Q&A: Priya Krishna - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Q&A: Priya Krishna

Learning to cook, much like mixing drinks, is about flavor experimentation and technique. And while she’s still learning how to mix cocktails, cookbook author and New York Times food reporter Priya Krishna is adept at creating recipes that make even unfamiliar dishes feel deliciously approachable, such as in her acclaimed cookbook Indian(-ish), inspired by and created in collaboration with her mother. Her newest release is a joint project with chef David Chang—a fortuitously themed cookbook called Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave). We caught up with Krishna to chat about the new book, mixing up Marvel-themed cocktails, and how she continues to find inspiration in her parents’ kitchen.

Imbibe: Last year during the pandemic shutdowns, you ended up back home in Dallas with your parents—what was that experience like? It sounds like they are big fans of cocktail hour? Priya Krishna: I went for a wedding in early March, and then, when everything shut down, it felt weird to travel, so I ended up living with my parents for several months. Part of me sort of felt like I was reverting into high-school-teen mode. But the other part was really fun, to get to cook with my parents every night and hang out with them and get to know them and take coffee breaks with them during the day. And, oh my gosh, my mom and dad are so into cocktails and have a really robust collection of spirits. Every night my mom would tackle a different cocktail. I do not love Martinis but would like to love them, so she would often try to make me a Martini that would convince me to like Martinis. Later in the pandemic, we started to think maybe we shouldn’t be drinking hard alcohol multiple times per week? So we switched to non-alcoholic happy hour, and that was delicious as well! We did a lot of Topo Chico/Meyer lemon/ with a twist type of refreshing, non-alcoholic cocktails—a lot of Topo Chico cocktails in general; we were in Texas, after all. And my dad would be in charge of the snacks for cocktail hour. He loves English cheddar and really loves the Costco feta—it is some of the better feta that I have had in the U.S. Sometimes we would put out namkeen or other Indian snacks to have on the side. My dad really knows how to put out a snack spread. It was so nice. It was definitely one of those moments where I understood the distinct privilege of the fact that, obviously so many around the country were struggling, and I had nothing to complain about.

You’re back in New York now; what’s in your home bar? I really love Campari with anything—like Campari, grapefruit juice, and seltzer. I recently discovered the cocktail the Last Word, which has green Chartreuse, gin, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice, and it’s delicious. Actually, my friend and I watch all those Marvel TV shows that have come out, like WandaVision and Loki, and we do themed cocktails with every episode, so that really forced me to learn more about other kinds of cocktails. For the finale of Loki we did that one with green Chartreuse because it glowed green like Loki. For The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, there is a cocktail in John deBary’s book [Drink What You Want] called the Melted Firecracker Margarita, and you just blend Firecracker popsicles with tequila, and that felt appropriate. But while I’m cooking, for me, it’s some kind of wine. I have a wine shop right below me, and I became BFFs with the owner during the pandemic because every Friday I was down there, like, “Hello, me again.”

Speaking of cooking, you have a new cookbook that you wrote with David Chang. How would you describe the concept? I’d been working on that book since summer of 2019; I truly can’t believe it’s finally out in the world. It was an interesting project from the start! I think I came to it with the assumption of, “This is what a cookbook looks like; this is what cookbooks always look like.” And Dave really challenged my assumptions, like, how do you actually cook? And how do we make a cookbook in service to how you actually cook? And how I actually cook is that I use recipes as a guideline for flavors that work well together and then just sort of riff from there. So the idea was, how do we make a book that’s more about strategies and guidelines for cooking that doesn’t force people to create a grocery list and buy all these ingredients. Instead it works with what seasonings and pantry staples they already have and applies our lessons to their life, rather than them having to accommodate whatever “aspirational lifestyle,” which I feel like is something that happens so often in cookbooks. We just wanted a cookbook that felt like it really prioritized utility above all. It’s interesting that the book concept was always set, and then it felt incredibly prescient as soon as the pandemic hit and people were talking about substitutions and how to make the most out of pantry staples. This was an ideology that the book was already preaching so, in a way, any skepticism I might have had about whether the book would work went away as soon as we were in the pandemic and I was with my mom and I realized, oh, my mom cooks the way Dave cooks, and that’s why I cook the way I cook. Maybe this is actually a really good idea.

What do the holidays look like in your family? We have a huge Indian family, and we are incredibly close. We tend to use Thanksgiving as the nonnegotiable time when we all get together. Do we believe in the fundamental premise of Thanksgiving? No. But it does give us an excuse to see each other and gather around the table. I’m not a fan of most of the traditional Thanksgiving food; we usually make Indian food and it is a delicious spread. We always have my mom’s kaddu, which is kind of mashed-ish butternut squash that has fenugreek and brown sugar and lime juice, and it’s just sweet and sour and so, so delicious. She’ll make wild rice with mushrooms and rosemary, which maybe leans more traditional but surprisingly goes really well with the squash. And she makes shrikhand, which is this Indian dessert of sweetened, strained yogurt with saffron and cardamom. It’s my favorite day of the year because I get to be around all my cousins and aunts and uncles, and these are people that I grew up with in Dallas, so it’s really special to be all together. Then I usually spend Christmas with my fiancé’s family, which is really lovely in a different way because he’s from upstate New York, so I get these beautiful white Christmases where everything is blanketed in snow. It very much feels like this platonic ideal of Christmas that I never experienced as an Indian kid growing up in Texas.

Any projects coming down the pipeline? Yes, I’m working on a children’s cookbook with my mom that I’m really excited about! It’s due next year, which means it will probably come out in 2023. The hope is to take kids around the world on the travels I was lucky enough to go on with my family because my mom worked in the airline industry—just inspiring people with curiosity about the world and other people. So I’ll have a lot of friends contributing recipes. Plus, I love working with my mom. She’s a born project manager.

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend