Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” No book embodies that idea more clearly than Jenny Rosenstrach’s new book, How to Celebrate Everything. She believes that families crave rituals that bring comfort, connection and meaning to our days. “There can be something memorable in the most ordinary moments of a family’s daily routine and once you get in the ritual mindset, you’ll see there are endless options for celebrating,” says Rosenstrach. Her new work is a festive, inspiring collection of crowd-pleasing recipes and fun ideas to encourage families to slow down and celebrate the moments that really matter in life. Here’s what inspired her to write it, her best party-throwing advice and her own favorite rituals. Plus, where she loves to eat in the area and her favorite holiday recipes.
Where did you learn all about food and entertaining?
I learned the technical side of cooking from working in food departments at magazines like Real Simple, Bon Appetit and Cookie. It takes a village and I think of my cooking village as having 6 or 7 mentors, including my mom.
Did you always plan to have a career as a food writer?
No! I was working for a financial research firm in Greenwich, CT, right out of college and was not creatively fulfilled. Eventually I got into magazines and saw how rewarding a career in food writing could be. The role that food plays in people’s lives has always been the most important and interesting thing to me.
What do you have to have at all times in your fridge or pantry?
Eggs. Maldon Sea Salt. Miso. I always buy a carton to use in a soup, broth, dressings and it lasts in the fridge forever. Frankie’s Olive Oil is my special olive oil for drizzling or finishing.
What are your children’s favorite rituals?
One of them loves to eat dinner in front of the TV when there is something special on like the Super Bowl. When you’re faithfully sticking to the script every night—making and eating dinner together—it’s nice to rebel against the routine.
What’s your best tip for entertaining with kids?
With young kids I think it’s key to do everything in advance. The Pork Ragu from my first book can be made ahead of time along with a salad. Then when people come over, all you have to do is make the pasta. The pork braises for three to four hours and the house smells insanely delicious when your guests walk in.
How do you keep your kids interested at the dinner table?
I started sharing “Did I Ever Tell You” stories about our family history and a whole new energy was added to the family table.
What is a way to make any meal fun?
Sometimes we’ll have pizza in the dining room on china. We’re downgrading the food but upgrading everything else!
Do you have any holiday rituals?
We started a Fancy Pants Dinner just for our family on New Year’s Eve. We bust out the china, linens, and fussy finger food and really splurge.
Any ideas for surviving the long winter stretch when the holidays are over?
Last year we did a “Party for No Reason” when we needed something to look forward to in the desert of the early winter. I picked a random date at the end of February and it was so much fun. I’m doing it every February from now on!
Potato Latkes with Fixin’s
Makes 18 TO 20 small-medium pancakes (for a party, double or triple)
3 large russet potatoes, washed and peeled (about 6 cups)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil (a lot, or at least enough
to maintain about ½ inch in the pan)
1. Grate the potatoes in a food processor, using the shredding disk. Add to a colander and rinse with cold water. Press down to remove as much liquid as possible, then transfer the potatoes to a dish towel and wrap, squeezing so every last drop of moisture is extracted.
2. Add to a large mixing bowl with the onion powder, egg, flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large skillet in about ¼ inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat, fry ¼-cup dollops of the potato mixture, flattening with a spoon, for about 4 minutes a side.
4. Remove to a paper-towel-lined platter, then place in a baking dish, covered with foil, to keep warm.
5. Serve with various toppings.
Makes 48 small party sliders
1 3½- to 4-pound first-cut brisket, generously salted and peppered
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup red wine
¾ cup ketchup
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup chicken or beef stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 dozen small challah rolls or slider buns
Freshly grated horseradish, for garnish
Pickles, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, brown the brisket in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, about 5 minutes a side. Remove to a roasting pan, fat side up.
2. Place the onion, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, mustard, wine, ketchup, vinegar, stock, and remaining ½ cup oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
3. Pour the sauce on top of the brisket and add the thyme. The brisket should fit somewhat snugly in the roaster and be mostly immersed in the liquid. Cover tightly with foil.
4. Bake for 2 hours. Turn the brisket over and bake uncovered for 1 more hour or until fork-tender. Cool, cover the brisket, and refrigerate overnight.
5. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the brisket from the pan to a cutting board and remove as much fat as you can before slicing the meat against the grain into thin pieces. Add meat back to the pan, cover with foil and heat in the oven for 20 minutes.
6. Remove meat to a shallow bowl and pour sauce into a warmed dish. Serve with slider buns, freshly grated horseradish and pickles, and let guests help themselves.
Jenny’S Westchester Foodie Favorites
Harper’s Restaurant and Bar in
Dobb’s Ferry for the Gochujang Ribs
and Bibb Salad
Inn at Pound Ridge in Pound Ridge for
the Rigatoni with smoked ragu
Yaranush in White Plains for the
home-baked pita, cheese, olives, honey and baklava
Taco Project in Tarrytown for the fresh, authentic tacos and churros
Tarry Market in Port Chester for the meat, produce, pasta and cheese
Galloway’s in Scarsdale for the fresh-baked doughnut holes
Headshot by Chelsea McNamara; All other photographs by Ballantine Books