Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eat Me: Why should I?

That's Patsy's cashew chicken from Kenny Shopsin's Eat Me, the most ornery, odd, charming, and disarming cookbook I've read in ages. I love the curmudgeonly voice; I love the unglamorous and unflattering food photography. Most cookbooks, aspirational by nature if not definition, take pains to show us how we should be living and eating and cooking and what darling vintage china we might consider keeping on hand for serving our grass-fed Angus tenderloin with organic Blenheim apricot beurre blanc. 

None of that in Shopsin's book. Again and again, he tells us, with words and pictures: I'm schlubby and slobbish and eccentric and lazy and I favor Aunt Jemimah pancake batter and pre-shredded cheddar cheese and plastic dishes I bought on eBay. Take it or leave it. Now, go figure out how YOU like to live and eat and cook, and do that. 

Excellent advice. 

The recipes? 

There are two ways a recipe can be awful.

1. A recipe can contain an obvious mistake, in which case it is truly a "bad" recipe. Examples: Shopsin's tragically oversalted coleslaw, or the failure to account for the potato in the huevos rancheros, per Melvil Dewey's writeup

2. A recipe can make an awful dish. In which case it's technically a "good" recipe for something that one does not want to eat.
Patsy's cashew chicken, for instance is the crudest interpretation of a Chinese stir fry I've ever encountered. Chicken + soy sauce + cashews =  stir fry. I'm all for shortcuts, but eating this was like trying to ingest a plate of Kikkoman. 

But I'm pretty sure this is exactly what Patsy's cashew chicken is supposed to taste like. And I believe Shopsin enjoys eating it. Good recipe for what is, in my humble opinion, a crappy dish.

I'm okay with that. Shopsin and I may disagree, but at least we're communicating. 


  1. I thought that the chicken was ok but had too much soy sauce on it.

  2. I thought that the chicken was ok but had too much soy sauce on it.

  3. I thought that the chicken was ok but had too much soy sauce on it.

  4. Too salty.
    Let me be the first to say that salt is overrated.

  5. I liked that Cashew Chicken a lot, but my wife said it was WAY too sour. Of course, she'd get kicked out of Kenny's place in a heartbeat.

    Next time, I'll substitute Mirin for the lemon juice, and put in more sugar, more stock, and a bit less soy sauce.

    I also made the Mac and Cheese pancakes today - a complete success on my good coated griddle, but they stuck miserably on my other griddle. I'll use more oil next time. Wife loved them. Recipe results were very similar in all regards to the actual item at Shopsin's restaurant.

    I love this cookbook. Fun to read and lots of great ideas that are easy to execute.