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In the Kitchen with Marge Perry

Produced by Stephen Exel

I couldn’t live without this kitchen appliance/accessory:
Sexy, gorgeous sinks. Seriously: my husband and I are both chefs and we work side by side, so we had two large (30-inch wide) stainless sinks, each with its own faucet and drain, custom made for us by Elkay. At 9-inches deep, they are just right depth for both of us (he is 6’ and I am 5’2”), and we can do food prep in one and clean up in the other—or hide all kinds of dirty dishes when we entertain.

The best recipe of all time is...
As much as I tend to love the one I’m with, I’d have to say the dishes I made with my mother or kids are probably the ones I love the most. These Strawberry Cupcakes my mother used to make for my birthdays, which I then made with my daughter, and the granola I made with my son when he was a toddler, taste and feel wonderful. I also love making brisket for friends and family, because it fills the house with an irresistible aroma of a happy—and delicious—gathering. 

Are you more of a follow-the-recipe kind of cook or do you throw caution to the wind?
It really depends on circumstances—whether I am cooking for work, having friends over for a casual dinner, and so on. But when I bake, I am a recipe person, for sure.

Would you rather cook or do the cleanup?
Does anyone actually choose “clean up” as an answer???

My go-to dish for entertaining is...
We entertain a lot and my golden rule is to serve food that allows me to enjoy my own party. That means it can be mostly made ahead, and the things I do last minute shouldn’t require a lot of focus—because I’m also hanging out with my guests (and probably having a glass of wine). Moroccan Hens really fit the bill. I love serving hens because everyone gets both dark and light meat. These are marinated in a mixture of balsamic, Marsala and honey, crusted in spices and baked on orange slices. They can be fully prepared the day before, which makes them ideal for serving to guests. 

My dream kitchen would definitely include...
I truly just built my dream kitchen: It has enough room for loads of family and friends to sit around while we cook; two enormous walk-in pantries that make my abundant organization molecules spin in delight; the aforementioned sinks, and a 13-foot uninterrupted island for food prep.

My earliest kitchen memory is...
My mother sitting at the breakfast table squeezing oranges for juice and cutting heart shapes out of out toast. Seriously.

My biggest kitchen disaster was...
There have Been. So. Many. One of my favorites is the time we were having 50 people over and I had made two enormous carrot cakes. A few hours before guests were due to arrive, just as I finished icing the second cake, my husband pulled two containers out of the fridge and asked me what they were. Uh, that would be the pureed carrot that I neglected to put in the cake. I put the containers of the pureed carrot out on the serving table along with the inedible cakes, and that became the party of “the carrot cake without the carrot”—which we still laugh about with our friends. The thing about kitchen disasters when you’re entertaining is that sometimes—if you let yourself enjoy them—they can be a lot of fun.

My greatest kitchen/culinary success was...
Raising two healthy, happy, well-fed children

My favorite/most-used cookbook is...
This is like asking me who is my favorite child. It depends on the day, I guess. We have an entire room of cookbooks (they literally line every wall) and I have many favorites, depending on what I am in the mood for. I love my friend Grace Young’s The Wisdom of The Chinese Kitchen, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories, and Jacques Pépin’s La Methode: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking, to name just a few.

White kitchen or colorful kitchen?
WHITE!!!! (Actually, a soft/ivory or antique white. I don’t need it to look like a lab. )

The best dinner parties always include...
Laughter and lively conversation, both of which are aided and abetted by great food and wine, of course.

Big kitchen island or breakfast nook table?
I’m gong to be greedy and say both. For eating, I much prefer a table, and for keeping me company while I cook, an island.

My best kitchen advice is...
Learn good knife skills and learn to enjoy yourself when you cook. If you make a mistake, be proud of what you learned from it, and when you make something great, take a picture, write down what you did, and make it again while you still remember.

My biggest talent when it comes to cooking is...
Understanding the balance of flavors and textures, and making food that is visually appealing.

Kitchen pet peeve:
Open cabinet doors. It makes me itchy to even think about it.

Everyone who comes into my kitchen comments on...
The size of the island and the countertop. It’s Silestone Lagoon in a sueded finish and impervious to our massive abuse. Also, the sliding barn doors to the pantries. We salvaged doors that match those in the rest of the house. My husband sanded and refinished them and we had the hardware custom made by White Shanty.

The one thing in my kitchen I’ll never get rid of is...
My collection of wooden spoons from around the world and our beautiful copper pots.

The one thing in my kitchen I should get rid of is...
The basket of odds and ends, including (no matter how often I clean it out) expired coupons we will never use.

Every kitchen needs...
A kitchen witch.

Marge Perry is a blogger, columnist, culinary teacher, cookbook author and all-around food-obsessed individual. Her blog, A Sweet and Savory Life, focuses on travels and recipes that balance healthly and slightly decadent cooking. She is a partner in Vittles and Verbs along with her husband, David Bonom, with whom she develops recipes and columns for national publications.