The Defined Dish’s Alex Snodgrass Visits Austin on ‘The Comfortable Kitchen’ Book Tour
We catch up with the Dallas-based cookbook author and share her mouthwatering Salmon al Pastor recipe to try at home
By Avery Tanner
Photos by Kristen Kilpatrick
Alex Snodgrass is a two-time New York Times bestselling author with a strong social media presence and successful food blog that features hundreds of nourishing and easy-to-follow recipes. After years of growth in the online space, her first cookbook, “The Defined Dish,” was published in Dec. 2019, with her follow-up, “The Comfortable Kitchen,” releasing just two years later, in Dec. 2021.
Snodgrass specializes in creating recipes with wholesome and healthy ingredients that are simple enough for home cooks to get on the table on a weeknight. One example of this is her Salmon al Pastor, which Snodgrass shared with us below. A proud Texan, she will make two stops in Austin on Feb. 12 as a part of her book tour.
We caught up with Snodgrass to discuss the work that went into “The Comfortable Kitchen,” her love of Austin and her gratitude for the Defined Dish community.
Congrats on making it on the New York Times Bestsellers List for five weeks straight! How does it feel to have so many people connect to your cooking and recipes?
It’s something I have to pinch myself about daily and I couldn’t be more grateful. The way my community has come together around “The Defined Dish” and now “The Comfortable Kitchen” is more beautiful and powerful than I could have ever imagined.
What did you learn from the experience of publishing the first book that you took into creating your second book?
I learned so much from the first book. The most important? How to *properly* write a recipe. Coming from the blog world where it’s not as formal, I thought I was writing my recipes clearly, but quickly learned I was being too vague. My editor really helped me hone my skill in writing recipes which, in turn, makes them nearly foolproof!
I also learned a lot from the creative side of creating a book. Aside from developing and editing the recipes, the photography and design really brings it to life and is one of the hardest parts of the process for me. With book one, it was just me and the photographer, fellow Texan and friend Kristen Kilpatrick. In two weeks, I cooked 100 recipes, styled them and Kristen photographed them. For book two, I hired a food stylist (Judy Kim) to cook the recipes and style them and wow, what a difference it made! That way, I could really oversee and help produce the shoot as a whole versus being stuck in the kitchen all day.
How do your Texas roots inform your cooking?
In so many ways. Texas has big, bold flavors which really carry over into my recipes. I am not afraid to use a heavy hand with spices in my recipes — which really elevates a simple, healthy dinner. I think sometimes home cooks just sprinkle a little bit of cumin, chili powder or paprika on their dinners, but I say, don’t be afraid to USE SPICES! I think that’s the Texan in me.
The Comfortable Kitchen seems to contain a bit more food freedom than the first book, with items like the Truffle Pizza and Chicken Quesadillas. Was this a conscious effort on your part? What does food freedom mean to you?
I think this second book really does capture exactly the way I like to eat and where I am at in my “food freedom” in my life. I think the book is well balanced and has recipes like the Salmon Fish Taco Bowls when you are wanting something a bit lighter, or Truffle Pizza and Fried Mortadella Sandwiches when you’re wanting something a little more indulgent! I love both of these types of meals and think it’s wonderful to have a balanced lifestyle to lean into life and the joy food can bring.
What is your favorite part about being on a book tour?
Connecting with The Defined Dish community! My job is very focused on connecting with others via social media, which is wonderful and fun, but there is nothing more magical than an in-person connection with others. I love seeing so many kind people in one room that all share a similar passion for cooking. We all gather together to celebrate our love of food and community and it makes my heart want to burst with happiness to see it in real life. I am currently on my book tour and seeing everyone in person makes me want to get home and write another book. It inspires me so much.
What do you love about visiting Austin in particular?
The energy! Everyone is so energetic and adventurous — ready to spend the day outdoors or try something new! There is just something special about how lively and active everyone is around the city. Not to mention, the food scene is outstanding!
What is one cooking tip or technique you learned while creating recipes for The Comfortable Kitchen?
In my first book, I didn’t do a dessert chapter. Baking has never been something that I loved or felt confident enough to put out there. However, my editor really encouraged me to try to do a dessert chapter and during the beginning of the pandemic, I really leaned into baking with my young girls and started to feel more confident in my baking skills. So, I’d say I learned a lot about baking — specifically baking with Paleo ingredients — during the process of creating the recipes.
We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of your experience shooting the book in the crazy winter storm of 2021. Can you describe what it was like to shoot the book while navigating that at your home in Dallas?
That was a week I will never ever forget. I had the entire creative team and my family (myself, my husband and two kids) all under one roof. We had people sleeping everywhere, and we continued to shoot as many recipes as we possibly could. We ate everything we cooked for the photos, and we all seriously bonded! I mean, how could you not? Working all day, snowed in and having one big giant slumber party for a whole week was nuts! The whole team remained very positive and it’s incredible looking back at the whole thing and seeing what all we were able to accomplish.
What’s next for The Defined Dish?
I have a food product line coming out in late spring that I am so, so excited about! I also hope for more cookbooks because I just love the whole process, and maybe a little TV show one day — who knows! Overall, I hope to continue doing what I do and provide delicious, fun and healthy recipes for others. Anything I can do to keep doing that is all I hope for!
Salmon al Pastor
Makes 4 Servings
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¾ cup small-diced fresh pineapple
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder or chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (about ½ orange)
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons avocado oil
4 center-cut salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Quick-Pickled Red Onions (page 248, “The Comfortable Kitchen”)
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional for serving
1 tablespoon thinly sliced serrano pepper, optional for serving
Herby Rice Pilaf (page 200, “The Comfortable Kitchen”), Mezcal Mule (page 234, “The Comfortable Kitchen”)
In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, ¼ cup of the diced pineapple, the vinegar, ancho powder, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, lime juice, orange juice, broth, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Blend the pastor sauce until smooth.
In a nonstick skillet, heat the avocado oil over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place the salmon in the hot skillet and cook until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the pastor sauce around the salmon in the skillet, along with the remaining ½ cup diced pineapple.
Continue to cook the salmon, uncovered and simmering, until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer the salmon to a large serving platter and pour the sauce over the fillets. Top with the pickled red onions. If desired, garnish with cilantro and a few slices of serrano pepper if you’re feeling extra spicy!
From “The Comfortable Kitchen” by Alex Snodgrass. Copyright © 2021 by Alex Snodgrass. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.