COOKBOOK CLUB: COOK THIS BOOK by: MOLLY BAZ
Once upon a time, my beloved Cookbook Club was temporarily dismantled by the all-intrusive Covid which had the AUDACITY to hold hostage my priceless ability to taste.
Does that sound a little dramatic? Maybe. But also, not being able to taste for ANY amount of time makes me more "extra" than any other ailment. Yes, 'twas an ailment.
ANYWAYS... I have been wanting to check out Cook This Book by: Molly Baz for a while now. I've seen a few pictures online and everything seems like my cup o'espresso (I hate tea).
And, lucky for me, a friend of mine reached out and reminded me that her birthday was coming up and (praise Satan) asked if I would HOST. I know, most people would possibly die at the suggestion of hosting and making a meal for a group of people.
BUT THERE IS NOTHING THAT MAKES ME HAPPIER THAN HOSTING AND COOKING FOR PEOPLE
I know, somehow, in a past life I was some kind of psychotic socialite or Stepford wife because there aren't many things I enjoy more than that. I could maybe list a few that are a solid tie or runner-up but, that's not what this is about. (THIS IS ABOUT COOKBOOK CLUB!)
Not only did I get the opportunity to do this birthday lunch, but she completely trusted me to make something spectacular, so I asked if I could use one of my Cookbook Club selections and accomplish the ol' two-fer and, she kindly said yes.
Before I get to the menu, I have to tell you how much I LOVE this cookbook, especially the layout. As someone who reads a LOT of cookbooks and a LOT of cookbook intros, this one is exceptional and super duper helpful. It's broken down into equipment, staple pantry items, a GREAT chapter that breaks down how to make food taste as incredible as possible, and a few of Molly's Golden Rules which I think most home cooks would find helpful.
For the party, I had an insanely difficult time picking things to make because everything looked so good. After sending a few options to my friend, we settled on three things.
THIS WAS DELICIOUS!
The harissa + peppadew pepper combo was *chef's kiss* bloody brilliant.
I can say as a self-proclaimed pimento cheese connoisseur, I will probably not make another pimento cheese dip that isn't this one.
I forgot I needed to double the recipe so mine had a bit of regular extra sharp cheddar cheese (instead of white), but it was seriously so good. I loved the spice from the harissa and the sweet tang of peppadew peppers (that I already have a significant love affair with) and it was perfectly dip-able, spread-able, total flavor bomb on my pita chips.
I kind of want to throw some potatoes or eggs or chicken in this and make it my new go-to salad for lunches. 10/10, will make again.
CHARRED CABBAGE WITH SALTY PEANUTS AND NUOC CHAM
So, I'm obsessed with cabbage and was immediately thrilled when my friend said she wanted this out of all the veggie sides I'd sent to her. The ingredient list was small but looked super flavorful, and wow did it pack a punch!
I charred the cabbage on my cast iron grill, tossed it in the nuoc cham (lime juice, fish sauce, fresno chiles, and sugar) and topped it with salted, roasted peanuts and scallions (also cilantro but kept it on the side for a few who *gasp* don't love it).
While I was charring the cabbage, I didn't notice the eyes staring at me wondering what on earth could be so special about what I was about to make. It wasn't until everyone had taken a bite that I heard a few "oh my god!" and "wow!" and "that is so fucking good!" followed by a few laughs. One friend mentioned she saw the cabbage and thought, "Oh, grilled cabbage, okay..." and then saw how GORGEOUS it was when I plated it and how tasty it was when it was all finished, and it reminded me that's EXACTLY why I love (and miss) being a chef. It's so rewarding to take a few, very simple ingredients, and pull them together into something beautiful and delicious.
10/10, will make again (will add more chiles next time as I was surprised how tame the spice was with the sugar added to the sauce)
HOT 'N' CRISPY CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH KIMCHI RANCH
WHERE THE HELL HAS KIMCHI RANCH BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!
Let me just break this down so you understand how incredible this is:
Chicken breasts marinated in Greek yogurt, kimchi brine, onion powder, and cayenne, then smashed into panko bread crumbs and fried. THEN that chicken gets mopped up in an acidic (yet creamy!) burst of heaven that is the kimchi ranch mix of mayo, onion powder, Greek yogurt, fresh garlic, chives, and chopped kimchi.
OMG. This is very close to what I would consider a perfect dish. Crispy, perfectly tender marinated chicken with THAT sauce, I just don't think it gets much better than that.
I had cut my chicken pieces into tenders since I was having a party and my fryer is a bit small and didn't want people waiting on chicken so it was easier to cook smaller pieces in quicker batches for accessible munching, but I can't wait to throw this on a sandwich with some extra crispy lettuce.
I highly recommend this cookbook. I only made three things but (as you can see in the first pic) I've marked a majority of the book and probably shouldn't have done that and just assumed I need to cook everything in it. The recipes are simple, ingredient lists are not intimidating, and the instructions are thorough and easy to follow.
NEXT COOKBOOK CLUB...
FILIPINX by: ANGELA DIMAYUGA &
-BISTEK pg 19 (Seared rib eye with lemon & onions)
-FRIED PORK CHOP STACK pg 39
-CRISPY PANDAN COCONUT RICE pg 79
-LUMPIA pg 107
-BIKO pg 233 (Caramelized coconut sticky rice)
-LECHE FLAN WITH GRAPEFRUIT pg 243