On Crushing Rotisserie Chicken & A Deep, Abiding Love Of Pickles
The Essentialist | Briana Holt
May 11, 2018
By Leah Mennies | Original photo by Elizabeth Cecil; Illustrations by Liz Noftle
In The Essentialist, we ask our favorite food and beverage geniuses to share the stuff they can’t live without—and learn a bit more about their normal-person lives in the process.
Next up? Briana Holt, the brain behind the decadent and charismatic baked goods (maple-brown butter custard pie or everything bagel scones, anyone?) on offer at Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, Maine.
At least six bed pillows
I sleep like some sort of wild starfish princess who throws every limb in every direction and needs a pillow touching every body part. I have old pillows from my house where I grew up and I get pillows from Target. I like to have a couple really firm ones and a couple really squashy ones. I kind of shove them all over.
I look forward to baseball Sundays more than almost anything. Our team is called the Portland Pansexuals: There’s a guy on the team who owns a record store, there’s a bunch of beer brewers. Someone who works at Allagash usually brings a pile of stuff, and I sometimes stray from the beer path and bring a wild summer-y natural wine from my pals at Maine & Loire—something heady and chewy, to really get that loose hitting stance up to snuff.
I love them so much. I am not a brand-y person, but I will talk those up until the day I die. I just wear the all-black ones at work. They look great with everything, [and] are really easy.
It’s my favorite at-home spice. It’s got sweetness and smokiness. It kicks everything up a notch. It’s really good with tomatoes. I eat a lot of scrambled eggs at home—super, super soft scrambled eggs with a soft cheese swirled in there, and the smoked paprika really brings it to another place. It’s really good with fatty, unctuous things like eggs or cheese or mayonnaise.
Right near my house in Portland is Veranda Market, and near the bakery where I work is Sun Oriental Market, so I’m lucky. Things I buy most are the greens and veggies I can’t get anywhere else. Gai lan, also known as Chinese broccoli, is great because it has good flavor, the greens are big and wide and super tasty. The stalks are really good too. Mostly I steam it and eat it with rice and a sauce of some kind. But it’s really good to cook down and put in a frittata. I guess I eat a lot of eggs.
Rosewater face toner
I can’t live without it. My number one most favorite one is from Mario Badescu. It’s pink, and the label is white and green. It looks like a fancy old rich lady would be using it. I can’t really explain what it does, it’s like snake oil, but it makes me feel so good. I douse my face and neck in it all summer long, every day.
I love how tangy it is. I love how it tastes. I love dipping things in it. It’s really, really good in baking. It’s acidic, so it tenderizes all kinds of stuff. My very favorite way to make chocolate frosting is with sour cream.
I get to work at like 4:30 in the morning and immediately brew one of those big air pots of coffee we have here. Single-origin ones are really tasty and it’s a treasure hunt to taste every day.
If I am on the road, I cherish my chances to get a hazelnut coffee from a pump. I just really love it.
It’s just a big, bushy, beautiful herb that should be used as such. It often has a vibrant, robust flavor. The stalks tend to be super flavorful, too. I think slowly over the years, it’s gotten out of the realm of garnish, and more like a nice beautiful herb that has its own distinct flavor. I pluck the leaves off and put in salads, and parsley pesto is really good. In the spring and summer, we usually make some kind of herbed limeade or lemonade with a lot of parsley, mint, shiso, and lovage in there.
There is something about rotisserie chicken that feels like a gift instead of a trick. They are just sort of magic for someone who a) works a lot, or b) if you just get a whim and say, “I want to make chicken tacos tonight with my friends!” You can just grab a couple and you are good to go. I love them for what they are in the moment. And then you get a chicken carcass and can make a quick stock which is really awesome, or pluck it all off and make a chicken salad for the week.
To tell you the god-honest truth, I get one and eat half of it standing over the counter before I put the bag on the floor.
In general, I love vinegar and I love fermentation. When I was younger I used to hate bread-and-butter pickles but now I really love them. I like a pickle to have spice in it. And then I really like to buy kosher dill pickle chips to have in the fridge for sandwiches.
They fit in almost any home oven, and they have shallow sides so you can roast things really hard and not worry about them steaming. You can basically make a whole dinner on there. I use them for serving, too. Whenever I have dinner parties, I’m always spreading out a ton of chips on a half sheet pan with a bowl of dip in the middle. I’m kind of a feeder at heart. I don’t know how to cook small.
Also, I use them for watering my plants. Once a week, I take all the small ones I know will overflow and there are six sheet pans with plants on them on my floor.