Joanna Gaines On Why Perfection Isn't Important In The Kitchen

Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Table.
Joanna Gaines is a female force to be reckoned with. The mother of four stars in HGTV's hit show Fixer Upper, leads design at the home goods company she c0-owns and operates with her husband, Chip, and still somehow has enough energy to release a New York Times bestselling cookbook. We chatted with Gaines about the inspiration behind her newest venture, Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, how she manages to do it all, and why a well-stocked pantry is key.
"I put together this cookbook as a way to share my heart for cooking with the people I love, to share the stories behind some of my family’s favorite dishes," Gaines told Refinery29. Her passion for cooking was born out of an unwavering dedication to trial and error in the kitchen. A true lover of casual meals (and dessert), Gaines looks to her kids for menu inspiration and no longer sweats the small stuff.
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"I’ve learned that your end goal shouldn’t be about achieving perfection in the kitchen. Take the pressure off of yourself and just enjoy the experience of cooking for the people you care about," she says. Gaines reminds us that, "At the end of the day it’s about who you’re sharing the meal with — not the meal itself."
So, how does she actually pull off cooking for group? Aside from always maintaining a well-stocked pantry for any last-minute meal emergencies, Gaines goes for crowd-pleasing recipes that are easily customizable and elevated. From a beautiful but simple veggie and cheese quiche, to zesty grilled salmon with a refreshing cucumber salad, and a time-tested batch of chocolate chip cookies — each one of Gaines's recipes holds the power to bring about an effortless gathering anywhere, anytime.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Table.
Asparagus & Fontina Quiche
Serves 6 to 8

"Mild, buttery Fontina cheese is delightful paired with earthy asparagus, but if you can’t find it, you can replace it with provolone, or use all Gruyère here. Sometimes I shave the asparagus into thin strips, though simply chopping it works great when I’m more pressed for time. This quiche is beautiful either way."

Ingredients
1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. Fontina cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
2 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
1 unbaked Pie Crust (page 28), or a store-bought 9-inch pie crust

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the asparagus lengthwise into long, thin strips, starting just under the tip of each stalk. Leave the tips whole. (Alternatively, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.)

3. In a pot with a steamer insert or in a covered sauté pan fitted with an expandable steamer basket, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add the asparagus to the steamer insert or basket, cover, and steam until tender, about 30 seconds for strips and about 3 minutes for pieces.

4. Rinse the asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and set aside.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, garlic salt, and pepper. Stir in the Fontina, Gruyère, and reserved asparagus.

6. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.

7. Bake until lightly golden and set in the center when the pan is gently pushed, 40 to 45 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning.

8. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 or 8 slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

9. The quiche is best served the day it is made. Tightly wrap leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Table.
Grilled Salmon With Meyer Lemons & Creamy Cucumber Salad
Serves 4

"My family really loves both meat and poultry, but I do serve them fish occasionally as a healthy alternative, and this is one of our favorites. This method is easy and foolproof and it brings out the savory sweetness of salmon. You can use regular lemons here, but if you can find Meyer lemons when they’re in season (usually from winter into early spring) it’s definitely worth it to pick up a few. Generally smaller and more deeply colored than regular lemons, Meyer lemons’ juice is more sweet than acidic, like a cross between a lemon and an orange. Even their zest is distinct — flowery more than citrusy — and they work so perfectly here."

Salmon Ingredients
Four 6 oz. skin-on wild-caught salmon fillets
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1 tbsp grated Meyer or regular lemon zest
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons (see head note) or regular lemons, plus 1 or 2 Meyer or regular lemons, sliced into 8 thin rounds
1 tbsp minced fresh dill
1 tbsp pink or regular sea salt

Creamy Cucumber Salad Ingredients
½ cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s
½ cup sour cream
1 tbsp fresh Meyer or regular lemon juice, or to taste
1 tsp minced fresh dill
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 English cucumbers, peeled in stripes, halved, and cut into ¼ in. dice

Garnish Ingredients
1 tbsp minced chives

Instructions
1. To prepare the salmon: Brush the skin side of the salmon fillets with some olive oil. In a small bowl, combine the ½ cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, and salt. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish and place the fillets skin side up in the dish. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the creamy cucumber salad: In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper. Fold in the cucumber until completely coated. Taste and adjust the lemon juice or salt. Cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 2 hours.

3. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Lightly oil the grill grate.

4. Place the fillets skin side down on the grill and brush them with the marinade. Cover the grill and cook without flipping until the salmon flakes, 10 to 12 minutes. Brush the lemon slices on both sides with oil and grill until marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

5. Arrange the fish on individual plates or a serving platter. Place 1 or 2 grilled lemon slices on top of each fillet and dust with chives. Serve with the cucumber salad.

6. Store leftover salmon and cucumber salad in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Table.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies

"My dad has an intense sweet tooth, just like me. One afternoon when I was around ten years old, dad got a hankering and he enlisted me to help him make Toll House chocolate chip cookies. That was the first time he and I had ever baked together. Since then, whenever I make chocolate chip cookies, including the ones from this recipe, I think of him and that special afternoon we spent together in the kitchen. I developed this recipe over the years, after experimenting with a few classics and having them come out flat every time. I wanted something that was chunky, beautiful, and also delicious. In the end, one big change I made was to cut back on the butter. I do truly believe that butter makes everything better and no one is more surprised than I am about how amazing these taste even though they’re made with less of the good stuff than most traditional chocolate chip cookies."

Ingredients
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips (see Tip)

Instructions
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

4. Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on medium just until the flour is mixed in, then turn the mixer to high speed for a few seconds to pull the dough together; it will be chunky.

5. Add the chocolate chips and beat on high for about 5 seconds to thoroughly and quickly mix in the chips.

6. Drop by large spoonfuls on the lined baking sheet; don’t flatten them. Bake until lightly browned on top, 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on the pan on a rack for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

7. Store the cookies in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tip
Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can add ½ cup more or less chocolate than what is called for.

From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Table.
Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines, $17.99, available at Amazon.
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