Cookbooks, A Holiday Shopping Guide, The Skirt Steak Way

Many of the 73 women interviewed for this book (Ah, that would be Skirt Steak. Please, pay attention, people) have penned cookbooks. When I started this project, I decided to collect (and attempt, at some point, to cook from) all of these tomes, or, at least, make sure I had one from every participating chef who’d published. Some are quite recent; others, out of print. I’ll stick to the former to make the season’s hunt for gifts a little easier. Maybe later, if you’re nice (i.e. not naughty), I’ll give you a list of (and places you can find) the older gems that are no longer in circulation. 

Alice Waters has, via Chez Panisse & The Edible Schoolyard, written nine books. My favorites are: The Art of Simple Food (; Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook (; Chez Panisse Vegetables ( & Chez Panisse Fruit (

Andrea Reusing, Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes (

Ana SortunSpice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean (

Anita Lo, Cooking Without Borders* (

Barbara Lynch, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition (

Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar (

Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef** (

Gina DePalma, Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen (

Jennifer Jasinski, The Perfect Bite (

Judy Rodgers, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant (

Karen DeMasco, The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own (

Lidia Bastianich has written eight cookbooks. Here’s her newest (just out), and one that befits the holiday spirit: Lidia’s Italy in America ( & Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen (

Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger have written four cookbooks. Let’s go with Mesa Mexicana (

Michelle Bernstein, Cuisine a Latina: Fresh Tastes and World Flavors from Michy’s Miami Kitchen (

Nancy Silverton has a tally of eight. At the moment, I’m mad for her latest (published in September), The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles’s Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria (

Sherry Yard, The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts ( & Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills, Desserts from the Sweetest Life Ever (

Stephanie Izard, Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats & Drinks*** (

Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table**** (

*Yeah, I co-wrote it. So what?

**No, it’s not a cookbook, but there’s a reason it’s on the NYT’s list of “100 Notable Books of 2011.” It’s a groundbreaker and I couldn’t put it down. 

***My mom’s favorite new cookbook. 

****One of mom’s all-time favorite cookbooks. 


at Spago Beverly Hills with Sherry Yard (pardon the early lunchtime rumblings), her Skirt Steak Questionnaire, Part I

And Now, A Few Random Musings from Gabrielle Hamilton

"There’s hardly a discrepancy between what I make and what the fucking dishwasher makes, only because that’s just the nature of this 30-seat, non-profit, little piece of shit and when you plug in the hours and all that shit. But, right, I’m in the white jacket, out front, shaking hands with table six, and the Mexican porter is not."

"Well, I love, Alex Witchel wrote a little piece ( about how—I mean, she’s a drinker, right? She’s an old school broad, in a way, and, she smokes, she writes—hard writing—and she drinks her drink. And she mentioned us in a piece a long time ago. She’s like, Fucking thank God, they put the glass down, the alcohol, I can add my tonic or my soda as I like. And she’s a real straight-up, you know like, I’ll just have a whiskey and soda’ or whatever, and that is my ideal kind of customer.

"In an essay, I wrote about this blowing my hair back experience, where, I mean, I opened a neighborhood restaurant—I mean genuinely … There was no press release. It was just like, Put the menu up in the window and we were like, Oh God, I hope we’re not dead in a year. And it turned into a destination restaurant and we were just like, Oh Jesus Christ, like somebody get change, there’s got to be money in the drawers. We have to have someone to answer the phones. We had to scramble to keep up … You’re saying that someone has taken that idea and marketed it. That’s so much of what goes on in the world now … Can we just say that the phenomenon of lying is so devastating … It’s still pretentious to pretend to be something that you’re not, and it’s very upsetting. And it’s a chronic experience now … the places that pretend to be farmer-driven. I went to some organic restaurant up the street this past winter, and I was sitting at the bar and I’m like, Oh my God, is that Ocean Spray Cranberry juice? You know, I’m looking down behind the bar, I’m like, That’s Ocean Spray Cranberry juice? Fuck you, organic bar! Fuck you.

Find her:

Read her:

Things might get a little quiet here during cold, heartbreaking January, as I toil away on a rapid round of mega manuscript-editing. You can expect a few gems along the way. There are too many priceless quotes to include on the printed pages, so I’ll be sharing them here. And remember, February’s only a month away. (That’s what I keep telling myself.)

Soa Davies, Shrimp Boil expert

Skirt Steakette Soa Davies recently ended a long and wonderful stint working for Eric Ripert and has just embarked on a new venture, Salt Hospitality, her consulting company. She has also launched a blog that should prove essential to home cooks everywhere

Back in March, along with her boyfriend Jeremie Kittredge of The Idea Collective ( and their friend, the terrifyingly talented food stylist-writer-teacher Angie Mosier (, Soa hosted a shrimp boil (also known, she explained, as Frogmore Stew). “It’s ideal for entertaining a large crowd,” she counsels. 

Here’s her recipe:


Serves about 12


½ cup Old Bay

½ cup Crystal hot sauce

½ cup Kosher salt

2 tablespoons ground black pepper

4 heads garlic, outer papery skins removed and rinsed

2 pounds small red potatoes

1 ½ pounds Andouille sausage, 1 inch slices

6 ears corn, cut in half

5 pounds crab legs

3 pounds shrimp, unpeeled

1 pound butter, melted

6 lemons, cut in wedges

2 baguettes


Fill a large pot with 1 ½ gallons of water, add Old Bay, hot sauce, salt, pepper, garlic and potatoes, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add sausage and corn and simmer for about 10 minutes more or until potatoes are tender.

Add the crab legs and shrimp and cook 3 to 5 minutes until shrimp just starts to turn opaque and pink.  Drain and dump on a table first lined with garbage bags and then topped with newspaper. Serve with the melted butter, lemons and bread.


A Reply to 'Cook, Interrupted'

Deborah Reid (@dreid63), a professional chef in Toronto responds to last week’s guest post from Tina Dang []

Hello Tina: 

Firstly I’d like to commend you on reaching out.  This is a vital step in good quality career development.

It’s difficult for me to comment in detail on your situation because I don’t know you - particularly your practical skills, culinary preferences, and your ambitions - but I have helped to guide many budding professionals in the 12 years that I have taught.  I will provide general feedback and hope there is someone in your professional circle who you can sit face to face with and discuss the nitty gritty details.  If not, then that should be a task of the highest priority, finding a good quality mentor (you mention that in your second sentence).   Give this some careful consideration as they should be in a position to actively aid in advancing your career.  Refrain from choosing someone who is solely willing to be a sympathetic ear for difficulties.  Although that can be quite helpful, a good mentor should ultimately help to promote you.  Ideally, it should be someone whose work you admire and someone who can tell you the truth.

While you’re at that, I suggest that you build a very strong professional network.  Join culinary organizations that interest you.  Attend events when you can.  Have coffee with acquaintances with the hope that they may become friends or colleagues.  One of the best things about this business is the people.  Find your folks and cultivate your professional relationships.  With time, that investment will pay great dividends.

After 4 years in the business you should have some idea of what makes you happiest - there should be a style of cooking, type of cuisine that has your name written all over it - pursue that.  Your training needs to be progressive and balanced but it should also become increasingly specialized.  Find your niche.

I would also encourage you to advocate for yourself.  Career advancement should not be left to others.  When denied promotion to sous chef you needed to have asked the chef, immediately, about why you were overlooked.  If the answer is less than satisfying, then just as quickly look elsewhere for opportunity for advancement.  I’m not suggesting that you burn bridges but did wonder why it took you 2 months to leave?  That’s a long time to be disappointed in a kitchen.  You bear complete responsibility for finding the conditions where your passion can ‘flourish’.

I would also suggest that you not be too hasty to judge.  I’ve been a stagiaire in internationally renowned restaurants and know that there is a certain amount of ‘stagiaire fatigue’ that comes over those kitchens.  In many cases, they see an endless parade of people asking the same questions, being of minimal help (and skill level), and never staying long enough to form relationships.  Putting that kind of experience on a resume can make careers (I made big personal and financial sacrifices early in my career to gain that experience).  Loyalty to those chefs can often lead to much bigger and better things.  And yes, thankfully, they are generally very, very serious about the work they do.

In 2013 I will have been in the business for 25 years.  There have been periods in that time when I have asked myself all the questions that you are asking yourself.  But while I was asking the questions, I held steadfast to my professional path.  Just like any long term commitment it takes a lot of work, there are a lot of doubts, but the rewards of staying, struggling and building are immense.  The passage of time professionally for me has been very kind.

Finally, don’t dog your romanticism.  There is much harshness and hard reality in the business but ultimately (and as flaky as this is going to sound) it really comes down to love.  Don’t let anyone take away your passion - protect it, treasure it, pursue it.

Wishing you a delicious life,

Deborah Reid

Cook, Interrupted

Today’s guest post comes from Tina Dang in San Francisco. She’s looking for some encouragement and seasoned advice. See what inspires her, and what she has been cooking, at her gorgeous blog

When I started to cook, my eyes were cloudy with romanticism. Here I was, finally cooking.   I was intent on learning and having a mentor.  I was super-idealistic about the evolution of a chef—what it was going to be like to button up those whites.   That was 27; I turn 31 this June.  I grew up surrounded by donuts, and at night I dream of stuffed squid in a spicy tomato sauce.


Classic story:  I always wanted to be a cook.  I always wanted to feed others, and I loved watching others eat my food.  It took a grand kick in the ass for me to jump into this gastronomic world (or, more like a nagging persistence of kicks). My father was afraid that I would never have the patience to graduate high school let alone college. I just had to do something to make my parents proud, so culinary school was pushed away for an Art History degree; but somehow I still ended up with a knife in my hand.  My first paid kitchen job was at a spaghetti shack. I wore hoop earrings, basked in the glory of the blasting music playing in the FOH and tossed Caesar salads with tongs.


I kept at it.  Working in various kitchens with various people.  I have heard, “I just want to strangle you,” or “You have to work ten times harder than any other guy in that kitchen;” or my favorite, when I sent out salads and knew nothing about coarse lines like, "You’re gonna make me go to IHOP!” There were sour times when negative cooks threatened my optimism … and, more than anything, many, many times when I just loved what I did.  I was at my happiest when I finished a shift and the smell of burning coals lingered on my clothes. 


Unfortunately I take things personally, and I am stubborn.  Yes, I have grown as a person—I have learned, and I have conquered emotions. And, I’ve grown as a cook—from making salads to desserts; from working with coals to burning wood; from mastering grilling to roasting, and sweating to sautéing. But, professionally, I have not reached my desired goal.  


What is that goal? Good God, I still don’t know.  When someone asks me if I want my own food cart, if I’ve thought of opening my own catering company, if I will do pop-up dinners, if I still want to work in a kitchen … it all seems to be in a state of flux and limbo.   Yes. No. I don’t know.  Somehow, I always have the same answer: I just want to cook and I just want to keep on learning.


See, that’s the wonderful thing about what I do; I am always learning and, every day, placing myself in a challenging situation.  But I still have to pay off those student loans and cover my rent. 


So after a couple of years, I decided that I was going to go freelance, but because I did not have confidence in myself, I did not flourish. Once again, like my idealized image of a chef, that romantic notion of freelancing was tarnished.   I tried my hand at being a private chef; tested out various catering companies; cooked for under-privileged kids; taught classes, and lastly, even dabbled with food styling as an assistant.  Despite being inconsistent, it was all successful and gratifying, but I still felt lost. 


I went back to a restaurant kitchen because I missed the sounds, the adrenaline; I missed the prep.   I just love it—all of it. 


I also went back because I felt like I still needed more time under my belt—more experience.  


One day, while working part-time at two restaurants and cooking for a private residential client, I was asked to be a part of a new restaurant and help with the opening.  My chef approached me, said he needed strong cooks, and implied that there was sous chef potential.  He told me how much he paid his sous; he told me that I had balls and he wanted me on his team.


Although it was never promised, of course, in my head, I was on the road to becoming a sous. I was working towards and being considered for it, and a number of people knew that I was up for that position. I thought wanted it. What I really wanted was a new challenge—to give my career a boost, as well as my confidence.


What did I do?  I changed my LinkedIn profile to read “training sous.” I told my friends, my family; everyone was so proud.  I continued to work the line in order to know all aspects of the restaurant and the stations, trailed with prep, etc.   When announcements were made, my name was not listed as sous.  That day I went to the bathroom and told myself not to cry. Do not cry! I became a line cook again and I realized that I wanted more than that.   I felt so ashamed.  I continued on the line, but it became clear to me that I was not exactly passionate about the food, so I broke the news to my chef two months later. 


As heartbreaking as it was to walk away, I understood that this wasn’t the challenge I was looking for. Still, I feared that I had backed down. Had I decided too hastily? These and other doubts have continued to surface. As much as I love it, I sometimes ask myself, did I choose the wrong career? I wonder if I would I still be this heady and crazy if I had taken a different path. At the same time, I worry that deciding not to be a line cook anymore is a form of giving up.


I have also wondered what it would be like to work at a legitimate fine dining establishment. It always loomed over my head. What would it be like to use a spoon and do those cool swivels and swirls? Like a painting! So I quenched my thirst for that moment and did a stage at one of those places. It felt cold; there were no smiles and if there were, they were questioning smiles.  The food was gorgeous, though—too precious, but so damn beautiful. Unfortunately I did not get to taste many of the plates.  As I stood there watching each person work his two plates, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted in cooking. I can check that off my list; there’s one less thing to wonder about now.  

With a rocky personal relationship, and a job that was unsatisfying, I gave my notice to my boss.  A cook told me, “I think the best thing for you is to go get an office job.”  I responded, “Nope.”


I need advice. There is still so much I can learn from other seasoned chefs.


One thing I know for sure: I want to cook.

What a relief!

Oh, hey guys, CD here. A brief note to say I’ve just finished eyeballing the first pass of galleys for Le Book (SKIRT STEAK, duh) and am sending ‘em back to the folks at Chronicle so all necessary edits can be made. (One can only hope the official proofreader does a better job than I … and now, let us pray.) An early batch of ARCs (that’s code for Advance Reader Copy) lands next month.

You know how we do over here at times like this, right? We celebrate, musically. (CRANK IT)

While I’ve got you, did you read Emily Luchetti’s “Advice for the aspiring pastry chef”? If no, you should:

An Ode to Lassi: Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez's Keema Mattar

One day, I’m confident that Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, who is currently tearing it up, pastry side, at PRINT ( and, previously, made my life a hell of a lot more delicious (and conveniently so) with her sliver of take-out shop Lassi ( do note, at present, the site’s inactive … like a dormant volcano), will publish the cookbook we’ve all been waiting for. When she does, I expect my sorely missed eggplant curry and ideal rice pudding will be included (or else I’ll demand a refund, ahem). Until then, she has generously shared her recipe for Keema Mattar (ground lamb with peas). 

Keema Mattar

2 ½ lbs. ground lamb

2 large onions, chopped

2 large tomatoes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

 1 ½ tsp ginger

2-3 chilis, chopped

½ cup water

2 T salt

2 ½ T paprika

½ T turmeric

2 ½ T coriander

2 ½ T garam masala

2 ½ T chaat masala

2 ½ T tandoori masala

¾ cup heavy cream

½ lb. peas

 4 T chopped cilantro

Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and caramelize onions. Add garlic, ginger and chilis, cook to soft. Add tomatoes and cook to soft.


Combine spices and salt, add to tomato mixture.

Add ground lamb and incorporate, using the water to mix. Cover and cook, stirring to break down any lumps.  Cook until liquid is released and lamb is cooked through.

Add peas and heavy cream and cook uncovered for another 15-20 minutes.

Add cilantro.

Do You Have What It Takes To Compete? Ask Bertinetti.

Pastry Chef Heather Bertinetti (you’ll find her raising souffles at Crown on Manhattan’s Upper East Side) has watched and analyzed that sugary blight of a television bake-off program, “Cupcake Wars” (a Food Network production), like a sports commentator would a big game. After she identified each of the archetypal high-on-frosting participants, I realized she was both correct, and a closet comedienne. Based on her descriptions, I’ve arranged the following perpetual (swap out the players, but the roles never change) cast of cupcake-y characters and given them what, in the moment, felt like fitting names. That way, if any of you has thought about auditioning for a slot, you’ll know how to present yourself.

Krissy, “a cute young girl that’s very pretty that wears the pink apron and she’s very bubbly and kind of new to the game.”

Dot, “the older lady that’s like a mom and probably has a grandchild on the way and has been making cakes for years and she’s just so talented in her flower making.”

Mike, “the guy with the tattoos and the gelled haircut who’s the rocker, and has the motto ‘I’m a bad-ass … and my cake’s going to be black and tattooed up.’”

Brice, “the token gay guy that’s flamboyant and crying with the drama.”

I went to culinary school when I was eighteen. It was a trade school … I learned the reason why we put bones in stock, how to break down a chicken, how to cook fish, how to cook different cultural cuisines … I was a blank canvas … I loved it. I was told to get some experience first … Now, the unfortunate thing about culinary school, they accept anybody and everybody … and they give loans to these children … reality is that when you graduate, you’re going to make $10 per hours for 5 years, 15-hour days … I wonder, what are you learning in culinary school? … They’re definitely not learning to work in this industry … On the upside, there’s a lot of great kids out there … there shouldn’t be 100 great kids pumping out every year; there should be very few. If we were all excellent and we were all perfect at what we did, it wouldn’t be fun.

Mindy Segal of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago, IL. (

twitter: @mindysegal

*and me too. i asked shuna to present a 2011 edition of the fruitcake for the WSJ’s “Off Duty” section, and this was her delicious gift.

for a video bonus, click

with tidings of wondrous, uncomfortably full bellies (that shake when you laugh like bowlfuls of jelly) & joy,


Andrea Reusing's Pickles, Grandma-Style

You won’t find any recipes in Skirt Steak (i.e. the book), but every so often, a little surprise may tumbl out. The first is a gift from Andrea Reusing ( Introducing, her grandmother’s Bread and Butter Pickles…

Bread and butter pickles

Yields about 4 pints

In a non-reactive pot, bring to a simmer 2 cups of plain white vinegar with 2 cups of sugar, 2 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon each of salt and yellow mustard seeds and two teaspoons each of celery seed and turmeric. Slice 2 quarts of small, thin-skinned cucumbers, one big yellow onion, and 3 or 4 small, fresh semi-hot red peppers (such as Fresno) and add it all to the simmering liquid. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and when cool distribute into jars and refrigerate for a month or two.

Tune Time with Jenn Louis

Listening to in my car 10/17/11
Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr

AM prep playlist 10/18/11
Skeletons   Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr

Senseless  Portugal, the Man

Take Care  Beach House

Electric Feel  MGMT

Sailing to Nowhere  Broken Bells

45:33  LCD Soundsystem

PM prep playlist 10/17/11
The Magic Number  De La Soul
[WTF, iTunes, no old-school De La?!]

Slow Motion  Panda Bear

The Fire  The Roots

ABC’s  K’naan

Phoner to Arizona  Gorillaz

The Snake in Dallas  Gorillaz

Cumbia  Mexican Institute of Sound

Jenn Louis is chef/co-owner of Lincoln Restaurant (, Sunshine Tavern ( & catering company Culinary Artistry ( in Portland, OR.

Things you should know about Jenn: 

1. She makes my favorite baked eggs (

2. She is an aspiring drummer: “The latest beat that I am learning (YAY!) is from the Decembrists, Sporting Life. (My superb drum teacher is Rachel Blumberg*, used to be in the Decembrists, plays with M Ward now and has her artwork in Sunshine!)”