More than a year ago, I agreed to help Michael Symon with his cookbook. He'd been asking for a while and I'd always wanted to but various other projects, his and mine, got in the way. Last fall time opened up for me and with Michael's growing presence on television, his opening new restaurants in Cleveland and beyond, the time was ripe.
I wanted to do this book for three simple reasons: Michael really, really, really wanted to do a book, and I wanted him have this wish. Second, I loved hanging out with him and his wife Liz, and simply being at his restaurants (Powder, more marrow please!), and a book would mean plenty of enforced hanging out time, cooking and talking about food and cooking. Third, I loved his food. It was dynamic and interesting and unusually simple. Michael has a genius not only for big flavors, but for simplicity. Or as one of his cooks put it, "Michael does great do-at-home food."
I've often talked about my dislike of cookbooks, particularly chef cookbooks. Ironic that I seem to have written several of them myself, but there it is. What I always ask myself before entering a project is why do we need another cookbook? My answer here was because I want to know and explore this very accessible form of cooking. Michael gives a range of restaurant preparations from pig's ears to beef cheek pierogies (a staple at his restaurant Lola), but also plenty of family style meals, such as grilled lamb chops and roasted chicken (which is made special and fantastic with a killer salsa verde).
The book, Michael Symon's Live To Cook, won't be out till next fall, but Amazon has put the book up for presale now, and last week, after Donna stole my fresh batch of Michael's pickled chilli peppers when the Cleveland sun made a rare appearance, I had to do a preview post.
I'll write more about the book when it comes out but for now, please make these addictive pickled chilli peppers. First, they're beautiful and inspiring to look at. And second they enliven everything from stews to braised short ribs to sauteed pork loin or to sharpen meats sliced for sandwiches. Tossed with some parsley leaves, they make an incredible garnish for grilled steak. They're great to have on hand and keep for ages in the fridge. But they're really a lesson in how a little bit of intense contrasting color and flavor utterly transforms a dish, makes it vault from pretty good to out-of-this-world, can't-stop-thinking-about-it must-have-it-now food.
Michael Symon's Pickled Chillis
Choose a colorful variety of chillis, fresno, jalapeno, banana, tomato, serrano—the thick fleshed peppers work best. The method is very simple, simply fill a jar with peppers, bring the pickling liquid to a simmer and pour it hot over the peppers. You can use them once they're cooled but they're best after they've been sitting in the pickle for a few weeks. They'll keep for a long time–how long, I don't know because I always use them up for I can find out.
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
4 sprigs of marjoram
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 to 2 pounds chillis (or enough to fill whatever vessel you're using)
Place chillis in a jar and cover them with water. Pour off the water into a measuring cup. Note the volume, pour off half the water and replace it with vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons salt for every three cups of liquid.
Combine your liquid and remaining spices in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, then let cool slightly. Pour the pickling liquid over the peppers, screw the lid on and refrigerate. To use, slice into rings, chop or mince depending how you want to use them.
UPDATE 4/3: Kate in NW e-mailed the following, which I'm happily sharing here. Great idea Kate!
I just HAD to write you about this…
I made those pickled peppers you wrote about and you were right – they didn't last long! Being of Scottish ancestry, I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the brine, so I boiled up a dozen eggs, peeled them and plunked them in there for a week (refrigerated) while we were on vacation. THEY ARE SO GOOD!!!! Perfect for a picnic lunch – if summer ever comes. And now I won't feel guilty about throwing away the brine, having re-used it to such great effect! Thanks again for another great recipe/technique.