Hi, all! I’m excited to be here today to talk about my latest release, King of the Kitchen, which is out with Dreamspinner Press on Nov. 6. A big thank you to Nina and Beans for hosting me, and also for being generally awesome and supportive!
Since King of the Kitchen is about celebrity chefs, I’ve been blogging about cooking quite a bit. There are even a few recipes in the back of the book, and I’m sharing some on my blog tour as well, both food you’ll find Beck and Duncan making in the book and my own personal favorites. Today here on Gay List Book Reviews you’ll find one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, garlic and shallot pasta. Earlier this week I shared my refrigerator Velcro frittata recipe on Joyfully Jay, and future tour stops include a recipe for roasted brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze that will blow your mind (Prism Book Alliance, Nov. 9), and homemade egg rolls that were a family secret until now (The Novel Approach, Nov. 10).
The garlic and shallot pasta is one of my go-to comfort foods. It’s something my family had more than a few times when I was testing out recipes for the book—and failing abysmally. You see, Beck’s food is fairly easy to nail down. Like me, he favors fresh ingredients from local sources, like in-season veggies, locally raised meat, and flavor profiles that are in keeping with the herbs available at the time. His stuff I had down cold.
Duncan, on the other hand, was the source of a lot of cold cereal dinners and tortilla pizzas (since my husband’s eye starts twitching whenever we pay for delivery, so no hot and fresh delivered pizzas for us!). Duncan’s specialty is molecular gastronomy, which is basically using science to play with your food. It’s a ton of fun, but the margin for error is huge. And error I did.
After a few botched attempts at sous-vide asparagus (sealing it in a plastic pouch and cooking it in water kept below a boil) for a soup that my adventurous children—whose idea of an ideal snack is roasted seaweed or baked kale—wouldn’t touch, I started making up batches of my garlic and shallot pasta sauce to keep in the freezer for Duncan recipe nights.
We did manage to get a few of his fabulous recipes down, like the red wine caviar recipe that’s in the book (made with grape juice in our case, since my 9 year old helped me make it), but for the most part, the home cook just can’t keep up with fancy things like espumas. And that was OK, because with my go-to comfort food as a fall back, I actually started hoping my recipes would fail.
Cooking has always been a happy thing for me. When I’m stressed, taking the time out to make a homemade meal can really bring me back from the edge. And I’m lucky, because my kids love being in the kitchen with me. When we’re celebrating something, the kids and I cook. When we’re sad about something, we cook. (Right now we’re three weeks into our kitchen remodel, so there hasn’t been much cooking around here. But blogging about it is almost as good!)
Duncan and Beck are the same way. Every major event in their lives has involved food. Even after a long day in a restaurant kitchen or in front of the cameras cooking, both of them want to come home and make something from scratch for themselves. They really bond over the food they make in King of the Kitchen, and some of their tenderest moments come when one of them is wielding a chef’s knife and the other is hunched over a pot of boiling water. There’s something about the way cooking steals your focus that makes the kitchen a great way to have those life-altering conversations without the added stress of eye contact and weighted silences.
This garlic and shallot pasta doesn’t appear in the book, but I can totally see Beck making it on a crisp fall evening when the two of them are kicking around his apartment, unwinding after a long day of filming their cooking show. It takes some time, but you can taste the love in it. Or maybe that’s just me confusing cream sauce with affection—it’s been known to happen.
Garlic and Shallot Pasta
(makes four generous servings)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt (I prefer kosher) and pepper for seasoning
Four large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 cup frozen peas
6 strips of bacon, cooked until crispy
12 oz. pasta (I usually use farfalle, any kind will do)
For the cream sauce:
Two whole heads of garlic (and enough aluminum foil to wrap it in)
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
½ cup Parmesan or Pecorino, grated
3 Tbs flour
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
Preheat your oven to 400F and prepare the garlic by taking off as much of the papery exterior as you can without actually peeling it. Cut the top ¼ inch off of each bulb (the pointy end) to expose the cloves. Put each head on its own square of aluminum foil and drizzle it with 1 1/2 Tbs of olive oil, sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt, then wrap it up tightly and put it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the garlic is soft when you press on it.
Season your chicken and drizzle it in 1 ½ Tbs olive oil, then place on a baking sheet in the same 400F oven. Depending on the size of the breasts, they’ll need to bake 25-30 minutes, so they can go in at the same time as the garlic. Just remember to check on them!
Layer the sliced shallots on a baking sheet and drizzle them with 1 1/2 Tbs of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Bake in the 400F oven as well. These can go in toward the end of the chicken and garlic’s cooking time, since they will cook (and burn!) quickly. Give them a stir or shake after about 5 minutes, and continue cooking until they start to caramelize. This is also the time to make sure you have a pot of boiling water going for the pasta, since things will come together quickly when the sauce sets.
Once your chicken, garlic, and shallots are done, put them aside and let them cool for easier handling while you start on your cream sauce. In a saucier or medium-sized pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter when it starts to bubble, then whisk or stir for one to two minutes, until it forms almost a paste and starts to darken. Whisk in the cream slowly, working it until there are no lumps and it has started to thicken. Do the same with the milk. Add the cheese, stir until incorporated. Once it’s thickened, take the sauce off the heat and squeeze the garlic out of the head. It should stir into the sauce easily, breaking up as you stir it. Add in the roasted shallots and dice the cooked bacon and stir it in as well.
Toss the frozen peas in with the pasta for the last two minutes of its cooking time. Drain well and stir the sauce into the pasta. Add the chicken breasts to the top. Enjoy!
Title: King of the Kitchen
Author: Bru Baker
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Blurb: Rising kitchen talents Beck Douglas and Duncan Walters have been on the foodie paparazzi radar for years, since their status as heirs to two of the biggest celebrity chef empires around makes them culinary royalty. Beck is known for his charm and traditional food as cohost of his uncle’s popular TV cooking show, while Duncan earned himself a reputation as a culinary bad boy, both for his refusal to work in his father’s restaurants and his avant garde approach to cooking.
They’re also heirs to a food rivalry that could put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame, and when they’re photographed in the middle of a heated argument, the press goes wild with speculation. Damage control ensues, with a fake friendship engineered by PR cronies that leaves both of them secretly pining for more.
Beck chafes under his uncle’s micromanagement, and Duncan’s relationship with his homophobic father becomes even more tenuous when Beck and Duncan start getting closer. It’s hard to hide their chemistry on national television when Duncan joins Beck’s cooking show, but they won’t be able to take their relationship—or their careers—to the next level without breaking a few eggs.
Bru Baker has been writing for Dreamspinner Press since December 2012. She believes in Happily Ever Afters, but she almost always makes her characters work to get there. She and her husband live in the Midwest with their two young children, whose antics make finding time to write difficult but never let life get boring.