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In the Kitchen with Chef Mary Payne Moran

Produced by Julianne Hilmes


Photo: Tarin Anderson

I couldn’t live without this kitchen appliance/accessory:
My Microplane zester. I LOVE my zester. You can use it on almost any kind of fruit, vegetable, or cheese! I would be lost with out it. 

The best recipe of all time is…
The Roasted Carrot recipe from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. This recipe was the first dish I prepared on my own. The recipe was easy to follow—it has few ingredients and is easy to execute. The best part was when it was finished it was perfect and completely delicious. 

Are you more of a follow-the-recipe kind of cook or do you throw caution to the wind?
As a graduate from culinary school, I first learned from recipes and if we didn’t follow them exactly we wouldn’t get a good grade. Now, unless I’m cooking something new, I never use a recipe. 

Would you rather cook or do the cleanup?
Always cook. I’m quite food obsessed.  

My go-to dish for entertaining is…
Entertaining is about food, but also about the guests. When I cook for a party I make foods that don’t require too much fuss. For example: Poached salmon, Braised short ribs, Bolognese. These items can be cooked ahead of time and are perfect for whenever you’re ready to eat. 

My dream kitchen would definitely include…
Garage door cabinets for my appliances. It would be incredible to be able to lift up a door and pull out a Kitchen Aid mixer that was plugged in. 

My earliest kitchen memory is…
My mom was always in the kitchen making something delicious. When I was around 11 years old my mom started making and selling gingerbread houses, and I fell in love with helping her ice and decorate them.   

My biggest kitchen disaster was…
My biggest disaster was in my last session in culinary school. I was in the production kitchen making the desserts and pastries that they sold in their store, and I made an enormous batch of brownies. Unfortunately, I was so nervous I mistook the salt for sugar and added 2 pounds of salt to the batter. It was so much batter that I couldn’t throw away my mistake without being caught. Finally, I had to confess to the teacher. It was humiliating, and to this day I still taste the sugar before I add it to my batter.

My greatest kitchen/culinary success was…
A few years ago the Traditional Home team and I came up with this delicious and interesting brunch dish that was perfect for Mother’s Day. It was a thyme biscuit, with burratta, ham, and strawberry sauce. It was new to the world of food and I felt part of the food trend. 

My favorite/most-used cookbook is…
When I went away to college my mom handed me the Red Plaid cookbook because it had every recipe known to man. To this day I still have the original and refer to it regularly. I write notes in the margins and everything. It’s my favorite. It’s not even red anymore. 

White kitchen or colorful kitchen?
I am in a huge warm gray and white kick right now. I am sure it will change at some point but for now I like simple and elegant. 

The best dinner parties always include…
A great bottle of wine and something to nibble on when I get there. I am a huge fan of appetizers. Appetizers always feel like an introduction of how the meal is going to go. 

Big kitchen island or breakfast nook table?
Kitchen Island. I have a habit of cooking while talking with both family and friends. It’s where I feel most comfortable. 

My best kitchen advice is…
Find great measuring tools that you love. One of the worst ways to mess up a good meal is to not measure the ingredients properly.  

My biggest talent when it comes to cooking is…
Grilling. I love grilling, and thanks to a culinary school instructor I learned the basics early on and never stopped. 

Kitchen pet peeve:
Cooking with someone who wants me to kind of cook with them. This is kind of tough to explain, but let me try: I will be with someone in their kitchen for dinner. They will have this great menu planned and they have thought of everything. Then they say, “Can you make the _____?” Then I say, “Of course! What do you want me to do with it?” And then they say, “Whatever you think.” Then, if I do what I think, they usually chime in with, “Oh, I was going to do it a different way.”  It’s funny, but this happens to me a lot and it drives me crazy. 

Everyone who comes into my kitchen comments on…
How big my kitchen is. We just moved, and compared to my old closet-sized kitchen my new one is enormous and perfect for cooking professionally. 

The one thing in my kitchen I’ll never get rid of is…
I love my kitchen and my tools but I don’t feel like anything will stay with me forever. I usually use it until there is no life left in and then eventually I buy a new one. 

The one thing in my kitchen I should get rid of is…
Ugh, my very old and pre-owned Kitchen Aid mixer. I have this old Kitchen Aid Mixer that my mom’s friend gave to my mom in the '80s, then my mom gave it to me after I graduated culinary school in 2001, and I’ve been using it ever since. It sounds like an old diesel car when I try and mix certain foods. It’s awful. 

Every kitchen needs…
A kitchen needs good utensils. It seems strange that I’m not saying pans, but if you don’t have a great rubber spatula you can’t make sauces, and if you don’t have a good set of tongs you can’t rotate your sautéed or grilled meats, and if you don’t have a great whisk then you can’t make dressings, whipped cream, and more.

Chef Mary Payne Moran, of Hail Mary Food of Grace, is the culinary genius behind many of delicious recipes used in our gatherings stories. Click here to visit her website.