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  • back bacon vs American bacon
    British Bacon vs American bacon

    If you've been reading the site lately, you may have been following Nick on his rather strange quest to recreate a full English breakfast from scratch (his first project was the British banger sausage). Why, I don't know. But when Nick proposed that I take over the homemade bacon portion of the project, I leapt at the opportunity to contribute. Homemade meat curing has long been a hobby of mine, despite the protests of my wife when I hung a pork jowl in our living room. For me, the bacon is the most interesting part on the plate when it comes to proper English breakfast.

    The only problem is that the British have got bacon all backwards. They don't traditionally use the familiar bacon cut we know and love in the U.S., and there is a ton of conflicting information out there on the subject.

    Vocabulary was my first problem: their bacon is "grilled," which actually means broiled; they refer to pieces of bacon as "rashers," but only if it's a certain type of bacon; the cut that actually looks like American bacon is called "streaky," and whether you choose rashers or streaky says things not only about your tastes, but your economic standing. It's even the subject of a nursery rhyme involving someone named Jack Sprat.

    But I managed to make my way through the muck and have emerged with a firm grasp on what seems to be a confounding set of opinions and methods attached to the word "bacon." So I feel a culinary duty to set the record straight, as far as my ability can take me, and in the meantime will be demonstrating how to make yourself a proper hunk of British-style bacon.

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  • Ginger Beer

    File this one under projects that seem a lot harder than they actually are.

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  • By Nick Kindelsperger I realize now things have gotten out...
  • By Blake Royer Usually, when you're buying cookware, the rule...
  • spotted pig homemade gnudi 1

    I'm pretty sure the word "gnudi" wasn't on anyone's radar until they were served at The Spotted Pig in New York, which was when they became a food dork household name. In Italian, "gnudi" means what it sounds like in English: naked. It refers to little pasta-like dumplings that are "naked" of their pasta wrapper, raviolis without anything to enclose them. Gnudi are a bit like gnocchi, but they have far less flour and so are pillowy in the way that gnocchi never are.

    The Spotted Pig has gotten more press than it will ever need, and I don't feel the need to sing its praises too lengthily here. It's an outstanding New York restaurant serving food that has drawn crowds and accolades consistenty since it opened six years ago. I had more than a couple outstanding meals there when I lived in New York, the highlight of which was a night when Fergus Henderson had commandeered the kitchen, and I first tried his classic dishes like roasted bone marrow on toast. But as for the restaurant on a regular day, there are two dishes that it is especially famous for. A bloody burger topped with Roquefort cheese and the dish at hand.

    The way the Spotted Pig serves them is typical of its cooking style: absurdly rich, in a bath of brown butter, with little regard for balance. As if molten balls of ricotta cheese weren't rich enough, they top it with brown butter and a grating of Parmesan.

    Over on Serious Eats' Burger Lab column, Kenji recently reverse-engineered a Spotted Pig burger that looks pretty darn good. The gnudi is a bit more of a mystery. Though public versions of the recipe have surfaced, most have agreed that they aren't the "real" recipe. The process they use in the restaurant is hidden not only from the public, but from most of the kitchen staff, according to an intern who worked there.

    So it was a little surprising to be flipping through Earth to Table, a beautiful cookbook of essays and recipes about slow food and seasonal cooking, and came across a recipe for gnudi. And not just any recipe. "We were able to take some of our staff [to The Spotted Pig] and discovered the secret to their 'naked pasta,'" they note casually in the recipe's headnote. Then they proceed to demonstrate how they're made.

  • By Nick Kindelsperger My first attempt at giardiniera was so...

    giardiniera01

    My first attempt at giardiniera was so bad I couldn't even talk about it, let alone write about it.  It was oily, bland, and just plain unappetizing.  It was supposed to go with my Italian beef post, but I just dumped the containers in the trash and bought a jar from the store.  To my surprise I kind of fell in love with the jar.  It started appearing on all kinds of dishes, whether they were necessarily Italian-American or not.  Its pickled punch accentuated other foods, instead of covering them all up. 

    When that jar quickly ran out, I decided to give this very Chicagoan condiment a second chance.  Perhaps there were was a recipe out there that could actually work.  Part of the problem is that giardiniera is kind of a generic Italian term for "woman gardener" and in its home country you can find any kind of vegetable in it.  It's fine stuff, but it's not Chicago giardiniera, which is a little more fiery and a little less wholesome.  The latter is what I wanted.  I didn't want a nice antipasto, I wanted something crass for dressing an Italian beef.