Gwyneth Paltrow On Tradition, Family And Duck Ragu

Gwyneth Paltrow is an actress, singer, lifestyle blogger and now cookbook author. My Father's Daughter is a collection of recipes from Paltrow's kitchen, along with stories from her life.

Gwyneth Paltrow is an actress, singer, lifestyle blogger and now cookbook author. My Father's Daughter is a collection of recipes from Paltrow's kitchen, along with stories from her life. Grand Central Publishing hide caption

itoggle caption Grand Central Publishing

Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't have to cook. She's a movie star. Her mother, Blythe Danner — a formidable actress herself — much preferred the stage to the kitchen. But Paltrow's father thrived there.

Bruce Paltrow was a producer and director, mostly of TV hits such as St. Elsewhere. He was also a father who doted on his daughter — until he died, suddenly, nine years ago when he was just 58.

Now, Gwyneth Paltrow has a cookbook called My Father's Daughter, celebrating family and togetherness, as the subtitle puts it. Paltrow's passion for cooking began when she was a very young aspiring actress and found herself joining her father in the kitchen.

"I started to learn how to cook with him," she tells Morning Edition's Renee Montagne. "And it was something that we did together. We were so often side by side in the kitchen, just quietly chopping or whisking. It's a very physical memory that I get of him when I'm in the kitchen; it's almost like I can feel him standing behind me."

Gwyneth Paltrow Cookbook
My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness
By Gwyneth Paltrow
Hardcover, 272 pages
Grand Central Life & Style
List Price: $30
Read An Excerpt

Paltrow explains that her father came from a big family, and mealtime was an important part of communication.

"He came from a house where the family dinner was very, very important," Paltrow says. "Every night my grandfather would have the whole family at the table at 6 to eat dinner all together, and my grandmother would cook, and they would all chat and it was their family time. He didn't grow up with a lot of money, so when he could afford to go out to restaurants and take us, he was so excited, and I think that's where I got the idea that food is very special and exciting."

My Father's Daughter features several recipes inspired by Bruce's kitchen experiments, including "Bruce's World-Famous Pancakes." Though the recipe is quite traditional — flour, buttermilk — Paltrow says her father's version was always just a bit better than others she tried.

"They are honestly the best pancakes," she laughs. "They are thin, they're tangy. They're not these giant fluffy things. I think what made them world-famous is, well, everyone loved the taste of the pancakes, but it became such a thing that he would cook for all of us and our extended family. It was almost about the experience as much as the pancakes themselves."

In the cookbook, Paltrow offers some healthier alternatives to her family recipes. For example, she provides an alternative to her mother's blueberry muffin recipe that includes soy milk instead of whole milk, and vegetable oil in place of butter.When asked if her version tastes better, however, she demurs.

"No, no, it doesn't," she admits. " Nothing tastes as good as my mother's super-fattening, sugary, blueberry muffins. [Mine] taste pretty good. But you can't beat the butter and sugar, let's face it."

Some of the recipes in My Father's Daughter feature foods that Paltrow herself does not eat — she doesn't eat red meat, for example, but she decided to include her family's brisket, as she has such fond memories of the dish from childhood.

Gwyneth Paltrow promotes her new book April 14 at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Gwyneth Paltrow promotes her new book April 14 at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue in New York City. Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

"Basically, we grew up having brisket," she says. "It's the pride of the Jewish mother, to have her version of brisket. So even though I don't eat red meat anymore, I loved brisket, and I thought, we have to include it in the book. So I started doing research and asking all the women in my family ... and it seemed that the secret ingredient was rubbing it with Lipton onion soup mix. I thought, let's do it a little more homemade than that."

Though the cookbook is already a best-seller, the public perception of Paltrow has not always been that of a culinary queen. In fact, she was famous for her limited macrobiotic diet around the time she won an Academy Award for Shakespeare in Love in 1998. She says she was dieting that way as a response to her father's throat cancer diagnosis.

"When he was diagnosed with cancer, it was my absolute worst nightmare. And I thought, gosh, he's got to eat healthy. So I started doing all this research into how people allegedly cure themselves through macrobiotics and very healthy diets," she says.

"I was hoping he would adapt some of these principles in the hopes that it would help his health, but he was pretty resistant. I think he equated sugar and caffeine with being healthy. So by proxy, I thought, I'll get really healthy, and somehow that will make him healthier. It didn't work, but I tried."

Paltrow says every recipe in the book has a personal connection to her past, but none so poignant as that for duck ragout. The dish brings up the memory of the last great conversation she had with her father before his death.

"We were in Italy," she muses. "We had gone to Italy for my 30th birthday, and my present from my dad was that we were going to have a road trip through Tuscany and Umbria, and on the first night we went to this little town called Cortona, and he wasn't feeling well. I didn't know how unwell he actually was feeling, but we took a walk up the little cobblestone streets and we went to this little trattoria and we had duck ragu, and we had this incredible night where he really opened up. We had a heart to heart. It was our last ... our last conversation in a way, because it became about doctors and all of that after that night."

She continues: "If you could write your perfect last conversation with the person that you love most in the world, it would have been that night."

Excerpt: 'My Father's Daughter'

"Duck Ragu" from My Father's Daughter by Gwenyth Paltrow.

"Duck Ragu" from My Father's Daughter by Gwenyth Paltrow. Grand Central Publishing hide caption

itoggle caption Grand Central Publishing

Duck Ragu

One year i was given a birthday present I'll never forget — a cooking lesson from Jamie Oliver. He came over and showed me how to make one of my favorite and most sentimental dishes — duck ragu. His recipe had more of a Moroccan bent with raisins and oranges, and it was magical. Over the years the recipe has become its own thing in my kitchen, but the roasting technique is all Jamie. I think this may just be my favorite recipe in the whole book. The gremolata topping, while optional, takes it to another level.

1 organic large duck, washed and dried

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 slices duck bacon, finely diced

1 medium yellow onion,peeled and finely diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 medium stalks celery, finely diced

5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 5-inch sprigs fresh rosemary, stems discarded and leaves finely minced

3 14-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1 cup Italian red wine

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound pappardelle (fresh or dried)

Gremolata Bread Crumbs or freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

sds
My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness
By Gwyneth Paltrow
Hardcover, 272 pages
Grand Central Life & Style
List Price: $30

Trim off excess skin from the opening to the duck's cavity and from the back end. Rub the entire duck with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out. Roast it for a total of 2 hours, flipping it from its back to its breast (and vice versa) every 1/2 hour. Let it cool in the pan until you can handle it. Drain off the fat and either discard or reserve it for another use, such as roasting potatoes.

While the duck is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the duck bacon. Cook for 5 minutes,stirring occasionally, or until starting to crisp. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and rosemary, turn the heat down to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until softened. Add the tomatoes and their juice and put 1/2 cup water into one can, swish it around to get all the tomato stuck to the sides, pour into the next can, and repeat again with the third. Add the tomato water to the Dutch oven along with the wine, a good grind of pepper, and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down very low and let simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

After the duck has cooled down a bit, remove and discard the skin andbones and shred the meat. Fold the duck meat into the ragu along with the tomato paste and cook on very low heat, uncovered, for at least 1 hour and up to 4, adding splashes of water if necessary to keep it from drying out (continue to season with salt and pepper as you splash).

To serve, cook the pasta, divide it among bowls, and spoon a generous amount of duck ragu over the pasta. Top with the Gremolata Bread Crumbs or Parmesan.

Serves: 4–6; Active preparation time: 50 minutes; Total preparation time: 4–5 hours

Gremolata Bread Crumbs

2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted and coarsely ground

Zest of 2 lemons

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Small pinch of coarse salt

Toss everything together.

Yield: 1 cup; Total preparation time: less than 5 minutes

Books Featured In This Story

My Father's Daughter

Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness

by Gwyneth Paltrow, Mario Batali and Ellen Silverman

Hardcover, 271 pages | purchase

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