You're Invited To Chef Samin Nosrat's 'Big Lasagna Party'
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And finally today, sheltering at home has given millions of Americans the opportunity to get busy in the kitchen. But something is still missing, and chef and writer Samin Nosrat thinks she knows what it is. It's that special feeling that comes with cooking something great and sharing it. So tonight, the author of "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat" wants to bring us together - at a distance, of course - over a delicious home cooked Sunday dinner. Samin Nosrat and The New York Times are hosting a digital dinner party. She's calling it the Big Lasagna Party on Instagram Live. And she's here to tell us more about it. Samin Nosrat, thank you so much for joining us.
SAMIN NOSRAT: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
MARTIN: Well, OK, so, first of all, what is the Big Lasagna Party? I want in. What do I do?
NOSRAT: (Laughter) You're invited. Basically, like you said, I just missed gathering with people and I live by myself. I really miss that feeling of pulling up to a table, you know, scooting in my chair and rubbing my shoulders with people. So I wanted to throw - even if it's not perfect, you know, a party where we can gather and eat the same thing together.
MARTIN: In your piece for The Times where you proposed the party, you mentioned that you've been kind of ambivalent about all this digital getting together and video chatting. I mean, you're not saying that you're a technology skeptic. I mean, you have a podcast, after all. So that...
NOSRAT: Yeah (laughter).
MARTIN: But you said that you've been kind of ambivalent about it. You said that over the past 10 years, I've worried that this shift threatened the ethic of gathering and spending time together that means so much to me. So what made you change your mind?
NOSRAT: You know, even going into the first few weeks of stay-at-home order, I very much was like, I don't want to do video calls. I don't want to see anyone's face. I'm fine. I just want to talk on the phone. And I think I hit a low about three weeks in. And I really felt so comforted when - I'm in a women's group. And we had a Zoom call. And I could see everyone's faces. And normally, we gather in person. And we have dinner together. And just, you know, even though nobody had anything really pleasant to report, it was just so soothing to see my friends and their faces. And I feel like there - it's - in normal times, it's not necessarily the solution I look to. But now, with nothing else to, you know, no other alternative, it's - it feels pretty good.
MARTIN: And why lasagna? Some people might think that's a little intimidating. There's a lot of layers to that - no pun intended.
NOSRAT: Yeah, I mean (laughter)...
MARTIN: OK, pun intended.
NOSRAT: (Laughter) On the one hand, I would agree with you. It's not - it's definitely a project dish. You know, it's not something I would write a typical column about because it is something that requires time. But these days, a lot of us have a lot more time to spend in the kitchen. And I do feel like cooking is this incredible way to get out of our heads. And that's always been true for me, and especially in these times where, like, I spend a lot of my time being anxious or worrying or refreshing the news.
And, you know, getting in the kitchen, cooking, smelling, touching tasting - it's really, really helpful. And lasagna offers, you know, many hours of work in the kitchen. It's like a wonderful escape even just to make it, let alone to share it. But it is a dish where historically it's the thing we make people when they have a baby. It's the thing we bring to funerals. It's the thing we bring to potlucks. It sort of is a symbol for gathering.
MARTIN: One of the things about your piece that I liked is you said that while one of the things that you like about getting together is just the getting together. It's not about the dress up. It's not about getting fancy to go someplace fancy. It's the being together. And you said that one of the things about the whole video chatting is that people are letting down their guards. They're, you know, showing up in, you know, whatever, just being...
NOSRAT: In their pajamas (laughter).
MARTIN: ...In their pajamas. But for this event, you are suggesting - you're saying to people you'd kind of - put a little effort. Maybe get the good china out. Put the candles out. Why do you think that's important?
NOSRAT: You know, I really have to say a big part of why I did soften and have softened on all the Zoom calls and all the, like, video chats is that it used to bother me the way you had to really make sure your lighting was really perfect and that you had a good angle. And now, nobody cares. Like, there's just children and dogs in the background. There's people that show up in their pajamas. And there's no pretense. And I think it hit me that that was the thing that really bothered me was that we all were sort of trying to be different versions of ourselves on screen. And now that nobody has the energy to do that, I finally feel at home on screen.
MARTIN: Well, that's what people I think really appreciate about you is that you seem to feel at home wherever you go. All right. Before we let you go, so let's just say somebody is going to try to go hard on this, and they want to make those lasagna noodles by hand or maybe they just have never made a lasagna before. How about that? So do you have any...
NOSRAT: OK. Yeah. You want some tips?
MARTIN: ...Quick tips for somebody who hasn't, you know, who perhaps who finds us a teeny bit daunting? Any tips?
NOSRAT: My No. 1 tip because I made so many lasagnas over last month as I developed this recipe is wash your dishes as you go.
NOSRAT: My No. 2 tip is taste everything. And I really believe that lasagna is about many, many, many thin layers of pasta layered with juicy, savory sauces. What I think is a typical mistake that a lot of beginners make is they don't add enough salt to their noodles or to their sources. And they're skimpy with the sauces. But what happens when, you know, the dish spends 40 minutes in the oven is it's coming together. The noodles are soaking up all of that savory liquid. And if you are not generous enough with your sauces, it will emerge a little bit bland and dry. So it has to be juicier and saucier when you're building it than you think.
MARTIN: All right. That is Samin Nosrat, author of "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat," food columnist for The New York Times Magazine. You can join her over lasagna - or, like she said, whatever dish - you choose tonight on Instagram Live. Samin Nosrat, thank you so much for joining us.
NOSRAT: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.