluent in many culinary arts through the years. But these days, the author and part-time Connecticut resident is more interested in the simple goodness of dishes that don’t require the expertise of a master chef and endless hours of preparation.
That’s the thinking behind Greenspan’s 13th cookbook, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook, packed with hundreds of improvisation-fueled recipes that can be made with ingredients commonly found in home pantries.
Greenspan, who I will interview as part of a new conversation series at Hartford’s Mark Twain House & Museum on April 18 at 7 p.m., spoke from her Westbrook home about her new “easy-to-make, practical, everyday recipes.” (Note: all recipes mentioned here can be found in her cookbook.)
Today is a winter Monday morning. What’s for dinner?
It’s a dish I love to make during the week: Chicken and salad Milanese style, which is breaded cutlets, using easy-to-get ingredients. It’s really pretty and simple to make.
What pantry ingredient is most underrated?
I would never want to be without a lemon. It’s hard to think of anything that isn’t made better with either some freshly grated zest or a good squeeze. And I do it at the end so the flavors stay bright and strong. I made osso buco the other night and right before serving I gave it a squirt of lemon and it just brightened those really lovely, slow-braised, deeply comforting flavors so that they’re not one-dimensional.
You’re about to fly to Paris, where you’ve lived for parts of two decades. What’s your go-to Everyday Dorie meal there?
I like to give my French friends something more American, so I love to make salmon burgers with great brioche buns and then put out a bunch of extras so everyone can have fun passing things around the table to add.
Do you bring any food-related items to Paris with you?
I bring a five-pound sack of unbleached, all-purpose flour with me so I can bake there. French flour is different than American flour because it has lower protein — which makes for a more tender cake — but I want to be sure my recipes work.
What do you bring back from Paris?
Candied Jordan almonds for my daughter-in-law who is madly in love with the ones from Sébastien Gaudard’s pastry shop. And macarons from Pierre Hermé.
For those whose knowledge stops at soy sauce, what are your favorite everyday Asian staples?
I love ponzu, which is soy sauce with citrus flavor. I love Korean gochujang, which is a chili paste, and white miso is so delicious on fish or stirred into vegetables.
It’s a quiet day at home and unexpected friends drop by. What’s your go-to?
I usually have chicken somewhere, but something I love to make quickly is sweet chili chicken thighs served on rice. Then there’s always pasta, and with sardines, fennel and pine nuts: the kinds of ingredients you would likely have in the pantry.
Come April, what will you be cooking from Everyday Dorie?
April is when we start seeing rhubarb, and I have a tart in the book that I love. It’s called mostly rhubarb tart. You usually get strawberry tart with some rhubarb, but mine’s mostly rhubarb.
Speaking of spring, you have a lettuce soup.
I’ve seen it occasionally in France where tender greens are used to make a soup. It’s surprisingly good, practical and simple. Lettuce soup is elegant, quick and surprising.
Your spaghetti and meatballs recipe had a surprise in it.
Rolled oats and walnuts. I wanted more texture. I wanted that intermittent chew and crunch and surprise. For me that’s the fun of cooking: to find that one ingredient that will delight.
You transform familiar dishes with something unexpected. An example of perking up a same-old?
Your butter-poached corn with egg noodles meets my carb quota for the week.
You wouldn’t think that something this rich would be so right for summer, but it’s another way to showcase a vegetable we all love and used to use in a particular way.
When you return from Paris, what’s the first thing you want to eat here?
A hamburger, which has become very popular in Paris but — don’t tell my French friends — they don’t do it as well as we do.