Since we’re in the final stretch of book edits–Melt is looking amazing!–we thought this might be a good time to sneak in another behind-the-scenes post to give you an idea of what goes into producing a cookbook. As a treat for our readers, we decided to interview Michael Sand, our editor at Little, Brown, & Company.
Here Michael answers a few questions about what he looks for in a hearty cookbook, what he saw in Melt, and his own personal thoughts on what makes comfort food so alluring.
Steph & Garrett: What do you look for in a comfort food cookbook?
Michael Sand: The same thing I look for in almost any cookbook — a strong, original voice, delicious and approachable recipes, and an author who has a good sense of how to connect with his or her audience.
S&G: What did you see in Melt? What attracted you to this particular book project?
MS: All of the above! Plus a fresh idea – I think most people would not think to cook with many of the varieties of cheese that you feature in Melt. You get them in the door with the familiar concept of mac and cheese, but then the wealth of information you and Garrett provide, along with inventive and, in many cases, elevated recipes, makes for a totally original and very satisfying book. It’s great that the recipes emphasize fresh ingredients and celebrate artisan cheeses and small farmers and producers.
S&G: Do you think cookbook trends are moving more towards comfort styles of cooking? Or do you think lighter, healthier fare is taking over?
MS: I think there’s ample room for both in the current climate. There’s no doubt that more people are eating vegan and vegetarian, and experimenting with low-fat or low-carb diets, but comfort foods are timeless, and they’re not going away. These are dishes that remind people of home, or of childhood, that warm the heart and the soul as they fill the belly. Bringing comfort foods up to date with contemporary ingredients and techniques has a lot of appeal.
S&G: What attracts you to dishes like this both as an editor and as an eater?
MS: I enjoy seeing a classic dish like mac and cheese reinvented with unexpected ingredients and flavor combinations. I love learning about new cheeses and new ways to serve them. I’ve been trying out the recipes in Melt on friends and family — they make great dinner-party dishes and conversation starters. The mac with Fontina and Italian sausage baked in a whole pumpkin is a serious crowd pleaser.
S&G: Which is your favorite mac and cheese recipe in the book?
MS: That’s a tough one. They cover a wide range, from fresh and light pasta salads to rich and deeply satisfying casseroles. Of the recipes I’ve tried, I love the Soba Noodles with Parmesan and Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts at the lighter end, and the Lincolnshire Poacher with Cotija, Chorizo, and Penne among the heartier dishes. And right in the middle is perhaps my favorite: Point Reyes Original Blue with Pecans, Figs, and Shell Pasta.