'Recipes for Disaster' Author Tess Rafferty Takes THR's Taste Test

Tess Rafferty - P 2012
Courtesy of St. Martin's Press

The former writer for E!’s "The Soup" talks Greek yogurt, burrata, tiny wine glasses and chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.

With her recently released memoir-cum-advice book, Recipes for Disaster (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99), Tess Rafferty positions herself as a saltier-tongued Nora Ephron, doling out confessionals of the culinary kind. She likes to throw inevitably fraught dinner parties, particularly for her fellow L.A. comedy writer friends, and she likes to dish on the local dining scene. “I’ve been known to put up with a lot of bullshit in order to eat some truly delicious food,” writes the one-time scribe at E!’s The Soup. “I never turn down an opportunity to eat at Osteria Mozza even though I’m certain child molesters on death row are served their last meal with less attitude.”

The book is chaptered in the faux-instructional mode so popular these days (e.g. “How to Learn to Love Yourself Again After Serving Runny Polenta”). It’s also occasionally interspersed with recipes, titled in the chatty fashion similarly popular these days (e.g. “Roasting a Turkey: So Not the Drama Your Mother Made It Look Like”). To wit, Rafferty continues to mouth off about what she loves to put down her gullet – and what she doesn’t. 


Current Fixation
“Burrata. They make a bruschetta with bacon and sage at Firenze in North Hollywood and my husband and I will duplicate that at home or I will just eat it plain with a little good olive oil and some aged balsamic. I also spent the summer perfecting my steamed mussels. I got obsessed and cooked them a couple times a week until I got the broth exactly how I wanted it.”

Known For Cooking
“I think I most often cook braised short ribs and I still usually serve it over polenta, despite the runny polenta mishap in the book. Braising is so great for entertaining because you get it in the oven hours before your guests arrive and then forget about it until serving. Plus, the leftovers are amazing! We put them in grilled cheese sandwiches the next day or serve it with polenta and poached eggs for breakfast.”

Destination Dinner
Ristorante Al Bric in Rome. It was the first place where my husband and I ate dinner the first time we went there together, and where we took everyone to dinner after our wedding in Rome this summer.”

Go-To Take-Out
“I don’t really do take out. I know that’s strange. I guess I’m all or nothing. I either cook or I go out. On the occasional night when we’re too busy to cook and too un-showered to go to a restaurant we get sushi.”

Adventurous Bite
“Oh I wish I had something awesome like kangaroo testicles to talk about. I once ate snails. And I once ate pigeon ravioli, which had the amazing texture of a buttery turkey. And I love chicken liver. I spent a month in Tuscany this summer and I could not get enough of chicken liver bruschetta."

Simply Won’t Eat
“Mayonnaise. I won’t even make you a sandwich with mayonnaise in it if you’re a guest in my home. You’re on your own.”

Favorite Snack
“Greek yogurt if I’m being healthy. Toast with butter and honey if I’m not.”

Dietary Regimen
“Weekdays I try to be good to balance what usually turns into a food orgy Friday and Saturday nights. I’ll have two eggs for breakfast, poached salmon with fresh herbs for lunch and usually fish again for dinner. I probably have mercury poisoning. Now that it’s winter, I’ll cook a big batch of soup on Sundays and then have it throughout the week: either Moroccan chicken with cannellini beans or a seafood soup with lentils and leeks.”

Preferred Company
“My husband and our friends – whichever ones are still willing to eat with me after I wrote all about our dinners in my book.”

Pet Peeve
“Tiny wine glasses. It’s an excuse for a stingy pour, plus I like to drink big reds and it’s not the same experience when you don’t have a big glass to stick your sniffer in.”

Big Wish
“More great restaurants in the Valley. We’re people, too! And believe it or not we know how to eat with a fork and a knife here. I do think the tide is starting to turn, however. I practically live at Ombra on Cahuenga, which is always serving up fresh, seasonal Italian cuisine.”

Embarrassing Experience
“I’m known for issuing a standard ‘Thank You/Apology’ the morning after every dinner whether I’ve cooked it or not. Sometimes it’s for the food, sometimes it’s for talking about my cats too much. I would say I shouldn’t drink so much, but I get just as self-conscious sober. Fortunately my friends love me anyway, probably because they like to drink just as much.”

Guilty Pleasure
“It’s a toss up between hot, fresh bread with butter or chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.”

Last Meal
“Fresh gnocchi in a truffle sauce. I always say if LAX ever gets a truffle pig in customs, I’m screwed.”