Anyone who's ever watched HGTV's Fixer Upper will immediately recognize Joanna Gaines's style in her new cookbook, Magnolia Table. It looks like the homes she designed on the show: clean lines, a lot of white space, bright pages and photography, and a general black-and-white aesthetic.
And it's perfect timing for this book too! Fans who were sad to hear there won't be new episodes on HGTV anytime soon, since the finale aired in April, can bring a dose of the Gaines family into their kitchens.
Magnolia Table is filled with family stories and memories surrounding meals; individual favorites (for Chip, it's anything breakfast); diverse recipes that celebrate Joanna's diverse background: Texan (queso dip, fried chicken, Gaines chili . . .), Korean (her mom's bulgogi — find the recipe below), and Lebanese (her grandfather's recipe for Syrian doughnuts and fatayer); and some recipes that are used in their restaurant by the same name in Waco, TX, like her specialty biscuits and chocolate chip cookies (see below for the original recipe).
In the introduction, Joanna shares her own food journey, from the first meal she made for Chip in their first home (a spaghetti-and-meatballs dish with bread and butter that didn't go so well) to how she began to explore recipes from his family, like the Gaines's chili, and sharing recipes from her family with him, like the "Stevens family breakfast tradition: toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches dipped in black coffee" . . . which sounds delicious. Everything she describes sounds delicious. When she's writing about food and recipes, it's like she's staging them for readers in a way, just like she staged homes at the end of each episode of Fixer Upper for the full effect.
Fast-forward to when Chip and Joanna had four children under four who they had to feed and she turned to casseroles, slow-cookers, and "big pots of hearty soup that could simmer for a while." These types of meals are still her go-tos when she's having a busy week.
As her kids grew, they began to voice what they liked, and so meals became more elaborate. The kitchen counter and dining table are a focal point of their home. Joanna tries to tailor meals every week based both on the family's schedule and what's growing in their garden.
Even after Fixer Upper exploded, their family gained international fame, and their businesses continued to expand, she still prioritized time to cook meals from scratch in the evenings. In fact, that's how she de-stresses. "I stick my hand in a bowl of flour to begin to make pie crust, or peel some potatoes, and all of a sudden my thoughts slow down. I begin to unwind," she writes.
Cooking isn't a chore to her, and she suggests that a change in perspective can make it something we all look forward to.
She divides her cookbook into several simple and useful sections. She begins with what she usually has in her pantry and the essential tools for cooking, from measuring utensils to biscuit cutters, spatulas to a large cast-iron skillet. Then she has her recipes divided by meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers and starters, and dessert, along with two special sections dedicated to soups and salads and side dishes.
"I've learned to approach planning dinner the same way I plan interiors," she writes. She always thinks about layers and textures. First, she'll choose a main dish, and then the sides that would complement it. And always, always dessert, like her favorite lemon pie recipe!
Try out Joanna's original recipes from Magnolia Table ahead.
Mom's Bulgogi With Cucumber Kimchi Salad
"My mom grew up in Seoul, South Korea, with a mom who was an amazing cook. I can personally vouch for this because in the 1980s my grandmother and uncle moved in with us in our home in Wichita, Kansas, where I grew up. What I remember most about that time is my grandmother cooking amazing food nonstop. When my grandmother passed away I know my mom regretted never having really learned from her how to cook proper Korean dishes. She ended up adopting a much more American style of cooking and by the time my sisters and I were on the scene, she had long since perfected a few dishes for my steak-and-potato-loving dad. But around that same time she had a lot of Korean friends living nearby, and she learned enough from them that by the time my kids were born, she was often preparing traditional Korean dishes for them, like seaweed soup.
It's funny to me that they're growing up eating much more authentic Korean food than I ever did. Mom's bulgogi, though, is more of an American-Korean hybrid, much sweeter than traditional bulgogi, and she serves it on a bed of white rice. Mom has us over once a month and this is what she always makes. It's my kids' very favorite food in the world, so I knew I had to include it in this book. Getting the recipe on paper was a bit of a challenge. My mom had no idea what the measurements were or how to describe what she does, because, as she said, she just does it. (Writing this book made me realize just how alike we are in this way.) But eventually, we figured it out, and I'm so glad we did because now I've captured the blueprint to what will always be a beloved meal for my kids.
We've never had Mom's bulgogi with anything other than her cucumber kimchi salad, which has a clean, fresh flavor that perfectly complements the sweet barbecued beef."
Prep: 20 minutes, plus 4 to 5 hours marinating
Cook: 10 to 20 minutes
Servings: Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 cups packed light brown sugar
1½ cups soy sauce
5 tablespoons sparkling dessert wine, such as Banfi Rosa Regale, or sparkling grape juice
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 green onions (light and dark green parts), chopped, plus 1/4 cup sliced for serving
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 pounds beef tenderloin, rib-eye, top sirloin, or sirloin steak, thinly sliced (see Note)
Cucumber Kimchi Salad Ingredients
2 English cucumbers, peeled if desired, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 green onions (light and dark green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes; see Tip)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
Steamed white rice
1 to 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion (light and dark green parts) as needed, for garnish
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish
- Marinate the bulgogi: In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, wine, sesame oil, green onions, garlic, and pepper until well combined. Add the beef and coat it completely in marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours.
- To make the cucumber kimchi salad: In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, green onions, garlic, gochugaru, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and salt to taste and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Prepare a hot grill. If the pieces of beef are so small that they may fall through the grates, use a grilling skillet or place a sheet of foil on the grill.
- Grill the beef on both sides until medium-well, 3 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Don't crowd the skillet or foil, so do this in batches if necessary. As you finish each batch, transfer it to a serving platter and continue with the remaining beef.
- Serve the bulgogi on top of steamed rice. Garnish with green onion and toasted sesame seeds and spoon the cucumber kimchi salad alongside.
- Store the leftover bulgogi and cucumber kimchi salad in separate covered containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
NOTE: My mom usually has the butcher slice the beef for this dish when she buys it. If you live near a Korean market, they often sell packages of sliced rib-eye or top sirloin; sometimes they're even marked specifically for bulgogi. If you buy big pieces to cut yourself, freeze the meat for about 30 minutes before cutting so that it's easier to slice thinly and cut against the grain.
TIP: Gochugaru, or Korean red pepper, is commonly used in kimchi. It adds precisely the right amount of heat and unique flavor to the cucumber salad. Authentic Korean brands are readily available at Asian grocery stores or online, and the McCormick spice company packages it as well.
From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
"My dad has an intense sweet tooth, just like me. One afternoon when I was around ten years old, Dad got a hankering and he enlisted me to help him make Toll House chocolate chip cookies. That was the first time he and I had ever baked together. Since then, whenever I make chocolate chip cookies, including the ones from this recipe, I think of him and that special afternoon we spent together in the kitchen. I developed this recipe over the years, after experimenting with a few classics and having them come out flat every time. I wanted something that was chunky, beautiful, and also delicious. In the end, one big change I made was to cut back on the butter. I do truly believe that butter makes everything better and no one is more surprised than I am about how amazing these taste even though they're made with less of the good stuff than most traditional chocolate chip cookies."
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: Under 30 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Servings: Makes about 40 cookies
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips (see Tip)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.
- Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on medium just until the flour is mixed in, then turn the mixer to high speed for a few seconds to pull the dough together; it will be chunky.
- Add the chocolate chips and beat on high for about 5 seconds to thoroughly and quickly mix in the chips.
- Drop by large spoonfuls on the lined baking sheet; don't flatten them. Bake until lightly browned on top, 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on the pan on a rack for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Store the cookies in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to three days.
TIP: Depending on what you're in the mood for, you can add ½ cup more or less chocolate than what is called for.
From Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. Copyright © 2018 by Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All images (c) Amy Neunsinger.