By the end of last September, even Abby — my pie-loving 7-year-old — was sick of my apple galette. There was a week-long stretch there where she was having a slice (with ice cream) after dinner, a slice (no ice cream) for breakfast, and would come home from school to find another still-warm golden-crusted lovely sitting on the counter. At first, she couldn’t believe her luck – “You’re the best mom ever!” – but then, by the end of the week, as she picked at the still-too-cinnamony apple filling in the backseat on the way to ballet, her voice had taken on that tone usually reserved for long road trips: “Mom, are you done with this cookbook yet?”
I wasn’t almost done. In fact, I was just beginning the recipe-testing phase for Dinner: A Love Story. But I didn’t want to break the news to her and her 9-year-old sister that this was only the beginning. Once I nailed the apple galette we would be spending the next few months beating over 50 family favorites into submission, too: Spicy oven fries, chicken pot pie, old fashioned cole slaw, fish tacos, lamb burgers, crispy fish cakes, salmon salad, and Tony’s sweet-and-salty grilled flank steak, named after my brother-in-law whose recipe converted my then-picky-eating daughter into a dedicated steak lover.
Which of course begs the question: If these recipes are family favorites and you’ve been making them for so long, why do you even need to test them? Here’s why: Because when I tell Andy — husband, fellow Provider, and resident outdoor-cooker — to give me the recipe for Tony’s steak, this is how he replies: “You just throw a bunch of s#@t in a bag and then grill it.” For almost a decade this system has worked out great for scrambling working parents just trying to get a meal on the table. But I’m not so sure our readers would find it very helpful.
Sure, there are people who test recipes as a profession – and I certainly took advantage of them for about half of the 120 dishes in my book — but because this project was so personal and essentially a history of our family dinners over the past 14 years, I double-tested, triple-tested, and – in the case of the old-fashioned cole slaw — quintuple-tested in my own house, too. These were the meals that have defined my kids’ dinner table, aka their childhoods, for the past decade. And in the end, it was their sign-off that mattered the most.
Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on this page, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have one month to enter so get reading!