Portland resident Mindy Fox, co-author of “Antoni in the Kitchen” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), a new cookbook from “Queer Eye” star Antoni Porowski. Photo courtesy of Mindy Fox

Mindy Fox is a food writer, editor and recipe developer who has written and co-written cookbooks, some with well-known chefs – including Maine’s own Sara Jenkins, chef/owner of Nina June in Rockport. She writes prolifically for Epicurious, contributing recipes for everything from halvah to Peruvian chicken. In August, Fox published a guide to the 15 best restaurants in Portland in Conde Nast Traveler. Fox’s latest cookbook project had her working with Antoni Porowski, a star of the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” on his first cookbook, “Antoni in the Kitchen.”

Fox, originally from New York City, has lived in New England on and off for much of her life. She moved to Portland a couple of years ago with her husband, architect Steve Hoffman. They were looking for a place with a sense of creativity, culture, community values, entrepreneurial energy, closeness to nature, and, of course, good food. Portland, Fox says, “was really the perfect place for us.” A few of her favorite Maine foods so far: Resurgam hot sauces, Black Dinah chocolates, Night Moves Bread, Winter Hill cheeses and the beach rose kombucha from Root Wild.

Fox spoke with us about what it was like working with Porowski. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Fox worked with Antoni Porowski, star of the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” on his new cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.) Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Q: You’ve worked with a lot of food personalities. How much input do you have on content?

A: Every time I’ve worked on a collaboration, each person comes to the table with a different set of skills, a different set of needs. I’ve worked with people who have said to me, “I don’t know what I want to say. I don’t know what I have in me.” But they have so much in them. They just get nervous, when they get a book deal, that they’re not going to be able to find it. Sometimes they need someone who just has the objectivity to sit and talk with them and help bring it out, help it rise to the surface. With Antoni, he had started working with our editor (Rux Martin). When they brought me into the project, they had developed a foundation for how he was going to express himself in this book, and he had already brainstormed about 70 percent of the recipe ideas. So I came in and helped him finesse all of that and fill in the skeleton. You start with an editorial structure for the book – how you’re going to tell the story, and how all the recipes are cohesive in telling that story. That is something that takes a lot of work to formulate. It’s nothing that’s forced. It’s very organic.

Q: How much did you actually cook with him?
A: He was filming a season of his show and we were not able to test recipes together, but we were able to test individually and then compare notes and talk about things.

Q: A few recipes in the book reflect Antoni’s Polish heritage. What did you learn about Polish food by working with him?

A: I loved that aspect, and actually I have some Polish heritage too, so it was something that was a nice connection. His parents are both Polish and he really grew up with that, and also going to Polish markets. For me, it was just something that is more in the background of my heritage, so it was really fun to learn from him. And you know, he speaks Polish fluently – and French too. He’s a Montrealer. He’s French Canadian, and he grew up speaking Polish with his parents. So I learned all sorts of things. A really fun connection to working on the Polish recipes in the book was that I got to go to Bogusha’s. (Bogusha’s Polish Restaurant & Deli,, 825 Stevens Ave., is Portland’s only Polish restaurant.)

Q: What did you think about that place?
A: I went to Bogusha’s for ingredients to work on some of these recipes, and I just fell in love immediately. I just went crazy. I would have found Bogusha’s eventually, but because of Antoni I found it much faster. They had everything I needed. There’s this really great recipe for chilled beet soup with pickles and dill. I always butcher the pronunciation, but it’s chlodnik. Bogusha’s has this great borscht concentrate in a bottle, which helps make this recipe really, really easy and really, really good. I had never seen that product before, so that was really fun to learn about. And I also didn’t know how great Polish mustard was. I love mustard, and Polish mustard is really great. There is another recipe in the book that is one of the easiest, quickest recipes in the book, and it’s just Polish sausage with sauerkraut and mustard. It’s a great weeknight recipe that is so easy. And if you go get really good Polish sausage from Bogusha’s, it’s amazing.

Q: Were you a fan of Queer Eye before you met Antoni?
A: When the potential to work with Antoni came up, I turned on my Netflix and watched it. The show is really wonderful. One of the things I remember saying when I very first started working with Antoni was that I was so happy to be working on something related to the show, even if it was just working with him in a peripheral sense, because I really feel that this show is very important right now, especially in this political climate that we’re living in, with all of these displays of intolerance that are so concerning. To be associated with the show made me feel really good because that’s something that’s so important to me as a person.

 

CHILLED BEET SOUP WITH PICKLES + DILL (CHLODNIK)

Serves 4

 

1 (10-ounce) bottle borscht concentrate

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup (8 ounces) full-fat sour cream

4 large eggs

3/4 cup cubed (1/4 inch) cucumber

Kosher salt

3/4 cup cubed (1/4 inch) dill pickles

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

6 small or 4 medium radishes, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or scallions

In a bowl, whisk together the borscht concentrate, broth and half of the sour cream until smooth. Add 1/2 cup ice cubes and refrigerate, covered, for a couple of hours, until cold. (The soup base can be prepared up to three days ahead and kept covered and refrigerated.)

Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. Using a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the water, taking care not to drop them into the pan. Cook for exactly 10 minutes, then transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water and let cool for about 5 minutes. Drain the eggs and refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to serve the soup. (The shell-on eggs can be refrigerated for up to five days.)

To assemble the soup: Peel the eggs and quarter or halve each one. Toss together the cucumber and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl.

Divide the pickles, cucumbers and half of the dill among four soup bowls. Ladle the chilled soup into the bowls. Top with the eggs, radishes, chives or scallions, and the remaining dill and sour cream. Serve immediately.


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