Carla Lalli Music on Her New Cookbook, Family Traditions and More
If you're looking for your next meal inspiration, turn to Carla Lalli Music. The James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and host of Carla's Cooking Show on Patreon, a platform for creators to connect directly with fans, Music is known for her drool-worthy recipes, love of labeling (more on that later) and fun personality, often seen on Instagram giving followers a peek into her kitchen (with the occasional appearance of her kids or cats).
With the release of her second cookbook, That Sounds So Good, Music continues to provide tasty, adaptable recipes for the home cook. EatingWell got the chance to chat with Music about the new cookbook, her family traditions and more.
On That Sounds So Good
Full of stunning photos and pops of color, That Sounds So Good features 100 recipes for the home cook. Split into two sections, easier recipes for Monday through Thursday and more adventurous recipes for Friday and the weekend, Music's recipes are bold and flavorful. From dishes like Everybody Loves a Chicken Cutlet to Sorry, I Like Celery, the recipes are accompanied by personal tidbits as well as the "Spin It" section, which calls out suggestions for ingredient swaps in case you don't like a particular ingredient or don't have it on hand. Read on to learn about Music's process developing the cookbook.
EatingWell (EW): What was the most rewarding recipe to develop from the new cookbook?
Carla Lalli Music (CLM): "For me, the most rewarding recipes are the ones where, when I'm working on development, I feel creatively stimulated … [For example] the Grilled Squid with Blackened Tomatoes, that was a dish that I really didn't know which way it was going to go when I set out to develop it that day. I just had the ingredients that I wanted to be in the dish and then I was just kind of there playing around. So that's always a really great feeling when things turn out right."
EW: What was the most challenging recipe to develop?
CLM: "I think it's really weird because it's such a simple dish, but there's the Pan-Roasted Carrots with Chorizo Nubbins. I realized that I don't cook a lot of carrots just to be carrots. I cook carrots in sofrito and in soups, but [not] just a carrot dish … and I think because it's not something that I do, it was just an insane struggle and that dish, I think I made seven different versions of it. And [I] kept really not liking how it turned out, not liking eating it, not liking the way it looked … and I almost gave up on it. [Then] I tried that combination with the chorizo for the smoky, paprika flavor and then the walnuts … so it got to be in the book, but it was close."
To go along with the new cookbook, Music has partnered with Foxtrot, a company that delivers food gifts, to curate three gift boxes. Full of Music's favorite ingredients, the gift boxes are designed to pair with the cookbook, so you'll already have some of the ingredients needed to make recipes like Gia's Sunday Ragù and Greens, Beans and Sausage Soup. Shop these thoughtful and gorgeous boxes perfect for a holiday gift, available starting today.
On Her Family's Food Traditions
From the dedication of the book (to her Uncle Renato) to the essay written by her son, Cosmo, family is a clear influence and inspiration to Music throughout the cookbook. Read on to learn about Music's most treasured family recipe and their holiday traditions, which involve lots of fish.
EW: What is your most treasured family recipe?
CLM: "Definitely the Lalli family linguine with clams, or spaghetti with clams, that Cosmo wrote an essay for. Just because it is something that we eat when we're together with my parents on a Friday, and there's been just so many Fridays and so many little variations in that dish. We don't always make it the same way, but it's just such a staple and [we've made it] over so many years. So now, to have my kids growing up and eating it [and] associating it with Fridays is just really special."
EW: What is your favorite holiday food tradition?
CLM: "In my family, we celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes, which is Christmas Eve. It's an Italian Christmas tradition … we've been doing it for so long that I can't remember a time when we didn't do it. Then [on] Christmas Day, since we're all so tired and full from the night before, [it] has just turned into a big bagel and lox spread from Russ & Daughters." (Try Music's Christmas Day tradition for yourself with the Smoked Salmon Medley from Russ & Daughters, buy it: Goldbelly, $189).
Her Must-Have Utensils and Appliances
While the aforementioned Foxtrot boxes feature plenty of staple pantry ingredients like sherry vinegar and smoked paprika, the caddy staples box also contains one surprising kitchen tool: a Sharpie. Read on to learn why Music loves Sharpies, plus the other tools you can find in her kitchen.
CLM: "I don't think people think about [a Sharpie] as a kitchen tool, and that was something that I was so excited got into the [caddy staples] Foxtrot box. I label everything and it's almost annoying how many things I like to label, but [it helps me with] both organization and reducing waste in the kitchen, so I always have a drawer with two or three Sharpies and tape for sticking on things."
Other utensils that Music swears by include a Kunz spoon, named for the late chef Gray Kunz (buy it: Amazon, $22). Music says, "It's just the best spoon," and it can be used for stirring, saucing, serving, mixing and more. Another tool that Music uses frequently is a mortar and pestle, whether it's for grinding spices, making aioli or even making breadcrumbs (We like this marble mortar and pestle; buy it: Williams Sonoma, $45.)
As for appliances, Music's food processor and Dutch oven are two other items she has to have in the kitchen. Speaking about Dutch ovens, Music says, "They are just a great simmering pot because they have such gentle, even heat. And you can have an airtight lid." One genius way Music uses her Dutch oven: to soak beans. Music will soak the beans directly in the Dutch oven overnight and then start cooking the next day using the same pot. We love a cooking tip that cuts down on dishes!
On the One Dish That All Home Cooks Should Know How to Cook
For Music, learning how to make a sofrito is a must-have for any home cook. While a sofrito will vary depending on location, it's a concentrated mix of vegetables that's often used as the base of a dish to add flavor. For example, Music explains that a sofrito from New Orleans might have celery, green pepper and onion while a sofrito from Spain might have tomato. "When you learn how to make sofrito and flavor it properly, it's the best thing you can imagine to have boxed away in the freezer," says Music. Whether she's making a ragù or a pot of soup, Music will keep some sofrito in the freezer, and when she's ready to cook with it, that's when she adds her dry spices. A sofrito "makes everything taste good, especially simple foods," says Music.
And two other ingredients you'll find in Music's freezer: Parmesan cheese rinds and containers of wine. Parmesan rinds can add "the most incredible flavor" to dishes, so Music advises to not throw them out. (Try this recipe for One-Pot Lentil & Vegetable Soup with Parmesan, which uses a Parmesan rind to add flavor and body to the broth.) As for the wine, Music freezes it when she's left with a small amount at the bottom of a bottle and doesn't plan to drink it. Instead, she'll pour it into a container and when she needs wine to deglaze a pan or add to a pasta sauce, the frozen wine comes in handy.
On Her Dream Dinner Party
EW: If you were hosting a celebrity dinner party, who would you invite?
CLM: "Is Rachel Maddow a celebrity?"
CLM: "I would invite Rachel Maddow, Amy Sedaris and RuPaul. And maybe one other person … I think Lady Gaga would be fun at a dinner party, so she could come, too."
On What Eating Well Means to Her
CLM: "Eating well for me is about a balance. I kind of always say it's the 80/20 rule. If you're 100% feeling good about what you're eating 80% of the time, then that's great … and just having that right mix, nothing is forbidden."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves! Grab a copy of Music's That Sounds So Good and try the stunning recipes for yourself.