Does the prospect of hosting — or even just bringing food to a holiday party strike fear in your heart? Wouldn’t you rather just be watching TV or reading your favorite celebrity blog rather than feeding other people? C’mon, Scrooge, we here at VH1 decided the holiday season was the perfect time to combine our love of famous people with our love of stuffing our faces, so we took a four celebrity authored cookbooks — Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen (from the Duck Dynasty grandma), 2 Chainz’ #Meal Time, Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter and Stanley Tucci’s The Tucci Cookbook — for test runs. Should you share these dishes with friends? Let’s find out.
1. Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen: Armadillo Eggs
Test Chef: Sabrina Rojas Weiss
I’ve long been suspicious of Duck Dynasty as a show — how can anything that rapidly popular and hailed for its family values be that good? — but since I decided to do this project, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist a cookbook that contains recipes for Boiled Squirrel and Dumplings as well as Fresh Strawberry Pie. I love Louisiana cooking AND good shock value on my coffee table. So I also checked out the show and, to my pleasant surprise, I kind of love it. It’s like Orange County Choppers but with no yelling, sweeter accents, and lots of scenes of Miss Kay cooking, so now I get this cookbook thing.
I’m all talk, so no, I won’t be bringing freshly killed game to my friend’s party this week. Instead, I chose Armadillo Eggs, which are actually cream-cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped with sausage and bacon. With a demanding baby at home, I appreciated how simple it looked. The prep was super easy: slice the peppers, stuff them with cream cheese, wrap them in meat.
Instead of breakfast sausage, I went with Italian turkey sausage I already had on hand. Also, the recipe calls for a grill, but gives directions for an oven if you don’t have one. I used my toaster oven tray, popped it in the oven for 15 minutes, and then finished it in the broiler to get it crispy.
Unfortunately, the tray idea was my downfall. All the bacon grease gathered at the bottom, so the underside was soggy while the top got a little too crispy. But that didn’t matter, it tasted delicious. You can’t go wrong with bacon, meat and warm, gushy cream cheese. The jalapeno taste is drowned out, but it makes for a handy structure! The recipe says to pour melted butter over the finished product, which sounds gross and unnecessary, what with all that pig fat already there. After one, you can feel your arteries closing up. Miss Kay must be getting a kickback from the American Heart Association.
2. Stanley Tucci’s The Tucci Cookbook: Fusilli With Ricotta, Prosciutto and Spinach
Test Chef: Meghan O’Keefe
The two greatest things in this world are Italian food and Stanley Tucci. No, really. There’s nothing more scrumptious than a great pasta dish and there’s no more entertaining actor on Earth than Stanley Tucci. Put the two together and you’ve got The Tucci Cookbook.
The tome is a delightful collection of simple Italian recipes that are great for a warm family dinner, but most of them are maybe not the best for a big holiday shindig. That said, the Fusilli With Ricotta, Prosciutto and Spinach could serve as a more decadent (and festively colored) take on pasta salad or mac and cheese for a crowd.
The dish is fairly easy to make; the toughest part is prepping the spinach for the sauce, and the spinach can be conveniently swapped for broccoli, broccoli rabe or asparagus. The sauce is a creamy mix of aforementioned vegetable smoothed together with ricotta cheese and prosciutto.
The end result is a simple, yet classy dish that reflects the Tucci aura. Serve as a main dish or maybe in small festive mugs for a larger party. Bon appetit!
3. 2 Chainz #Meal Time: Shrimp and Grits
Test Chef: Emily Exton
Cooking on the road is difficult, but 2 Chainz and his partner Chef Aleem strive to make it simple in their 2013 collaboration, #MEAL TIME, which comes packaged digitally with the online purchase of his album, B.O.A.T.S. 2: ME Time. You might sustain yourself on mixed nuts and candy bars while on the go, but if you’re a rapper who also goes by the name Tity Boi, you never have to board another flight without crab shells, sea bass or salmon in your carry on.
Dinner a la 2 Chainz is everything the rapper is: extravagant and unpredictable. The listed amounts of butter, cream and extra sharp cheddar are as decadent as his jewelry collection, and the pairing of Old Bay and teriyaki sauce was a taste combination I’d never imagined. Chainz is a behemoth of a person, so the pound of cheese and heavy cream likely distribute themselves a lot better throughout his frame. Since I’m still getting over the food coma that was Thanksgiving, I opted for a lighter sprinkling of cheese, and skim milk instead of cream.
My instant grits were gluten-free, because I’m a sheep that follows the latest health trend, or that’s all that was available and Whole Foods (and I did not want to subject myself to the crowd at Trader Joe’s on a rainy Monday). You decide.
While the entire meal comes together relatively quickly, timing is key. In retrospect, I’d start prepping the grits first since the sausage and shrimp take less time to cook and inevitably get a little cold just sitting around. I’d also recommend hiding any of the unused cheese as soon as possible considering I shoved it all into my mouth before the milk could even boil. But what do you expect? I’m a 30 Rock fan and it was after dark — I had no choice but to work on my night cheese.
As 2 Chainz suggested, the recipe makes four generous servings, so I scooped, plated as if I were working a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge and sat back to enjoy shrimp and grits with the homies … while watching ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. That’s hip-hop, right?
4. Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter: Seasonal Crumble
Test Chef: Kate Spencer
I own both of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks because I am a masochist. However I’ve never dug in and made one of her recipes, as I am too lazy to track down almond flour and rice wine vinegar and would rather be watching Scandal. But finally I have popped my (organic) Gwyneth cherry with her Seasonal Crumble recipe.
The actress actually has two crumble recipes — one in My Father’s Daughter and one in It’s All Good, her “healthy” cookbook. But the latter called for quinoa flakes and so I quickly settled on the My Father’s Daughter recipe, which was sure to be better as it involved mashing warm butter into brown sugar with my bare hands.
Goopy says you can use any ol’ fruit you have around the kitchen; I decided upon apples because that seemed the cheapest easiest. The entire process took no time at all: peel and dice about six apples, throw those in a pie pan, and then mush up a few more dry ingredients in a bowl to make the crumble which gets sprinkled on top of your fruit.
Sure, she says you should use “spelt flour” (SERIOUSLY, GURL, WHAT IS THIS) but I went with normal person flour and it turned out just fine. In fact, the crumble was downright delicious and so very easy to make that I will definitely do it again. Gwyneth even lets you plop some vanilla ice cream on there so go ahead and splurge, why doncha?!