This cover image shows "Food Between Friends" by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Julie Tanous. (Clarkson Potter via AP)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Julie Tanous cook up a friendship

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Julie Tanous cook up a friendship

NEW YORK — A chance meeting at a dinner party by two people reluctant to be at that dinner party has resulted in a cookbook perfect for your next dinner party.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of “Modern Family,” and food writer Julie Tanous have teamed up for “Food Between Friends,” which blends dishes inspired by her native South and his New Mexico influences.

“We just started collecting recipes and ideas based on our history and the people that we care about,” said Ferguson. “I think the flavour profiles naturally go beautifully together.”

It’s a breezy celebration of both cuisines in sections on brunch, fish, chicken, beef, desserts, starters, drinks and vegetarian dishes. Both regions come through beautifully in their green chili chicken enchilada pot pie, which takes the spirit of the South and brings it into the Southwest.

Tanous, who has written food stories, developed recipes for magazines and worked in catering, said most of the recipes are riffs off what both authors grew up eating, the restaurant dishes they adore and the foods their husbands love. She travelled to New Mexico with Ferguson and would bring an extra suitcase to take home things like blue cornmeal and chilies.

There’s a lightness and a winking humour throughout, as when Ferguson writes about how his family would likely razz him if he called patties by the more upscale name croquette. The authors also peel back the formula to writing introductions to recipes, and argue that crispy-skin salmon — approachable, adaptable, easy to work with and liked by all — is the “Tom Hanks of protein.”

“We looked for funny, humorous ways to sort of not take ourselves too seriously,” said Ferguson. “We’re first-time cookbook authors and we didn’t want to enter the room being like, ‘Well, we know a lot about all of this.’ We really were trying to be very respectful of where we sat as first-time authors.”

While both writers were well versed on items common to the South and Southwest — like beans, corn and chilies — each introduced different ingredients to the other.

He educated her about Hatch chilies and sopaipillas (he calls them “naughty little bread pillows”), while she informed him about things like sorghum syrup and spoonbread from her childhood in Alabama.

Each wrote essays on favourite ingredients, love letters of sorts. Ferguson describes his lifelong adoration of chilies, despite suffering from heartburn. And Tanous tackles sorghum, fondly remembering her dad spooning the syrup on a biscuit as he told stories.

“I love when food can transport you and bring you back. And when food is a placeholder for something special in your history,” Ferguson said.

The hardest section to write turned out to be the meatless one. Neither author is a vegetarian, and Tanous had to stop herself from adding bacon to corn chowder or chicken stock to sauces. One photo had to be redone when she noticed bacon lurking in the pinto beans.

Both authors had to quiet their inner doubting critics and push back against so-called imposter syndrome. There may be a million chicken and dumpling recipes but the book contains one more, their special take on it.

“It’s about your interpretation of it and the story behind it and why it means something to you. Really, that’s all it needs to be for people to be interested,” said Ferguson. “I think when people cook from the heart and they cook things that mean something to them, that’s enough.”

The two met about seven years ago at a friend’s pop-up dinner party in Los Angeles. It was on a weeknight and Ferguson wasn’t in the mood; Tanous had a newborn at home and also was reluctant to go.

Preparing to flee, Ferguson sat next to the exit. “Right before the dinner started, Julie walks in and there were no other chairs to sit in except for the one across from me,” he recalled. She cracked a joke and also admitted she wasn’t in the mood.

“I felt like I at least found someone who was on my same wavelength. And we ended up just becoming fast friends that night and ended up exchanging numbers,” said Ferguson. “We started hanging out and cooking together shortly after that.” A blog and now a book are the results.

The pandemic complicated the recipe development process and forced more ingredient substitutions. Tanous might test something out, drive it to Ferguson’s house and hand over the dish in the driveway.

“There were times we really would have liked to have been in the same kitchen and we couldn’t, so a lot of stuff had to be done remotely,” he said.

To prepare, Tanous dug out her old notes from culinary school and shared them with Ferguson, who shared his own experience working at Sadie’s Cocina in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Some things just worked out: Her knife skills are good after working at a butcher shop, and he doesn’t like handling raw meat.

“It was very collaborative,” said Tanous. Ferguson agreed, but perhaps had one minor gripe he wanted to share with his friend: “I feel like I did more dishes, Julie.”

___

Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

cooking

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nearly five per cent of Alberta businesses did not survive the first 10 months of the pandemic. (Black Press File photo).
Nearly 5% of Alberta businesses closed during 2020 pandemic

Will more closures happen before it’s over?

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Most Read