The Nightgale’s Kristin Hannah on Her Cookbook Obsession and Favorite Mai Tai

From Left to Right: © Ryan McVay / Getty Images; © Charles Bush; © Tara Fisher

By Christine Quinlan Posted December 16, 2015

Novelist Kristin Hannah researched “mock duck” for her World War II novel set in France, but in real life, she prefers slow-cooker beef stew in Idaho.

When I was researching my novel The Nightingale, I spent a lot of time reading memoirs from World War II France. Some included recipes made with limited rations. “Mock duck,” for instance, involved combining sausage meat, breadcrumbs and vegetable scraps, then forming the mixture into the shape of a duck breast.

Any dinner with a Nightingale theme would have to be French. Because I tend to think about dessert first, I would have île flottante, or floating island. The main course would be cassoulet. You’re probably thinking, This is a superheavy dinner. And, well, yes, it is.

I don’t come from a family of cooks. I had to learn on my own, so I became a big cookbook collector. I own hundreds. We writers, we buy books.  

When we go skiing in northern Idaho, we make beef stew in the slow cooker and have it with red wine—my husband likes Opus One from Napa. I am the cook; he is the sommelier. I defer to him when it comes to wine, except for Champagne, which I have very strong opinions about.

What I love about spending time at our house in Hawaii is the ease of everything. It’s a world of people who are on vacation even if they live there. You can throw a party together in about 10 minutes with five phone calls.  

I like a French 75, and I still love a Cosmopolitan. Can’t help myself. In Hawaii, I’m a big fan of the mai tai. It’s difficult to make and difficult to find a good one. My favorite is at the Tahiti Nui in Hanalei on Kauai. It’s the best in the world.

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