Cookbook author Colu Henry shares her Hudson Valley top picks

Colu Henry isn’t a fan of baking. So much so that the writer and recipe-developer tried to name her ella latest cookbook “Please Bring Dessert” — a nod to what she wants from guests invited to her ella Hudson home. Her publisher, concerned readers would assume the title meant it was a baking book, balked.

It doesn’t matter. Henry, a New York Times contributor whose second cookbook, “Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food,” comes out April 26, shines in the savory realm anyway. The majority of her latest book by Ella is devoted to simple recipes that elevate into beautiful dishes by adhering to the concept that “sophisticated food does n’t need to be fussy.”

Henry lets readers into her pantry and fridge to see what to have on hand to make easy-fancy food a reality. Some of her recipes from Ella encourage eating with your hands: buttery kimchi shrimp, soft boiled eggs with pickled chiles, and a variety of fancy toasts.

Included in her pages is the pasta e ceci recipe that became one the New York Times’ most popular recipes of 2020. That version of the classic chickpea stew was vegetarian, while in “Colu Cooks,” the recipe called “My Cec” calls for bacon. When buying pancetta locally, Henry opts to keep it simple and suggests Shoprite or Price Chopper (“It’s not gourmet but it does the trick,” she says).

Another easy-fancy recipe is roasted mushrooms with sour cream, herbs, and lemon. “It’s super simple and looks so much more beautiful than it should,” she says. Her favorite fungi are from Tivoli Mushrooms, Hotel Tivoli chef Devin Gilroy’s mushroom farm.

“They started doing direct-to-consumer during the pandemic. I ordered a ton.” If you’re cooking mushrooms, Henry suggests following a recipe in the “Embellishment” chapter for an “Italian chili crisp — garlic, fennel seed and hot pepper. Drizzling that over the top is next level.”

Another easy-fancy recipe from Colu Henry’s latest cookbook is roasted mushrooms with sour cream, herbs, and lemon. “It’s super simple and looks so much more beautiful than it should,” she says.

Tara Donne

Pretend I'm Vacationing in Italy Salad, by recipe developer and cookbook author Colu Henry.

Pretend I’m Vacationing in Italy Salad, by recipe developer and cookbook author Colu Henry.

Tara Donne

Roasted mushrooms with sour cream, herbs and lemon, and Pretend I’m Vacationing in Italy Salad, by Colu Henry. (Photos by Tara Donne)

Henry, who is also the author of “Back Pocket Pasta,” is looking forward to embarking on a book tour that will include a West Coast sweep: Sonoma, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, and maybe Austin. “The book was supposed to come out a year ago. I am not a person that would do well promoting a book via Zoom,” she says.

Especially not one with a mission to inspire people to make unfussy, uncomplicated food that’s also elegant, pretty, and special.

The thing you probably don’t know about me …

I majored in musical theater and sang cabaret in New York City when I moved from Boston in 1999. “Peel Me A Grape” by Dave Frishberg was my signature song.

My favorite place in the Hudson Valley is …

My backyard. During the pandemic, we got a lot more edited friend-wise, and we spent a lot of time outside because we couldn’t go inside. My husband made our backyard beautiful. We live in town, it’s not much of a yard, but he made a beautiful fence. It was where everyone came to spend time.

I can’t live without …

Mutton Cafe. It’s newish. Shaina[Loew-Banayan]opened this awesome restaurant with everything I want to eat — a fried bologna sandwich, rice porridge with crispy chili oil and chicken, insanely beautiful salads. It’s a heavy menu. Their Bloody Mary comes with seasonal pickles and a piece of cheese. It’s shamelessly over-the-top indulgent and it’s super close to my house. They have a potato chip dip omelette! They do a soft scramble that is what you want it to be. I think it’s the best food in Hudson right now.

East or west side of the river?

East. It’s where I live, where I know my farmers. I can go to a bar that no one else I know will go to even though its right in town with my next-door neighbor and drink martinis. When you have that juxtaposed with Morningstar Farm — I have the best of both worlds. I like that there is an Amtrak that runs into town. That’s convenient.

The weirdest thing in my pocket right now is…

I got my husband this waxed canvas wallet 12 years ago. It was falling apart; he was putting masking tape on it. A friend of ours got him a wallet as a joke for Christmas. I said, I think it’s time to let this go, do you want to throw it out? He was like, Yeah. And… I couldn’t! I keep it in my pocket. I have a jacket I wear every day. I know it’s weird and corny, but I like it. It makes me feel secure. I like reaching down and being able to hold on to it.

Man, I wish tourists would stop…


Didn’t you move to Canada?

We bought a house in Nova Scotia. It’s a very crazy story! We went looking in the fall of 2020. I needed to get out of here and I married a Canadian, so I had the luxury of doing that. We got priced out of where we wanted to be; people in Vancouver were buying property. Last summer we looked at houses further south. It’s 14 acres with apple trees and across the street from the beach. We plan on going for the entire summer. It needs work. I will be sad to miss the summer here and September more than anything else. My hope is people will come visit; I want it to be a house where people eat and commune.

More tastes of the Hudson Valley

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