Andrew Zimmern's family dinner is better than yours, and he wishes that wasn't the case. Not that he wants to dumb down his own meal—rather the television host, chef and author wants to raise home cooks to his level, one single-pot recipe at a time. Because he's pretty sure that can save the world.
Though the Bizarre Foods creator might be best known for his enthusiastic consumption of challenging foods from far-flung locales (horse-mane sashimi, grilled udders and donkey skin rate high on a list of recent favorites), the mission currently closest to his heart couldn't be more domestic.
"I don't think there is anything more important in our world than cooking from scratch at home," Zimmern says. "For thousands of years, our kitchen as community ideal was what defined us culturally. Everything happened in the kitchen where the hearth was, because that was fire; that was warmth. That was family; that's where all decisions have been made. We've gotten away from that in America for the last two generations; we're a culture of convenience and speed. That has a net-net ill effect on us."
Zimmern knows that for most people, he wouldn't be the most obvious advocate for accessible home cooking, but as the father of a 10-year-old son, mealtime is where he finds time to connect and teach. "It's the most crucial, because we're sharing something we have in common. There's no conflict. I'm not fighting with him about allowance. We take a break from that. I think it's the same thing with human beings communing over food. Let's put everything aside and break bread for a little while."
Bread, or in the case of this seafood stew (see the recipe) based on his favorite izakaya dish: "Ginger, garlic, soy, butter, shellfish. One pot, done."
Granted, it does require a little advance planning, but Zimmern is determined to encourage home cooks not to let anything daunt them. The dashi (see the recipe), made with kombu (dried seaweed) and katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes), is easy to prepare and well worth having on hand (but water or chicken broth will do just fine), and the other ingredients are readily available. At the core of the stew's distinctive flavor is a blend with which he's obsessed. "Soy sauce and butter have an incredible affinity for one another. People taste these together all the time not knowing that a lot of chefs in French restaurants finish with it."
And then there's the shellfish (mussels, clams, shrimp and lobster), which Zimmern insists practically cooks itself. "Just clean them and throw them in the bowl." To him, not only is simplicity key, but it opens up a more diversified buffet for people's everyday meals.
"I'm not sure someone is going to watch my show and eat bugs tomorrow, but if I could get them to eat clams and mussels, one less commodity meal, I think I'm doing something good for the world," he says.
Pair the stew with a bowl of steamed rice and grilled (or broiled—whatever gets you cooking) vegetables topped with a luxurious, make-ahead miso sauce (see the recipe), and, suddenly, "good" is something pretty satisfying. Especially on a weeknight.
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