Repertoire | The Dinner Party

Rules for success, including porchetta

25th Oct 2011

Ed. note: This is the third post in a "Repertoire" series on the interplay of food and style, with our friends The Midwestyle . We're helping their readers learn a few recipes, and they're teaching us a few things about doing it in style.

To say you’re an accomplished person is putting it lightly. That time you summited Kilimanjaro during a snow storm. The month you took a vow of silen...

Italian Bean Salad with ''Loadsa'' Herbs and Tuna

Cooking from Chicago's New Dose Market, Happening Again This Sunday

8th Jul 2011

The Italian bean salad has been with me a long time, and for good reason.  I've made some variation of beans, herbs, and olive oil dozens of times over the past few years and I never get tired of it.  When it comes to the relationship between deliciousness and effort, this one gets it exactly right. It's about as easy as mixing the ingredients together and letting the flavors develop, then it'...

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...

Idea Lab | Is it Possible to Make Transcendent Risotto at Home?

And: Should Risotto Spread?

17th Feb 2011

If you’re a Top Chef junkie like me then you probably remember that Tre got kicked off episode 8 this season after serving a risotto that didn’t “spread.” At least, that’s what judge Tom Colicchio said. It’s always hard to know exactly why contestants are booted off the show when you can't taste the food, but this was one of those cases where you could visibly see that his riso...

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....

Pasta with Butter, Bottarga, and Breadcrumbs

"The bacon of fish" elevates this simple pasta to transcendence

11th May 2010

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You may remember awhile back my lamenting post about a favorite ingredient I couldn't find in Chicago. The ingredient that Claudia at Cook Eat Fret christened " the bacon of fish ." Something relatively undiscovered and very difficult to find in the U.S. A secret ingredient, you might say. Well, I'm done lamenting. Because I have found bottarga, the cured roe sack that's pressed and dr...

Homemade Gnudi from The Spotted Pig

Make these ethereal little bites at home.

15th Apr 2010

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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...

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...

Can Pesto Be Improved?

Not all pesto is created the same.

19th Feb 2010

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I've been eating pesto with pasta since I knew how to boil water. That dense, fragrant, herb-y concentrate tossed with hot noodles -- it's magic. Even when I had no idea how to cook and bought pesto in a jar, it was wonderful and my favorite dinner. It provides that burst of freshness in the middle of February, and it's delicious enough that the flavor stays in my brain for days.

The only p...

How to Make a 3 Dollar Pizza Stone

Great pizza doesn't have to cost much.

12th Feb 2010

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If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char...

Homemade Square Pizza

Focaccia becomes the base of this pizza.

4th Feb 2010

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Good pizza means good bread. For me, there's just no other way around it. Good bread is the soul of good pizza.

But baking has never been a subject I'm comfortable with. Give me a skillet, some pasta, and a well-stocked pantry and I can improvise countless meals. But if I'm supposed to bake something, I freeze. I immediately picture failure, a leaden cracker or a gummy mess. I hate the conf...

My Chicago: Caputo Cheese Market, and a Search for Bottarga

This fishy roe is a meal in itself.

26th Jan 2010

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My Chicago is about life as a cooks and eaters in our home city. Markets, restaurants, secret finds, really tasty bites--or just a great story. We're lucky to live here.

Bottarga would handily win the award for "foodstuff with least correlation between attractiveness and deliciousness," if such a thing existed.  It is a brown, firm lobe, and, poor thing, really quite ugly. A cured, pres...

Idea Lab: Focaccia Pizza

Can great pizza be made at home quickly?

12th Jan 2010

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Idea Lab is where we explore topics before we head into the kitchen. We welcome your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, so please leave them in the comments!

Though I once praised the virtues of the broiling pizza on Serious Eats, I'm now over it. I'm tired of broiler antics and pre-heating cast iron pans to make approximations of Neopolitan-style pizza at home (I've already ruined one ba...

Focaccia, the Easiest Homemade Bread

The best bread to make for those that don't like to make bread.

6th Mar 2009

If bread making scares you like it scares me, but the lure of authenticity is irresistible, then focaccia may be the place to begin.

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The intoxicating smell of yeast; the wet stickiness between your fingers; the magical billowing quality of the dough when a warm spot trns it into a living thing.  These are the pleasures of bread making.  And these are the pleasures I am almost wholly unfam...

Top that Pie: Fresh Italian Sausage

Make the perfect topping for your pizza.

23rd Feb 2009

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For the sausage novices, nothing could be quite so easy as this recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.  Because I was using it straight away I had no need to stuff it into casing only break them free a moment a latter.  I essentially just mixed everything together, ground it on the small die of my meat grinder, and cooked it.  It was about as time consuming as cutting up a bunch of vege...

The Way Around: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butter Sage Sauce

A better way to make ravioli.

21st Jan 2009

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What kind of flour should I use? I had quite quickly settled on 100% Semolina flour when I first made tagliatelle, because I loved the bite that it gave my fresh pasta.  When I made the first batch of ravioli, I just started there, figuring it would work for all fresh pasta recipes.  But as I read more and more, I noticed that most of the recipes specifically called for all-purpose fl...

Ragù alla Bolognese

Because fresh pasta deserves a sauce this good.

20th Nov 2008

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Once I figured out how to make fresh pasta , I waited all of 12 hours before I set out to create my own Ragù alla Bolognese.  It was a goal of mine ever since watching an episode of Heston Blumenthal's TV series In Search of Perfection .  The premise of the show is for the acclaimed chef to reexamine some stodgy British classics by going back to the roots of the original dish.  His f...

Guanciale, Or How to Hang a Pig Jowl in Your Living Room

The other Italian bacon.

14th May 2008

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It took me almost a month and calls to half the butchers in New York before I could get my hands on a pair of pig jowls.  Here’s the problem: they want you to order the whole head.  And while I had a wonderful time watching pot-roasted pig heads go ferrying by my table at the Spotted Pig , when it was under the tutelage of British chef Fergus Henderson , the thought of lugging a 40...

Linguine with Clams from the Babbo Kitchen, via Bill Buford

From his memoir Heat

24th Jan 2008

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My favorite passages from Bill Buford's Heat are set in the Babbo kitchen, when he describes with fear and awe the wonder that is a busy restaurant kitchen at dinnertime-- tickets flying, steam vaporizing, oil popping. Orders arrive faster than they can be made; you are perpetually behind. The heat, of course, is unbearable-- like a shimmering wall when you enter the kitchen. Sweat...

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...

Pan-Seared Salmon with Pasta and Spinach Cream Sauce

This pasta is surprisingly light, a delightful characteristic considering the richness of the cream.

9th Feb 2006

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While our enthusiasm for cooking has grown immensely over the past year, we still feel mostly reluctant to toss our recipe books aside and approach the task with our own original ideas and ingredients.  A sense of improvisation comes with confidence, and as the acting theorist Konstantin Stanislavski suggests, cultivating concentration and trusting one's instincts.  Instincts.  We don't do...

White Risotto with Pesto

Trust this recipe, and never lose faith: it is actually quite simple, and can be used as a launching point for lots of other inspired ideas.

21st Jan 2006

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I remember vividly the first time I thumbed through a cookbook with a sense of purpose. I was home on a break during my freshman year of college, and my mom had been relating to me her excitement about a book my sister sent from London.  She excitedly exclaimed that “it had even been autographed.”  I smiled and nodded approvingly, unaffected.  It was a cookbook, after all.  My sister w...

Pasta with Parmesan and Nutmeg

This is the easiest recipe this side of Dominoes, it’s pretty gourmet, and if you can boil water, you’re 83 percent there.

19th Jan 2006

One thing I’ve found difficult about cooking is that it’s really hard to start when you’re hungry--you have to plan ahead.  Once you get started you get your momentum going, and there’s always ingredients to snack on, but it’s the getting started that proves difficult.  The inertia works against you at first.  Since I get lazy when I get hungry, I end up heating canned soup.

This evening, with...

Pasta Carbonara

This recipe loses the cream altogether, replacing it with white wine.

15th Jan 2006

Pasta Carbonara

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 thin slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound farfalle pasta
  • 4 egg yolks
  • small handful chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Cucina Rustica

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Get a huge pot of salted water boiling...