While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating nutritious and comforting from-scratch meals, baked goods and more.
Simone Faure is the chef-owner of La Patisserie Chouquette in Botanical Heights. The bakery is currently closed temporarily but will be reopening for curbside pickup on June 9. To support the sweet boutique in the meantime, check out digital gift cards via Square, which can be used when the online store launches.
What are some essential ingredients and go-to dishes in your household? I always keep rice, Crystal Hot Sauce, Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning, flour, pasta, brown sugar, cornstarch and red pepper paste (gochujang).
My husband can survive on bread, butter and well-tended cheese and charcuterie boards. Our son, Maxime, enjoys the warm sensation that can only be delivered by the crunch of a purchased chicken nugget. However, since I’ve taken over the cooking at home lately, our favorite dishes have been shrimp pad Thai, yakamein (New Orleans beef and noodle soup) and japchae.
A quick and easy no-knead bread is always a triumph for my family. A fast pasta of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, butter, herbs and touch of cream at the end is a great meal when inspiration and time are lacking.
Maybe you’re having trouble finding bread at your local grocery store. Perhaps you don’t want to risk leaving the house. That’s when it’s time to make your own. Use 3 cups of all-purpose or bread flour, ¼ tsp yeast, 1 tsp salt and 1½ cups hot water (not boiling). Mix everything in a bowl just until it’s combined. Cover and leave at room temp for 3 hours. Preheat a Dutch oven to 400°F in your oven for 30 minutes. While the oven is warming, turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold to create a round shape but do not knead the dough. Line the Dutch oven with parchment paper and place the dough on top. Cover with lid and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, then bake for an additional 20 mins uncovered. Remove from the oven and enjoy.
What kind of food do you find the most comforting during these stressful times, and why? When I’m stressed, all caution goes out the window. The only thing I can think about is what'll make me feel better as quick as possible. The problem is that the foods that I want are never simple or quick. I think the comfort for me is that in eating those dishes, I’m saying to myself that nothing is more important in this moment than taking care of myself. If I’m okay, all good things will flow from that but until you eat this, you simply cannot be expected to function in proper society. It’s so extra, I know this and I accept myself for who I am. It simply cannot be helped this late in life.
Tell us about your new Instagram page, myseoulfulpantry, and what inspired it. I stumbled upon Korean foods completely by chance. I was watching a Kdrama (Korean TV sitcom) and every time they would eat, I would notice that as they would chew, I would swallow. The food looked so amazing! They would slurp and gulp and didn’t judge each other on how much they ate. Now, I know that this was a TV show but it was amazing! I wanted to eat what they ate. I found a place – Asian Kitchen on Olive – that serves Korean food, I went, I ordered tteokbokki, I died. It happened just in that order. I went every Saturday for a month, bringing people with me, taking food to go. I was obsessed. Then I thought, “Girl, you’re not made of money. You would want to learn to make this at home.” So I did.
I bought books, watched YouTube tutorials, texted friends in Korea and only shopped in Korean markets. Many of the recipes that I would find weren’t in English and the translation app that I used would give me laughable results at times. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could learn enough Korean just to translate these recipes? I think I mentioned earlier that I’m "extra."
When I had an idea that the shutdown would take place, I researched Korean pantry staples. I figured if I’d be home, it was the perfect time to experiment and feed my new interest. I started myseoulfulpantry on Instagram to journal my progress. It was a bit of a surprise to many people who had scrolled by the page liking the photos but had no idea that it was me.
What similarities resonate with you between the food you grew up with and Korean cuisine? I grew up with rice on the table at every meal. It was there for breakfast at my grandmother’s house (rice and beans with some sort of smothered meat), lunch at school (red beans and rice, dirty rice, jambalaya) and dinner at home (smothered turkey necks with rice and gravy, shrimp étouffée, gumbo, crawfish bisque). There was always rice. Much like in Korean cuisine, it's a staple. I never understood my grandmother giving us savory items for breakfast. Where were the Fruit Loops, the Smurf Berry Crunch? Those things didn’t exist when we stayed at her house. Years later, I would come to dive into food research and historical recipes and learn why she ate the foods she did and why they were passed down to us.
My grandparents' families were sharecroppers. Their meals were meant to sustain a working body throughout the early mornings and into long, backbreaking evenings. Enjoyment of food was secondary. The primary focus of the meal was to nourish the body. That was what she told me when I asked about our lack of designer cereal. “Monie, nah you gone eat what’s on dat plate, you hear me?” I later learned that she couldn’t cook to save her life. My grandfather would often return home fatigued, from long hours of working in the city. He would walk into the kitchen with a hearty greeting, lift the heavy black lid of a simmering cast-iron pot, sigh, then proceed to make his own, separate dinner. I once asked why he did this and his response was simple: “The lord gone see fit to take me outta dis here world one day, but I ain’t about to help him do it."
Korean dishes spoke to my experience of feeding the body for the purpose of survival, while feeding the soul with intense, bold and creative flavors. The cuisine of the African American community in New Orleans is comprised of a combination of cultural and historical traditions and influences – from the African and West Indies influence in our soups and stewed meats to the French and Spanish style of our sauces and rice dishes. Ingredients were adopted by the influx of trade and migration just as you see Chinese influence in Korean cooking. It makes perfect sense due to the proximity of location. In spite of such great change within each community, both the New Orleans Creole food scene and traditional Korean cuisine have managed to keep their traditions alive and unique to themselves.
Can you share a recipe for a dessert that can be made at home with some simple ingredients? Banana bread is good. It’s a solid classic, so is cheesecake. The two together – magic.