A Night with Amanda Hesser

Amanda Hesser arrived at my house last night wearing a giant fur hat and Chuck Taylors. How can you not love this woman?

She was in town as part of her book tour for The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, and, through a long sequence of events involving Kate Payne of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and Marisa McClellan from Food in Jars, Marisa and I were hosting a meet-the-author blogger potluck. At my house. Now, the next time someone approaches you about the possibility of hosting a food-related event for a well-known food writer that involves her cooking in your kitchen, think very carefully about your relationship with cleanliness and cat hair. It turns out that my standards go way, way, up in those circumstances—I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time with vacuum attachments. But eventually, it was time to put the vacuum away, take a deep breath, and wait for the guests to arrive.

And they did! And they brought delicious food, all based on recipes (or receipts, if you prefer the 19th-century spelling) that appeared in the New York Times, including three versions of pimento cheese and two cheese straws. We also had a cheese ball, courtesy of Madame Fromage, and an eye-opening fancy mac-and-cheese with radicchio from No Counterspace. Apparently people really like cheese. I made a venison stew, adapted for the pressure cooker (instructions below). Marisa made a spectacular broiled lemon and spinach salad that I really, really hope she blogs about. The desserts were mighty fine, too. For her demo, Amanda made heavenly hots, a sort of cross between pancakes and cheese latkes.

And there’s even a video, courtesy of the Daily News, for those of you who couldn’t join us:

In short: a good time was had by all. And yes, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even if it does mean cleaning my house. Also: the book is a gem and would make a great Christmas gift. And I’m not just saying that because Amanda Hesser liked my rhubarb liqueur. Cheers.

Venison Stew with Butternut Squash and Hominy

This recipe appears as “Border Town Hunter’s Stew” on p. 571 of The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The ingredients are the same (though I’m not sure how I feel about that cinnamon stick), but I’ve adapted it for the pressure cooker. You never know what you’re getting with wild venison (in this case, courtesy of Jilly’s husband), so I prefer to cook it in the pressure cooker to ensure tenderness.

3 lbs. venison stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
Salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 poblano peppers, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 T. New Mexico chili powder, or to taste
4 t. dried oregano (or about 1 T fresh)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (eh. consider it optional)
1 12-oz bottle of dark beer (I used Yuengling Black and Tan)
4 c. chicken broth
Two 15 1/2 oz. cans white hominy, drained and rinsed

1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Let sit 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your vegetables.

2. Pretend that your pressure cooker is a giant skillet and heat up the oil. Sear the meat in batches, removing to a separate bowl when done.

3. You should have some oil left in the pot, but if not, add more. Saute the onions and chiles, with maybe a dash more salt. Add the garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add the chili powder, oregano (if using dried), cinnamon stick, and bay leaves and saute a minute more. Add the beer and scrape up all the tasty bits.

4. Add the meat and the stock to the pot and stir everything together. Put on and lock the lid. Cook at 15 pounds of pressure for 12 minutes. Quick-release the pressure using whatever method is recommended by your manufacturer (I run the pot under cold water). Add the squash. Bring back up to pressure and cook another 3 minutes. Let the pressure drop of its own accord, or, if you’re in a hurry, quick release.

5. The stew will now be quite juicy and need to be reduced. Add in the hominy and bring to a boil (note that at this point you’re using your pressure cooker like a pot again, not a pressure cooker). Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes until it’s quite thick, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. If using fresh herbs, add just before serving.

Notes: Try to find natural hominy, not the cheap stuff made with lye. I only used one can, and that seemed like plenty. This works very well as a pantry dish: the venison and the peppers came from the freezer; the squash and onions from the root cellar; and the oregano from the front yard. I also used ground dehydrated peppers instead of commercial chili powder.

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9 comments to A Night with Amanda Hesser

  • meg

    Oh, how fun! Would have loved to have been there! And totally understand the concern about a relationship of cleanliness and pet hair! Every time I host something I freak out about the level of dog hair. When Kate came to stay this summer (& we’d never actually met) I was a freakin’ mess— hip girls guide to homemaking coming to stay at my dusty, dog haired, cluttered, toddlered house! But it was great =)

  • Oh, drat. I missed the rhubarb liqueur. Great party, though.

  • Thanks for the shout out.

    Your house was a perfect venue. Have I mentioned how much I love your heat resistant tiles on the counters? It was a lovely evening. Thank you for hosting.

    I had no idea you could get hominy that hadn’t been processed with lye – I thought that was intrinsic to the definition of the stuff. I was amazed how everything blended together to make a thick, rich base for the venison, and I had not noticed until seeing the recipe that there was butternut squash in it.

  • how fun! and i totally loved watching the video of you and marisa. gorgeous! 🙂

  • You are a trooper, man. Vacuum attachments. And you still found time to make a persimmon pudding. You made my Midwestern heart melt into a little pat of butter. Thanks for a great night — you have a new fan.

  • I just came over from Marisa’s site. Thanks for posting what others brought — her salad made me consider what I would have brought to a NYT party. I am a big fan of Mark Bittman’s 101 compendiums, so maybe I would have brought a sample array from one of those lists.
    Where did you get that little orange teapot on your stove? That’s honestly why I looked — I like your teapot 🙂

  • That stew sounds amazing. Got to find me a venison hook up. And you know, you’re kitchen is really perfect. I love how open it is! I find that having a dark kitchen works wonders for when guests arrive. And plying them with alcohol never hurts, either.

  • What a fun video for the (now) geographically challenged among us! Looks like it was a lovely night. You’re too funny about the cat hair/cleanliness standards/vacuum attachments.

    @Meg, had you seen the piles of fur and general debris we found tucked away under dressers and in corners upon moving, you wouldn’t have blinked an eye before our visit!

  • How fun! You know, I’ve read both Cooking for Mr. Latte and Cheerful Money; personal memoirs by each of her and her husband. So in a manner of speaking I feel like I know them without knowing them at all, which is odd. Too bad I couldn’t have made this in person–as Kate says, geographically challenged (and time, sanity, etc. challenged…)
    Happy new year to you and the goats!