gail-headshot-fwcooks-0119.jpg
gail-headshot-fwcooks-0119.jpg

Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, food writer, and dynamic television personality. Since the show's inception in 2006, she has lent her expertise as a permanent judge on BRAVO's Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series Top Chef, now in its 19th successful season. She is a co-host of The Good Dish, the new daily syndicated series offering delicious recipes, real-life wisdom, and conversations on the topics of the day, and most recently was host of Top Chef Amateurs, as well as IronChef Canada. From 2004 to 2019, Gail served as special projects director at FOOD & WINE.
Pastrami-Style Roast Turkey
Rating: Unrated
New!
Many years ago, I was introduced to pastrami-style roast turkey breast at a local Jewish deli and loved it so much that I set out to make a version at home. It is now one of our family favorites, and a recipe I often double to enjoy for dinner and then in sandwiches for several days after. The classic peppery spices are key, but a huge part of the appeal of this dish is also how simple it is to prepare. Boneless turkey breast is commonly sold at supermarkets in a variety of sizes, and you can ask to have it butterflied, or easily do this at home. The simple technique allows you to spread the spices evenly over the meat, which is then rolled and tied. This results in a perfect distribution of spices, as well as a pinwheel effect once the meat is sliced. Serve it with roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, or a tangy slaw on the side.
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Lemon-Tahini Cookies
Rating: Unrated
4
Last winter I had the good fortune of spending a week traversing the cities, deserts, ports, and verdant fields of Israel in the company of 20-plus fellow food-obsessed chefs and food writers; culinary heavyweights Jonathan Waxman, Ruth Reichl, Jenn Louis, Nancy Silverton, and Marc Murphy were among them. We were on a spiritual pilgrimage of a new kind: to uncover and understand what is arguably the most complex convergence of food cultures in the world. Together we visited farms, home and restaurant kitchens, morning markets, wineries, food incubators, renowned dining rooms, and late-night food stalls. We were eager to taste and to learn how a land so fraught by ages of conflict (yet still so new in its independent history) can preserve its ancient foodways with such passion and purpose.We were a ravenous bunch, consuming, questioning, and squealing with glee at every flavorful find. In fact, our discoveries felt so plentiful that after a while I lost count, even with the pages of notes and flurry of photos I took each day. Despite our feeding frenzy, there were several distinct moments of clarity and revelation, when I tasted something so utterly satisfying that it is now and forever burned into my sense memory. One such instance took place at the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, known to the locals as Shuk HaCarmel. We spent the morning guided through stalls and stands by author Adeena Sussman, whose new Israeli cookbook Sababa was inspired by the vendors and foods of the market. Toward the end of the tour we stopped at a beautiful display of molds for halvah, the dense sweet that in the Middle East is often made of pressed sesame paste (tahini) and sugar then swirled or sprinkled with anything from dark chocolate to nuts to rose oil. The shopkeeper placed a piece of his favorite in my hand, and as soon as it dissolved in my mouth I knew it would be my favorite, too.Bright, tart lemon zest (not juice) added the most fragrant, floral note to the otherwise dense, earthy dessert. Dark, just-bitter cacao nibs balanced out what otherwise would have been a cloying sweetness. It was a masterful combination, one I knew I needed to bring back to my kitchen.Of course I bought a large slab and have been nibbling on it ever since (Pro tip: Halvah will keep, well wrapped, in a cool, dark spot in your pantry for over a year!). In addition, the trinity of lemon zest, tahini, and cacao nibs has been making its way into my sweets and baking repertoire ever since, from morning pancakes to the perfect ice cream topping—and these unassuming, irresistible Lemon-Tahini Cookies. They may just be the ideal holiday gift for everyone on your list this year, no matter your culture or creed. After all, deliciousness knows no bounds.
There are a few desserts I never pass up if they appear on a menu, and anything beginning with “sticky toffee” in the name has always fallen firmly in that category. Specifically, sticky toffee cake (or pudding, as it’s often called) is my kryptonite. The allure of warm toffee poured over date-enhanced sponge cake and served with vanilla custard or cream is too strong for my willpower to resist and far too satisfying to deny.What accounts for my fascination? A little digging suggests that the dessert made famous by British chef Francis Coulson at the Sharrow Bay hotel may in fact be Canadian in origin—which would explain my penchant for it given that I, too, am Canadian. The story goes that the dessert was initially made by Patricia Martin at her country hotel in Claughton, England, and later appeared as her contribution to a compilation of recipes published in 1971. Reports differ as to whether she learned the recipe from a Canadian friend or from two Canadian air force officers who stayed at her hotel.But I would love sticky toffee cake no matter where it originated. When the weather turns colder and I start planning for the holidays ahead, this spoonable sweet is everything I need in the dessert department. It’s easy to make for a crowd and undeniably decadent.I’ve recently taken to putting my own touches on the classic, giving the otherwise sweet and soft-textured dessert more dimension and depth. In addition to the traditional dates, I like to add chopped pears to the batter, where they cook down as the individual cakes bake, and I add miso to the toffee, which lends a salty savoriness that may sound gratuitous but exceeds expectations. My recipe serves 12, but you’ll be wishing you’d made a whole lot more.
Gail's Anchoïade
Rating: Unrated
1
Several years ago my husband and I flew to Arcachon, a small, seaside summer playground in southwestern France, just over an hour’s drive west from Bordeaux, for the wedding of a friend. Arcachon Bay, known for its oysters and cockles, was the ideal escape for a week of drinking wine and lounging by the sea, and we easily got the lay of the land.My favorite day of our trip started with a short ferry ride across the water to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a sleepy resort village on the tip of the peninsula, complete with vacationers bicycling to the market in navy stripes and a smattering of simple seafood restaurants near the area’s fabled oyster beds. When we arrived for lunch, at low tide, the fishing boats on the bay had sunk into the sand on all sides of us, but as the tide rose, so did the boats, and by the end of our meal they bobbed in the gentle waves.We found a table outside and ordered from the limited menu: a few dozen raw oysters, bowls of tiny poached shrimp, a plate of crudités with herby aioli, garlicky escargots and tins of anchovies and sardines in their oil, butter and lemon slices on the side. I relished those tinned fishes, sopping up the briny oil with my bread, spreading and mashing silvery sardines and saline anchovies on top, slurping the oysters and sipping cool white wine. Back home in New York, I couldn’t get the flavors out of my head. That’s when I discovered anchoïade, a rustic Provençal spread made with tinned anchovies, vinegar or lemon, and garlic. My version includes chile flakes and a big pinch of lemon zest, but its essence remains the same. Making and using it—on seafood, on buttered bread, even as a condiment for steak—scratches that daydreamy itch for the flavors of the French seaside.
Jerk-Grilled Lobster
Rating: Unrated
New!
The first time I visited Jamaica was in 2012. Close friends who had been going there on vacation for years invited my husband and me to the cliffs of Negril, in the westernmost corner of the island. Among the many features of the area they extolled was a local jerk shack just down the road from the small hotel where we were staying. But, they cautioned us, don’t go too hungry, and be prepared to wait. After all, great jerk cannot be hurried, nor can island time. I was familiar with jerk seasoning from my childhood, when walks home from my public school in Toronto would take me through a Caribbean neighborhood where I devoured beef patties and jerk chicken thighs as an after-school snack. But that was the extent of my knowledge of Jamaica’s distinctive cuisine. The chance to get to know it better while sitting on the beach, eating chicken and seafood laced with Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and garlic, and washing it all down with an ice-cold Red Stripe was one I could not pass up.That first jerk shack did not disappoint, nor have any of the others we’ve frequented on our many subsequent visits. In the years since our first foray we have mastered our timing to arrive midafternoon, still full from a late lunch and happy to linger for a few hours sipping cold drinks while our dinner is prepared. After trying every item that can be basted or drizzled in the flavors of jerk, from shrimp to chicken to whole fish and even cocktails, hands down my favorite incarnation is lobster, where the jerk paste is stirred into butter and used to baste the crustacean while it cooks over the flames. My streamlined version is one that you can make all year round, but grilling the lobsters outside, beer in hand, is always encouraged.
August is the laziest month, in the best possible way. It seems to move a little slower than the other months of the year—in theory because of the heat, in fact because so many people are on vacation. It’s sluggish, languid even, but always welcoming. (After all, it’s far more fun to be lazy with friends.) All of that makes August, in my mind, the best month for leisurely dinners outside, for grilling in the backyard or by the beach or the lake, for cooking unfussy food. This means, of course, that it’s also prime frozen cocktail season.My most recent slushy obsession is a tequila, cucumber, and coconut water creation, blended up with cilantro and lime and rimmed with a mix of chili powder, sumac, and salt. It’s an ode to my favorite Mexican street snack: fruta con chile y limón, little bags of sliced mango, cucumber, and jicama usually sprinkled with Tajín, a spicy and sour snack seasoning. I make the icy concoction in big batches, and it never lasts very long, but a little advance prep and direction empowers my guests to blend more themselves without disturbing my valuable chill time. I peel and chop several cucumbers in advance, portion them out, and freeze them before guests arrive; squeeze lots of lime into a bowl; and chop an extra-big bunch of herbs on the side. The chili-salt mixture sits on a plate on the counter for people to sprinkle and rim as they please. And any extra doubles as seasoning for crunchy veggies, grilled corn on the cob, or a platter of watermelon. It’s August at its best.
My first professional New York City cooking job was right out of culinary school, as an apprentice in the kitchen at Le Cirque 2000. This was the late ’90s and under the leadership of the inimitable chef Sottha Khunn in the back and the Maccioni family in the front, and the restaurant felt like the epicenter of the New York fine-dining universe. The kitchens themselves were enormous, taking up the better part of two floors deep within the Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue. I was the lowest rung on the proverbial culinary ladder, not to mention the only woman in the savory kitchen at the time (there were a few other women working for dessert mastermind Jacques Torres in the pastry department). From day one, I was assigned to the hot appetizer, pasta, and risotto station, and my first task each morning was to make 50 or so perfect French crêpes. These would later become the wrappers for a delicate vegetable beggar’s purse, which would sit on a dramatic swoosh of rich yellow curry, alongside a single seared giant prawn.If you have ever made crêpes before, you know there’s a definitive process you must follow to ensure their success: mix batter, allow batter to rest (this allows air bubbles created during the mixing process to work their way out, the gluten to relax, and the starch molecules to absorb some of the liquid, which gives the batter a thicker and more uniform consistency), warm a well-seasoned crêpe pan (or small nonstick skillet) and add a little fat, then using a ladle, pour a small amount of said batter into the hot pan while simultaneously moving the pan in a smooth, circular motion to quickly and evenly spread the batter in a thin layer to cook. When small bubbles appear around the edges, flip the crêpe (best done with your fingers), let the underside cook for just a minute, and slide it onto a towel-lined plate to cool. The first crêpe is often a bust; the pan may not be seasoned enough yet, the temperature spotty. But persevere, and by the second you should be off and running. Repeat, repeat, repeat.My memory of those mornings is crystal clear. I would stand over the piping hot stove for about two hours, pouring and flipping, pouring and flipping, my face bright red from the heat. We had this one specific crêpe pan for the job, passed down from cook to cook, seasoned to perfection from years of use. The action of crêpe-making became muscle memory. To this day, I can almost feel the rhythm of it. Then there was the smell: raw flour and, in the background, a hint of blackberries. You see, while I was busy with my pan, the pastry team was prepping furiously for dinner service in the next room, mixing and whisking and sugaring away. My favorite dessert was their blackberry soufflé, a signature of chef Torres. On occasion, after a particularly difficult night of service, I would sneak into the back and they would slip me one, the ideal end to an otherwise grueling day.Since then, crêpes and blackberries have been intrinsically linked in my mind. Luckily they go well together, especially in July when the berries are at their peak and a lazy weekend morning spent flipping crêpes yields enough for my new favorite cake, layered with rich mascarpone whipped cream, tart berries, and a little lemon zest. I admit, part of making it is how good it feels to flex those muscles again, but even that pales in comparison to how satisfying it is to slice through all of its beautiful layers and take the first heavenly bite.  
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My adoration of sea scallops goes back as far as some of the first memories I have at my parents’ dinner table. In the ’70s and ’80s, my mother, a great home cook in her own right, used to make them in a creamy white wine sauce for dinner parties, calling them by their fancy French name (coquilles St. Jacques) and serving them in elaborate scallop shell plates that only came out of the cupboard for this one very special dish. They were, in my eyes, the height of sophistication.When I moved to New York as a young culinary-school student, I learned just how easy they were to cook and how delicious they could be simply seasoned with salt and pepper and seared over high heat in clarified butter. I would save up to buy half a pound at my local fishmonger and practice making them late at night for my roommate, tossing the barely cooked mollusks in angel hair pasta with burst cherry tomatoes and lots of fresh garlic, and setting off the fire alarm in our tiny kitchen in the process.What’s not to love about scallops? It’s hard to find fault in their naturally beautiful shape, pillowy texture, and distinctly sweet, mild flavor. They take well to an infinite array of preparations and cooking techniques, adapt to almost any cuisine, and (as any Top Chef contestant will tell you) can be cooked incredibly quickly or served raw, making them the ultimate blank canvas for everything from black truffles to black bean sauce, citrus to sambal. In summer, I cook them on the grill until just kissed by the flames and pile them on top of warmed veggies with a bright dressing. This version, a favorite for quick and easy backyard dinners, incorporates miso, ginger, and toasted sesame, adding a savory dimension to the salad and a rich contrast to the corn and scallops’ inherent sweetness.To achieve the best sear on your scallops, set them uncovered on a paper towel in the refrigerator for a few hours before grilling.
Whole-Fruit Rocket Pops
Rating: Unrated
1
Like so many kids, summers at the beach were everything to me: freedom, friends, fresh air, and most of all—frozen treats from the truck that pulled into the beach parking lot each afternoon, which we'd run to meet with crumpled bills clenched tightly in our fists. There was nothing better than those sticky sweets and the satisfaction that came from choosing whatever you wanted from the familiar menu. I usually opted for a strawberry shortcake pop, but once in a while I relished a rocket pop. Who could resist those bright, sugary layers, as well as the bonus of the deep blue your tongue turned? Perfect for showing off to your siblings.Flash forward 30 years and I still get nostalgic for those pops. Of course, they've now become a favorite of my 5-year-old daughter, too, on our annual family pilgrimage to beautiful Good Harbor Beach on the North Shore near Boston. But, as a mom, the ingredients don't thrill me as much as they once did. So I decided to make a version of my own, still bursting with deep hues and summer flavor but with a slightly more adult approach. Mine are layered with strawberry-lime, coconut-banana and ginger, and blueberry-mint. Making the simple base for the layers is easy using a home blender; just be sure to freeze each layer sufficiently before pouring in the next, and use a small funnel to get even layers and keep the sides of your popsicle mold clean. Rest assured, the kids will still come running!
My first professional New York City cooking job was right out of culinary school, as an apprentice in the kitchen at Le Cirque 2000. This was the late ’90s and under the leadership of the inimitable chef Sottha Khunn in the back and the Maccioni family in the front, and the restaurant felt like the epicenter of the New York fine-dining universe. The kitchens themselves were enormous, taking up the better part of two floors deep within the Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue. I was the lowest rung on the proverbial culinary ladder, not to mention the only woman in the savory kitchen at the time (there were a few other women working for dessert mastermind Jacques Torres in the pastry department). From day one, I was assigned to the hot appetizer, pasta, and risotto station, and my first task each morning was to make 50 or so perfect French crêpes. These would later become the wrappers for a delicate vegetable beggar’s purse, which would sit on a dramatic swoosh of rich yellow curry, alongside a single seared giant prawn.If you have ever made crêpes before, you know there’s a definitive process you must follow to ensure their success: mix batter, allow batter to rest (this allows air bubbles created during the mixing process to work their way out, the gluten to relax, and the starch molecules to absorb some of the liquid, which gives the batter a thicker and more uniform consistency), warm a well-seasoned crêpe pan (or small nonstick skillet) and add a little fat, then using a ladle, pour a small amount of said batter into the hot pan while simultaneously moving the pan in a smooth, circular motion to quickly and evenly spread the batter in a thin layer to cook. When small bubbles appear around the edges, flip the crêpe (best done with your fingers), let the underside cook for just a minute, and slide it onto a towel-lined plate to cool. The first crêpe is often a bust; the pan may not be seasoned enough yet, the temperature spotty. But persevere, and by the second you should be off and running. Repeat, repeat, repeat.My memory of those mornings is crystal clear. I would stand over the piping hot stove for about two hours, pouring and flipping, pouring and flipping, my face bright red from the heat. We had this one specific crêpe pan for the job, passed down from cook to cook, seasoned to perfection from years of use. The action of crêpe-making became muscle memory. To this day, I can almost feel the rhythm of it. Then there was the smell: raw flour and, in the background, a hint of blackberries. You see, while I was busy with my pan, the pastry team was prepping furiously for dinner service in the next room, mixing and whisking and sugaring away. My favorite dessert was their blackberry soufflé, a signature of chef Torres. On occasion, after a particularly difficult night of service, I would sneak into the back and they would slip me one, the ideal end to an otherwise grueling day.Since then, crêpes and blackberries have been intrinsically linked in my mind. Luckily they go well together, especially in July when the berries are at their peak and a lazy weekend morning spent flipping crêpes yields enough for my new favorite cake, layered with rich mascarpone whipped cream, tart berries, and a little lemon zest. I admit, part of making it is how good it feels to flex those muscles again, but even that pales in comparison to how satisfying it is to slice through all of its beautiful layers and take the first heavenly bite.  
My adoration of sea scallops goes back as far as some of the first memories I have at my parents’ dinner table. In the ’70s and ’80s, my mother, a great home cook in her own right, used to make them in a creamy white wine sauce for dinner parties, calling them by their fancy French name (coquilles St. Jacques) and serving them in elaborate scallop shell plates that only came out of the cupboard for this one very special dish. They were, in my eyes, the height of sophistication.When I moved to New York as a young culinary-school student, I learned just how easy they were to cook and how delicious they could be simply seasoned with salt and pepper and seared over high heat in clarified butter. I would save up to buy half a pound at my local fishmonger and practice making them late at night for my roommate, tossing the barely cooked mollusks in angel hair pasta with burst cherry tomatoes and lots of fresh garlic, and setting off the fire alarm in our tiny kitchen in the process.What’s not to love about scallops? It’s hard to find fault in their naturally beautiful shape, pillowy texture, and distinctly sweet, mild flavor. They take well to an infinite array of preparations and cooking techniques, adapt to almost any cuisine, and (as any Top Chef contestant will tell you) can be cooked incredibly quickly or served raw, making them the ultimate blank canvas for everything from black truffles to black bean sauce, citrus to sambal. In summer, I cook them on the grill until just kissed by the flames and pile them on top of warmed veggies with a bright dressing. This version, a favorite for quick and easy backyard dinners, incorporates miso, ginger, and toasted sesame, adding a savory dimension to the salad and a rich contrast to the corn and scallops’ inherent sweetness.To achieve the best sear on your scallops, set them uncovered on a paper towel in the refrigerator for a few hours before grilling.
Whole-Fruit Rocket Pops
Rating: Unrated
1
Like so many kids, summers at the beach were everything to me: freedom, friends, fresh air, and most of all—frozen treats from the truck that pulled into the beach parking lot each afternoon, which we'd run to meet with crumpled bills clenched tightly in our fists. There was nothing better than those sticky sweets and the satisfaction that came from choosing whatever you wanted from the familiar menu. I usually opted for a strawberry shortcake pop, but once in a while I relished a rocket pop. Who could resist those bright, sugary layers, as well as the bonus of the deep blue your tongue turned? Perfect for showing off to your siblings.Flash forward 30 years and I still get nostalgic for those pops. Of course, they've now become a favorite of my 5-year-old daughter, too, on our annual family pilgrimage to beautiful Good Harbor Beach on the North Shore near Boston. But, as a mom, the ingredients don't thrill me as much as they once did. So I decided to make a version of my own, still bursting with deep hues and summer flavor but with a slightly more adult approach. Mine are layered with strawberry-lime, coconut-banana and ginger, and blueberry-mint. Making the simple base for the layers is easy using a home blender; just be sure to freeze each layer sufficiently before pouring in the next, and use a small funnel to get even layers and keep the sides of your popsicle mold clean. Rest assured, the kids will still come running!
Ten years ago, my friend Jessamyn Rodriguez envisioned a nonprofit that would change the face of the culinary industry by training immigrant women for good jobs in food. She set up a wholesale bakery and teaching kitchen in East Harlem. She called it Hot Bread Kitchen. Three years in, she invited me to join the board of directors, and I’ve proudly been watching its ranks of bakers, cooks, and managers expand ever since.As of today, Hot Bread Kitchen (or HBK) has helped hundreds of women and small food businesses get off the ground while significantly raising the bar on NYC’s carb game with its globally themed bread, from stollen, and babka to challah and parker house rolls—all inspired by the recipes of the women who train there. But it’s their  M’smen—an intensely buttery Moroccan flatbread—that i’m addicted to.I buy it online or at their bakery whenever I can. It’s a challenge not to rip it apart and eat it on the spot, but if i bring it home,  M’smen becomes the basis for a slew of delicious meals. It’s the ideal vehicle for almost any dip and a gorgeous base on which to pile a salad or braised vegetables and meat.Crisped up in a pan with a little (more) butter or oil, my most recent  M’smen revelation is for breakfast, served with harissa-spiced yogurt, merguez sausage, and eggs. With every bite, i give a quiet nod of thanks to the fearless women of HBK who have taught me so much about reinvention, resilience, and the barrier-breaking power of well-baked bread. You can get the recipe for  M’smen here or order it online at hotbreadkitchen.org.
If you have ever had the pleasure of indulging in a Nanaimo bar, you know just how intoxicating it can be: that chocolate-coconut cookie base made with chopped nuts, layered with creamy vanilla custard, and topped with dark chocolate ganache. It’s a distinctly Canadian creation—and the thing I’ve craved the most since I settled in New York 20 years ago.The bar comes from the seaside town of Nanaimo on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. The first official account of the recipe can be traced back to a cookbook published in 1952, but to this day the exact details of how and why it came to be remain shrouded in mystery. Regardless of its history, the Nanaimo bar is one of Canada’s most popular treats, included in every bake sale, sold at coffee shops and bakeries, and made in abundance for birthday parties and school lunches. I can still remember sneaking them off the dessert table at family celebrations and begging my mother to buy them every chance I had.For whatever reason, the bars never gained a following south of the border, and I have yet to come across anything like them here. I have always found this to be not just an unfortunate oversight, but a distinct and glaring hole in the American dessert lexicon—one I’m filling here with one of my own design, that layers a chocolate and coconut crust with buttercream frosting, hazelnuts, and chocolate ganache with swirls of tahini.You can thank me later. First, do yourself a favor and make these bars. Then share them. I think you’ll find you crave them as much as I do.
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For Daniel Humm, chef-owner of New York City’s Eleven Madison Park (EMP), comfort means the flavors of his Swiss childhood in the Alps: soft pretzels with mustard, veal schnitzel, spaetzle. I was lucky enough to taste his elevated takes on these dishes (and more) at EMP’s sister restaurant The NoMad last winter in the form of an elaborate smorgasbord he called Sunday Fondue Nights. In true Humm style, each plate was more decadent than the last, every detail fully considered then playfully crafted. I left the meal blanketed in a cozy haze.This winter, Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara will decamp to Aspen, Colorado—the summertime home of the Food & Wine Classic—to create a cold-weather pop-up. Situated in the restaurant of The St. Regis Aspen Resort and across 10 coveted yurts in the interior courtyard, EMP Winter House will allow Humm even more room to play with the après-ski dishes so close to his heart.Grab a table while you can, or do as I will: While chef Humm and his team are spreading good cheer in the Rockies, I plan to hunker down in my Brooklyn kitchen and re-create my new favorite comfort food: Humm’s simple, golden potato rösti, blanketed in crème fraîche and layered with pastrami and whole-grain mustard. It doesn’t get cozier than that.To create make it, use a spiralizer to cut starchy russet potatoes into long shoestrings, rinse them to wash away extra starch, salt them to draw out their moisture, then pat them dry. Once the potatoes are in the pan, make sure to shake and give the skillet a quarter turn every 2 minutes or so to help the pancake brown evenly.Once finished, you can blanket it in smoked salmon and crème fraiche, or layer it with pastrami and whole grain mustard. Or even simpler: enjoy it under a gently fried egg for breakfast. It doesn’t get much cozier than that.
Maple-Bacon Popovers
Rating: Unrated
8
Popovers are America’s answer to British Yorkshire pudding. Festive and comforting, they’re made by adding hot fat (butter, beef drippings, bacon grease) to the bottom of individual popover or muffin tins before pouring in a rich, eggy batter, which causes them to puff up and “pop” over the sides of the pan. Having grown up in Canada, I had never had a popover until I moved to the States. I quickly fell in love with them, especially when I realized how easy they are to make, and how satisfying when eaten still steaming right out of the oven.This past year, around Thanksgiving, I decided to put my own spin on the popover. As a Canadian living the United States, I can’t help but be envious of my American friends around Thanksgiving. More than any other adopted holiday, this one comes with boat loads of (nondenominational, bipartisan) family traditions, mostly centered around the kitchen. Family and friends gather from every corner of the country to spend a day cooking favorite recipes, many of which are passed down through generations, and enjoying a veritable feast. (Sure, Canada has its own Thanksgiving, modeled after its American counterpart, but it’s not nearly as obsessively food-focused, nor as widely celebrated.) So, this past year, around Thanksgiving, I decided to put my own spin on the popover.Over the two decades I’ve lived in New York, my husband and I have observed “American Thanksgiving”, as we Canadians call it, in different ways: joining friends at their family tables, making our own “friendsgiving” or, on occasion, using the long weekend as an excuse to travel, without the obligation to family that the holiday would otherwise require. But now that I had two (American) children, I felt the need to establish our own traditions that would teach them about their country’s history, as well as to understand and be grateful for the food we are so lucky to enjoy together. And so, I came up with these Maple Bacon Popovers—my first attempt at starting a family Thanksgiving ritual.My version includes maple syrup and bacon in the batter, as well as more maple brushed on top, giving the adapted American dish a distinctly Canadian accent, just like me. To make them, you’ll want a popover pan or a muffin tin. Preheat the pan in the oven—that step is key to the popover’s dramatic rise.We served them for Thanksgiving last year (and hope to for many years to come), but they’re so good—airy and eggy, sweetly glazed from the maple, with salty and crunchy bites from the bacon—they’re sure to become a favorite for weekend breakfasts all year long.
Basque Grilled Fish
Rating: Unrated
2
This recipe for grilled halibut was inspired by a meal Top Chef judge and F&W Special Projects Editor Gail Simmons ate on the Bay of Biscay in Spain. “I had lunch at a fabled fish restaurant called Elkano, just a 30-minute drive from San Sebastián, in the tiny hamlet of Getaria,” she says. The dish, freshly caught turbot, seasoned with salt and olive oil and grilled to perfection on the restaurant’s outdoor grills, inspired this version. The simple preparation lets the flavor of fish shine—if it’s really fresh, it won’t need so much as a slice of lemon to enhance it. Use a grilling basket to prevent flaky fish from falling apart during cooking. Serve it with Txakoli, a lightly effervescent wine with bright minerality. (Top brands to look for in the U.S. include Ameztoi, Luzia de Ripa, Itsasmendi, and Txomin Etxaniz)
In Canada, where cookbook author Gail Simmons grew up, “bumbleberry” refers to a mix of berries—usually blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Here, she layers the fruit in a wide skillet over a thin layer of sugar that caramelizes while the cake bakes. The tender, lemony buttermilk cake is the perfect canvas for the berries.Slideshow: More Cake Recipes
Top Chef judge Gail Simmons first met Andrew Carmellini in 2002, when he was chef de cuisine at Café Boulud. She was working for chef-owner Daniel Boulud at the time and spent hours hanging out at the café, usually because its kitchen always had the best staff meal. One of the things she loved about Carmellini’s menu was the changing section highlighting a specific world cuisine. Carmellini left Café Boulud in 2005 and went on to open many of New York’s most successful restaurants, including Locanda Verde, where his lamb meatball sliders caused a national frenzy. Simmons’s own recipe owes a debt to his meatballs, as well as to her honeymoon trip to Vietnam. The combination of lemongrass, a few dashes of fish sauce and tons of fresh herbs creates a salty brightness to crave year-round. Slideshow: More Meatball Recipes 
Butterscotch Pudding Pie
Rating: Unrated
2
Butterscotch pudding was Gail Simmons’s number one dessert choice when she was a kid. It’s recently made a comeback, and the Top Chef judge has seen it embellished with creative and sophisticated flourishes, but she still likes to keep it homey, focusing on the buttery flavor and lingering finish of real Scotch. Once in a while, if she wants to impress, she thickens the pudding more than usual and pours it into a fully cooled piecrust flecked with golden pecans. The contrasting textures of rich pudding and nutty, flaky dough make this a grown-up ode to the comforting childhood classic. Slideshow: More Pie and Tart Recipes 
Winter Galette
Rating: Unrated
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Top Chef judge Gail Simmons was married on a beautiful August day in 2008. Star chef Daniel Boulud, her former boss, cooked the feast, which included seven different vegetable dishes, all served family-style. Her favorite was his modern take on ratatouille, the traditional Provençal stew flavored with herbes de Provence. Taken with the dish’s simplicity, Simmons first came up with a rustic tart using similar flavors, then varied it with the seasons. In colder months, she prepares it with root vegetables, layering paper-thin slices of whatever’s on hand, from potatoes to carrots or celery root. The versatile dough is easy to prepare and shape into a free-form crust, and fresh ricotta, infused with herbs and lemon zest, forms a creamy and aromatic base for the seasonal vegetables that roast on top. Slideshow: More Acorn Squash Recipes 
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Top Chef judge Gail Simmons’s father, Ivor, comes from a small town in South Africa. Although his background is English and Eastern European, he was raised in a region with strong Dutch influences. One Dutch passion he passed down to his daughter is a love of black licorice, specifically a salty, chewy variety. Whenever their family visited his homeland, Ivor stocked up on dubbel zout (double salt)—coins of salted black licorice about the size of a quarter. Simmons devoured them, relishing the savory, saline exterior that gave way to the barely sweet, chewy center. Her father’s other sweet vice, which she also inherited, is chocolate. Not white, not milk, but the pure bittersweet kind. This deeply dark-chocolaty brownie is her homage to him. It has a sophisticated touch of salt, plus notes of molasses and anise from black licorice, and the combo makes a brilliant treat that is irresistibly chewy and not too sweet. Slideshow: More Brownie Recipes 
When she was 19, Gail Simmons traveled through New Zealand and quickly became obsessed with a local specialty that appeared at practically every roadside diner: spaghetti sandwiches. Part oozy grilled cheese, part tangy, tomato-sauced noodles, this mash-up was the inspiration for one of the Top Chef judge's greatest culinary triumphs, spaghetti pie. She's prepared multiple flavor variations, and it always makes her guests extremely happy. This version, perfect for fall gatherings, incorporates plenty of wild mushrooms, spinach, and herbs (plus a spoonful of chopped oil-packed black truffles, if she's feeling decadent). Bonus: If you don't finish it all in one sitting, leftovers make possibly the best next-day treat of all time.
Za’atar Baked Eggs
Rating: Unrated
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I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past 20 years working in food media, following the brightest restaurant talents, traveling in search of great food, and eating alongside some of the world’s best chefs. In my role as special projects director at Food & Wine and as a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, I’ve eaten my way through more tasting menus, late-night small plates, and street-food stalls than I’d like to admit. But, of course, that's the side of my life everyone who knows anything about me already knows.What most people probably don’t realize is, long before I sat at the Top Chef Judges’ Table, I was a cook. In fact, cooking is in my blood. When I was growing up in Toronto, my mom was a cooking instructor and food writer. She made our kitchen a teaching space and filled our fridge with exotic-seeming ingredients. The happy times I spent with her there helped make the kitchen a place where I’ve always found comfort and exhilaration.In my teens, I spent a summer on a kibbutz in Israel working in my first professional kitchen. I was assigned to breakfast duty and fell in love with scrambling, poaching, and frying eggs by the dozens. Today, one of my go-to brunches is baked eggs in a cherry tomato–pepper mix seasoned with the Mediterranean spice blend za’atar. It never fails to conjure happy memories of that magical time—and you’ll find the recipe below.My love of the kitchen drew me to New York City after college, first as a culinary student, then as a line cook. It's also what motivated me, once I left restaurant life, to seek out jobs that kept me connected to cooking. I did research and recipe testing for a food writer, managed events and PR for a chef, and then landed at Food & Wine, while also taking a seat at the Judges’ Table when Top Chef began in 2006. I'd like to think of my role as that of chef translator, helping to make dishes, techniques, and flavors accessible to home cooks.Among the most meaningful moments in my career so far have been opportunities to learn from chefs and food experts I've befriended. Lessons these mentors have shared can be found throughout my new cookbook—my first—Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, a collection of dishes I love making for family and friends. My hope is the book will encourage people to embark on their own cooking and eating adventures.You can also find recipes I’ve created especially for Food & Wine here at F&W Cooks, and in each issue of the magazine, in my column, “At My Table.”
F&W’s Gail Simmons, of Top Chef fame, chars cut limes on the grill to make the smoky dressing for her variation on classic tabbouleh. Slideshow: More Farro Salad Recipes 
Grilling lobsters at home, like F&W’s Gail Simmons does, is reasy if you have your fishmonger clean and halve the lobsters for you. This lobster recipe only calls for four simple steps, and is ready in less than an hour. Slideshow: More Lobster Recipes 
In Season 5 of Top Chef, host Padma Lakshmi actually spit out Ariane Duarte's cloying dessert, layered with cherries that tasted like canned pie filling and topped with overly sweetened meringue. Gail Simmons adds lemon zest to fresh lemon curd for balance and makes a compote with tart cherries and vanilla bean. A dollop of crème fraîche provides more tang. More Desserts from F&W Editors  More Fruit Desserts
“When I was 18 years old, I spent the summer in Israel, working on a beautiful kibbutz,” Gail Simmons recalls. “My first job there was in the chicken house, gathering eggs. I was then transferred to the kitchen, where I was charged with making eggs every morning for hundreds of hungry fellow workers. I developed an ardent affection for humble egg dishes like shakshuka, often known in Italy as Eggs in Purgatory. It’s a popular dish throughout the Middle East and perfect for any meal of the day.” Slideshow:  More Delicious Breakfast Recipes