They say you can judge a person by the company he keeps.
If true, my pals make me look like a wonder.
Because among others, I’m lucky to count Danielle Centoni, cookbook writer, recipe developer/tester, food writer and blogger (check out the outstanding Roux 44 website), as a friend.
Not just that, she’s the type who does things like drop off homemade honey and otherworldly oatmeal scones when you least expect it.
Allow me to tell you a bit about my absurdly talented friend.
Quietly, and often out of the spotlight, this self-taught cook has been writing cookbooks with a host of local talent (she co-authored Mother’s Best, Lisa Schroeder’s paean to home cooking, and the delightful offering Sugar Cube from Kir Jensen) and has been recognized with a James Beard Award for her efforts.
She’s been the Food Editor at the Oakland Tribune, Oregonian and MIX magazine and contributed countless additional work to other magazines and cookbooks.
These days she wears many hats in the food world. Food Trend Scout and Writer for Websites. Recipe writer/tester.
Which means that if you play your cards right, you end up at her house when she’s testing a recipe for a new Weber cookbook
and you can spend the next couple hours sitting at her ten foot long wooden island, noshing away on the most succulent pork imaginable.
Danielle is also a Grade A Plus Foodie Friend.
She has an encyclopedic mind for technique and ingredients. She has a reporter’s insatiable curiosity to learn more about cooking so she’s always catching me up on some new development she’s discovered or learned. And she seems to know every other single food person in this town so she really has her fingers on the pulse of this rapidly changing food town.
Consequently, she’s my go-to for all kinds of questions.
What kind of sandwich shall I make friends for lunch? Where should I buy my turkey, what size and type should I get and how should I prep it — with a wet or dry brine? Why do my biscuits sometimes careen over? Where do I take my in-laws when they’re in town?
It’s all these qualities that bring me to why I’m telling you about her right now.
And why she’s the perfect project manager for this.
Danielle has just come out with a new cookbook that has me so excited that I’m uncharacteristically clearing out limited space on my cookbook shelf to make room for it. And I’m snatching up copies to give as presents.
And already it’s looking a big dog-eared because I keep turning back to certain pages to recreate dishes that have already become new favorites.
Friends, let’s give a warm studio welcome to Danielle’s outstanding compilation, Portland Cooks.
Danielle surveyed the field of immense talent in this town and came up with a list of some of our favorite spots. She then helped the owners and cooks figure out different ways they could contribute (and then ensured that the recipes were rock star solid).
And because Danielle is as bright as she is generous and genuine, cooks were all too willing to entrust her with their recipes.
I’m talking about ones like that for Tim Healea’s transcendent Chocolate Chunk and Roasted Hazelnut Cookies.
I’ve enjoyed these cookies often at Little T and again at a book signing at Providore last weekend.
This book holds all those secrets you want to know after a particularly memorable dish in this town.
What makes Lardo’s Pork Banh Mi better than any other one in town? (Read below!)
And how do I get my Kale Salad
to taste more like Nancye Benson’s version at Milk Glass Mrkt?
And could someone possibly explain the genius that is Plaza del Toro’s Chocolate Caramel Tart?
All these answers — and more– are here in this book.
Not only has Danielle procured the recipes you wouldn’t be able to get on your own, she also has perfectly captured the essence of some of the greatest spots — and talents — in town.
It’s like an Around-The-Town-in-Eighty-Dishes kind of thing, with every type depicted from Char-Grilled Beef Bavette with Chimichurri and Citrus Aioli to the outstanding cocktail, the Bourbon Renewal.
Be sure to read each and every intro; Danielle’s talent as a listener and a writer makes these intros feel like you’re sitting down with, say, Troy MacLarty (Bollywood) or John Gorham (Toro Bravo) and hearing them chat amongst their friends.
(Danielle is the rare writer that can not only capture the voice of another but improve on it, making their insights more succinct, and all the while making their recipes fool-proof and home-cooking friendly.)
So buy Portland Cooks.
Use it to spice up your same-old, same-old routine. Invite some friends over and make a dish you usually eat out.
I did just that and thanks to Portland Cooks, I believe I’ve officially taken my pasta to another level.
(The egg tip is worth the price of the book alone.)
And by all means send a copy to that friend of yours who you’ve been trying to lure to our fair city.
There’s no better calling card than Portland Cooks for this city of ours, and with a little luck that friend will later hit you up with a newfound proficiency, in, say, something like this Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake with Caramelized Pears.
Barring your own friendship with Danielle,
this cookbook is the next best thing.
- Pickled Carrot and Daikon Radish
- 1 C. rice wine vinegar
- 1 C. water
- ¼ C. granulated sugar
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (or about 1 C. grated carrot from store)
- 6-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 C.)
- Sriracha Mayonnaise
- ½ C. mayonnaise
- 1 Tsp. gochujang*
- 1½ tsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1¼ lb. ground pork
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1½ Tbs. Sriracha
- 1½ Tbs. fish sauce
- 1 egg, beaten
- ⅓ C. plus 1 Tbs. panko
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 4 Ciabatta rolls, split
- fresh cilantro
- *Gochujang is a Korean condiment made with red chiles, fermented soybeans and sticky rice. It has an earthy-spicy-sweet flavor profile. You can find it at Asian markets or in the international food aisle at some specialty supermarkets.
- Pickled Carrot and Daikon Radish:
- Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Place the carrots and daikon in a nonreactive bowl and pour in the vinegar mixture. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Sriracha Mayonnaise:
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth. (The mayonnaise can be made a week ahead and refrigerated.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and use your hands to mix until well combined. Roll the meat mixture into 8 2-inch balls (about 2½ ounces each). Place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with your palm. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate the pan from front to back, and cook for another 12 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cut the meatballs in half.
- Preheat the broiler. Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick saute pan over medium-heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and sea for 2 minutes, until crispy and brown. Turn and sear for another 2 minutes.
- Toast the rolls under the broiler, cut sides up. Spread each with Sriracha mayonnaise. Place a generous scoop of pickled carrot and daikon radish on the bottom half of each roll. Top with a generous pinch of fresh cilantro and four meatball halves. Set the other half of the roll on top, slice diagonally, and serve.