Since I've already confessed that I'm not a great cook, I'm sure you'll understand why I wanted to find a terrific recipe developer and writer to help with my book. I lucked out that Julia Turshen was available to be my collaborator. At Food & Wine, we pride ourselves on identifying emerging talent and the fact that we hired Julia to be an intern, while she was still a sophomore in college, proves that point. She has gone on to become a fantastic cook, working on impressive projects with, among others, Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jody Williams. This year she received a contract from Chronicle Books to write her own cookbook.
The process of developing the recipes involved a lot of brainstorming. In some cases, I felt as if I was a cartoonist sketching my ideas, and Julia was an animator bringing them to life. Tasting a recipe that, until then, had only existed in my mind was exhilarating. We revised the dishes until we thought they were perfect. What does perfect mean? Streamlined for the home cook, accessible ingredients, high yum factor.
Personally I've never seen Julia make a mistake, but she told me about a recent flop, a recipe that she's developing with Hot Bread Kitchen––the New York City-based organization that helps low-income individuals find jobs in the food industry. Here's what Julia told me about her naan #fail:
"I was testing a recipe for naan and the dough was so wet and was rising like crazy that I knew it wouldn't work properly as naan. I was scared to throw it out in fear that it would continue to rise in the trash! I decided to bake it, thinking if nothing else, it would at least stop the rising so that I could throw out something solid instead of something alive and growing! As it was baking, the kitchen smelled wonderful. I thought I was genius: the naan would be a gigantic biscuit. I started fantasizing about the peaches I was going to get at the market that I would slice and sugar and sandwich between the biscuit with cream. As I took it out, it was puffed up and gorgeous. I thought I hit the jackpot. As it cooled however, it completely deflated, and the end result was such a disgusting texture, like congealed yogurt. Ugh. Fail!"
Thanks Julia for sharing your #fail!