What do you do when you’ve got guests on the way and barely any time to prepare for them? The New York Times cooking columnist comes to your rescue.
MarkrnBittman:I often don’trnfigure out what I am cooking until an hour before people come over but I makernsure there's food in the house and I think that's important. It seems so obvious when you say it butrnso many people don’t do it.rnrnrnrnrnrn
If you have arnlot of food in the house cooking is much easier because now you have so manyrnoptions plus there's pressure on you to cook because you don’t a want the stuffrnto go bad. So what I cook forrnpeople pretty much depends on what I have. I try to always have, you know, something.
Question: Tell us about one of your dinnerrnparties.rnrnrnrn
MarkrnBittman: I had made arndeal with a friend who was an architect and he designed an office for me andrnthe deal was that I was going to cook dinner for him and his wife and two ofrnhis friends and my wife.rnrnrnrnrnrn
So there wasrngoing to be six of us. And we setrna date, I guess; he says we set a date. rnAnd that morning -- that afternoon actually, about two o'clock he calledrnand said what time do you want us to go over? I had completely forgotten about it. So I went shopping and I made -- I ranrnout to the store, I came back, I made – this is a long time ago -- but I madernroast chicken with vinegar, was sort of classic French recipe, some kind ofrnpotatoes, a salad, and I don’t know if I made or bought a bread and I madernchocolate mousse for dessert and I did that in about two hours, which, for me,rnis a lot of time in the kitchen for me; I don’t spend two hours in the kitchenrnthat often.rnrn
The great thingrnwas the food was not that great. rnThe food was fine. Therngreat thing was, a.) I got away with it and, b.) they thought it was fantasticrnand it was then that I realized that if you cook for people in your home they, a.) they're looking forward to it, b.) they're going to cut you so muchrnslack. They're going to give yournevery benefit of the doubt. rnThey're going to be grateful and, therefore, the food is going to tasternbetter than it would if you were in a restaurant where the server was annoyingrnyou and you knew you were going to spend a lot of money and, you know, you hadrnto travel to get there and blah, blah, blah.rnrnrnrnrnrn
So I think itrnwas really – and that was probably 12 or 15 years ago. So it was about halfway into my -- I'vernbeen cooking for 40 years, so it was two-thirds of the way into my life as arncook when I realized that you can do pretty much anything in your home if yourntake it seriously and do it as well as you could do it and your friends andrnfamily are really going to appreciate it.rnrn
Question: What defines a Mark Bittman meal?rnrnrnrn
MarkrnBittman: My presence. I guess there's other kinds of Mark Bittman meals. Well really its simplicity, itsrnhonesty, it's not overdoing it. rnGenerally speaking, it's very few ingredients and very little techniquernand not that much time and its home cooking. There's nothing fancy about it. There's no pretense, I like to think there's nornpretense. I mean this all -- itrnsounds too good to be true. Itrnsounds like better than I am but it really is what I do. So I guess I'll take some credit forrnit.rnrnrn