‘F- -k it, we’re using tortilla chips’: Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook gets real

Chrissy Teigen is a former Sports Illustrated model, the wife of EGOT-winning musician John Legend, and the owner of an outspoken Twitter account, where she muses to her 10.7 million followers about everything from her new appreciation of quinoa to projectile vomiting at her daughter’s school orientation.

But to her millennial foodie following, the 32-year-old mother of two is more than that: She’s her generation’s Rachael Ray, a relatable, Cool Ranch Dorito snackin’ arbiter of flavor who’s never too proud to get weird — or discuss her struggles with mental health.

Her latest book, “Cravings: Hungry for More” (Clarkson Potter), offers helpings of all of the above, plus the bold flavor combinations, humorous banter and easy culinary shortcuts her fans have come to expect.

Peppered throughout are pictures of a pajama-clad Teigen with daughter Luna, now 2 years old; her brood of bulldogs; her mother, Vilailuck, an Instagram celebrity in her own right; and Legend, who authored a few recipes of his own.

Teigen’s journey from model-with-a-brain to culinary hero began in 2011 with a low-tech food blog, So Delushious, the tagline of which reads “Personal random ramblings from a girl who loves bacon and can’t be fat.” That evolved into her 2016 cookbook, “Cravings,” filled with no-fuss, indulgent recipes that have inspired a new generation of home cooks.

One of those diehards is Micki Wagner, 22, a St. Louis-based freelance writer who blogged about making recipes from the book as a college student.

“It all just seemed like stuff that regular people would actually make,” says Wagner. “It wasn’t like Hollywood food. It was food for everyone.”

Teigen was pregnant with her second child, Miles, while working on her latest cookbook — and so it was more important than ever that she devise kitchen timesavers, says her co-author, the food writer and recipe developer Adeena Sussman.

“In the first book, we would cut up tortillas with a pizza cutter and fry our own tortilla strips,” says Sussman, currently working on her own cookbook, of Israeli recipes, out in June. “In this book, we were just like, ‘F–k it, we’re using tortilla chips.’”

Together, they dreamed up ways to streamline dishes, including a simple recipe for crispy fried shallots to add crunch to dishes such as rice pilaf or grilled eggplant. Instead of going through the hassle of frying the shallots in a pan, which she’d then have to wash, Teigen recommends microwaving a bowl of sliced shallots and oil. The idea is to make life easier without compromising on flavor, Sussman says.

Crafting the recipes also fed an emotional need. Teigen has been open about her struggles with postpartum depression after the birth of Luna. In an open letter published in Glamour last year, Teigen says that she was overwhelmed with anxiety and feelings of isolation, and that her “bones hurt to the core.” She would often find herself erupting in “spontaneous crying.” It even began to interfere with her love of cooking, when the “idea of having to test and taste recipes actually made me vomit.”

‘Starting to cook again really helped me get back on my feet and get back into normal life.’

The depression forced her to put off her second cookbook at the end of 2016. As she began to emerge from the haze, with help from a therapist and antidepressants, she started cooking again. Eventually, creating recipes became a “stabilizing force” for her, she writes in the book.

“One of the ways I knew I was healing was that I found my way back into the kitchen,” Teigen writes. “Starting to cook again really helped me get back on my feet and get back into normal life.”

She resumed work earlier this year while pregnant with her son — and she did get a little help from family and friends.

“John’s her No. 1 taste tester,” Sussman says of Legend. He’s also not shy about offering constructive criticism: “He’s incredibly supportive, but there may have been an instance or two when [he] recommended toning down the salts.”

And, last September, when she was developing a banana bread recipe and desperately needed brown bananas, Teigen put the call out on social media, promising “a signed cookbook, John’s underwear” and a palette of her makeup line in exchange for the goods.

Her devotees delivered. After successfully securing the bananas from a local fan, Teigen shared a photo of the recipe, written by hand, with all her followers. They were charmed by the resulting, indulgent banana bread, made creamy with the use of packaged vanilla pudding — and even more so by her openness.

“I probably wouldn’t have bought the cookbook if it was just [about cravings-worthy food],” blogger Wagner says. “The selling point was Chrissy, the girl who hangs out at Waffle House.”

Avocado with toasty crumbs

In her new cookbook, “Cravings: Hungry for More,” Chrissy Teigen gives her millennial fans what they want: a twist on their beloved avocado toast. She dusts her “reverse avocado toast … with a ton of toasty breadcrumbs and a cayenne kick.”

2 pieces white sandwich bread (crusts OK)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1 tsp. finely chopped chives
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 gorgeous, ripe avocado
2 lemon wedges
2 small radishes, thinly sliced

Tear the bread into chunks and put it in a food processor; blend until it turns into fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Place crumbs in a cold skillet. Add the olive oil, ¹/₄ teaspoon salt, ¹/₄ teaspoon black pepper and cayenne. Over medium-low heat, coat the crumbs using a spoon and stir until toasty and crisp, about 10 minutes. Pour the crumbs into a bowl to cool; add chives and parsley. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
Peel the avocado, halve it and squeeze a little lemon onto each half. Season with salt and pepper. Place halves on a plate and top generously with the crumbs and radish slices. Serves 2

— Adapted from “Cravings: Hungry for More” by Chrissy Teigen and Adeena Sussman (Clarkson Potter)

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