Engineering the Perfect Risotto

From Bone Marrow to Saffron

28th Feb 2011

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Learning how to make risotto at home was one of the more liberating experiences of my early culinary career. The idea that I could create a perfectly legitimate risotto by just buying arborio rice and stirring like mad, was enough to make me wonder what else I couldn’t cook. I’m not going to say it single-handedly helped launch this blog and my writing career, but it was crucial. It was...

Tomato Conserva: How to Make Homemade Tomato Paste

Our solution for what to do with too many tomatoes

27th Aug 2010

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There isn't much argument that summertime is the peak season for cooking. It never gets easier than in August: the produce is top-notch, everywhere, and cheap. Locavores are finally settling down and enjoying themselves instead of passing judgement on the rest of us for buying zucchini out of season. You can make dinner by cutting up tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and calling it a masterpiece....

A Rooftop Grows in Chicago

The SIP method of urban gardening

20th May 2010

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I've long been drawn to the idea of urban farming. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had two plots in two community gardens , in addition to three massive tomato plants on the back deck. Planting seeds and growing vegetables was an unlikely pleasure. For me it was connected to good eating: I loved to cook and eat the freshest vegetables I could find. Getting to the source is something we often e...

Basic Tomato Sauce

Sometimes you need to start with the basics.

23rd Mar 2010

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I was recently bumming on a friend's membership to Costco, arms full of inexpensive bulk yeast and Dijon mustard for salad dressing , when I discovered the can of tomatoes you see above. It seemed like the deal of a century. For $3.89, I walked away with a can of San Marzano tomatoes weighing almost 7 pounds. That's the price you sometimes pay for a single 28 oz can of them.

I immed...

The Mystery of the Chicken Oyster

How to save the oyster while cutting up chicken.

24th Feb 2010

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The chicken oyster. It sounds strange. But also intriguing enough to suggest deliciousness. I've heard other people talk about this elusive piece of meat hidden somewhere on the chicken. Only smart cooks know about it, like Thomas Keller, who mentions it in his recipe for " My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken " in the Bouchon cookbook. When the chicken is done roasting, the skin golde...

In Search of the Cheapest Sous-Vide Steak

How to transform cheap meat.

4th Dec 2009

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This is why beef chuck roast cooked in a 131°F–140°F (55°C–60°C) water bath for 24–48 hours has the texture of filet mignon.
- Douglas Baldwin, A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking

After my experiments with sous-vide chicken resulted in one of the finest birds I'd ever eaten, I immediately set off on a crusade to transform the cheapest cut of beef I could find into filet mignon...

How to Make Paneer

The Indian speciality is easier than you think.

6th Nov 2009

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The concept of making cheese has always fascinated me, the idea that you can take milk and add a little acid (or rennet) to magically separate it into curds and whey. Milk seems like such a stable liquid, a wholesome elixir of childhood, but with a little citric acid, lemon juice, yogurt, or rennet it completely de-stabalizes into thin, watery whey and fat chunks of curd.

What you do with t...

The Butter Steak: What''s the Best Way to Cook a Steak?

How to cook your next porterhouse.

9th Apr 2009

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I'm not interested in carbonizing the surface of the meat. To me that ruins the flavor.
- Alain Ducasse

It was a bachelor weekend of sorts. My wife mercifully let me pass on attending a wedding of an old family family friend, so I had the whole weekend alone in the apartment to get work done.  I had some crazy projects planned including a mad braise of a cow tongue, but the first nigh...

The Elements of Chili

A recipe for Texas-style chili.

30th Jan 2009

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Diced instead of Ground Meat
I had stopped using ground beef a few years back, after watching a Good Eats episode. The reasoning makes sense.  When ground beef is used, the fat either needs to be drained off immediately, or needs to be skimmed off the day after when all the fat has accumulated at the top.  But if you use chunks a lot of the juices stay inside, leaving both the chili less...

First Step: Chili Powder

The best chili starts with the best chili powder.

29th Jan 2009

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That meant forgoing the blend I had in my spice rack and picking up a load of dried chilies from the local Mexican market.  I needed to create my own blend, something that was completely unique to me, but where do I start?  There honestly aren't that many recipes for chili powder out there.  My only real resources were Homesick Texan (great site) and Alton Brown .

Thanks to the larg...

Melting Potatoes

Those on a diet should click away now

4th Jun 2006

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Those on a diet should click away now.  Those left will have their heart beat just a few ticks faster when these are finally removed from the oven, and even faster once the oil starts pumping through your system...

Barbara Kafka loves these, and we love her from creating them.  They are horrible for your health, use just a little less butter than a hollandaise, and look like burnt, mushy,...

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce

Based on the potato, gnocchi is the ultimate pauper's meal--but it sure doesn't taste like it

28th Mar 2006

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Gnocchi.  No idea. For years this has been the unpronounceable dish on the menu that starred me down and begged to be blurted out to the uproarious laughter of the seasoned waiter.  "Did you hear what he just said?" Hell, I didn't have any idea what it was.  Was it a type of pasta?  Dumpling?  Did it have a filling?  This feeling of inadequacy kept the recognizable dish on the menu page...

The Great Potato Contest

A bag of potatoes and a quest for the cheapest dinner possible

With minds planted firmly in the dirt, we probed the...

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With minds planted firmly in the dirt, we probed the starchy tuber for secrets buried within, all in search of the perfect cooked potato.   Armed with a bag of $2.99 Idahos, we set aflame preconcieved notions, sexed things up, and tried to find the courage (and stomachs) to eat nothing but potatoes like our poor brethren of the 19t...