#112 | Home Cooking
with Kate McDermott
Intro: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York City, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Kate McDermott: Hi, Suzy, and your listeners. I'm Kate McDermott, and I'm here at Pie Cottage today in Port Angeles, Washington on the beautiful peninsula. I'm here to talk about my new book "Home Cooking with Kate McDermott" that just came out.
Suzy Chase: The very first line in the cookbook is, "You can do this." I love it. What compelled you to make that the very first line of this cookbook?
Kate McDermott: I have taught so many people in pie-making in my Art of the Pie pie camp classes, and people come in feeling nervous that they can't make a pie. I learned the first thing you let them know is, "This is really easy. There is nothing to it," and by the time they leave the workshops, they're feeling like, "Well what was the big fear about this? It's so easy?" I felt that it's the same thing when you go into, my kitchen at least, when I'm cooking. This stuff is easy and delicious I feel, at least people tell me that it is, and that anybody can make these dishes. There's nothing hard about it, there's no exotic ingredients, it requires no special equipment, and pretty much anybody can make them.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of pies, talk a little bit about what is enough, how pie recipes are being tweaked to fill larger pans these days.
Kate McDermott: I had a very interesting conversation a few years back with an editor for one of the larger food magazines. She mentioned to me something that corroborated my experience over the years when I have been making recipes, older recipes from the '40s, '50s, sometimes even the '60s and early '70s, in cookbooks, pie recipes. The ingredients, following the recipes never filled the pie pan correctly; there was not enough dough, there was not enough filling. My solution to that, of course, was just to size the recipes up to fit the pie pans. Now, what she told me was that our recipes in older cookbooks, in decades prior to this, were sized for the size of vessels that we had at that time, which were substantially smaller than what we have now. A full-sized pie, the pie pan is very different. The size of a piece of pie that is cut now is probably one-and-a-half to two times the size-
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh.
Kate McDermott: Of a piece of pie that we ate in, say, 1950. I think this is also true with many of the dishes that we make now, the serving sizes. It is not necessarily that, "Oh, we should be cleaning our plate" as our mothers told us to do. When our plate is so overfilled that really I look sometimes at plates of food that come to me at a table in a restaurant and I say, "This could feed four people."
Suzy Chase: Well, come to New York City because it's the exact opposite. It's like a tiny nugget.
Kate McDermott: Well there's probably a balance there somewhere-
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Kate McDermott: More than a tiny nugget but more than the whole casserole on your plate. "Less" than the whole casserole on your plate, sorry.
Suzy Chase: It's so hard to get your mom out of your head, though, saying, "Clean your plate."
Kate McDermott: Oh yeah, yeah. I know for me, there were things that she really worked hard to get me to eat. I was not fond of vegetables when I was young, so I spent many an hour at the table. I couldn't leave the table until my plate was clean, and I know she was just trying to get me to eat my vegetables.
Suzy Chase: For you, every morning is a different painting. Tell me about Duncan and his breakfast hash.
Kate McDermott: Well, my son Duncan has been in the kitchen with me since always. He loves to be in the kitchen. He does many other things also, but he's really competent over these years of being in there with me of now taking on kitchen responsibilities in his own house and when he comes over here. He loves to cook for lots of people. I remember at the home of one of his girlfriends one time, her dad says, "Oh we love it when Duncan comes over because he immediately goes in the kitchen and starts cooking," and many times what he's making is his breakfast hash, which started by just going in and chopping up pretty much whatever was in the fridge or [inaudible 00:05:52]. There always were potatoes. He loves bacon. Who doesn't love bacon? He likes to season things highly, actually. He would just chop and chop and cook and cook, and started making this hash. Usually when people would get up in the morning, if I had a house full of people, the house was already smelling like breakfast and Duncan was in the kitchen cooking.
When you get up and you smell something great like my son's cooking, or if I may be so bold, some of my cooking, it's just a wonderful way to start the day.
Suzy Chase: One photo in the book that I love is on page 28; it's a few of your cookbooks. You read cookbooks like novels. What was your first cookbook, and what's your favorite cookbook?
Kate McDermott: Okay, well my first cookbook as it is shown in there is "Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls." I still do have my original copy and that is the copy that you see. All those cookbooks that are on page 28, those are my cookbooks. That was my first one, and I loved looking through the pages and picking out what I was going to make. I think that's translated now into continuing to read cookbooks as if they were novels, and picturing me in the kitchen, my hands chopping the vegetables, my hands making whatever it is. You kind of can read the recipe and imagine the smells and the textures. My favorite cookbook, oh my goodness. I probably would say, well I love Marion Cunningham's "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." It's just like a good, old friend to me, but also one of my favorites is "The Tassajara Bread Book." Not so much that I bake out of it anymore, but just because it's like a talisman to me. It's how many of us in the generation that grew up in the '60s and the '70s, it's how we learned to make bread.
Suzy Chase: What year was that cookbook put out?
Kate McDermott: That cookbook was put out, I believe, in 1970-something. It was at least out by the mid-seventies I believe.
Suzy Chase: Okay. Speaking of old friends, you also have various story time sections, and one was when you met Marion Cunningham-
Kate McDermott: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Suzy Chase: The woman who revised "The Fanny Farmer Cookbook." Reading that piece made me feel like you hit it off immediately. Describe that.
Kate McDermott: We did. I was on the farm in California, at Frog Hollow. Great stone fruit orchard, wonderful fruit there, and I was there for a wonderful celebration of Alice Waters' edible food yard, her project. It felt like everybody in the world was there, including Marion, and of course I was just agog at like, "Oh my God, here's this person and here's that person," and there was Marion. It was a very, very hot summer day. There was going to be a tour of the orchard, and it was too hot for Marion to go out. I absolutely said to her, "Well I'll stay behind" because being now a north-westerner, although I was transplanted; I was originally from Santa Barbara, as a north-westerner now, anything above 60 degrees was hot to me and I was delighted to stay behind. We went up to the farm office, which was air conditioned, and sat together and had a wonderful, one-hour conversation one-on-one about things that we both felt were important: family, family at the table, the table, putting meals on the table, gathering friends and family. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I got to hear very interesting things about her too, that really what she had wanted to do in life was to have a garage and be a mechanic.
Suzy Chase: Oh wow. Really?
Kate McDermott: Yeah, absolutely. Anyway, after everybody came back, then we went out into the orchard where the big table was set in-between the rows of peach trees. She just motioned and said, "You sit right over there." It was just such a magical evening. I saw her after that when she came up to Washington to speak. She greeted me like I was her long lost best friend. It was so amazing.
Suzy Chase: Oh wow. You'll always remember that.
Kate McDermott: Oh totally, and I have a picture of that day. Actually, I have a picture of myself at the farm on that day, but the one that I love the most is when she was in Washington and I have a picture of her signing my very dog-eared copy of her cookbook, "The Fanny Farmer Cookbook." She looked at it and said, "I think this would take the prize for the most used."
Suzy Chase: What an honor.
Kate McDermott: Oh yeah.
Suzy Chase: How old was she when you met her?
Kate McDermott: Oh, she was I believe in her eighties at this point.
Suzy Chase: In the High Noon section of "Home Cooking," you have the "Good Old Butter Sandwich," but your spin on it is that you have re-imagined it in 10 different ways. Describe the one with peppers and arugula.
Kate McDermott: Oh, this is one of my favorites. So you're going to take some bread, and if you like, my mom used to spread an extra layer of butter on our nut butter sandwiches. That's optional, and then I like to put almond butter on mine. Then I place on there the arugula, a nice little bit of arugula on one side, and on the other side I place my favorite red peppers. My favorites are Mama Lil's Picked Hungarian Goathorn Peppers, and I liberally put those on. Sometimes maybe I'll put a little sprinkling of salt if I feel like it too, and then I put it together. You can either eat it like that, or some people I think grill these things too. It's just delicious, and I was inspired to do this when I realized when I go to restaurants, many times there'll be peanuts in a dish or nuts in a dish, and peppers. I thought, "Well why can't I be doing this with a peanut butter sandwich?" I just tuck this stuff in, and it's really good.
Suzy Chase: I can't even imagine it in my head. That's how crazy it sounds.
Kate McDermott: Give it a try. Some of the peanut sauces that we have, like with spring rolls, sometimes those will have a little bit of sweetness to it. If you like, this is not mentioned in the book; this is just for you, you could also take a little tiny pinch of sugar and put that in the sandwich also just to bring it up a little bit.
Suzy Chase: Fall is hearty soup season, and I love a good bean soup. What are your three ways to cook beans?
Kate McDermott: Okay.
Suzy Chase: Hit it.
Kate McDermott: You got it. The first way is to soak the beans overnight, the long way. Actually, you bring them to a boil and then soak them overnight, and then the next day you cook them until they're soft. The second way is to bring them to a boil for five minutes, then let them sit for a little bit, and then you cook them for another couple hours. That seems to work just fine too, so that's the medium way if you have forgotten to soak your beans overnight. The third way is to get out the can opener and open the can. That works really well too.
Suzy Chase: That's my favorite.
Kate McDermott: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Suzy Chase: I just got a ham hock from my butcher too. You just put it in some white beans, and-
Kate McDermott: Yes.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh, the best.
Kate McDermott: I was just visiting some friends. We had a lovely meal of black-eyed peas, which they did in the same way of soaking the beans and then they did a ham hock, but even if you didn't have that, I think pork belly's always good.
Suzy Chase: Oh yes, totally. So I'm not sure why, but one thing I hate to make is salad. You have the perfect answer to my disdain for salad-making-
Kate McDermott: I do?
Suzy Chase: The Make-Ahead Layered Salad. Describe that.
Kate McDermott: Well, that salad is a very retro salad from the '50s and '60s. You really just shred lettuce, you chop pretty much whatever vegetables you want, and make sure that you have different textures in there so that there's some crunch as well. Then, you kind of seal it all in with a mayonnaise topping and let it sit in the fridge overnight or for some hours, and it's ready to go. You just sort of toss it all together if you'd like, and that's it. It's made its own dressing pretty much, and it's like salad ready to go.
Suzy Chase: What do you put in the mayonnaise part of it?
Kate McDermott: So, the dressing for the Make-Ahead Layered Salad is super easy. You take a couple cups of mayonnaise, which sounds like a lot but remember that this is a big salad and it's going to be spread out quite liberally. Put in some sugar for sweetening it up a little bit, some seasoning salt. One of my favorites is Spike, and some garlic powder. You can either mix it together or you can spread the mayonnaise completely over the top and then sprinkle all of those dry ingredients over the top of the mayonnaise. It'll kind of seep in there and flavor it, and then also you put some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of that. It's quite good. Now right before you serve it then, sprinkle it with some crumbled hard-boiled eggs and bacon. It's always better with bacon, right?
Suzy Chase: I'm going to make that for Thanksgiving.
Kate McDermott: I think you'll like it.
Suzy Chase: I can do that the night before.
Kate McDermott: Yes you can.
Suzy Chase: Well there you go. On page 204, you write about how to roast a chicken. I made that chicken the other night, and I always forget how easy it is to roast a chicken.
Kate McDermott: That is so true. When I was a young cook, I was petrified of roasting a chicken for some reason. When I finally just took the bird by the legs and decided to do it, I found that it's very, very simple. The recipe that I have in "Home Cooking" really requires nothing more than a vessel to put the chicken in. Just salt and pepper it both on the inside and the outside. If you want to stuff it with whatever fresh herbs you have; it could be rosemary, oregano, sage, whatever you have. If you want to put some garlic on the inside, you can do that. If you don't anything other than salt and pepper, that's fine too, and you toss the bird into an oven that is at 350. 90 minutes later, it comes out and it's done. You can baste it if you want; you don't have to baste it. It comes out every time.
Suzy Chase: I made little slits and I stuck roasted garlic into the slits.
Kate McDermott: That's a classic. That is so yummy.
Suzy Chase: It was so good, and then the next day I made ramen for my little boy, so it's great.
Kate McDermott: So you had the chicken to be able to put in it.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Kate McDermott: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Suzy Chase: So good. For my segment called My Last Meal, what would you choose for your last supper?
Kate McDermott: A simple piece of bread hot out of the oven slathered with butter would be right up there, and a perfect peach with juice with juice that would be dripping down my chin that we could all share and pass it around, and maybe some home-pressed cider. I would want to be sharing this with lifelong friends and of course my son, and hopefully I would have some grandchildren at that time. Hint, hint, Duncan if you're listening.
Suzy Chase: No pressure.
Kate McDermott: No pressure at all. I think that last meal is more who you're sharing it with and the memories. Quite frankly, I hope I go out laughing.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Kate McDermott: You can find me at artofthepie.com. I am on Instagram @KateMcDermott, and I am on Twitter @KateMcDermott. On Facebook, you can either find me at Art of the Pie and then my personal page is Kate McDermott.
Suzy Chase: You and Marion Cunningham agreed that the kitchen table is one of the most central places in the home. That is so homey and comforting just like the recipes in this cookbook. Thanks so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Kate McDermott: Thank you so much, Suzy, and to your listeners, just cook. It's easy.
Suzy Chase: Follow me on Instagram @CookeryByTheBook. Twitter is @IamSuzyChase, and download your Kitchen Mixtapes, music to cook by on Spotify at Cookery by the Book. As always, subscribe on Apple Podcasts.