Expert Interview Series: Trevor Kensey of Sis Boom Blog! Discusses His Passion For Great Food
Trevor Kensey is an award-winning writer, photographer and (self-styled) "food raconteur". He and his blog, Sis Boom Blog! have been featured on CNN and elsewhere. He does not know Anthony Bourdain. Tell us about your site, Sis Boom Blog....
Trevor Kensey is an award-winning writer, photographer and (self-styled) "food raconteur". He and his blog, Sis Boom Blog! have been featured on CNN and elsewhere. He does not know Anthony Bourdain.
Tell us about your site, Sis Boom Blog. When and why did you start it?
I created Sis Boom Blog in 2009 without any particular purpose other than to indulge my desire to learn blogging itself. By the second or third post that was pretty much figured out and things got pretty boring. So when my CSA basket arrived with way too much zucchini I started to dig out every zucchini recipe I had ever tried and started sharing them. It turns out that during the summer, a lot of people are looking for a lot of different ways to cook zucchini. Seems their neighbors and coworkers dump, er, share a lot of zucchini each season.
I realized through this sharing that every recipe tells a story and telling mine was fun. So I kept on blogging.
Who should be reading Sis Boom Blog? What will we read about?
Who should read? My sister! She is quite simply the worst cook ever. I'm afraid no amount of recipe reading or cooking tip sharing will help her. She is hopeless but I do love sharing her stories with my readers. They are good examples of what not to do. For instance, one should not substitute melted coconut oil for butter when making hollandaise. Just sayin'.
In a way, good for her though, as when one is lucky enough to live around a lot of people who enjoy cooking, one has the luxury of being as bad as she is. She knows I will always feed her or cook for her parties. If I didn't, she'd either starve or she'd accidentally kill someone. Also, I suppose anyone else who ever knew me should be reading my blog since I'm probably writing about them.
How did you become so passionate about cooking and food?
While in college I prepared my first meal for a group of friends. I'm sure it was then knew I had found a life-long calling. They ooh'd and aah'd and I I ate up all the attention. All that love from a simple lasagna and a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing! When I brought it to the table that was just it! I'm sure I started plotting the next meal while I was cleaning the dishes.
What's your philosophy on food and cooking? What's your cooking style?
I'm open to all food and cooking styles. Nothing is off limits. I didn't come into this world with a list of foods I won't eat. If someone somewhere eats it, I will at least try it.
Also, I don't get intimidated by anything in the kitchen. To become a better cook you have to be fearless! The very first things I ever baked myself was a croquembouche! Its a tall tower of custard filled cream puffs decorated to look like a Christmas tree. I had stolen a Martha Stewart video from my mom where she makes one and you just know she made it looks so easy. After making the tower she took out outside to her porch where she finished it off with a healthy cloud of spun sugar (made with beeswax from her own bee hives!) I knew I had to make it myself.
Sure, I had to make a hundred more pastry puffs than Martha did but so what? Now I make a mean choux pastry and know my way around a pastry bag.
So I guess what I'm trying to communicate to my readers is that you can eat, enjoy, and even cook so much more than you think you can.
What are your favorite flavors? What inspires you in the kitchen?
I'm a sucker for the classics. If it is trending on popular food blogs then I'm probably not all that inspired by it. This is why you won't find much of anything gluten free or made with kale at Sis Boom Blog! I think classics are classic for a reason. When a dish is still in the lexicon for over a hundred years I find THAT itself to be inspiring. For instance, the French have been making the same basic onion soup for centuries. They do this because it is fantastic! Just reminding myself of this fact makes me want to make it tonight.
What types of dishes do you find yourself craving these days?
These days I'm drawn to anything easy that doesn't take much time. (As in not a croquembouche!) I no longer have much time to play around with a complicated recipe or hunt down a ton of ingredients. I need to make things that use only a few easily available ingredients that won't need a lot of prep time and are, well, hard to mess up. (Unless you are my sister.)
Can you share one of your favorite recipes?
Of course! Here's one that is exactly what I'm talking about:
Pan-Fried Steak with Mushrooms and Spinach
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 rib eye or New York steaks, trimmed, at room temperature
- 1 cup brown or mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup vermouth (any dry white wine will work too)
- 4 cups packed baby spinach leaves, one bag from the market will be enough
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
Dry steaks with paper towels and liberally salt and pepper both sides of each. (Tip: use just a bit more salt and pepper than you think you should.) Heat a heavy frying pan to high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is just sizzling hot, drop the steaks on the hot pan and listen to them sizzle away. 3-4 minutes per side depending on how thick the steak is and how well you like it done. Remove steaks from pan to a plate and cover with foil to rest.
Wipe out the pan with a paper towel (be careful!), return it to the burner (now at medium), then add the remaining oil. Toss in the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until cooked through. Turn up the heat and deglaze the pan with the vermouth, letting it cook down to 'barely there'. Add the spinach leaves to the pan and using tongs or a spatucha, turn the leaves into the mushrooms until they fully wilt down. Add the cream and the mustard (if using) and let it boil up and then cook down to a sauce. Adjust the sauce with salt and pepper and add cream if it gets too thick.
Transfer sauce to plates and serve the steak, sliced, on top. How's that for easy? One pan and no more than 20 minutes.
What's the secret to a knock-your-socks-off meal?
Great food is about the food. Great meals are about the people you share it with. So my tip here is to not worry so much about the food. If you are eating it with the people you love then who cares?
Baring that, be sure to serve a great cocktail to start the evening. That way, even if the food doesn't turn out nobody will complain...or remember.
What are some of your can't-live-without go-to kitchen tools?
You will have to kill me to get your hands on my grandmother's cast iron skillet. There is no more a versatile pan and I will inevitably reach for to fry up steaks. The sear you get with a cast iron pan is magic and makes even hamburgers taste better. Luckily you won't have to kill me to get one since they now come pre-seasoned and ready to use!
When I first moved out of the house my mother gave me her wooden spatula and I still use it 30 years later. There really isn't anything you make it can't help you with. Great for stirring, scraping, flipping, tossing, you get the idea. And unlike a wooden spoon it can get into the corners of your pan. Inexpensive too! I buy them at Christmas and tie them onto packages. My friends thank me for the spatulas and forget about the actual gifts!
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