How to Host Potlucks with Wok Hay

April 26, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Wok portrait collage


Above (from top left, clockwise): Judy, with her Teflon-coated wok (Judy ordered a flat-bottomed, carbon-steel wok, but was unhappy with the construction and returned it); Melanie, with her beautifully seasoned carbon-steel wok (she’s had it for years); Bhakti, with her 2-month-old carbon-steel wok (that looks as if she’s had it for years); Me, with my 2-month-old-plus wok, looking not nearly as nice as Bhakti’s; Marianne with her skilletful of Spicy Garlic Eggplant—notice the handmade label (she does not own a wok); Judy, again.


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Most recipes in The Breath of a Wok are intended to be stir-fried rapidly over furiously hot heat and dispatched to diners will equal speed. If a finished stir-fry loiters on a kitchen counter even for a few moments, eaters may miss their chance of experiencing its wok hay. Make a dish ahead and reheat—the common MO of potlucks—and you can forget about wok hay or enjoying those just tender but still perky snow peas.


How then to host a potluck of recipes from The Breath of a Wok, or for that matter any (more…)

Baking with George Greenstein

February 05, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Jewish Baker jacket

Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World
by George Greenstein
Ten Speed Press
328 pp. $29.99




It has been my experience that many excellent cooks and bakers are intimated by the thought of making bread at home. Yet bread baking can be made simple to understand for the both the novice and the experienced baker.

—George Greenstein


Truer words were never said. And they are exactly the sentiments of Sam Heffernan, the member of this club who suggested we do a baking book. She wanted not only to share her love of bread, but also to encourage (more…)

The Delights of Gastro-Porn

September 06, 2012
By Holly Jennings

A Cook in the Orchard
by Nigel Slater
Ten Speed Press
591 pp. $40.00



For many, this summer’s read was the phenomenally popular Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, a soft-porn bondage thriller that has, I have it under good authority, led to an increase in sales of rope in hardware stores.

I got my kicks from reading Ripe by Nigel Slater, a deliciously written bit of (more…)

Get Cracking with Thai Food

April 16, 2012
By Holly Jennings

By David Thompson
Ten Speed Press
688 pp

David Thompson, author of  Thai Food, doesn’t cut any corners, and he doesn’t expect you to, either. The result? Some of the best Thai food you have had—better than what can be had at most restaurants—prepared right in your own kitchen.

There is a downside, however; the same rigorous recipes that create lively, nuanced food have the potential to leave a trail of disgruntled home cooks in their wake. One DCCC member so disliked the book that she returned it! Those of us who soldiered on all enjoyed the foods we prepared, finding them unlike, and more vibrant than, the more familar and probably overly Westernized version of Thai food we’ve had access to in the States.

There is no question that if you are new to Thai cooking, or even if you’ve done some Thai cooking at home using other cookbooks, you will be challenged when first cooking from this book, which is a truly amazingly, in-depth look at Thai food and Thai culture (the first recipe doesn’t appear until page 191!).

There are multiple reasons why Thai Food is not a walk in the park: ingredients can be difficult to find—particularly if you live in a small town or rural setting, or any place without an Asian population of some size—and there are very few suggested substitutions; for such a complex, text-heavy cookbook, the index could be much better, more complete, and provide more than one way to look up an ingredient or dish; in some cases, the instructions in the recipes proper could be clearer or more (more…)

Soup, Bread & Salad: Good Eating Year-round On Offer From a Generous Author

July 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

A Country Inn Cookbook
By Crescent Dragonwagon
Workman Publishing
406 pp. (out of print)

I don’t know Crescent Dragonwagon personally, but after reading her Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread cookbook from start to finish, and making several successful recipes from it, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know something of her—enough to bet that generosity is one of her best-loved traits. In our author-reader/cook-to-cook relationship, I feel doted on. All of my questions about technique have been anticipated, my curiosity about an ingredient or genesis of a recipe satisfied, my experience of the foods enriched by Crescent Dragonwagon’s high-quality prose and selection of quotes from poets, cooks, and artists, and, most importantly, the recipes deliver on her promises.

At the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club potluck, we (more…)

A Mexican Potluck, and a Tortilla Demo by Melanie

May 17, 2011
By Holly Jennings

It’s easy for a potluck menu to come together seamlessly when everyone attending is cooking from the same cookbook, and particularly the same cuisine—in this case, Mexican.

Last week DCCC club members gathered at Dowdy Corners for a Mexican feast that consisted of twice- or thrice-tried favorites and dishes that were first-time try outs—all from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, or almost all.

Our Menu

Margaritas, prepared by me. Though not authentically Mexican, and definitely not in The Art of Mexican Cooking, they taste good and are a good conviviality enhancer.


A Greek Potluck for Three and Solving a Spoon Sweet Mystery

February 15, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Stuffed grape leaves—vegetarian and meat-filled—and homemade feta, prepared by me, and Kalamata olives

Last week, Georgia, Judy, and I gathered for the second DCCC potluck, a delicious smorgasbord of Greek foods, all prepared from the DCCC pick The Food and Wine of Greeceby Diane Kochilas. Though we were only three—damn that Superbowl and winter colds—we had all of the major parts of a Greek meal covered—from meze to main course and dessert, including libations. (Greeks tend to enjoy foods we associate with dessert, like cakes and pastries, on their own, in the afternoon, rather than directly after a meal; but since we’re Americans, we had not one but three dessert options.) We enjoyed Metaxa brandy neat and as the star ingredient in a Metaxa Sour cocktail, very smooth ouzo from the Greek island of Lesbos, also called Mytilene, an island famed for the quality of its ouzo, and a refreshing, dry white wine from Spata, a town nearby Athens.

Fava, a dip made with yellow split peas, chips for dipping, and sautéed Greek sausage, prepared by Georgia

Rich Walnut Torte, prepared by Judy

Everything was delicious, but the highlight for me were the stuffed grape leaves—the meat-filled version served hot with Greek-style plain yogurt and the vegetarian ones (Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves) served cold—and the Rich Walnut Cake and Fig Spoon Sweet made by Judy.


Demystifying Indian Cuisine

December 30, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People
By Shubhra Ramineni
Tuttle Publishing
160 pp. $27.95

Like most useful things, the Indian cookbook Entice with Spice was born out of a personal need. Having grown tired of eating take-out and frozen dinners after a long day of work at the office, author Shubhra Ramineni resolved to develop simplified recipes that would allow her to cook delicious homemade Indian meals as quickly and as effortlessly as possible—all without sacrificing flavor. The result is a comprehensive collection of one hundred easy-to-make recipes from both the north and south of India. (Most recipes can be made within a half-hour or less; Chicken Biryani and Chicken Tikka Masala are exceptions, requiring about one hour from start to finish.)

In Entice with Spice, you will find a wide range of recipes, including everything from condiments, like yogurt and chutneys, to appetizers, main dishes and sides, breads and rice, and desserts and beverages. (more…)

First DCCC Potluck: An Indian Feast

December 17, 2010
By Holly Jennings

Earlier this month the Randolph-area Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club had its first potluck: an assortment of 18 dishes and condiments from the Indian cookbook Entice with Spice by Shubhra Ramineni. 

After nearly two months of trying recipes from the book and sharing our experiences in the kitchen by email, we were finally all sitting down together around the same table. (Actually, the same two tables. To accommodate everyone and every dish, we pushed two tables together.) For several of us, the potluck was the first time we had met. 

The real surprise for me was the artisan cheese maker and general queen of all dairy products who walked through the door, Karen Bixler. My boyfriend and I had taken a raclette cheese class with Karen, organized by Rural Vermont. Though her name had appeared in the emails we’d sent back and forth, I hadn’t put the name and person together. Karen says that she makes homemade feta. How perfect is that for our next cookbook: The Food and Wine of Greece

With eight people cooking, and some making multiple dishes, the table was crowded with food. Before sitting down at the table, we enjoyed two appetizers standing around the kitchen island, as they came off the stove: Jhinga Kebab (Pepper Shrimp on a Stick) prepared by Sam and two types of Samosas—potato- and lamb-filled—served with Tamarind and Mint Chutneys prepared by Jenn. (more…)