James Beard award-winning cookbook author and Bon Appétit Cooking Teacher of the Year, Molly Stevens has always had a love for food. Her new cookbook, All About Roasting, A New Approach to a Classic Art, dives into the fundamental techniques and art of roasting and includes stunning dishes perfect for your holiday gatherings. We had the pleasure of talking with Stevens about her culinary background, her new book and her recent visit to America’s Dairyland.
How did your relationship to food and cooking when you were growing up influence the place of those things in your life now?
It was all about the family dinner table. While I was growing up, my family always ate together, and we continue to do so today. We rarely go out to eat as a family. We are definitely “cook at home” people.
As a non-native to Wisconsin, what is it that you love about Wisconsin Cheese?
This was my first visit to Wisconsin, and I loved it. It was a wonderful experience, to go on a Dairyland tour. I was so struck by the similarities between Vermont and Wisconsin and I was so impressed by the quality of the people, the farmers, and all of the characters in the cheese making stories. I love how each Wisconsin cheesemaker has a different story and all the stories are very personal.
Do you have a favorite Wisconsin Cheese?
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is incredible. Then there’s Dunbarton Blue – a beautiful Cheddar-Blue, it is so unique. Some of the mixed-milk cheeses at Carr Valley were really wonderful too. But, I loved the Brick cheese when I visited Chalet Cheese Cooperative. I had never had a Brick cheese that pungent and bold. That is an extraordinary cheese.
How did the idea for a roasting book transpire?
I really like to approach cooking as a technique. I approached cooking the same way in my first technique book, All About Braising, The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. So I was looking for another technique that I could devote a whole book to and I thought to myself, “You know everybody roasts, you turn on the oven and you’re roasting…”
Do you have any favorite recipes from the book?
We have some wonderful recipes with cheese – I love the Roasted Cheddar-Stuffed Burgers and the Roasted Mushrooms with Pine Nuts and Parmesan. In general, the vegetable chapter is really surprising. People are getting turned on to roasting vegetables. I also love the recipe for roasted chicken thighs.
Do you have any favorite cheese-inspired side dishes to go with your roasted dishes?
My favorite side dish for a roast has got to be potato cheese gratins or gratins with seasonal root vegetables and a stellar cheese. Gratins are wonderful.
Below is a fantastic side dish recipe from Stevens’ website, MollyStevensCooks.com. For more information about Stevens and her cookbooks, follow her on Twitter @mstevenscooks and Facebook at Molly Stevens Cooks. Check back tomorrow, because we will be giving away five copies of her new cookbook, All About Roasting.
Skillet Cornbread with Olives, Rosemary and Parmesan
By Molly Stevens of Molly Stevens Cooks
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
Several dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup brine-cured olives, such as Kalamata or Picholine, pitted and coarsely chopped
Place a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet on the center rack of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, tomato paste, rosemary, and hot sauce.
Whisk in the olive oil and then the milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just to combine. Stir in the cheese and the olives.
Remove the skillet from the oven and add a tablespoon of olive oil, swirling so the oil coats the bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the hot skillet, return it to the oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
Bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.