Teach Me to Cook, Stanley Tucci!
Stanley Tucci has superpowers. He can not-suck in the suckiest of movies. He, together with Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt, were so good in The Devil Wears Prada that they managed to retroactively wipe Adrien Grenier’s presence in the film out of the collective memory of those who had seen it. He’s also a bit of a foodie, having directed Big Night and written two cookbooks — though, as has been pointed out, one of them really should have been named Table for Tucci, so he loses points there.
The Tooch can do everything. But can he turn me into a good cook? Over the holidays, library copies of The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table: Cooking with Family and Friends (can I be your friend, Stanley?!) in hand, I decided to test it out.
Some background: My idea of cooking is opening a can of soup and heating it on the stove - maybe I’ll throw some cheese cubes in there if I’m feeling real fancy. I can do a mean grilled cheese, but I don’t, because it requires A) effort and B) counter space that my New York self just does not have. I have had plain slices of salami with a chips and salsa chaser for way more dinners than I would like to admit. I routinely forget to eat. I buy tubes of cookie dough with no intention of cooking them. I have no clue what an endive is. Or “blanching” something. I just think of The Golden Girls. “I have been instructed to imbue this dish with the essence of Rue McClanahan. Alright then.” I am basically an animal.
But my parents have a kitchen island, and a car to carry groceries in and a casserole dish and more than one spatula. And a dishwasher. My God, a dishwasher. I was an adult, and I was going to cook something, God dammit.
Dish one: Shepherd’s Pie
Kill me now. This took like five hours, which was five hours which I could have spent snuggling with my dogs. Unacceptable. The chopping of onions slayed me in the first five minutes - my mom overheard my cries of “Oh God, WHY DOES ANYONE DO THIS” and stepped in to help with the vegetable-cutting stage, because she is a literal saint who had three kids in three years and somehow managed to avoid throwing us all in a well and fucking off to Tijuana. Did you know that, when you’re cooking with diced tomatoes, you’re supposed to drain the juice, like you do with green beans or peas? Because I did not know that, and the innards of my shepherd’s pie turned out overly liquidy. That said, “a big hunk of flavored ground beef topped with a fuckton of potatoes” is basically my dream dish, and this tasted pretty good. The leftovers were even better, as the texture firmed up some. My parents said they liked it, but I don’t know whether they were being polite. The dogs definitely liked it, but they eat deer shit.
Verdict: 6/10. Good taste, but a pain in the ass to make if you’re lazy, which I am. This is why restaurants and Seamless exist.
Dish two: Concetta’s Stuffed Artichokes
My dad is the foodie in our family. He used to be a chef. I imagine his life flashed before his eyes when he saw me put an artichoke leaf in my mouth and start chewing, but he was too polite to say anything. I didn’t know any better, OK?!
Verdict: 4/10. My least successful dish. Artichokes are bullshit.
Dish three: Sailor’s style-sauce
This recipe involves squishing peeled, canned plum tomatoes through your fingers like you’re an angry Mayan god. I thought it would be gross. I never felt more powerful. This was the greatest moment of 2015 for me, and I met Helen Mirren this year. (I KNOW.) Also, why did no one tell me cooking tomato sauce was this easy? I thought it involved simmering things for hours, maybe a goat sacrifice or two. The whole process took like 30 minutes.
Verdict: 10/10. Stanley Tucci has improved my life in ways immeasurable.
Dish four: Grilled cheese
This dish is really easy - bread, mozzarella cheese, egg wash (you can do that for something that’s not french toast?!), grill in olive oil, bam. The result was a bit bland-tasting; I don’t know if we got poor-quality mozz, or what. It could probably use some garlic salt next time, or one of those roundish, red things. A tomato. There ya go.
Conclusion: Squishing tomatoes between one’s fingers is very cathartic and Stanley Tucci is better than me in so many different ways.
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