Let me preface this article by saying that I’m sorry if this comes across as a fan piece. I am an unapologetically huge fan of Deb Perelman and her blog, Smitten Kitchen. Helping me master my first Thanksgiving and my first attempts at pie, baked ziti and frittata, Smitten Kitchen is my first (and often last) stop when I’m looking for a recipe.
With the recent release of Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites comes a trove of new recipes including Granola Biscotti, mini-matzah ball soup with horseradish and herbs and Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie. In early November, Perelman stopped at Sixth & I for a night to discuss her new book and her love of watching cooking videos of old Italian grandmas.
Perelman said that Smitten Kitchen started out as a single gal blog talking about living in New York City, but then quickly morphed into chronicling her cooking adventures in her tiny apartment kitchen. She was forced to switch directions from love to food after one of her first commenters turned out to be her future husband.
She emphasized that her love of cooking stems from her pickiness and relentless pursuit of perfectionism. She said that she was frustrated with recipes not delivering on their promise and filling the craving she had. To her, the new cookbook is the marriage of chef cooking and 30-minute cooking. She said, “I didn’t want to make five-ingredient chicken recipes. I wanted to write a cookbook on how to hold on to the joy of cooking on a short amount of time.”
When Perelman is looking for dinner inspiration, she turns to Dining In by Alison Roman and Small Victories by Julia Turshen. But when trying to master a new technique, Perelman turns to none other than Julia Child. While Perelman admits that her recipes for Russian Honey Cake or Punjabi-Style Black Lentils are unabashedly inauthentic, she loves flipping through country specific encyclopedic cookbooks for guidance. One area where Perelman does have definite expertise, though, is the Jewish Ashkenazi kitchen. Whether it is Tangy Spiced Brisket, Pull-Apart Rugelach or Latkes, Perelman’s foolproof recipes have made her a go-to on all things Jewish food.
Last month, Perelman was obsessed with making a classic Dutch apple pie. But when she went on Google, she found that what Americans think Dutch apple pie is is actually very different from what the Dutch say it is.
“I found that on American websites Dutch apple pie is deep-dish apple pie with crumbs on top of it. But that’s not what Holland’s apple tart is. That one is in a springform pan with an almost cookie-like crust with less sugar inside. It’s a totally different thing.”
So she turned to Dutch Google to find the Dutch recipes for apple pie. Using Google translate to decipher the Dutch recipes, she is still working on her perfect version. Stay tuned—she told the audience the recipe will go live in about a year.
Perelman hopes that her blog and cookbooks help teach everybody how to cook—both boys and girls. In her mind, cooking is not domestic art—it is a life skill. I couldn’t agree more—and Perelman might just be the teacher you didn’t know you were looking for.