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Here, fun and sometimes hilarious behind-the-scenes tales from authors working on forthcoming cookbooks.
Writer JJ Goode co-wrote chef April Bloomfield’s first book, The Girl and Her Pig, and he is now working on her second book, The Girl and Her Greens, out next year. “April is so particular about what she likes and the way she wants her food,” he says. “Simple recipes have to include all sort of little details to make the food not just good, but April-endorsed good—two very different things.” Here, he takes us through the process of getting Bloomfield’s recipes from good to great.
1. Cooking and singing: “I watch her cook, and take crazy amounts of video and notes, so later I can write up the recipe with all her little quirks intact. She’s always singing some funny song and sticking her nose in the pot and saying adorable things like, ‘I love the smell of garlic when it goes all nutty and brown.’ Then when the dish is finally ready, she’ll make little bowls for me and anyone else who happens to be near the kitchen at the Spotted Pig, all while singing something like Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi.’”
2. Testing and testing again: “While everyone’s oohing and aahing, she is almost always slightly dissatisfied. Sometimes, she looks up at me, while everyone else is smiling and chomping away, and quietly says, ‘This sucks.’ She always thinks that what she’s made could be better, and sometimes we retest things at least three more times.”
3. Thinking it’s finally good enough: “For this most recent book, she makes lumaconi—a dried shell-shaped pasta—that she stuffs with a delicious succotash-like thing made with tomatoes, corn, zucchini and green beans. She does typical April things, like browns red onions just so and peels the cherry tomatoes. While she fills the shells, she simmers cream with the corn cobs. She then pours the cream over the lumaconi and bakes the whole thing. It’s so good that she shocks me by finishing her normal extra-tiny portion and going back for seconds. This is, like, unheard of.”
4. Learning that it’s not: “So I think I’m out of the woods with the lumaconi and that we actually have a recipe she’s happy with. I write it up and put it in the folder on my computer dedicated to recipes that are final-ish. Then months later, she and I are taking stock of what recipes we have finished and which we need to work on, and she goes, ‘I’m not sure about the lumaconi. I think it needs a bit of work.’”
5. Making tiny fixes: “Because she’s so particular, a dish can ‘need work’ without requiring radical change. The big fixes for this dish? ‘We need to up the cream, but not by much. And add a little more salt to the cream and to the pasta.’ Sometimes, I wish for her sake, that she’d give herself a break and accept something as merely good. But then she wouldn’t be April. And I wouldn’t get another, even better bowl of lumaconi.”
The final lumaconi recipe will be revealed in Bloomfield’s book, The Girl and Her Greens, scheduled for release by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, in summer 2014.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.