A Paupered Chef Update

It's been awhile.

nick and blake

As many of you have noticed, it's been quite a while since we posted on the site. For that—and mostly for the lack of any news—we apologize. The story of our absence isn't as exciting as we'd like it to be. Basically, due to new jobs for the both of us, we've been busy. Really busy. So we took a little break from posting while we focused on jobs that pay money. Obviously, a note saying so wo...

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...

Weekend Project: Freeze Chicken Stock in Ice Cube Trays

The Paupered Chef officially endorses the convenient practice.

19th Oct 2011

I, Nick Kindelsperger, wholeheartedly endorse the practice of freezing chicken stock in ice cube trays. Doing so allows one to crack them into zip-lock bags and stash them in the freezer for safe keeping. It is convenient, fairly easy to do, and downright practical (in a slightly embarrassing way). Of course, the problem with dishing out little kitchen tips and tricks like this one is that ther...

For the Love of Un-Simple Things: Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Just a little love for laborious cooking projects.

17th Oct 2011

The older I get, the more I appreciate the un-simple things. Sure, I admire the shining brilliance of singularly perfect foods — like the best summer tomatoes or a properly aged steak — but I'm far more interested in dishes that combine dozens of components into a complex and bewildering whole. I speak of Mexican moles, feisty Thai salads, balanced Indian curries, and, of course, a certain C...

Repertoire | The Working Lunch

An Argument for Grains and Vegetables

13th Oct 2011

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I’ve worked enough days in my life, from my desk at home to mind-numbing office temp gigs, to have developed some theories on lunch. To me, the working lunch is a series of balances: it should be fast, yet not fast-food; it should be a break from work, but not so indulgent you can’t get moving again; it should be fulfilling, but not a cause of sluggishness. Lunch should work for you, but so...

Repertoire | The French Omelette

Announcing a collaboration for the month of October

5th Oct 2011

We’re happy to announce a new collaboration between The Paupered Chef and some fellow friends and bloggers of ours in Chicago: The Midwestyle . It’s a great blog, and thorough. Ostensibly about dressing well on a budget, it’s really about caring: how you look, how you think, how you act like a young man in this here century of ours. We feel an affinity with their go-get-em energy, the sa...

Department of Basics | The Fruit Crisp

One dessert it doesn't hurt to have in the repertoire

5th Sep 2011

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It's probably become clear to most readers that this is not a food blog where you read about desserts, and for that matter, about baking at all. There's a good reason. We're no good at it.

Cupcakes and chocolate cakes and other frivolous foods are the specialty of other writers.  Besides a post or two about bread (we're pretty proud of our olive-and-herb-studded foccacia and the lengths...

Making Andouille at Home

Saving andouille from the supermarket.

22nd Aug 2011

This didn't start off as a gumbo mission, though I did end up there (more to come on that front soon.) No, the saga began simply: about three weeks ago I needed andouille for a Dinner Tonight . All I could find at the grocery store was a product that claimed to be the right stuff, but had all the character of cheap bologna and about as much spice as, well, cheap bologna. I was angry.

Then...

The Tomato Sandwich: Why You Don''t Always Need Bacon to Be a Glutton

Adventures with buttered toast, ripe tomatoes, and Duke's mayonnaise.

2nd Aug 2011

Most people return from the beach with tans; I returned with tomatoes. It was a half-bushel, to be exact, and they were stashed in the back of a car as it wound its way from North Carolina, through the Great Smoky Mountains, and, some 16 hours later, finally to Chicago. Why such extravagant measures for tomatoes?

When it comes to tomatoes, I don't suffer fools, and I simply can't accept sub-p...

How to Make Proper Barbecue Chicken

No offense, but you're probably doing it wrong

22nd Jul 2011

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There's a lot of misconception when it comes to "barbecue." The problem is the word itself. It's used as a synonym for grilling, refers to the grill itself, or to the meat being grilled; it also has a sauce named after it; and sometimes it's just the word for the party itself held outdoors in somebody's backyard. What, actually, is "barbecue"?

American purists see things a little differently....

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'...

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...

In Praise of Cincinnati Chili

Nick finally takes a look back at the chili of his youth.

13th Jun 2011

Cockaigne: an imaginary land of great luxury and ease.
—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

"Cockaigne was the name of the family home...Any time there's a recipe with this in the title, it means it's an old family favorite."
— 'Joy Of Cooking': 75 Years Young, CBS

When the words "imaginary land of great luxury" and "chili" collide, usually that means we're set for some hyperbolic descri...

Introducing The Soft Shell Crab Sandwich...with Bacon

Getting a head start on the season

16th May 2011

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Soft shell crab season is here, generally considered to begin at some point in May.  So we here at The Paupered Chef decided it was time to take advantage.  Generally, the soft shell crab  is dusted with flour and fried up in a skillet, and I'm not sure there is a better way to prepare this crustacean than this recipe by David Lentz from Food & Wine magazine : stuffed into a crusty baguette...

Tea-Smoked Duck Breast

Or, how to smoke indoors with a wok

11th May 2011

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I love what smoke does to foods—preserving, often cooking them, and adding layers of flavor. Next to cooking over wood fire, there's nothing more basic and caveman.  There's just one major problem with this particular hobby (true of many caveman-esque cooking experiments): it's impossible to pull off without outdoor space and a backyard. This isn't always a luxury we're afforded living in a c...

How to Make Shoyu Ramen at Home

With a lot of help from Takashi's Noodles.

19th Apr 2011


One sip of real ramen is enough. That’s all I needed to permanently erase all those memories of those pathetic packaged noodles, which I greedily warmed up in the microwave during college. One sip. Done. It was also enough to make me question whether there was a better soup on the planet. Fragrant, rich, and soothing, it has no parallel in the Midwest cuisine I grew up on, and while other marve...

Building the Best Ramen: The Noodle Question

Leaving the packaged noodles behind...

4th Apr 2011

Ramen is Japan’s ultimate comfort food, the equivalent of a cheeseburger, fried chicken, and deep-dish pizza into one.
- Takashi Yagihashi from Takashi’s Noodles

I may live in Chicago, but I’ll admit that I'd probably pick ramen before those other foods when I'm in need of something truly comforting. Those big bowls of noodles and broth seem especially perfect at warding off a brutal...

The Case for Going Animal Style: The Double-Double In-N-Out Clone

I don't really care for big burgers.

23rd Mar 2011

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one railing against the big burger tide. While nearly every new restaurant opening in Chicago features a big, fat burger on its menu, I’m that guy that prefers thin little griddled burgers. Usually I can only find them at old school joints, but even these are frequently harder to find these days. It’s getting to the point where I haven’t eaten a burger...

Corned Beef Short Ribs

A quicker, easier process than the whole brisket

15th Mar 2011

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Corned beef is one of the more basic and surprising kitchen experiments. But I think that people still think it's pretty nuts.  I'm staying in California for a couple weeks, and had to buy the ingredients, cook, photograph, and eat this project while staying at someone else's house (sorry for the lack of pictures).  First of all--it's really tough cooking somewhere you don't have all your fami...

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...

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...

My Top 10 Chinese Recipes of the Year

The Chinese New Year is the perfect time to look back on a spicy year.

3rd Feb 2011

Greetings from bitterly cold and blustery Chicago. Currently the city is buried under two feet of snow, and battling some of the coldest temperatures in years. Though it seems like everyone is putting a post about where to eat Chinese food tonight in honor of the Chinese New Year, I decided to take the time and talk about what it has been like to cook Chinese dishes at home. I fell hard for this...

Three More Interesting Ways to Cook Kale

Raw, Baked, and Coconut-Grilled

1st Feb 2011

Kale sounds like a boring health food, but if you cook it well it's delicious. It's just that most recipes are too predictable: greens + fat + aromatics + acid.  Kale is a lot more versatile than people give it credit for.

Sure, you can plug in different combinations (kale, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice is pretty common) and a pinch of red chile flakes is also welcome. Sherry vinegar is es...

The Trick to Better Refried Black Beans

Some pasilla chiles and avocado leaves make all the difference.

26th Jan 2011

If you happened to stumble across the recipe for “Seasoned Black Beans” in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto there wouldn’t be much to immediately keep you from turning the page. Dont get me wrong, it is housed in a beautiful book, it is just that besides the boring name and lack of picture, this is all Kennedy says in the headnote: “This fried bean paste is used for filling tamales, for t...

An Opinionated Way to Roast a Chicken

What's your favorite way?

24th Jan 2011

Roast Chicken in the Oven

Having roasted many, many chickens in my cooking life, I've come to the opinion that there is no way to roast a chicken without some kind of opinion. You may get away with tossing an untrussed chicken into the oven with a shower of salt, maybe a lemon in the cavity, and calling it dinner, pretending to be as careless as possible.  But that's still an opinion. So is planning days ahead of ti...

Guide to the River Cottage: Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingtsall Should Be Your Food Celebrity

The British television star that has inspired us time and again

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The River Cottage TV show begins with a ridiculously cheesy cartoon showing a curly haired driver fleeing a polluted city for an idyllic paradise, complete with jumping fish, smiling cows, and some friendly pigs. During the course of three seasons of River Cottage and the many years of spinoffs, host Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall manages to kill and eat every single one of those creature...

Smoking Success: Homemade Allen and Sons Barbecue

How to make chopped (not pulled) pork

14th Dec 2010

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Just add sauce...

Does anyone have the recipe for Allen and Son's barbecue sauce, because I'll lay down a sizable chunk of change to get my hands on it. It's one my favorite barbecue restaurants in the country , and it's almost all down to that tangy, vineger based sauce. It doesn't coat the meat like a thick Kansas City-style sauce, but seems to disappear into the meat, making each bite...

The Secret | Brussels Sprouts

How to rescue a childhood horror.

1st Dec 2010

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The hatred of brussels sprouts: a childhood universality. It's part of growing up.

But is it really fair? As children, we harbor a distaste for most vegetables, from peas to asparagus, but a special place in hell is reserved for the sprout named after Brussels, and it seems to extend to adulthood. Most kids hate asparagus, but most adults love it, especially with a little hollandaise or top...

Better Than Southern Fried Chicken?

Thailand-style fried chicken

8th Nov 2010

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The crackliest chicken you can imagine.

I caught your attention with that title, didn't I? Well, the same thing happened to me, when I stumbled on a recipe in The Atlantic.com's food section in a post about Bangkok street vendor fried chicken--the recipe for which the author cajoled from the street vendor, then scaled down for use in the kitchen. And yes, he called it better than Souther...

The Homemade Hummus Challenge: Are Dried Chickpeas Better Than Canned?

A fool-proof method discovered.

3rd Nov 2010

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If you don’t want to go to all the bother of soaking and cooking them, canned chickpeas work extraordinarily well
- James Beard, Beard on Food

I wanted to go to all the bother of cooking dried chickpeas from scratch. Why? Well, because I never had cooked dried chickpeas before, and I really wanted to see whether taking the time to cook them from scratch would make for a more delicious...

Can You Make Homemade Tahini?

On a search for the lesser-known ingredient in hummus

13th Oct 2010

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Is store bought tahini best?

The goal is to make hummus at home with no shortcuts. I’m an apprehensive hummus fan at best, having dipped one carrot stick too many into something chalky and pasty, which claimed to be hummus but was purchased quickly from the grocery store. You could say that I’ve been ruined by the silky smooth texture of real hummus, the kind the comes with a sheen of ri...

Korean Barbecue: What''s Your Secret Ingredient?

The kiwi could change everything

5th Oct 2010

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The kiwi that could change everything

I keep returning to Korean barbecue, and once I get it in my head, nothing else interests me. The amazing flavor of the meat--beefy and complex and sweet--and the unique butchering and cooking method, which renders the normally tough short rib into a grillable pleasure. These things are crack to someone who loves to eat and is fascinated with cooking.

...

Forget the Tomato: Chicago-Style Hot Dogs with Pickled Green Tomatoes

Tweaking the classic Chicago hot dog (aka The Superdawg)

29th Sep 2010

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Though it pains me to say this, the Chicago hot dog has one little flaw. It’s not always an issue, but it’s there just the same. Most of the seven toppings which make up a proper Chicago-style Hot Dog can be had at any time: mustard and relish are condiments, celery salt is a seasoning, the sport peppers and pickle come from a jar, and onions can be freshly cut up at any time of the year....

The Problem with Oatmeal (And How to Eat it Cold)

A summer alternative with grated apple and almonds

21st Sep 2010

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Oatmeal at Cafe Fanny in Berkeley

I think I've always loved the idea of oatmeal for breakfast: it's simple to make, it sticks to your ribs until lunch, and it's economical. I don't always put a lot of time into breakfast, or much thought, save the occasional calm morning of a slow-fried egg on toast or scrambled eggs with chives from the windowsill garden . Oatmeal seems like a good,...

Beyond the Tortilla Chip: Three Mexican Snacks that Aren''t Deep Fried

Plus a recipe for Oaxacan-Style Peanuts with Chile and Garlic

16th Sep 2010

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Forget the chips.

You know the drill. You walk into a Mexican restaurant anywhere in the country. You sit down. Within moments -often before drink orders are taken- a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa are rushed out to the table. You immediately dig in. Time disappears. Before you order, before you even think about ordering, salsa stains the tablecloth and all the chips are mysteriously gone....

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....

How to Make Homemade Vinegar (It Couldn''t Be Easier)

A pineapple and a few weeks is all you need

19th Aug 2010

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When I think of Mexican cuisine, I think of balance. Mexicans love acidity in their cooking, and that's what makes it so appealing to eat. Though it's a function of living in a warm climate--the same reason Thai cuisine is also fond of citrus, it's a necessary form of preservation--the culinary benefit has outlasted the necessity.

When you have something rich and heavy in your taco--like, s...

Romesco Sauce, Meet the Summertime Grill

A blend of bread, nuts, olive oil, tomato, and peppers

15th Jul 2010

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My fridge lately has been so full of food I can hardly see what’s inside of it. Since joining a CSA , I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of food I have, and how to cook it all quickly enough. The other day I realized that I had, like, 2 or 3 pounds of green onions--and not wispy little ones, big, fat ones, the white roots thick and juicy, the green shoots long and vibrant. I’d b...

Don''t Waste Time: How to Make Quick Pickles

Two pickle recipes that take less than a day to make

13th Jul 2010

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You know how you see scallops at the fish market and think to yourself, I could sauté those with?...When I’m at the farmers’ market, I see bushels and baskets of potential pickles...
- David Chang, Momofuku

It's been over three years, and yet I can still vividly remember an appetizer I ate at Momofuku Ssäm Bar . In a meal filled with gloriously fatty meat laced with spice, this s...

Griddled Carne Asada Tacos

Or, the best carne asada tacos we've ever had

9th Jul 2010

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As far as I know there are only two kinds of ways to make carne asada. The first method is to take thinly sliced flank or skirt steak, sear it over mad charcoal fire, chop it up, and then stuff it into warm corn tortillas. It's almost always great. The second method is the kind that most taquerias use, which is to scoop some bits of raw steak, plop it on a grill, and sauté until it is cooked....

You Could Pickle Anything in This And It Would Taste Marvelous

A delicious formula for making homemade pickles

7th Jul 2010

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Pickling vegetables is something that I’ve yet to get real excited about. Of all the "DIY" food movements, it’s one of the last to catch on. Why, I don’t know. Probably because a slab of homemade bacon is a lot more exciting than a jar of tangy vegetables. Which is no mark against the vegetables. Most anything next to a slab of bacon is bound to lose terribly.

But actually, pickling is...

Pork Larb and the Search for Toasted Rice Powder

A Thai salad meaty and acidic, packed with cilantro and mint, served with crisp cabbage

2nd Jul 2010

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The only time in the past two years that my wife and I have ordered takeout was this New Years, when, after cleaning up our place from our annual carnitas feast and trying to kick a massive hangover, we basically camped out in the living room on a trundle bed and ate Thai food in our pajamas. Surely, this is why takeout was invented. The idea of doing anything but drinking loads of water and w...

Baba Ganoush and a Fear of Eggplant

Hummus' neglected cousin

30th Jun 2010

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When it comes to Middle Eastern dips, hummus hogs most of the love and attention. (The New York Times recently reported that hummus is "catching on" in America, where it dominates the $325 million-a-year refrigerated flavored spreads category). You see tubs of it everywhere, and for good reason: it's a great snack to have around.

But there's another beige spread (now doesn't that so...

Authentic Caesar Salad From a Windowsill Garden

Urban gardening in Chicago

25th Jun 2010

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I've started an experiment this year: how easy is it, really, to grow vegetables and herbs in a windowsill?

When I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan three years ago, I was rather taken with the idea of urban agriculture, romanticizing the rustic life of the small producer who grows his own vegetables, raises his own livestock, and scavenges the seas for the rest. (This fantasy was fueled rat...

Thai Salads for the Summer

The Thai salad is bracingly good, a dish to banish all memory of bad takeout

22nd Jun 2010

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Joe said we should meet for dinner at Thai Aree . You may all remember Joe for his helpful advice on J. P. Graziano's , but I still wasn't sure whether I trusted him completely. l rattled off a few alternatives, slyly attempting to change his mind, but he insisted. "The food is wonderful and the prices are great too." Fine, whatever. I didn't really have the courage to admit that I did...

How to Store Lettuce in the Fridge

Many a leafy vegetable has turned to sludge under my watch. No Longer.

17th Jun 2010

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Even though it's been around for a few years now, I am still incredibly excited to have joined a CSA this year.  A few years ago, "CSA" was the big new food acronym, standing for Community Supported Agriculture, the rather wonderful setup where cooks and eaters pay in advance for the season and in return get a box  delivered to their neighborhood every week or two, effectively a farmer's mar...

How to Fall in Love With Sichuan Food: Mapo Doufu

A mixture of tofu, ground meat, and chile bean paste suspended in a bright red and dangerously spicy sauce

11th Jun 2010

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Had you put a gun to my head a few years ago and asked me what my least favorite kind of food was, I'd have A) asked you why wanted to shoot me, and then B) probably said Chinese. Bad broccoli and beef, greasy fried rice, those strange orange packets of sauce--these were my impressions of the entirety of Chinese cuisine and what a billion people ate for dinner. Though I probably knew better, I...

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...

The Comfort of Eggs in a Basket

One of the best 5 minute meals on the planet--and one of the only meals that literally takes 5 minutes

3rd Jun 2010

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Eggs in a basket was the first meal I ever cooked. I was in 5th grade, and it was a Sunday morning at my best friend's house after a sleepover. We woke up hungry, and for some reason his parents weren't home. This confused me--my parents would never do that--but more important than confusion was the fact that I was terribly hungry, and I didn't see how that problem was going to be solved, s...

My First Mole: Rich Red Mole with Chicken

Tackling Mexico's national dish

1st Jun 2010

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You can shave truffles over a dish and call it special, but it's not; it's just expensive.
- Rick Bayless

I've been a fan of Rick Bayless since this blog started over four years ago, but it wasn't until he blurted out the above statement during the Top Chef Masters finale last year that I really figured out why. I already knew that I loved so many Mexican dishes because they balanc...

Discovering White Gazpacho

Almonds, garlic, and bread are the magic ingredients in this alternative to tomato gazpacho

27th May 2010

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I heard a lot of complaining this month about Chicago weather, mostly about how cold and rainy it was, and I added my fair share to the chorus. "It's May, already, where's the warm weather?" was a common conversation starter, as weather always is. Apparently, somebody upstairs was listening. This week we have been thrust into what feels like the height of summer: it has climbed repeatedly abov...

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...

Better Homemade Biscuits and Gravy

It's my opinion that the secret to great biscuits and gravy is that there is no secret

19th May 2010

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I know that biscuits and gravy together don't make sense. It's meat, thickened with flour and milk, ladled atop a starchy biscuit. There is no balance, no acid, and no spice. Compared to the dynamic Szechuan food I've been making lately, it can seem safe and boring. But that's not how I think of it. Perhaps it's something that needs to be injected to your blood as a child, because I have a fon...

How Do You Make Great Biscuits?

We need your help

14th May 2010

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Last night I made the best batch of biscuits and gravy ever. That's not something I ever thought I'd say out loud, but I cannot tell a lie. I started with some homemade breakfast sausage, which formed the base of a sensational gravy. The buttermilk biscuits were baked from scratch. It was nearly perfect.

The problem? The biscuits didn't rise, or at least not enough. I followed a fairly well...

Asparagus + Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Forget hollandaise: this will blow your mind

13th May 2010

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I recently stumbled on an essay called The Power of the Hot Vinaigrette in Michael Symon's new cookboo k. "Cold vinaigrettes are excellent," he writes, "but add one to the hot pan you've sauteed some shrimp in, and the blended acid and oil will pick up all the flavor of the bits of protein and sugars that have stuck to the pan." He advocates for pan sauces to be vinaigrette-based, rath...

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...

The Case for Hot Pimentón

Smoked paprika transforms a Spanish garlic soup

5th May 2010

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In today's Dinner Tonight column (the post will be up later this afternoon) I walk through a very simple garlic soup recipe from Mario Batali's Spain: A Culinary Road Trip . It's the kind of a soup I adore, being nothing more than a few cloves of garlic, good chicken stock, and a few pieces of stale bread. The one wild card is hot pimentón, which is a Spanish smoked paprika .

I...

Trout a la Meunière, or Sharing a Culinary Epiphany with Julia Child

The original celebrity chef helps us out with this French classic.

4th May 2010

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A variation on meunière sauce with almonds

In one of the opening scenes of My Life in France , Julia Child experiences an early meal in France with her husband, Paul, a lunch at La Couronne, a medieval house turned restaurant built in 1345. After oysters, she goes on to describe an early culinary epiphany, apart of what would become "the most exciting meal of my life."

Paul had...

Baked Bean Failures

Trying (and for now failing) to recreate British Heinz baked beans

23rd Apr 2010

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Baked beans should have been the easiest part. When I set off on this crazy Full English Breakfast challenge I figured I'd spend most of my time stuffing sausages , or learning how to cure a completely different kind of bacon . The beans should have required a few hours on lazy Saturday afternoon. The one problem -- the only problem -- was finding a recipe.

There are no recipes....

A Guide to Bacon Styles, and How to Make Proper British Rashers

Everyone loves bacon, but it's not always the same thing.

21st Apr 2010

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. Homema...

Homemade Gnudi from The Spotted Pig

Make these ethereal little bites at home.

15th Apr 2010

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...

The Creation of Will''s Special

The brief, wondrous history of a Chicago sandwich.

14th Apr 2010

20100413 wills special 1

A few weeks ago, a mad group of seven men took part in the great Chicago Italian Sub Tour of 2010 . We visited six places, ate way more than we should have, and came away with the pretty definite conclusion that J.P. Graziano served the best Italian sub of the day. They used the best bread, and paid the most attention to each individual element of the sandwich. Oddly though, mixed in w...

Basic Tomato Sauce

Sometimes you need to start with the basics.

23rd Mar 2010

tomato sauce
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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...

Idea Lab: Full English Breakfast from Scratch

Can you replicate the best English breakfast at home?

16th Mar 2010

fullenglishbreakfast3

To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.
- W. Somerset Maugham

I survived my half a year in England on a diet of boiled potatoes, canned peas, Heinz beans, and 99p egg and cress sandwiches I purchased from a convenient store. The dollar was nearly worthless next to the mighty pound at that time, and I hoarded what little cash I could for bus passes and the od...

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...

I Hate the Mac Snack Wrap: A Rant

The Big Mac will always be better.

2nd Mar 2010

pc macsnackwrap 3

I should apologize in advance for this fast food rant. I've never indulged in such a tirade before, but I simply couldn't resist this one. Regularly scheduled content will return later this week, I promise.

The Mac Snack wrap is the stupidest, most idiotic, dumbest fast food creation I've ever seen. It purports to be a Big Mac in flour tortilla, except it betrays logic and any culinary...

The Mystery of the Chicken Oyster

How to save the oyster while cutting up chicken.

24th Feb 2010

chicken oyster 1

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...

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...

Salad For Breakfast

Cereal isn't the option in the morning.

16th Feb 2010

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For the past few weeks I've been eating salads for breakfast. I eat huge bowls of mixed greens sprinkled with dried fruits, toasted nuts, and whatever else happens to be on hand. If there is half an avocado in the fridge I'll cut it up and toss it in, same with roasted vegetables, chickpeas, goat cheese, carrots...you get the idea. I eat until I am no longer hungry. It has nothing to do with a...

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...

Can You Make Hot Sauce at Home?

How to take 60 arbol chiles and make hot sauce.

11th Feb 2010

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Can you make hot sauce at home that's better than stuff from the store? For years I've considered hot sauce to be something you just had to buy in those little glass bottles. I have a half-dozen of them to prove it. Open up my fridge door, and they clank around for a good 15 seconds, announcing that they are ready to be used. And you know what? I like them all. Franks, Tabasco, El Yucateco, L...

A Gastrique Primer, or How to Improve Your Next Tomato Sauce

Vinegar and sugar can spruce up any sauce.

9th Feb 2010

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Once we had blanched and peeled the tomatoes we chopped them, strained the seeds, and simmered it for twenty minutes into a simple sauce. Then I made my gastrique , which involved no measuring -- maybe 1/4 cup of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of sugar -- and a quick boil into something thick and syrupy.

I tasted the sauce before adding it, which was fine, clean and simple.  And then I tast...

Homemade Square Pizza

Focaccia becomes the base of this pizza.

4th Feb 2010

focaccia pizza 1

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...

Homemade Sliders

The PC guide to little burgers.

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What is a slider? A slider is a particular thing. It's particularly American. It's a small subset of our great culinary tradition, the hamburger. But as I explained last week , it's not just a mini-hamburger. To be a slider, it cannot be perverted with expensive ingredients like foie gras or tuna tartar, a cutesy version of a burger for a chef to play with. A slider consists of a thin laye...

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

This fishy roe is a meal in itself.

26th Jan 2010

caputo

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...

In Praise of Open-Faced Sandwiches

Some sandwiches don't need a top.

21st Jan 2010

alton brown sandwich

Personally, I didn't need any convincing, but after seeing the above picture, I can see why you might. It's the same reason Alton Brown went to great lengths on a recent episode of Good Eats to hide a central ingredient in his recipe. Something small, something oily, something canned, something with a rather poor reputation. This particular foodstuff was apart of a puzzling, yet intriguing...

Idea Lab: Sliders

How do you make the best mini burgers?

19th Jan 2010

idealab sliders01

First things first: there's something to clear up about " sliders ." They are not mini hamburgers. Along with Adam Kuban over at A Hamburger Today, I actually sort of hate mini hamburgers and the implied cuteness . Sliders are a different beast, and not cute. They are compact and small, yes, but they are also haunted by sauteed onion, which they are cooked on top of to create a sort of...

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: Focaccia Pizza

Can great pizza be made at home quickly?

12th Jan 2010

idea lab focaccia pizza

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...

My Chicago: Spicy Yeul Ramyon from the Joong Boo Market

How to dress up cheap ramen.

8th Jan 2010

mychi ramen 2

Every Friday, we publish a story about life as a cooks and eaters in Chicago. Markets, restaurants, secret finds, really tasty bites--or just a great story. We're lucky to live here.

Close your eyes and think about instant ramen...I know it's probably been a while. You probably have in mind some MSG-laden bastion of cheap college eating, because that's where I used to be, too.

But now it...

There Will be Blood. Sausages.

7th Jan 2010

blood sausage 1

Last year I fell in love with blood sausage.  Maybe that sounds strange.  So let me explain.

In Estonia, around Christmastime, they begin to fill up the meat counters, black and smooth. Just piles of them.  When Christmas comes, everyone roasts pork and potatoes, makes sauerkraut, and serves them with blood sausages.  And it wasn't until I had them as apart of this ritual that I began to...

Idea Lab: Steamed Duck Confit?

Can you really leave behind all the fat??

5th Jan 2010

idea lab duck confit
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...

Year in Review: An Obsession with Beef

Best of the beef.

beef

When Blake and I sat back and looked at what food obsessed us in 2009, we noticed an unusual interest in beef. Pork is still the hippest meat around, and praise for beef sometimes seems limited to talk about steaks or short ribs. We wrote about both of those cuts this year, but we did it our way.  We also managed to dress up mounds of round, tenderize brisket, turn chuck into the tender found...

Red-Braised Pork Belly, and a Sichuan Cooking Primer

Where to start your Sichuan obsession.

11th Dec 2009

red braised pork belly 1

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...

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...

Is Salad Dressing the Perfect Sauce?

Throw away those bottle salad dressings.

2nd Dec 2009

vinaigrette 1

I've been thinking about salad a lot lately, which is strange, because how inspiring can a salad really be? The salads I grew up with were made of lettuce with a bunch of chopped vegetables--carrots, mushrooms, peppers, whatever--doused with a dressing from the fridge door. Everyone put their favorite dressing on, and that worked pretty well. It was the typical "your-choice-of-dressing" side s...

Happy Thanksgiving, With a Little Help from Time Out Chicago

A little holiday help

eat bloggers paupered

We're signing off for the week, ready to see family, drink some of our homemade hard apple cider , and fatten ourselves on turkey.  We hope you're off to do the same!  But before you do, please direct your attention to this week's Time Out Chicago , were you will discover a cheesy picture of your humble correspondents (above).

A month ago we met up with the dashing food folks over a...

Experiments with Sous-Vide Chicken

Perhaps the best way to cook chicken.

18th Nov 2009

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In my opinion, the best chicken is chicken sous-vide. Each bite is tender and succulent in a way I never thought chicken could possibly be. It's kind of changed everything for me. Even the appearance of the meat is different, instead of stringy and tough, a fork can simply cut through the meat. It's enough to make anyone convert.

So for the past few weeks I've been proselytizing about the p...

Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls: Our New Holiday Tradition

Check out a better way to make cinnamon rolls.

11th Nov 2009

cardamom cinnamon rolls

Every Christmas, we eat cinnamon rolls. That's just how it is. When I was little, someone would wake up early and drive over to the Cinnabon store and come back with a gooey dozen, and always make sure there was extra frosting. The things were so big and sweet that it would take most of Christmas morning to finish one, plus three or four glasses of milk. The cinnamon rolls tided us over until...

How to Make Paneer

The Indian speciality is easier than you think.

6th Nov 2009

how to make paneer 1

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 Kimchi Contest Results

And the best kimchi award goes to...

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After a tasting of both kimchi projects, the results are in. We have a winner!

It wasn't easy to decide: there were things about Nick's kimchi that were better, and things about Blake's Kimchi that were better. We went back and forth about who should take the title. We tasted, waited, tasted again.

First, the recipes. Though our recipes were similar, there were some crucial diffe...

Homemade Kimchi Contest, Part II

Nick gives kimchi his best shot.

14th Oct 2009

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Though Blake was thrilled to jump right into this Kimchi-making process , I dragged my feet the whole way. It's not that I don't love kimchi. That's far from the case . It's just that I've been really happy with the jars of kimchi I've been buying from the Korean market. Uncovering the ways of kimchi, however enlightening the process may be, would sort of remove the magic from the who...

Homemade Kimchi Contest, Part I

Blake tries to make kimchi.

13th Oct 2009

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Nick and I are currently in the middle of a fierce kimchi-making contest , in which we've both set off to do our own research and exploration, make a batch of the best kimchi we know how to, and submit it for a taste test. Neither of us have made kimchi before, but we both love the taste of it dearly. Tired of paying for it at the store and intoxicated by the possibility that homemade kimc...

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...

Homemade Ketchup and French Fries

Make both of those at home.

24th Sep 2009

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The tomatoes were turning on me. A few weeks ago they were red and rosy, destined for a starring role in a BLT. Now, I'm not sure if they can withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. They are still light years beyond what appears during the winter here in the Midwest, but not quite the ones you can slice up, sprinkle with salt, and eat raw. I kind of wish I would have known this before I bough...

Oi-Sobagi: Cucumber Kimchi and the Purpose of Banchan

Try this awesome Korean appetizer.

18th Sep 2009

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I began to wonder whether the banchan were going to overwhelm the table. We had placed the little Korean side dishes on the smallest plates I owned, but the shear number of them added up. It was our own fault. When Blake and I decided to do a Korean Barbecue feast last weekend we figured it was time to lavish attention on banchan, giving them the attention and care usually just reserved...

Pajeon, the Korean Scallion Pancake

Not like most pancakes...

15th Sep 2009

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I recently experienced Korean Barbecue for the first time, and I'm not sure I'll ever be quite the same. For days afterwards, I could taste the spicy, sweet, marinated short ribs between my teeth. The heady scent of kimchi haunted me; I'd walk around corners and swear I could smell it. Korean barbecue is soul food. It's comforting, the flavors are deep, and it's all based around communal eatin...

Pork Rillettes

The best kind of wedding appetizers.

7th Sep 2009

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A pure expression of the pig: nothing extraneous, nothing wasted.  Pork, salt, and a little bit of time: that's all you need to make rillettes.  It was a beautiful idea which had led me to the kitchen, where I had 25 pounds of pork (a ball of lard, huge hunks of shoulder, and a bag of spare ribs larger than a medium-sized dog) and where I realized I was in over my head.

C onfiture de coch...