The Appetite Test Kitchen: Cooking with Tara O’Brady

Robert McCullough is Publisher of Appetite by Random House and a Vice-President of Penguin...

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The first night Tara was in Vancouver for the Seven Spoons book tour, she came to stay at Chez Robert’s here in Horseshoe Bay. We snapped the obligatory “it” couple photo (for the fans)—and within minutes were cooking dinner.

A little back story: first, there was Billary, Bennifer and Brangelina—then there was Tara O’Brady and Robert McCullough—better known as McBrady. It only seemed fitting that we would end up in the kitchen together—or at the very least in a Richard Curtis rom com.  

We started cooking our meal by taking Tara’s recipe for Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage Rolls (p. 135-6) and turning them into Vietnamese-inspired lettuce wraps…Say what you like about McBrady, but we don’t lack for good ideas. 

For the main course we made Bee Stung Fried Chicken (p. 167-8). Tara nails it when she says it’s a little bit Buffalo wings, a little bit Nashville hot chicken and a little bit Korean-style fried chicken. Tara’s friend and fellow blogger/author Julie Van Rosendaal posted the recipe here on Dinner With Julie.

Tara somehow manages to look glamorous even while frying chicken. Me…I‘m washing dishes. 

Next, we put the chicken in the oven and then let it rest. 

The final step is to drizzle the chicken with hot honey butter, which includes Korean hot pepper paste, or gochujang (now a staple in our house—thank-you Tara!). And at the very last minute, we decided to add peanuts for a bit of crunch.  

We had it with a refreshing salad of gem and assorted lettuces with charred green onion dressing (p. 185).  The crisp greens paired brilliantly with the spice of the chicken and the Occhipiniti SP68 (introduced to me by the always-exquisite Krista Look) was the perfect white for the meal. 

For dessert we had Malted Chocolate Cake (get the recipe by Tara’s friend Briana Holt at Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland…Who would have thought Ovaltine would make a chocolate cake taste even better? 

Then, of course, we needed ice cream to have with the cake…

So we made the Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream from Tara’s book (p246-47). I have to say, this is truly the easiest, no-egg, quick-as-a-wink ice cream I have ever made. If you like Vietnamese iced coffee, you will love this recipe and most-of-all appreciate it for its simplicity. 

The next day, Tara came to the Appetite office and brought with her Walnut Cherry Oat Butter Tart Pie (pp. 225-26) to share with our guests from the Food Bloggers of Canada. I have always been a fan of Butter Tarts and this version is phenomenal. Butter Tarts are a national tradition and, as Chris Nuttall-Smith points out in his piece in the Globe, Tara’s book is all about how Canadians really eat.

Tara said “seven words” for the crowd (which of course ended up being a few more) and started signing books. She turned down prosecco because she didn’t want a wobbly autograph. I admired her commitment and, to show my support, drank her glass as well as my own.

It would have been a perfect Love Actually-style ending had we been in the arrivals area of the airport, but, sadly, it was time for Tara to go home. For now, McBrady is doing long distance. But not for long—I told Tara she will just have to write another book… 

If you want to give another one of Tara’s recipes a try, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen made up Mushrooms and Greens with Toast.

Deb is a friend of Tara’s and an Appetite author. She points out that this dish would be fabulous with eggs on top (when in doubt…put an egg on it…).

Get The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook hereAnd get a copy of Seven Spoons here.