Our Well-Loved Cookbooks: Cooking with Friends

Bear with me.

Just as I may be accused of jumping on the pop culture bandwagon (following my twitter and news feeds being filled yesterday with the sensationalized announcements that some middle-aged actors from a television show that ended fifteen years ago are having a reunion episode) apparently authors of cookbooks do the same.

Back in 1995, when the sitcom Friends was barely a season old, some bandwagons were jumped upon by a couple of folks who (with motivations unknown to me) published a collection of recipes co-branded with a soon-to-be generation-defining television show.

I don’t remember exactly who or why… but someone gave me this cookbook as I shipped off and moved out of home setting out towards University.

I’d be lying if I told you this book had been cracked open as more than a curiosity in the decade prior to this morning.

But, for a very long time, it was one of approximately three cookbooks I owned.

Was I a fan of the show? Well. I watched it, but mostly because in the nineties as a student without cable television, we watched whatever was broadcast over one of the four channels that reached our apartments via the little rabbit ears antenna.

Yesterday I couldn’t help but open my twitter feed and see countless people promoting the reunion episode trailer that had been posted online. Serious news agencies devoted writers, resources, and space on their properties to dissecting the cultural impacts of a ten-year-long, millennium-spanning sitcom.

I was reminded that I had this book on my shelf.

Still.

On my shelf mixed in among the other mostly-serious cookbooks.

Latching onto popular culture to inspire recipes is not an obscure thing, tho.

Beside the Cooking with Friends cookbook on my shelf there was also (I kid you not) a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (which technically belongs to my daughter) and a more recent acquisition Binging with Babish: 100 Recipes Recreated from Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows, which I bought to support Youtuber Andrew Rea who runs a remarkably well-produced and genuinely brilliant cooking channel where he instructs and entertains around a very similar premise. (After I’ve cooked a few more recipes from his book I’ll post a breakdown in a future post.) I’d also be obscuring my fascination with pop-culture-inspired recipes if I didn’t mention that I own a healthy digital collection of PDF cookbooks containing such titles as The Geeky Chef Cookbook, Minecrafter’s Cookbook, The Nightmare Before Dinner and of course The Wizard’s Cookbook: Magical Recipes Inspired by Harry Potter, Merlin, The Wizard of Oz, and More.

All that said, one season in to the show Friends there was insufficient inspirational fodder for the Cooking with Friends cookbook to be anything but a co-branded cash-grab. The recipes are broad and basic. Italian food (because one of the characters is Italian) or coffee-house treats (because they all spend a lot of time drinking coffee in a café.) Later seasons would turn one of the main characters into a working chef (which certainly would have provided some interesting recipes) and revolve entire episode plots around eating, cooking, dining, drinking, and other food-related activities. But little of these stories is to be found between the covers of this book.

The little blue page flag visible in my photo above opens to a page with a recipe for pesto pizza a recipe that, yes, we did cook a few times, using both the pesto and the pizza dough recipe from this cookbook. I don’t recall the characters ever having much to do with pesto pizza… but the pizza was pretty delicious if I recall.

My twitter feed has already forgotten about the Friends reunion episode trailer that was the star of the news cycle yesterday. Maybe the bandwagon has rolled on. I spent half an hour as I started my day with a cup of coffee flipping through the recipes in this old, once-treasured book. It was well-loved, and perhaps now long-forgotten, but it served us well for a time.

Like an old friend. Friends? Friend.

Making Homemade New York(ish) Style Pizza for Pi Day

The kid was determined to eat round for March 14th.

We’d already made a pair of fruit dessert pies for later, but she decided that pizza was on the menu. What better way to make use of one of those specialty cast iron pieces that doesn’t otherwise see much day-to-day use: the 14 inch pizza pan.

Sadly I didn’t give myself enough runway to make use of my sourdough pizza crust recipe.

Some recipe research and light modification produced the following, which actually turned out fairly awesome from a “reminds me of that time in New York” slice perspective.

recipe

450 g all purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups tap water

1 cup tomato sauce
blend of pizza spices, to taste
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
assorted pizza toppings

We blended the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a food processor, then drizzled in the water and oil until a shaggy dough ball formed. This was kneaded on the floured countertop to a smooth consistency, then divided into two smaller portions, rolled until smooth. We oiled these up and let them rest and rise on the counter for a couple hours.

I heated up the tomato paste in my small cast iron melting pot, stirred in the spice mix, and let it bubble away for about fifteen minutes until everything was nicely blended.

The proofed dough balls were hand-shaped to two fourteen inch crusts, docked, and baked at 450F for about ten minutes (or until I noticed they were starting to brown on the top.) Ideally you should crank your oven a little hotter, but I need to clean mine and 550F would have smoked us out of the house.

The pizza crusts were topped and then baked back in the still-hot oven for about 12 minutes until the cheese was bubbly.

She missed out on a school trip to New York city last fall thanks to pandemic lockdowns, but with a recipe like this… well it smoothed out the rough edges a little bit.