My Sunday Supper: Danielle Chang
The founder of the Lucky Rice food festival and co-host of the PBS TV show “Lucky Chow,” welcomes us into her home for Sunday supper.
If you’re Danielle Chang’s friend you’re probably never going to go hungry.
Every Sunday night, the founder of the Lucky Rice food festival and co-host of the PBS TV show Lucky Chow, makes dinner for her two teenage kids and a rotating list of guests.
“Each gathering is different but there are some long-standing guests for whom Sunday supper is a long-standing date, like my college roommate, Christine Carville,” Chang told me. “I’m so lucky to have a job where I’m constantly meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life—culinary, obviously, but also from the arts, fashion, media—and I always like to curate the dinner parties, so that I’m introducing new friends to old ones.”
Chang, who has been organizing a weekly gathering since moving to New York 25 years ago, possesses the magical quality of all good host where she’s somehow able to tend to each of her guests at the same time. She’s able to carry on several conversations at a time, while also replenishing plates and fixing drinks. (It’s no surprise Remy Martin XO has hired her as a global brand ambassador.)
Her palatial SoHo Manhattan apartment certainly helps with an open kitchen and large dining room table. “Guests will usually come early, and hang out at the kitchen counter with a glass of wine while I put finishing touches on whatever I’m cooking that night,” she says. “We’ll gossip and catch up on whatever’s happened that week.”
That was certainly true on a recent Sunday night when I joined Chang and some of her friends, including Lucky Chow co-host, William Li, and the president of the Museum of Chinese in America, Nancy Yao Maasbach. We feasted on a communal hot pot and drank Cognac cocktails that Chang had whipped up.
Read on for more about her Sunday Supper routine.
Do you cook other nights of the week?
I cook as often as I can. It’s my form of meditation and what I do to relax, so it’s a privilege and luxury for me to have the time to cook at home. I also love cooking for my two kids, who happen to love my cooking (so that also inspires me to cook more). Sundays are special though, because I have the luxury of the whole day to plan what I’m cooking. The process usually starts with grocery shopping (another of my favorite activities). And—when I have time—I love to play with flowers and setting the dinner table and the playlist, so that the end result is a curated experience. After all, we eat with our eyes first.
What dishes are in your regular Sunday night rotation?
There’s no set rotation, per se, but I tend to choose dishes that I can make ahead, so that I can focus on my guests when they arrive. That often translates into one-pot meals—or DIY meals like hot pots (which is a favorite) that guests can cook themselves. I also use my Sunday suppers to experiment with dishes I’ve tried or read about. I’m an avid reader, including of cookbooks. I love to experiment with spices that I pick up on my travels. I usually pick a central theme: bouillabaisse! Moroccan tagine! Paella! And then I’ll go from there with side dishes, cocktails, and sweets. Lately, I’ve been really into cooking regional Chinese cuisine, so one dinner might focus on the flavors of Yunnan, and another on Sichuan or Shanghainese cuisine (which is what I grew up with, since my parents are both Shanghainese).
I also love starting dinner with a cocktail hour. Lately, I’ve been really into Remy Martin XO Sidecars, and will play with a variety of citrus fruits—from Buddha’s hand lemons to grapefruit and Meyer lemons. Remy Martin XO Cognac—served neat—is also a great pairing for Chinese food.
Does the menu change seasonally?
Of course! I’m really picky about the quality of my ingredients. If I fall in love with something at the farmers’ market that will certainly shape what I’m cooking. In the summer, I BBQ a lot and often complement what’s grilled with raw dishes inspired by whatever’s in season—be it local dayboat scallops that go into a ceviche, or beautiful gem lettuces and persimmons as a salad. I also grow a lot of vegetables on my rooftop garden, so I always try to incorporate what’s ready to be harvested into whatever I’m cooking. You might call it rooftop to table. This year, I grew sungold tomatoes, shiso leaves, chrysanthemum leaves, snow pea sprouts, lemongrass, chives, Tokyo turnips, Japanese cucumbers, bush basil, corn, and lots of edible flowers, like nasturtium—all from seed.
Are there usually leftovers?
Never. Even though I am always told that I cook for an army, I actually give out “take-out boxes” to my friends at the end of a meal. In Chinese custom, it’s a big “no-no” to run out of food, so I always cook copious amounts. Nobody likes leftovers, but I also never throw any food away, so I will “recycle” what’s for Sunday supper into easier weekday dishes. For instance, Bolognese sauce might turn into a baked ziti, and a roasted chicken might turn into a Chinese-style chicken and shiitake mushroom soup with noodles or a Thai-style chicken curry.
My Sunday Supper features the traditions and culinary routines of celebrities, chefs and bartenders.