Remember back in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic first snatched us up and held on tight? Time became kind of fluid.
Pajamas were acceptable daywear, daily showers were optional. And meals? Many of us began eating like feral humans, scrounging for scraps in the back of the fridge.
As restaurants across the country closed their dining rooms, Chef Scott Earick followed suit, shuttering his beloved Scott’s on Fifth in Indialantic.
Dishes on his classic fine-dining menu don’t travel well, so he eschewed the idea of offering takeout. He didn’t want to sell a product that would be anything less than perfect.
But he missed the kitchen, and more importantly, he missed his guests, many of whom have become extended family.
A chef by calling and a showman at heart, he took to the internet.
With husband Hank Hutson acting as a cameraman, Scott began cooking lessons at 6:30 nightly via Facebook Live, coaching viewers through the steps of quick, easy and delicious dishes.
“It’s 6:30!” turned into a rallying cry for his growing fanbase. For 20 or 30 minutes, Scott offered a respite from the pandemic.
Scott’s one of my favorite people, and we talk daily. About a month in, we started tossing around the idea of writing the recipes down, maybe posting them somewhere so people could find them.
Two months in, we revisited the plan. We couldn’t let it go. The result?
“It’s 6:30! Easy, elegant recipes for a pandemic … or anytime.”
Scott and I have always wanted to collaborate on a cookbook, and the timing was perfect. Neither of us had weekend or evening plans, and FaceTime on our phones made getting together easy.
For two months, we had virtual sit-downs, with Scott reading out recipes to me so I could translate them from chef-speak to home cook.
Scott: Put some olive oil in a pan, add some onions, and a little wine.
Suzy: How much olive oil? How hot should the pan be? How much onion? Chopped? Minced? Sliced? How much wine?
I kept reminding him: Chefs cook by intuition. The rest of us mere kitchen mortals need a little more direction.
We ended up with 112 pages of recipes, covering 45 days of the pandemic. While Scott uses fresh ingredients in his restaurant, these recipes use shortcuts like canned bread dough and frozen shrimp. If you’re averse to such things, go ahead and adapt the recipes to use from-scratch stuff. But don’t feel bad about going the pre-made route sometimes.
The book includes recipes for entrees, salads, sauces, starters, and desserts because sometimes we want a soup and salad for dinner, and sometimes we want zeppoles at 11 p.m.
“It’s 6:30!” is $35, and you can get a copy by emailing Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Scott’s on Fifth at 321-729-9779.
I’m proud of my friend and the way he pushed me to get this finished. And, yes, I’m proud of myself, too. Thanks to Scott, it wasn’t a lost summer.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find in the book. Because you’re craving zeppoles now, aren’t you? I know I am.
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup water
1 cup canola oil
In a large mixing bowl, add water, sugar, butter, salt and flour. Mix at low speed until loosely combined, about 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time. Mix until batter is smooth, about 3 minutes. Set batter aside.
Over medium heat in a large frying pan, heat oil until it begins to smoke. Carefully drop 1 tablespoon of batter into hot oil. Repeat until all batter is used. Do not overcrowd pan. Fry until zeppoles are light brown, about 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted metal spoon, remove from and let drain on paper towels.
Drizzle hot zeppoles with glaze (recipe below).
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup orange juice
Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir until a smooth glaze forms.