Author's note: Cathy Erway has become the poster child for New York City home cooks. Her blog, Not Eating Out in New York, chronicles the many reasons (27 and counting) why one would deliberately choose to dine at home in one of the best restaurant cities in the world. Her original recipes and enthusiasm for cooking are enough to make even the most steadfast takeout fan turn on that oven and even potentially enter the next cook-off she hosts. Let's hear more from Cathy! --Laren
Name: Cathy Erway
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Freelance writer and food blogger
Some may think you're crazy, not eating out in a city full of amazing takeout and restaurants. How would you respond to the doubters out there? I think it's great to enjoy all the amazing restaurants in New York, so keep on doing that if that's what you love. But if you're short on money and actually enjoy cooking and learning how to make great food, then I think most people would be surprised to find they can make stuff that easily dwarfs their average $9 takeout lunch.
Why do you think that people, particularly New Yorkers, don't cook at home more often? Because maybe they didn't grow up in a household that cooked much, or just never really had much experience with it. Eating out is sort of a modus operandi in this country, so that's understandable.
For those who might be intimidated, do you have any recommendations (classes, cookbooks, recipes, ingredients) to get them started? Cooking classes can be a lot of fun, and there are plenty to go to in the city. But I bet if you just asked your Greenmarket farmer or local butcher, "So what can I make with this X?" before you buy it, you'll get a quick, good answer and an easy route to dinner.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop for ingredients in the city? The Greenmarket! It's a special institution and New York has such a great variety of farmers at them year-round. Plus, they're freezing their pants off being outdoors all day this time of year, let's go cheer them up by buying extra squash.
Do you have a favorite recipe you're willing to share? Of course! Not sure what my favorite is, but I get the sense that a lot of people enjoy making pies as a hobby these days. So for a slightly different take on classic apple, I liked this brown butter sage version.
Do you think that more people will be cooking at home this year since our economy has gone to hell in a handbasket? I think so, for better or for worse. What were they saying? Kids are going to get more exercise now because they won't have as many Nintendo games to play so they'll be running around like they were before all this technology? Maybe it'll be a similar issue with cooking: people will become better acquainted with their kitchens and maybe find that they don't suck at cooking rice, after all. There's a silver lining to every cloud!
When you do eat out, where do you like to eat that won't break the bank? I went for dim sum in Sunset Park recently, which is closer to where I live than the much larger Chinatown of Flushing, Queens. Went with three friends, got stuffed, and the bill totaled $25. Everything was really good and authentic, too.
Best pizza in the city? Throwing a pizza party with friends. Creative sauces, toppings, either premade or pizza shop-purchased dough, and presto! Fun in an oven.
Favorite burger? I'm going to have to agree with the somewhat curmudgeonly answer to this question that a food writer I greatly admire, Arthur Schwartz, recently voiced, which is, why pay for a burger from a restaurant? Well, it'd have to be pretty fancy for starters: Kobe beef! Brioche! Interesting toppings, please (what about raw oysters?), and no "yellow" cheese.
Favorite bagel? Can I use one of my life lines?
Best late-night eats? Homemade noodle soup, or, in a pinch, instant ramen from the bodega.
Undiscovered gem? Underground supper clubs!
Guilty pleasures? Peanut butter out of the jar.
Food you won't eat? I don't think this exists.
Most memorable New York City meal? This is so difficult to decide, but it may have been a couple of back-to-back pig roasts I went to and helped cooked for last fall. I had never seen nor eaten a whole roasted pig before then, and it might seem really off-putting and barbaric, but it's such a powerful image, and a communal experience, chopping up and sharing a whole animal. It's also memorable because it's not something that comes to mind as very "New York."
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Not to upstage any of my terrific foodie friends, but I'd probably shoot an IM to my friend Chrysanthe, who works at Brooklyn Based. She's in-the-know about stuff to know. Either her or my friend Matt, who is just as persnickety as I am, so if he recommends a place, it's going to be mind-blowing.
What's the best recommendation he/she has given you? To taste a pepper before cooking with it (Matt), and to go easy on sugar (Chrysanthe).