Most people know Freddie Prinze Jr. from movies (She's All That, Scooby Doo, Star Wars Rebels) and as one half of beloved Hollywood power couple with Sarah Michelle Gellar. But to family, friends, and co-stars he's always been a terrific father and skilled home cook who prepares delicious meals for his family every night.
Freddie grew up in New Mexico cooking with his mother and eating dishes with a ton of flavor and spice from his Puerto Rican heritage. His eggs come New Mexico–style, served with from-scratch biscuits and green-chile gravy. His tacos are the real deal: soft tortillas, homemade salsa, filled with steak layered with quick-pickled cucumbers, or spicy fish dressed with watermelon and Thai chiles. Now in this family-focused cookbook, Freddie teaches fans to cook his mainstays, the recipes that he makes on even the busiest weeknights, as well as more luxurious date night meals.
With personal family photos from Freddie and Sarah's beautiful LA home and Freddie's hilarious stories about the life of an actor, husband, and father in Hollywood, Back to the Kitchen shares more than just recipes. It’s an inside look at a beloved movie and TV personality who has acted, cooked, and eaten his way around the world.
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Chapter 1: Breakfast
THE ROCK'S CINNAMON PANCAKES
These are my little jiu-jitsu master's pancakes--my son's favorite breakfast. I make these cakes--which are taller and heartier than Parker Posey's on page 9--with my kids, and I encourage you to do so, too. I find my daughter, Charlotte, tells me everything going on her in her evil-genius mind, but only while we are cooking. If I ask her how school was after she gets home, I get the standard answer: "good." If we're cooking, unprompted, she'll spill all her secrets: "So, Daddy, yesterday at school we got to meet a real-life iguana!" Me learn quick-like: Me cook more with my kids. My mom also made pancakes like this for me. She would chop fruit up, add it to the pancake syrup, and warm it all in the microwave at the end. You want to add fruit right to your batter instead? Do it. How will I know? The point is, do your own thing!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4/5 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 to 4 tablespoons for cooking the pancakes
1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently whisk in the buttermilk and egg. When the batter is smooth, mix in the melted butter.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of butter. As soon as it is melted and sizzling, make the pancakes a few at a time. I use 1/4 cup of batter per these pancakes, adding more butter if necessary after each batch. Pay attention, as these will cook fast: Flip them when you see bubbles form on the top and the bottom is GBD! (Golden Brown Delicious.) And then, once the other side is GBD, and the top no longer feels loose or jiggly to the touch, remove them from the skillet immediately. For best results, try not to flip them more than once.
3. Keep warm or serve right away, with plain syrup . . . or syrup with chopped, fresh fruit warmed in the microwave, just like Mom.
BISCUITS WITH GREEN CHILE SAUSAGE GRAVY
These are no joke. I made these many years ago while working on a movie in Vancouver with a wonderful actor, Monica Potter, and Adam Shankman, the always awesome director and choreographer.* Neither New Mexico green chiles, pasillas, nor Anaheims--my go-to green chiles--are abundant in Vancouver, so I improvised with equal parts poblanos and jalapenos. They gave my sausage gravy a slightly different flavor, but it was still a solid recipe--and if you can't find the proper green chiles, they'll work for you, too. In fact, both of those two ate my breakfast, and probably both of them wanted to marry me. Hey, don't forget, I was dreamy back then, and single until the wife found out I was on the market. She swiped me up quick- like.
GREEN CHILE SAUSAGE GRAVY
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage or sausage patties, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh New Mexico green chiles or a substitute (see "About New Mexico Chiles," page 7)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) very cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup milk
Snipped chives and coarse sea salt, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Make the gravy: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and the chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chiles have softened and the sausage has started to brown, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil, then quickly reduce to a low simmer. Add the honey and black pepper and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and gravy-like, 12 to 15 minutes. Taste for salt and black pepper--it should be slightly sweet. Your gravy is done and ridunkulous: Keep it warm until the biscuits are ready.
4. Make the biscuits: In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the cold butter, using a pastry cutter, a fork, or 2 knives to quickly break it into smaller pieces and blend it with the dry ingredients. Mix in the remaining 1 cup flour.
5. Add the milk and stir gently with a fork or your hands until the biscuit dough just comes together and all the flour is moistened. Not long, as you don't want the butter to melt--the dough should be lumpy and rough.
6. Dust a work surface with flour and scrape the dough out of the bowl with a spatula, then knead it once or twice with your hands until it just comes together. Roll it out into a 1-inch-thick slab, then cut out rounds or squares (2-inch rounds will give you about a dozen, but I like small rounds so that I end up with 14 to 16 biscuits).
7. Lay the biscuits out on the greased baking sheet, glaze their tops with the melted butter, and bake until GBD (Golden Brown Delicious!), 12 to 15 minutes.
8. To serve, I put some gravy down on each plate, reheating it slightly if necessary. I lay one biscuit down on the plate and cover it with gravy. Then I take a second biscuit, tear it open, and stack it open-faced on the plate, one side slightly overlapping the other. Add even more gravy and garnish with chives and sea salt if desired.
SECRET TRICK: If you want to go the instant route for the biscuits, I'm not watching, and even if I was, I don't judge. They're fast and easy, I get it. However, if it's the weekend, and the kids are playing together, and you have a few extra minutes, just go for it. Biscuits are way easier than you think. It's also smart to make the gravy first, because homemade biscuits are best when served piping hot.
*and Holy Reverend who eventually married me and my wife!
ABOUT NEW MEXICO CHILES
Anyone smart who has spent any time in New Mexico, where I grew up, can't live without the state's chiles. Those are the green or Hatch chiles (named for the village of the same name where many are grown), and also New Mexico red chiles, which are green chiles that have been fully ripened and then dried, which imparts an almost buttery taste. These varieties of chiles have varying degrees of heat, but all have a pungent flavor that is unlike any chiles anywhere else, thanks both to genetics and New Mexico's unique climate. They are the backbone of New Mexican cooking. I get £ds of both delivered to my house in California by a friend.
For those not lucky enough to know a local, there are many, many growers with online sites to ship you both kinds. The green ones usually come roasted and frozen but are sometimes shipped fresh during harvest season. Dried red ones usually come tied together into dried chile bouquets known as ristras. You can also order green chile powder and the more widely used red chile powder, which is often now available right on the spice rack of many ordinary grocery stores. If you want to make any recipe where I specify New Mexico chiles or chile powder, I recommend you find some from websites like diazfarms.com or newmexicanconnection.com, as it can make all the difference.
But if you must substitute or are in a hurry, for roasted green chiles I usually suggest substituting chiles with some flavor and a little heat, like pasilla chiles or Anaheim chiles from California, which are easily found around the country at places like Whole Foods Market. Most grocery stores also carry canned green Hatch-style chiles, which will also work. You could also use an equal mix of poblanos--which have very little heat but a lot of chile flavor--and a hot chile like a jalapeno. For a substitute for the dried red chiles, ancho chiles have a little less heat than the New Mexico chile but still that warm, buttery flavor.
Note that from good sources, New Mexico chiles often come in a range of heat levels, from pretty mild to pretty hot, and you can buy what you prefer. The recipes in this book are based on my preference for chiles with a little bit of heat.
PARKER POSEY'S PANCAKES
Pancakes always make me think of Parker Posey. She is one of my favorite actors, and I was fortunate enough to work with her on one of my very first jobs, The House of Yes. Parker is amazing. Every choice she makes on camera is courageous and bold. Few have the guts to try what she executes in every film. I loved her just as much in real life. I was just 19 at the time, and she spoke to me about living in hotels all over the place, and her ritual of ordering pancakes and cleaning the sink with Ajax, which she would steal from housekeeping. (Again, robbing the housekeeping trolley, courageous.) She told me the pancakes at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles "weren't fit to eat and couldn't be described as breakfast to any living creature on this planet." My goal then was to make her the pancakes my mother made me: The lemon zest always makes 'em feel and taste fresh and light. I arrived very early on the final day of shooting the film and got to work. I burned three by putting too much pressure on myself. Finally I figured out the stupid stove and busted out a dozen in about 20 minutes. Pancake God!!! Unfortunately, at that point I didn't understand what a call sheet was and didn't realize Parker had already wrapped. The scene I thought she was in was being played by her character as a young girl. (That was Rachael Leigh Cook, with a killer performance, by the way! Pre She's All That.) When you make these, make an extra for Parker. Ya never know-- she's so cool, she just may knock on your door one day.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and lemon zest. Slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of the butter. As soon as it is melted and sizzling, make the pancakes a few at a time. I use a soup ladle and add 2 pancakes per ladleful. Add more butter to the skillet as necessary as you make the rest of the pancakes.
3. Let the pancakes cook until the tops begin to bubble, 3 to 5 minutes. The edges should be just dry and the bottoms should be beginning to brown. Gently slide a spatula under each pancake and turn it over.
4. Let them cook until the other side begins to brown--another 3 to 5 minutes- -and the centers are no longer jiggly to the touch: They're ready to go. Serve them immediately or keep them warm in the oven until all the pancakes are done.
SECRET TRICK: Now, if you're awesome, you'll slice up some bananas or take a handful of blueberries and add them to the cakes about 30 seconds after the pour. Both go great with the lemon zest. You can also try sprinkling these with powdered sugar and squeezing on the juice from the lemon you just zested.
HOW TO ROAST CHILES
1. Bring one eye of your gas stovetop to medium-high or preheat your broiler. (Or if you're already grilling, you can just do this outside on the grill.)
2. If using the stovetop, place the chile directly on the eye over the flame (trust me) and blacken it on all sides, using tongs to turn the pepper over so every surface is charred. You aren't burning it, don't worry. If using the broiler, just place the pepper under the flame and roast, turning with tongs until all sides are blackened and charred.