I recently received Top Chef Winner Kristen Kish’s beautiful book, Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques from Blogging for Books. Right off the bat I am going to say I am torn. It is a DROP DEAD GORGEOUS book and I am in love with it…but from afar. This is like that “out of my league” guy I was never going to get and if he ever spoke to me, I would have sounded like a babbling idiot…intimidated by his awesomeness.
My first run through of the book, I literally drooled over every dish. All I could think was has she opened a restaurant yet? If so, where is it?  I’m making reservations.  Actually making one of her creations seemed daunting.
Each plate is a work of art, each plate reminds why she is a chef and I am a home cook with kids, a dog and a job that will pay for a visit to wherever she ends up creating her beautiful food.   Her presentation is stunning simplicity that belies the complexity and thought she puts into each dish.  Each recipe is accompanied by a story from her life or how the recipe came about.  I loved reading these little vignettes. Her description and use of a variety of techniques in each recipe will no doubt make anyone a better cook.
The second time I picked up the book I knew I had to gather up the guts to pick a couple of things to try, after all I needed to review the book. The book is divided first by snacks, salads, sweets and by protein-meat or from the sea.  Each recipe contains liners on what techniques are used in the recipe and ingredients in one column and directions in the inner column.  Very well organized.
Confession, I looked for the easiest recipe I could try.  A dish that didn’t require special ingredients or a multi-step process to make.
I decided on her Sour Cream Cake, Pecan, Malted Milk Creme Fraiche, baking is in my comfort zone. The batter was fairly straight forward, I have a 8-inch round cake pan and amazingly I also had the malted milk powder.
Things were going smoothly…right up until I put the batter in the pan. Hmm, it’s a lot of batter, it’s pretty dense, maybe it doesn’t rise that much.
WRONG. Though I knew better I wanted to follow the directions explicitly. Halfway through baking the batter oozed over the sides of the pan like the BLOB and dropped onto the floor of my oven. I quickly shoved some foil underneath, a little smoke but at least the smoke alarm didn’t go off, catastrophe partially averted.
I e-mailed Kristen and she was great.  She recommended a springform pan or extending the walls of my pan with a parchment collar. Mine took well over an hour and was still undercooked in the center. The edge was delicious, the cake was buttery and tender.  She texted me again after making the cake for her family.  Hers took 49 minutes to bake and she used a deep 8 inch springform.  Definitely going to try this again.

I tried a second time using a 9 inch springform and to prove you can teach an old dog new tricks I extended the sides with parchment. In my haste I used butter that was still cold, I thought I could get by. WRONG AGAIN. Mea culpa.  Ugh, the cake came out a little dense. It required around 50 minutes to bake despite the larger pan.

Note to self and everyone, use  a pan with at least 3 inch sides or taller and room temp butter! No shortcuts.

I will try again as the third time is always a charm. I think I would use light brown sugar instead of dark for a milder flavor.  I love the nuttiness and the crunch of the pecans and the hit of salt in the topping.

Whew.

I then tried her recipe for Cavatelli, Corn, Roasted Tomato, Thai Basil.

Full disclosure. I CHEATED.

I bought pasta instead of making the cavatelli. The sauce was easy to prepare and delicious. I love the roasted tomatoes and charred corn and the creaminess of the sauce. Much like a carbonara, egg yolks and hard cheese (Romano) are stirred together and hot pasta is added to the mixture which creates a silky lovely sauce. I added a splash of the pasta water to thin it just a bit. Yummy. The Thai basil added color contrast to the dish but just a hint of flavor. I hope it’s not blasphemous but I think I would add a bit of bacon or pancetta next time..yummy


I was about to try her recipe for egg pudding but for 8 eggs (4 servings) it calls for 10 tablespoons of butter, some creme fraiche and a brown butter drizzle on top. Luckily, within the directions I could only account for 7 tablespoons of butter, I’m ok with not using the remaining 3 tablespoons.  Decided to save this for a day when I work out first.

There are recipes I am definitely going to try. Even a couple that look pretty involved but sound deliciously worth making.  Roasted chicken thighs and Labneh (but first gotta get those Calabrian chilis), Braised Potatoes with Pancetta and Comte, the Potato Puree with Chicken Skin Crisps and the Hamachi, Sweet Onion, Bacon, Miso and Potato are on my bucket list.  Until then I will keep her book on my coffee table to salivate over and enjoy.

Thanks for reading, comments welcomed!