In a long lifetime of days, it might be a bit much to say literally “the best day ever“, but easily this counts as a really great day. I’ve been blogging along with a group of now friends for 8 years – the original group formed was French Fridays with Dorie, and we cooked through Around my French Table, by Dorie Greenspan. Relatively early on (I wasn’t there, so the details are fuzzy), a number of the group attended a blogging conference and met each other, and met Dorie herself. As if we weren’t already enamored, after that meeting the stories of Dorie’s charm and loveliness catapulted us to super fans. To be honest. I was green. I was just barely following along, with no intention of being a professional blogger, so the conference really just didn’t register – until I heard about the experience. I’ve been jealous, I’ll admit it.
The group has largely stayed together, whether just trying to keep track, stay in touch, meet up (!), or cook together. Many of us have stayed with the new incarnation of our group – Cook the Book Fridays. But now, there’s a new energy. Dorie has just published her second savory cookbook Every Day Dorie – the Way I Cook. And she published her tour schedule! At once I saw that she’d be in Seattle. Easy! I can always find a reason to be in Seattle. I was further delighted to find that one of the events was an evening one, which meant that I could work and then mostly just have fun. It was hosted by the Hot Stove Society and consisted of a welcome glass of bubbly, a tasting of several dishes, demonstrations, Q&A, and a book and signing. Heaven! Waiting for the main event, I was pretty excited about a Dorie-sighting. Not wanting to be too obnoxious about photos (what was I thinking, this is a foodie event?), I did take a few photos during the run-up.
We were ushered into our seats, I was also a little jealous of the folks in the front row – but of course, I’m sure they are regulars at the cooking school. My seat turned out just fine! Great view.
They demo’d and chatted, and we tasted. I don’t know how anyone could be more charming and adorable, and truth be told, helpful! My Newest Gougeres (they look like ours too!), Honey Mustard Salmon Rillettes (they used hot smoked salmon because it’s the west coast – me too! And Dorie really liked it!), Oven Charred Tomato Stuffed Peppers (yum), Lower East Side Tart (mark that page!!) (Dorie uses my same method for pastry – forget chilling it until it’s hard as a rock and then trying to roll it out… roll it between parchment, and then chill it! Yay! – vindication!), and finally Shrimp Tacos (the salsa was particularly good). Michael even sat in the back and took it all in. Who knew that the Jammer Tarts from her cookie book are the only recipe she literally dreamed up? The things we learn.
After all of this, the patient wait for the signing came. Dorie chatted with everyone, and was charm herself. At my turn, I could hardly contain my excitement – I introduced myself and her eyes sparkled as she asked if I was joining in on Cook the Book Fridays – well, of course!!! We mentioned the crew, and of course, she’s super aware of all of the original cast of characters. She jumped up, hugged and kissed – and of course I had to have a couple of photos (kind of like Proof of Life!), which she adorably complied with.
Then. She asked – would I send them to her – I do Instagram, right? Um. No. (Candy hangs her head in shame), so she pulled the post-it off my book and proceeded to write down her cell phone so that I could text them to her. I kid you not! Not at all certain that there is a more talented + down-to-earth person around.
But oh, the Brussels! I actually made these the same day that I finished my traditional Thanksgiving menu & recipes. Putting it together, I debated about using the ones from Everyday Dorie. But honestly, I’d done some research after having the single best thing I ate in Orlando over a whole week’s stay – some BBQ Brussels Sprouts – caramelized and a bit sweet, savory, & spicy. Those are in the menu. Even at the time, I knew that I might be making a mistake.
These are super simple. Trim and halve the sprouts. Steam them until just barely tender (or even shy of).
What I didn’t do, but will do in future, is to quickly stop the steaming of the sprouts by a quick blast into ice water. It’s in the recipe, I just didn’t think I’d take so long to finish the dish.
Bacon is also crisped up. I’m usually the one who likes to cut it up first to make it manageable – or you can cook it and then cut it. That gets drained on paper, but the drippings reserved.
In a small bowl, mix a 2:1 ratio of pure maple syrup and grainy mustard. When you’re ready to serve, the drippings get heated, along with a bit of oil if needed. The sprouts are added and allowed to caramelize nicely and heat through. The maple-mustard mixture is added and allowed to thicken just a bit, and finally the bacon is tossed in, off the heat. Ready to serve.
And I just have to say, not only is this recipe gorgeous – it’s amazingly delicious. Back in Michigan as a kid, we never really had Brussels sprouts because they were always boiled, overcooked bitter mushy things. I doubt we ever had them at home (what? when you can have asparagus or artichokes – please!!??). I actually just made these for dinner at home, and one bite and my mom was exclaiming!! I mean – she really, really loved them! Well, and of course I did too – which leads me to my potential regret in my menu. This is so simple, and so incredibly delicious, I have to make them again – and soon.
So, back to my “best day ever”. After making my way back to the hotel, I decided to stop at the bar and have an adult beverage. Not really hungry, still too early to actually call it a day, and just thinking it would be nice to wind down a bit. This is a new place to stay, and certainly new to me, nice relaxed vibe. There was another girl sitting at the bar. For some incredibly odd reason, we struck up a conversation – I was probably feeling uncharacteristically social after the terrific evening. As it turns out, I mentioned that I’d been having the best evening, explained what it was, pulled out the cookbook, and a conversation ensued. Hillary’s job is to interview home cooks all over the country (the west?) and she and her team have a pretty cool job. She’s obviously good at it because the next thing you know, we’re talking about my blog, our group, and then – Thanksgiving. Because of course, I had to talk about these Brussels sprouts and my potentially unfortunate choice (which I can freely change – no worries). We talked cooking vs. baking. Using mixes as a basis for some things (is it ok?) – and how she researched and created a recipe for her dad when the date bar mix he used for his fruitcake was no longer available. And both of our Thanksgiving plans and strategies (boys must be outside making at least 1 turkey – it’s a must!). I had no idea that it was unusual to have rules about what has to be included in a Thanksgiving feast. Who doesn’t insist that there must be corn, cranberries, turkey, sweet potatoes, some kind of squash – preferably winter, and probably regular potatoes too? I mean, really? They don’t have to be a traditional use (sweet potato pie? cornbread dressing?), but they have to be there. I guess I’m weird. The bartender even got into the conversation – pies and a “bleeding” cat cake… between his trips outside to smoke… it’s Seattle.
When I got back to my room a bit later, I got to end my day with another “best day ever”. I’d sent out my menus early in the week. Got a text from one of my nieces…
“MY BEST DAY EVER”
You can follow along with our adventures at Cook the Book Fridays, as we finish up My Paris Kitchen and dive in full speed into Everyday Dorie. You can find the recipe for Maple Syrup and Mustard Brussels Sprouts here.
Oh, and a quick hint, if you’ve never picked up Around My French Table, you can get a steal of a deal on the Kindle version on Amazon. All of us who have cooked through it have copies that are falling apart, but it’s still one that I get out on a weekly basis – so many great recipes.
And seriously, join us! This cookbook is amazing. And it’s so much fun to see how everyone else does with a particular recipe. It’s truly a great community.