Why I Cook, with Superstore’s Lauren Ash
The Superstore star dishes on how she fell in love with cooking during quarantine and shares her family's signature enchilada sauce recipe.
This Canadian-born actress and star of NBC’s hit TV show Superstore has taken her talents to the kitchen during quarantine. Before the pandemic, she viewed cooking as primarily functional, dreading dinner prep after 14-hour days on set. Now, with a revised schedule and a renewed sense of excitement about the pastime, she’s totally smitten.
Taste of Home: Where are you from? Who or what inspired you to get started in the kitchen?
Lauren Ash: I am from Belleville, Ontario, Canada! I grew up watching my English grandmother cook and bake. I recently tackled traditional British Toad in a Hole in honor of her! Her Yorkshire puddings were epic.
TOH: What is the first meal you ever learned how to cook?
LA: I think it was Breton cracker chicken! It was a classic “dip chicken breasts into an egg wash, then roll them in cracker crumbs and bake” type dish. Really easy for a little kid to do. Now I make a more advanced variation on this recipe. Now I cut the chicken breasts into pieces, brine them in pickle juice, add Buffalo sauce to my egg wash and then roll them in seasoned self-rising flour (for friends) or gluten-free flour (for me) and deep fry on my stovetop. Then, I toss them in more Buffalo sauce and serve with blue cheese and ranch. A more advanced variation on the first thing I ever cooked!
TOH: What advice would you give to a new cook intimidated by the kitchen?
LA: Start small! Find a simple recipe online. When I first started experimenting, I would spend time looking through many different recipes for the same dish until I would find one that had ingredients that I had in the house or was used to using and the steps seemed achievable. Making something yourself can give you such a nice sense of accomplishment, even if it’s something super easy!
(Learn to cook by heart with these easy recipes.)
TOH: How has quarantine helped you discover your passion for cooking? Is cooking something you’ve always wanted to learn?
LA: I’ve always enjoyed cooking but hated cooking for function. I liked to leisurely cook with a glass of wine but had no desire to try and cook something after getting home from a 14-hour day on set. Even though I’ve stayed busy with work during quarantine, I prioritized cooking every day and really fell in love with it.
TOH: Do you have any recipes on your cooking or baking bucket list? If so, what are they?
LA: I’ve tackled some Thai food and Chinese food and both were very successful. I think my real bucket list recipe would be Japanese food. Sushi feels super intimidating but I’m up for the challenge. I recently bookmarked recipes for “spicy tuna on crispy rice” and “shrimp sushi stacks” that I can’t wait to attempt!
TOH: What are the ingredients you always have on-hand?
LA: I make my own veggie broth using the cut ends of all my veggies for each week. I love being able to kick up any boiled starches I make (potatoes, pasta, rice) by using the broth instead of water. It also inspires me to whip up gravies and sauces from scratch. I’m a sauce gal.
TOH: How do you balance your schedule between being a working actor and learning the ropes in the kitchen?
LA: Quarantine was really what allowed me to start my serious kitchen journey. When I go back to work, I’m going to have to try to find more of a balance. It’s something that I definitely want to incorporate into my daily life moving forward.
TOH: What is your favorite recipe you’ve ever made? Which recipe does your family always crave?
LA: I baked a coconut cake from scratch for my boyfriend’s birthday this summer. The recipe was for quite an advanced baker but I thought “I can do this!” It took me hours, but I pulled it off! I’ve won awards for acting, I’m on a very successful TV show but I swear that cake was one of my greatest life accomplishments. The recipe we crave the most in my house is a dish I created. It’s mashed sweet potatoes topped with crispy kale and homemade turkey meatballs.
TOH: What recipe have you made the most during quarantine?
LA: Probably my family chili recipe. It’s pure comfort food. I know it seems odd to eat a hot bowl of chili on a summer night but it’s just so tasty and hearty it’s been in at least a bimonthly rotation! The other thing I make the most is enchiladas. I make a big batch of the sauce (the recipe I shared here) and then I use it for all different kinds of them. Breakfast enchiladas have become my fave!
TOH: What’s your favorite thing about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!
LA: Developing my own recipes has become a new creative outlet for me. In some ways, it’s not actually that different from what I do for work. My background is in comedy, specifically improv. As a trained improviser, you make stuff up on the spot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but you take risks and learn to embrace failure. I’ve applied this to cooking. Sometimes I may make something that isn’t exactly right. But I learn from it and try again and usually can figure it out pretty quickly. Channeling my creativity into something edible has been so fun. Making something out of nothing, whether it’s comedy or a quiche, is really satisfying.
(Watch Lauren and other guests cook with us on our Instagram!)
How to Make Ash’s Sweet & Spicy Enchilada Sauce
Lauren’s enchilada sauce recipe is both sweet and spicy—just as the name implies. Spoon it over enchiladas, burritos and spicy casseroles. Best of all, it only takes 30 minutes to make!
Yield: 1-1/4 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1-3/4 cups vegetable broth
Step 1: Stir it up
In a saucepan; heat oil over medium heat. Whisk in flour until blended. Add chili powder, brown sugar and remaining spices; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth.
Step 2: Let it simmer
Bring the mixture to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, about 20 minutes. Use it on enchiladas or any other dish you like.