Cookbook of the Month, November 2017: Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone
Last year, I was lucky to attend an LA Times Ideas Exchange featuring Gail Simmons and Curtis Stone. I once spotted Simmons eating at my favorite barbecued shrimp spot during the Top Chef New Orleans season, but never said hello for fear of interrupting the vibe of one of the city's best off-the-beaten path meals. We were the only other table in Liuzza's by the Track on this beautiful sunny afternoon in the neighborhood. When we told the waitress she had served a Top Chef judge, she thanked us for telling her after Simmons had left because she said she would have been too nervous otherwise. For the record, their barbecued shrimp are so good, she had little reason to worry about her delivery. Five years later, Simmons was visiting LA to promote her new book Bringing it Home, and I finally got to say a proper hello during the book signing.
Since Stone was a part of the panel that night, I ended up adding his cookbook Good Food, Good Life to my collection too. I love making breads, crackers, and doughs of all sorts from scratch, so I chose his Manchego Crackers as my first project. I consider homemade crackers to be secret weapons of sorts. A homemade cracker on a charcuterie board is a nice little element of surprise for people to enjoy. But I fear that most people shy away from making their own crackers because of the perception that it's a complicated process. I'd like to see homemade cracker-making experience a comeback in American households. If canning and fermenting can become hip again, the from-scratch cracker certainly deserves a place at the table too. For many cracker recipes, you have to roll your dough out super thin before baking it in order to achieve the proper snap or crunch in the final cracker. To make things easier, I'd recommend investing in a couple reusable silpat baking mats, which are widely used in professional kitchens but often missing from the cabinets of home cooks. Silpats have non-stick properties and can help aid the cracker making process by allowing you to roll out the dough thinly in between two mats. Beyond crackers, they have a ton of applications in the kitchen and are among my must-have pieces of equipment.
When you're making crackers, my last piece of advice is this: always double the recipe. Remember, people cannot resist a homemade cracker. These items will be the first things to disappear from the charcuterie board once your guests arrive.
Do you have a favorite homemade cracker recipe? Drop me a line with your favorites!