Poznek’s new cookbook promises ‘dinnertime survival’ with ‘delights’

Debra Poznek has turned her skill in the kitchen into a successful group of Aux Delices restaurants throughout Fairfield County and has also written several cook books as well.

Debra Poznek has turned her skill in the kitchen into a successful group of Aux Delices restaurants throughout Fairfield County and has also written several cook books as well.

Aux Délices —  French for “the delights” — is the successful, privately owned chain of gourmet prepared food shops that reside in Greenwich, Darien, Riverside, and Westport.

And a delicious chunk of the knowledge that has made these shops such delights for the taste buds is available for your own kitchen.

The chain is owned and operated by town resident and celebrated chef Debra Poznek. And in addition to running a successful business, Ms. Poznek is a published author, bringing her expertise in the kitchen to you. The recently released The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook: Delicious, Inspiring Meals for Busy Families is Ms. Poznek’s fourth cookbook, and it is sure to solidify Ms. Poznek’s place at your table.

What makes this cookbook special is that it offers recipes using staple ingredients that everyone loves, while only slightly altering the way the food is prepared or adding an unexpected ingredient that breathes new life into an old favorite. The cookbook is also structured in a way that allows you to skip right to a recipe for whatever it is you’re hankering for.

Craving a burger? Flip to “Everybody Loves Burgers” and you’ll find new but simple spins on the classic hamburger. Or maybe you want to fire up the grill but are looking to change things up a bit. Turn to “Let’s Grill Tonight” and you’ll find a variety of recipes that are simple but never lacking in flavor or surprise. One of the more popular chapters, and understandably so, is “Breakfast for Dinner.” What better way to make a dinnertime meal feel special than completely changing the game?

Ms. Poznek was once executive chef at the storied New York City restaurant Montrachet, and after seven years of preparing dishes for the downtown foodie crowd as well as earning not one, not two, but three, three-star reviews from The New York Times to go along with her other awards and accolades, she decided she wanted to reach her audience in a new way, while applying her artistry of preparing good food simply.

In addition to wanting to branch out in a new way to customers, Ms. Poznek was looking to learn more about the food industry. At that time, she said, she felt she had hit the ceiling with all she could learn while being the chef at a busy, upscale restaurant, and she had always loved the idea of takeout, specifically high-end takeout.

“Gourmet take-out food was new in the 80s and I loved it. I loved the idea of it. It always interested me,” Ms. Poznek said during a recent interview with the Post. This idea was always in the back of her mind, and after deciding to leave Montrachet, she said, she felt it was time to explore another avenue.

Ms. Poznek and her husband opened the first Aux Délices in Riverside in 1995 while she was pregnant with their first child. In the beginning, Aux Délices offered items that were delicious and intricate, but Ms. Poznek said she found that parents, who knew good food when they saw it (or tasted it), were coming to the store looking to find everything they needed to serve their entire family.

“People were coming in and asking for things I had never made before,” she recalled. “They would request it and I would make it. Our customers shaped the way we do business now. It’s important to stay true to what you believe but cook for your audience.”

After welcoming their first child and having their family continue to grow in size, these personal changes were reflected in what Aux Délices was striving for.

“I wanted anyone to come into the store and find what they needed,” Ms. Poznek said. “A family, a bachelor, commuters, someone throwing a dinner party. The menu was customized for the variety of clientele.”

Her approach to these newer dishes was the same as her more fanciful ones — “good food, prepared simply.” Whether it’s a panko-fried chicken tender or pork scallopini with apple-raisin chutney, at Aux Délices there is something for everyone.

Ms. Poznek was trained at the Culinary Institute and while it did stress a French style of cooking, she says that the basic principle of “buying great good and preparing it simply” is the constant in her cooking and her recipes. Ms. Poznek’s experience as a chef, a shop owner and a mother is what she credits for her convictions of “getting good, healthy food on the table, one way or another.”

And when it comes cookbooks Ms. Poznek is acutely aware that she is addressing a wider audience and is careful not to include regional ingredients or make it necessary to go to the store and buy an entire pantry full of new ingredients.

“The idea is to stretch the ingredients you have, and while you may need to add something new that you’ve never cooked with before, many of the ingredients are included in more than one recipe. So you’re not buying something that you’ll only use once.”

She added that it’s easy to get stuck in a “rotation” in terms of what meals people are preparing for themselves and their families.

“Most of my friends, myself included, were making the same things every week,” Ms. Poznek said. “Everybody longs to have something new added.”

At the same time, Poznek said, “The ultimate compliment” for a cookbook writer is when someone no longer needs the cookbook and knows the recipes by heart. She said The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook achieves both of these feats, supplying ideas to bring something new and delicious to the table while maintaining an accessible approach.

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