In our cooking series Quickies, we invite chefs, bartenders, and other personalities in the world of food and drink who are serious hustlers to share their tips and tricks for preparing quick, creative after-work meals. Every dish featured in Quickies takes under 30 minutes to make, but without sacrificing any deliciousness—these are tried-and-tested recipes for the super-busy who also happen to have impeccable taste.
Ari Taymor is a pretty busy man these days. Since shuttering the original location of his acclaimed restaurant Alma—which was named best new restaurant in America in 2013 by Bon Appétit—he and his partner Ashleigh Parsons effectively re-opened the place at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood this year. But here's the thing—they also took over all food and beverage operations at the hotel, which means serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, room service and poolside dining. That's a lot of cooking.So when Taymor cooks for himself, he wants it to be delicious and easy—like the chickpea and chorizo stew with fried eggs that he whipped up for us recently.
"I'm always trying to find variations on a one-pot meal or something like a quick dinner," he said, and this stew certainly fits the bill. "It's greasy enough to be satisfying late at night, but it's still sort of healthy—so you don't have to feel like a total dick."Taymor's days begin early. "I'll usually get into the restaurant early and I'm pretty much in and out of the restaurant all day. Sometimes, at some point, I'll sneak out and go to the gym, or I'll sneak out and go surfing. If it's farmer's market day, I'll go to the market. And then basically it's just back to the restaurant for dinner service. Then either I'll go out for a drink or grab some food and head home."
When he does cook at home, a recipe like this one—which can be made in almost infinite permutations—fits the bill. Taymor says, "I haven't made this exact variation before—it's one of those moment-to-moment things. You stop at the farmer's market or grocery store and you can flavor it however you want to. You can use bacon, you can use Italian sausage, white beans. It's really kind of like a good base for everything."
This time around, Taymor decided to make the stew with staples that you may very well have at home, including a can of chickpeas and some Mexican beer.
He begins by making a garlic and salt paste and cooking up some chorizo until it's golden brown. The smell quickly becomes intoxicating.Taymor explains, "At home, I'm looking for a dish that's easy, a lot of flavor without having to do a lot of steps. Not as delicate as the food we cook at the restaurant—more spice, more salt, more fat. And it's really like: 'Is it easy? Is it easy to clean up? Is it satisfying?'"
For this stew: check, check, and check.Taymor then browns some onions, tosses in half of a can of beer—and reminds us not to neglect to drink the rest—along with the chickpeas and some of their liquid. The result is a rich, nutritious stew that just requires a bit of seasoning, along with some lime juice and zest, to reach maximum satisfaction. Top with a fried egg or two and, voilà—dinner is served.
Surprising as it may be, Taymor's love of cooking came relatively late. He explains that he was a philosophy major in college with an interest in public health and sustainable agriculture, but, he says, "When I graduated, I went home and got a desk job and hated it, flipped out, and quit." One restaurant job led to another and before he knew it, he was a chef. And a damn good one.
"I just fell in love with the environment of the restaurant, and the ability to see the impact you're having every day. You have a task, you complete it, you know how you did, there's feedback." He also says he loves the pressure.
RECIPE: Chickpeas and Chorizo
A restaurant gig in San Francisco led to one in France and then to another in Denmark. But, Taymor explains, "It wasn't until a year into Alma in LA that we really started developing our own style. Because when you first start cooking food, a lot of it is derivative stuff based on stuff you've seen or done before. And then the longer you stay with that, you delve into your process and you are able to hone in on your own style. The further you go on with that you just kind of weed out a lot of influences you don't want to have, until you're trying to do things that are authentic to you."And because exploring individuality and spontaneity is so important to Taymor, he explains that with this chickpea stew you can and should be creative with the ingredients you use. Add jalapeño, greens, avocado, cheese—the possibilities are endless.
Taymor says that his philosophy, when it comes to cooking, is to dig deep: "Outside of going to other people's restaurants, I try not to look at what other people are doing. I don't follow too many other chefs on Instagram, I don't read cookbooks as much anymore. Not because I'm not curious, but I think at this point it's nice to just kind of look inward instead of outward."