How Absinthe Can Improve Just About Any Cocktail

Forget about the hallucinations; one needs to dish this thing out in drops.

6th Oct 2011

I'm not sure if there is a better drink to write about for the launch of an improved website design than my favorite cocktail of the moment — a drink so good it's literally called an "Improved Cocktail." (If only modern drinks had enough courage to pronounce their worth.) Think of it as a relaunched product's "new and improved" guarantee, except that this one was made back in 1876 and is alcoh...

How to Throw a Baja Fish Taco Party

A Chicago Backyard and Many Happy People

24th Jun 2011

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Mexican food is made for parties. The construction of tortillas, fillings, salsas, and toppings; the spicy, rich flavors; and above all, the fact that it tastes so darn good. This was our guiding principle on a recent Saturday when, with the help of a handful of talented friends, we threw a Baja Fish Taco party under warm string lights in a Chicago backyard.

We were celebrating one of the e...

We Are Proud to Present Appetites for iPad

Cooking step-by-step with "the cookbook reimagined"

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Late last year our Paupered Chef inbox dinged with slightly cryptic e-mail about a "new top-secret project" from LA's Clear-Media. We called them up and they shared with us their idea: a step-by-step cooking app built for the iPad. They were gathering up the coolest food bloggers on the planet, and wanted us along. We said yes. The result is Appetites , which has just been released at the Ap...

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...

Lamb Pancetta | Charcutepalooza February Challenge

Plus, a Killer Recipe To Use It In

15th Feb 2011

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We are thrilled to be participating in Charcutepalooza , an organized blogging movement of people writing about the noble art of charcuterie. Scores of people around the country (or even the world?) are making and writing about bacon, pancetta, and other delicious variations this fine month of February—and throughout the year, will be embarking on ever-cooler projects like brining, and smo...

The Paupered Chef 2.0

Welcome to our redesign!

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We would like to welcome you, at long last, to the newly designed home of The Paupered Chef. Let us all breathe a sigh of collective relief. We’re back.

Well, things look a lot different. The pictures everywhere on the site are bigger, and we've laid out the homepage so that the articles we write get some prime real estate on the site. We've also instituted a Tumblr-style blog below, where we...

Under Pressure: How To Make Superb Chicken Stock In About An Hour

What if there was a method for making stock that not only dispensed with the time-consuming part, but also produced something that tasted better?

10th Jun 2010

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In practice, significantly more flavor is extracted from the meat. [...] When combined with good ingredients, these factors produce remarkable stocks in significantly less time.

-Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook

I started making stock when I realized that you could stash the carcasses from roast chickens in the freezer and save them up for an empty Sunday and a few hour...

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...

Chez Panisse Cassoulet

A tastier and quicker version of the classic.

4th Mar 2010

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I'm tired of people lying about cassoulet. Every recipe I've ever read calls it a "peasant dish," and the fact is, cassoulet is really, really expensive to make. You need duck confit, which, if you don't buy pre-made, costs you either in the form of overpriced duck fat or the need to buy a whole duck to render it yourself. Then, you need fancy sausage, preferably the garlicky "Toulouse" vari...

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...

Faux Confit: Steamed Duck Legs

Can steamed duck legs tasted better than ones poached in duck fat?

14th Jan 2010

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The question about whether a steamed duck leg tastes as good duck confit has been boggling my mind for months ever since I read this article in the New York Times . Finally, last night, after spending the previous three days hacking up two ducks, rendering loads of fat, and figuring out what to do with the heads ( Jonathan Gold actually sent me some interesting options on Twitter), I f...

Idea Lab: Steamed Duck Confit?

Can you really leave behind all the fat??

5th Jan 2010

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

Is duck confit a lie? According to Dr. Myhrvold, who runs Intellectual Ventures in Seattle, the technique is actually rather pointless.

...confit, the French technique of cooking slowly in fat, is supposed to impart a uniq...

Red-Braised Pork Belly, and a Sichuan Cooking Primer

Where to start your Sichuan obsession.

11th Dec 2009

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For awhile now, I've been looking for a way into Chinese cooking. The whole business of it feels impenetrable. Strange flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques, and no ability to rely on what I've already learned about Western cooking and improvise. Then there's the problem that you can't accurately call anything "Chinese cooking," because China is made up of provinces with different recip...

The Final Word (for now) on Homemade Hard Cider

Thoughts about our first batch of cider.

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There is no feeling in the world like popping open a batch of cider and realizing what you have created alcohol. It's really hard to describe. We've made all kinds of recipes before, including some meals that have taken days to prepare. But alcohol always seemed a little unreal, and dangerous. Making alcohol always felt too technical and lab-like. And if you're brewing beer, that's sort of tru...

How to Make Hard Apple Cider

Our guide to turning apple juice into booze.

29th Oct 2009

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As we realized on our last post , it was time to stop talking emphatically about the cultural significance of cider, and start getting to the business of making it. Though we had read more websites, emails, and books than we could know what to do with, we were still confused, and more importantly, l didn't have a solid recipe. It was beginning to be a problem.

At its simplest, hard appl...

The Search: Cabbage Kimchi

What is your kimchi secret?

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Vinegary, spicy, crunchy, and addictive. These are just some of the words we use to describe Korean dish kimchi. We could go on, but the idea is this: Kimchi fascinates us. We put it into stews , mix it with noodles and sesame oil , chop it up with fried rice , and side it up with Korean barbecue . We've been known to eat it straight out of the jar when we need a fix.

There...

Part Two of My Cucumber Sandwich Revenge: Tea Time

How to create the perfect cucumber sandwich.

21st Aug 2009

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I feel like I finally understand the cucumber sandwich. After weeks of thinking about it, and trying to recreate the most authentic version I could muster, it finally sunk in. The taste isn't rich, indulgent, spicy, acidic, comforting, salty, or fatty. It's cool, calm, and collected. The strongest reaction I had towards one was a contented sigh, a sort of momentary delight.

So why was I bre...

Wisconsin-Style Bratwurst

The ultimate guide to the Midwest's finest encased meat.

18th Jun 2009

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My little adventure with bratwurst reached its pinnacle after a tortuous three hour process of grinding, mixing, stuffing, poaching, and charcoal grilling.  What I faced, fortunately, looked a lot like the bratwurst of my wildest fantasies.  It was perfectly plump, gushing with juice, and absolutely haunted by charcoal smoke.  I stuffed that sausage into a huge roll and piled it high wi...

The Bratwurst Mystery

How do you make this Wisconsin classic?

11th Jun 2009

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I have been thinking about bratwurst for days.  What started as an idea for a simple cookout on my little Webber Grill has now completely consumed me because I simply can't find the right recipe.  The question eventually led me to walk into Hot Dougs on a recent Wednesday and ask Mr. Doug himself what was in the sausage.

But first, do you know?  What is it, exactly, that makes a bratwu...

Restaurants We Weren''t Looking For: Provence

Blake finds hidden gems in France.

21st May 2009

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Our goal for eating in France, as our budget was limited, was to find simple and unpretentious food.  And though we hit the ground running with a list of online recommendations culled from a number of sources--an article in Travel + Leisure , searches on Chowhound and eGullet, guidebooks galore--some of our best and most memorable meals came from eclectic little spots that nobody had writt...

Do You Microwave?

How to use a foodie's most scorned appliance.

17th May 2009

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Do most people use their microwaves often?  Or am I just now coming round to what most people know?

I bought my microwave at a sidewalk sale for 10 bucks.  I simply asked the sellers if it still worked, and they assured me that it did.  That was good enough for me.  My previous model had just stopped working a few weeks before and Abby and I had nowhere to make popcorn.  Though I used i...

A Visit to Hellenurme Watermill, Valga County, Estonia

Blake visits a famed watermill in Estonia.

6th May 2009

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I knew next to nothing about watermills before heading down to see one in southern Estonia, so I had an open mind.  The website promised a tour, a glass of milk and fresh warm bread.  So when the offer of a ride down came up, I had little reason to turn it down.

When we arrived, we found an idle lake reflecting the brilliant blue sky, clouds tossing across the sky, and a brick building...

Giardiniera

How to make Chicago's favorite condiment.

30th Mar 2009

Most of the recipes online are found on generic websites and just have a bunch of cut up vegetables mixed with olive oil, which I already knew was completely wrong.  There needed to be some kind of acidic kick, something to balance the aggressive heat and the fair amount of oil.

I had my first breakthrough when I found this random video from the Food Network show "Unwrapped".  They were visiti...

Ristorante Matricianella

Blake visits the Eternal City for one night only.

29th Oct 2008

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We only had one night in Rome to eat. So where would we choose?  We had no idea where to begin.

My friend Mitchell Davis came to the rescue when I emailed him to ask for help.  One night in Rome?  "I’d try Matricianella, I think, if I had one night. All the classics, well prepared, great wine list, not pricey."  Indeed, classics were what I wanted: specifically, a giant creamy steamin...

Blend Your Salsa: A Tale of Two Salsas

Moving beyond pico de gallo into real authentic territory

21st May 2008

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I thought I knew everything there was to know about salsa.  Tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, lime juice, salt.  Chop, mix, serve.  It’s an enormous pain, but the alternative (jarred salsa) just doesn’t compare.  Taking the time to chop is a noble pursuit.

That was until Blake visited last weekend.  What he threw together in a matter of minutes turned blood red and clung to every chip l...

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...

They Came, I Ground, We Ate: Which Cuts Make for the Best Burger?

How to make a better burger at home.

21st Feb 2008

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Grinding meat may seem like an exercise for those with too much time on their hands, or those overly devoted to doing things from scratch--which I am.  But I'm here to argue that there are more compelling and more logical reasons for doing so: for one, the meat will taste better.  You'll also know where it omes from, unlike with a styrofoam tray from the grocery store, which is likely the su...

Madrid With an Insider

Crawling the streets in search of ham and beer

3rd Dec 2007

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We arrived at the ultra-modern Madrid airport terminal half-asleep, legs in need of a stretch, eager for what we imagined might be a giant, country-wide cocktail party.  The Spanish tradition of tapas awaited (or, as we would later call them in San Sebastian, pintxos , our American tongues unsure how a “t” can be pronounced before an “x," the result a squished noise that sounds l...

"Wit What?"

An exploration of Philadelphia's quintessential greasy delicacy...the cheesesteak

1st Feb 2006

With Blake off for the weekend, Nick blew the whole...

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With Blake off for the weekend, Nick blew the whole Paupered Chef budget on a $20 Chinatown Bus ticket to Philadelphia in search of the city's quintessential greasy delicacy...the cheesesteak.  Armed with locals with serious appetites, he checked out some of their favorite institutions in search of the real thing...Wait, with cheez w...