inspiration for this project was a cookbook that my mother
made several years ago in this format that came to be
a staple in my kitchen (and the kitchens of many of my
relatives who also received the original book as a Christmas
present). It turned out to be incredibly handy to have
a cookbook that was easy to use and contained the everyday
recipes from my childhood. The idea to make my own version
of this book began almost entirely selfishly. I thought
it'd be great to have most of the recipes that I use every
day at my fingertips.
Once I began work on
the book, the project took on a life of its own, as tasks
like this so often do. I began to write down recipes for
dishes that I've created from scratch or from deconstructing
and then improving foods I've eaten at my favorite restaurants
(or not so favorite ones).
The chimichanga recipe
sprang froma Chi-chi's dish that I ate there as a child,
but as I grew up I realized that this was not a restaurant
I wanted to patronize if I could help it, so I ripped
off the one dish that I enjoyed. Since then, many other
"Mexican" restaurants have sprung up in Madison
that have much better (and more authentic) food and excellent
chimichangas, however, at the time, Chi-chi's was all
that Madison had to offer, so I stole it. The BBQ shrimp
recipe sprung from the necessity of having this type of
traditional New Orleans sweet/sour BBQ that is not available
in Madison. Flying to New Orleans whenever the craving
arose was not practical, so I figured out how to make
it myself, combining 5 or 6 recipes and then tweaking
Several of these recipes
are family traditions from either Abe's family or mine.
the sweet potato casserole recipe had been a family secret
in Abe's mother's family for generations, and I hope that
I won't be booted out of the family for publishing it
here. Poticia has been made in both of our families for
literally a hundred years. The version in this book is
from my side of the family because I'm the one making
the book! Each year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, Kenny
and I undertake this project together.
I hope that I've given credit
where credit was due for the inspiration and sources of
recipes in this book. Thanks to everyone who has inspired
me to cook, eaten my disasters with patience and shared
their recipes when I've asked. Thank you Emily for proof
reading and editing. Thanks to Wendy for letting me steal
the format of her original cookbook and showing methe
things you make yourself are often better than what you
can buy. And especially, thanks to Kenny for the confidence
to wing it in the kitchen (and everywhere else!).
Some of these recipes I've
never written down before, some I've only made by taste,
and look and texture. I encourage you to do the same.
Change them. make them right for you. Spice them up, spice
them down. Add almond extract instead of the vanilla.
You get the picture. These are beginning templates, free
to evolve into their own new dishes in your kitchens,
and I'm sure they'll be mutating into new creations in
mine. If you get stuck, give me a call or send me an email
and I'll try to sort out with you what the heck I was
thinking when I wrote it all down.