My Kitchen Year

136 Recipes That Saved My Life: A Cookbook



About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The beloved food critic and author of Tender at the Bone explores her path to healing through 136 delectable recipes.

“No one writes as warmly and engagingly about the all-important intersection of food, life, love, and loss. This book is a lyrical and deeply intimate journey told through recipes, as only Ruth can do.”—Alice Waters

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Los Angeles Times, NPR, Men’s Journal, BookPage, Booklist, Publishers Weekly

In the fall of 2009, the food world was rocked when Gourmet magazine was abruptly shuttered by its parent company. No one was more stunned by this unexpected turn of events than its beloved editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, who suddenly faced an uncertain professional future. As she struggled to process what had seemed unthinkable, Reichl turned to the one place that had always provided sanctuary: the kitchen.

My Kitchen Year follows the change of seasons—and Reichl’s emotions—as she slowly heals through the simple pleasures of cooking. Each dish Reichl prepares for herself—and for her family and friends—represents a life’s passion for food: a blistering ma po tofu that shakes Reichl out of the blues; a decadent grilled cheese sandwich that accompanies a rare sighting in the woods around her home; a rhubarb sundae that signals the arrival of spring.

Part cookbook, part memoir, part paean to the household gods, My Kitchen Yearreveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of the world’s most famous food editor as she shares treasured recipes to be returned to again and again and again.
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Praise for My Kitchen Year

“Ruth is one of our greatest storytellers today, which you will feel from the moment you open this book and begin to read: No one writes as warmly and engagingly about the all-important intersection of food, life, love, and loss. This book is a lyrical and deeply intimate journey told through recipes, as only Ruth can do.”—Alice Waters

“What will send this book to the top of bestseller lists is the lovely way Reichl describes how dishes come together, like the Greek chicken soup with lemon and egg known as avgolemono, and her talent for assembling a collection of recipes her legions of former Gourmet fans will want to make themselves.”The Washington Post
“The recipes make for lovely reading, full of Reichl’s elemental wisdom. . . . In the best way possible, My Kitchen Year is cozy, the reading equivalent of curling up next to a fire with a glass of red wine and perhaps the scent of bread in the oven wafting over.”Vogue
“If anyone can convince us that a dessert, plus two more fabulous dishes, can turn a crummy day around, it’s culinary writer Ruth Reichl, who knows firsthand just how powerful food can be.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“The voice is pure Reichl in a way that makes the reader yearn for a house in the country with a pantry full of staples. . . . And as she finds solace through cooking, we find comfort too.”Eater (Fall 2015’s Best Cookbooks)
“The dishes are clearly fun and uplifting for Reichl, and the unexpected shift from culinary guru to happy home cook chases her blues away. Reichl reminds readers that getting lost in a recipe can be excellent therapy.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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My Kitchen Year

Be careful what you wish for: two weeks from the late September day I tweeted the wish on the previous page, my wandering days arrived.

But on this day, oblivious to the clouds gathering over Gourmet, I happily made an opulent little breakfast for my family and blithely set off for work. The meal was its own omen, a recipe I would repeat many times in the year to come, because this is the world’s most comforting dish.

Potatoes and eggs have had a very long love affair, but their romance has never been more exciting than here, where they embrace with astonishing fervor. When you want to be really, really good to yourself, take the time to make this soft egg, gently cooked on a pillow of butter-rich potatoes. Then eat it very slowly, with a spoon. Each bite reminds you why you’re glad to be alive.

Shirred Eggs with Potato Puree

Shopping list

4–5 young Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)3/4 cup cream 




4 tablespoons butter

4 eggs 

Serves 4

Peel the potatoes and cut them into half-inch slices. Put them in a pot, cover them with an inch of cold water, and add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring the water to a boil, reduce it to a mere burble, and cook for 20 minutes, until the flesh offers no resistance when you pierce it with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and put them through a ricer. Or mash them really well with a potato masher. In a pinch, use a fork. Season with a light shower of freshly ground pepper.

Melt the butter and stir in half a cup of the cream. Now comes the fun part. Whisk the cream mixture into the potatoes and watch them turn into a smooth, seductive puree. Season to taste, doing your best to keep from simply gobbling everything up.

Heat an oven to 375 degrees and put a kettle of water on to boil.

Butter four little ramekins and put about an inch of the potato puree into each one. Now gently crack an egg on top of each, being careful not to break the yolks. Set the ramekins in a deep baking dish, pour boiling water around them (be careful not to splash either yourself or the contents of the ramekins), and set the dish in the oven for about 8 minutes, until the whites of the eggs have just begun to set.

Spoon a tablespoon of heavy cream over the egg in each ramekin and bake for another five minutes or so, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Garnish with flakes of salt, bits of chopped chive, or, if you’re inclined to true indulgence, crisp crumbles of bacon.

Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I’m packing. We’re all stunned, sad.

The Gourmet conference cold, a cold, glass-enclosed space, was barely large enough to hold the entire staff, and we stood, packed shoulder to shoulder, as Si Newhouse, the owner of Condé Nast, told us that the magazine was closing. Had in fact already closed.

“What about the December issue?” I asked. It was already at the printer.

“The November issue will be our last.” Si didn’t look at me as he said it, and I caught the eye of Richard Ferretti, our creative director, who seemed as stunned as I was. The cookie issue, the one that had five covers, one on top of the other, was never going to appear?

Si said something bland about Human Resources, and then he and his entourage left. Nobody moved. We were still too shocked to comprehend what was happening. I blinked, trying not to cry.

Boxes had appeared, as if by magic, and one by one people straggled out of the conference room, picked them up, and went off to start packing their possessions. Many had spent their entire working lives at Gourmet. At last only executive editor Doc Willoughby and I were left, and I finally allowed the tears to fall. He put his arms around me, and we stood for a long while, trying to comfort each other.

I went back into my huge office overlooking Times Square. Every phone was ringing. Reporters wanted to talk to me, and I could hear my secretary, Robin, telling them to call the corporate offices. She is the friendliest person on earth, but her voice was cold, clipped. She had been at Condé Nast for almost thirty years.

When the noise level in the hall rose perceptibly, I went out to see what was going on. James Rodewald, our drinks editor, was standing in the conference room opening the hundreds of bottles of wine he had collected. “Drink up,” he kept saying, “no point in leaving it here.”

By dusk we were all drunk, exhausted, and feeling very fragile. Not one of us was ready to go home. We were beginning to understand how unlikely it was that we’d all be together again in one place. Impulsively I said “Come to my house!” and we trooped off, carrying bottles of wine and whatever we could salvage from the test kitchen.

It was curiously comforting, spending the night together. The cooks cleaned out their kitchens, each contributing something to the feast. Am I remembering this correctly? I think Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez, the star baker of the food editors, brought one of her spectacular birthday cakes, which sat incongruously in the middle of the table. Paul Grimes, our ace food stylist, brought the hors d’oeuvres he’d been working on for the May issue, and food editor Ian Knauer packed up some of his brilliant bacon-and-prune-laced meatloaf. Food editor Maggie Ruggiero found some shrimp and scallion dumplings in her freezer and brought those along. My own offering was a few little pots of chicken liver pâté. I always make extra so I’ll have some in the freezer should an emergency arise.

It had arisen.

Chicken Liver Pâté

Shopping list

1 pound chicken livers

1 apple (grated)

3 tablespoons calvados or cognac


8–12 tablespoons (1–1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 shallots (minced)

salt and pepper


Serves 8 to 10.

The most important part of this recipe is the shopping. If you begin with a pound of pretty livers from free-range chickens, the rest is easy. Start with the bedraggled bits you often find in supermarkets, however, and you’re likely to have trouble. So beg your butcher for the best, take your livers home and cut off the gnarly parts (they’re bitter), dry the livers well, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan, and cook the minced shallots over medium heat until they soften. Toss them into a food processor to wait while you melt a bit more butter and briefly sauté the apple. (Any apple will do, but I prefer a firm, tart variety like Granny Smith.) Add the apple to the food processor and melt a bit more butter in the same pan. Turn the heat up high and quickly sauté the livers, shaking the pan, until the outsides have just begun to go from brown to gray (they should still glow pink within).

Remove the pan from the heat, pour the calvados or cognac into it, return to the heat, light the pan with a match, and enjoy the whoosh. When the flames have died and the alcohol has burned off, add the contents of the pan to the food processor and blend until very smooth.

Cut 3/4 of a stick (6 tablespoons) of cold butter into chunks and slowly add them to the livers, as you continue to blend. If you have some heavy cream, add a teaspoon or so, although it’s not necessary.

Taste for seasoning and put into ramekins, custard cups, or small bowls. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the mousse. Allow the pâté to mellow in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

This freezes very well.

At Newark airport. Stop to buy a sandwich and the woman behind the counter says, “I’m so sorry about Gourmet; this one’s on me.”

Still slightly hungover from the party the night before, I threw some clothes into a suitcase and dashed to the airport. Kansas City was the last place I wanted to be, but the chef at Starker’s Restaurant had called, begging me not to cancel the first stop on the book tour. “I’ve had farmers raising special chickens for this dinner for months,” he pleaded. “We have more than a hundred people coming to see you. Please don’t let us down.”

My husband, Michael, thought I was crazy. “What do you care if the book sells or not? It belongs to Condé Nast,” he said. “You need to take a few days off.”

“The chef sounded so desperate,” I said. “I just couldn’t tell him no.”

Michael shook his head as he carried my suitcases to the door. His parting words were “Promise me you’ll eat something at the airport.”

But by the time I got there I had lost my appetite. This trip was a mistake. I felt hollow, miserable, and utterly alone. I was staring blindly at the sandwiches when I realized the woman behind the counter was trying to get my attention. “I loved that magazine,” she said, offering a sympathetic smile. “I could hardly wait for it to arrive each month. Please take anything you like.”

She was so kind, and her generosity so unexpected, that my mood instantly lifted. I looked through the refrigerated case, pulled out a steak sandwich, and ate it with as much pleasure as if it had been a Peter Luger porterhouse.

I know the gift was a tribute to the magazine, not to me, but it was a lovely gesture at a terrible time. To this day a steak sandwich can turn me right around. One bite always reminds me of the power of random acts of kindness.

About the Author

Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl is the New York Times bestselling author of five memoirs, the novel Delicious!, and the cookbook My Kitchen Year. She was editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and previously served as restaurant critic for The New York Times, as well as food editor and restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. She has been honored with six James Beard Awards. In 2024, she received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. More by Ruth Reichl
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