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.