I’m finishing up answering copy-edit queries on the new book, my beliefs on the core techniques of cooking due out next fall from Chronicle, and also going over some last minute testing with the good folks at cookskorner.com. One of the recipes being tested is a Moroccan-style braised lamb shank using lemon confit and the blend of spices known as ras el hanout.  The testers asked, for those who weren’t able to find it in their town, should I include a recipe for it. The book is already running long and I’m not an expert on the subject, so I thought why not include a link to it rather than my own version?  Yes, but how do I know the online version I find will be any less spurious than mine? Go to an expert.  Read On »

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More than a year ago, the editor of Parade magazine was abruptly fired from his job, a job he cared deeply about and a job he worked very hard at, sometimes at the expense of his wife and three kids. Lee Kravitz and I went to the same high school, not ten years apart; when I was there, he’d taken a job in the alumni department but, an apprentice writer himself, he occasionally joined our weekly, after-hours writing seminars.  Years later, an editor in New York, he met his wife, by chance the literary agent who had years earlier agreed to represent me and subsequently agented all my books.  They had kids, both were successful in business, had a home in Manhattan and a home in the country…and then he was fired. At first adrift, Read On »

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Ten days in Italy with Brian Polcyn and Nic Heckett for a salume tour of northern and central Italy—primarily Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna. Damn, Italy is beautiful.  There’s a reason Tuscany in particular is so romanticized.  Its rolling, forested hills and little towns perched on hillsides are breathtaking, particularly, I assure you, if you live in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. I’m buried in work after being gone, so I will note a few highlights but of course keep the salume revelations for the book—there was one huge transformative one.  The book, a follow-up to Charcuterie and the reason for the trip, is due to the publisher September 1.  Yikes. The top photo was what our nightly table tended to look like in the beginning, salume tasting and notes.  What a pleasure it was to travel Read On »

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Last year, The French Laundry Cookbook Team, published Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, a book spearheaded by per se chef de cuisine Jonathon Benno and featuring the dishes of him, his French Laundry counterpart Corey Lee, and Thomas Keller.  The book was explicitly geared toward professional chefs (recipes are in metric weights) because this form of cooking was at the time most applicable to restaurant kitchens.  The capacity to cook food sous vide, that is vacuum sealed and submerged in water kept at low precise temperatures, is perfectly suited to the demands of cooking for large numbers because food hit a specific temperature and stays there, no real chance to overcook.  But also the equipment was prohibitively expensive, with chamber vacuum sealers and immersion circulators (the device that heats the water) costing several thousand dollars. Read On »

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Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg have been publishing innovative books about cooking and the chef world for longer than I have. Their popular Becoming a Chef was published the summer I was harrassing the Culinary Institute of America to let me in to write about, well, becoming a chef.  I was mortified they’d beat me to it. It proved to be not just a different book from what I was attempting, but a valuable research tool for me then and throughout the years (its history of American restaurants and chefs with opening dates or significant restaurants is something I’ve  returned to throughout the years).  It remains a valuable book especially for people considering entering the profession. Their most recent book, The Flavor Bible, published last year was one I kept hearing about.  Finally I got Read On »

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