Cooking at Home with Elly Kelly, Tarrytown
Just because it’s comfort food doesn’t mean it has to be sloppy and unhealthy. Kelly’s approach to everyone’s favorite dishes capitalizes on nutrition without sacrificing taste. Oh, and there’s enough for seconds.
Aformer book publicist who is now a stay-at-home mom to daughter Josie, age 3, Elly Kelly of Tarrytown started cooking as a newlywed. Her special interest is re-thinking old favorites to make them more healthy.
Taught by: The Food Network. “My Sunday mornings as a newlywed consisted of a TV ritual of the Barefoot Contessa, Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, and Nigella Lawson.” First meal prepared: Beef stroganoff followed by carrot cake with cream-cheese icing, requested by her now-husband for his birthday dinner. Her kitchen: Gut-renovated in 2010 by Tarrytown architect Samuel F. Vieira, the country kitchen features granite countertops, KitchenAid and GE appliances from Berger Appliance in Hawthorne, and a cherry-red KitchenAid stand mixer Kelly received for her birthday. Favorite cuisines: Classic American and Italian comfort foods and some Jewish cooking—“the foods that make people happy, remind them of their childhoods, and are fuss-free, easy options for a busy mom.” Cooking mantra: “Fresh, high-quality ingredients yield delicious food.” Tries to: Use organic, locally grown (or made) whole ingredients whenever possible. “I try to ‘healthy-up’ dishes, especially when baking, to get a more nutritious bang for the buck.” Some of her ‘healthy-up’ tricks: Using brown rice and pasta instead of white, adding veggies to soups and sauces, and subbing whole-wheat flour for white in baking. Most unusual dish: Chicken Massaman curry made in her slow cooker, served over basmati rice. Best leftovers creation: Beef stew from leftover brisket made in the slow cooker the day before. Weirdest combo: Her mom’s recipe for curried meat combines ground meat, apples, nuts, onions, curry, and mayonnaise baked into a piecrust. “It doesn’t make sense—but somehow tastes terrific.” Favorite type of dish: Dessert. Favorite baked good to prepare: Quick breads, cakes, and muffins using seasonal fruits, like banana bread, applesauce cake, or blueberry muffins. “They can be eaten as breakfast, snack, or dessert, and make great gifts.” Special breakfast dish: Blueberry or apple pancakes from scratch, with real maple syrup and macerated strawberries in spring and summer. Easiest dish to master: Aglio e olio, or pasta tossed with olive oil, fresh garlic, and red pepper flakes. “It works as a starter or main dish, and it satisfies any picky eaters.” Can’t-live-without-it utensil: Wooden spoons for stirring batter, sautéing vegetables, and making soups and sauces. Three must-have spices: “Salt to bring out the flavor, particularly in baking; paprika to add a smoky, full flavor without any heat; and oregano for use in soups, sauces, stews, et cetera.” Always on her counter: Fresh, seasonal fruit. Biggest cooking triumph: For Passover last year, Kelly was inspired to go beyond the typical flour-free desserts and made a flourless chocolate roulade. “If I don’t make it for all future Seders, my family will probably disown me.” Biggest cooking fiasco: The first time she roasted a whole chicken. “The high temp coupled with not yet using the self-cleaning option on our oven resulted in our house filling with smoke and every smoke detector going off at once—during my baby’s nap, of course.”
Favorite cooking soundtrack: With her daughter, the indie folk/rock group Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower. Must-watch cooking show: Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. “I adore a no-fuss approach to making comforting foods that are as delicious to eat as they are simply beautiful.” Most food-splattered cookbook: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Most visited website: marthastewart.com/everydayfood. “It’s easy to navigate and the recipes are simple to follow.” Favorite cooking bloggers: smittenkitchen.com and dinneralovestory.com. “Both highlight comfort foods that are fuss-free, use quality ingredients, take minimal time to get on the table, and are kid-friendly.” Cooking idol: “Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, for bringing the importance of organic eating and the locavorian movement to a national level.”
Local Shopping & Dining Guide
Everyday supermarket: Stop & Shop on White Plains Road in Tarrytown. “They have local produce and extensive organic options.” Best supermarket in Westchester: “Nothing beats Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers for basic necessities and all the animatronics that keep my daughter from jumping out of the cart.” Preferred gourmet shop: Mint Premium Foods in Tarrytown. “Any store that is as liberal with free samples of candied pecans and chocolate-covered cherries as they are has my seal of approval.” Preferred butcher: DeCicco’s in Ardsley. Best source for produce: Westchester Greenhouse in Hartsdale. “You’re buying straight off the farm.” Preferred cheese purveyor: Mint Premuim Foods. Favorite farmers’ market: “Stone Barns for the freshness and quality, but the River Towns farmers’ markets in Tarrytown, Irvington, and Hastings for a wider selection and better prices.” Most recent date-night restaurant: MP Taverna in Irvington for Greek food.
For Kelly’s recipe for pear and dried cherry Frangipane cake, please go to westchestermagazine.com/webexclusives.
Our Chefs’ Top Tips for Newbie Cooks
“Treat cookbooks like real books. Read the introduction, the tips, and the techniques sections, and always read a recipe in its entirety before beginning. And look for websites and apps that break recipes down into ‘Easy,’ ‘Moderate,’ and ‘Hard’ so you know what you’re getting into.”
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