Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, centering as it does around food. I usually take a day or three off leading up to it and cook my ass off, often making ten or so courses for whoever comes to visit. It’s my chance to stretch out and try some ideas that require special ingredients or techniques, and to make the best food I possibly can, in sequential courses, using my own ceramics, and try to nail all the details and timing for each dish. It’s also a holiday that’s relatively free of crass commercialism–although that appears to be crumbling in the face of earlier and earlier riot-inducing sales–but these things are easily avoided by not having TV and choosing not to shop in the days that follow the big meal. I think it should be about the food and the company, period. The timing also neatly coincided with the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which was more of a dare: show off, using any and everything we’ve done so far.
So I did. Eight courses, each of which contained some quantity of homemade charcuterie.
Keep reading Gratitude Is The Attitude…
I get books in the mail from various publishers as review copies from time to time, and they run the gamut from wonderful things that I’d actually buy to things that make me laugh and/or gag in disbelief. Shelf space is limited, so I thought I’d start occasionally giving away some of the worthy titles that I just don’t have room for. First up is Menus for Chez Panisse by Patricia Curtan. It’s a book about her letterpress work illustrating and typesetting menus for the restaurant through the years, and would make a meaningful gift for someone who loves printmaking and/or Alice Waters. Keep in mind that this is a coffee table book, not a cookbook; there are no recipes. It’s a hardcover copy, and it goes to a lucky commenter to this post who will be chosen at random after the comments close at 9PM on Monday, November 28.
UPDATE: Thanks to all of you for commenting, and I’m sorry I have but one copy to give away. The winner, chosen by Random.org (because I couldn’t find my 33-sided die), is Mark S. of From Belly to Bacon. I see a bunch of unfamiliar names below, so when I have a few minutes I’ll click your links and see what you’re all about. Stay tuned for the Thanksgiving post (I think you’ll like it) and more giveaways down the road a piece.
I’m a big fan of kneading roots and the like with salt to wilt and quick-pickle them for salads. It’s a fantastic way to tenderize a raw vegetable that might otherwise be a tad too crunchy for some people, and imparts a lusciously silky texture and bright flavor to beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, fennel, and everything else of that textural ilk. So I had an idea to try it with winter squash, and to incorporate some local “spices” that I have stored in jars for the long winter. And I wanted to see if my wimpy little consumer vacuum sealer would be strong enough to do it without the kneading, the way the pros do it.
Keep reading Awesome Sauce…
I blather on regularly about how leftovers are a blessing rather than a curse, and how having a family with a low tolerance for them makes me a better cook because I have to innovate and transform the remnants of last night’s dinner into something new and different if I want it to get eaten and thus make room in the fridge for either A) a giant pork butt or B) uneaten portions of a meal to be named later. And it’s true. I spend far too much time thinking about how great it would be if I had all day every day to cook, drilling down into the experimentation, fabrication, and execution that leads to a deep relationship with techniques and results. But in the absence of that life of leisure, leftovers are the next best thing.
Keep reading Q.E.D….
I recently unloaded a kiln, which is always exciting. I got a few commissions, which always provide a nice incentive (and justification) for spending more time in the ceramic studio, so while I was there I tried out some new ideas. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to, and I’ve added the non-bespoke work to my Etsy shop where you can totally buy it for your own self, or for someone you really want to have sex with.
Keep reading Hairy Potter And The Dishes Of Desire…
Last month I was lucky enough to get to meet and talk with Madhur Jaffrey, and my profile of her is in this month’s Chronogram. There wasn’t enough space in the magazine to include all the fascinating topics she covered. My favorite bit was the fact that before the New World plants like chili peppers were introduced to India, the only hot spices they had were black pepper and mustard seeds. She says that in remote villages, there are still old recipes that call for two big spoons of black pepper, showing that the taste for heat was there and explaining why capsicums were so enthusiastically embraced.
She’s a living legend, a true embodiment of positive globalization, and the giant upon whose shoulders someone like Padma Lakshmi stands. What stayed with me the most after our talk was that she has attained her success by being absolutely herself. There’s not a shred of affect about her; she is as warm, open and honest in person as she is on the page. Listening to her speak is like reading her writing. It’s a powerful lesson in sincerity.