I knew I would be spending this afternoon with a dear friend, Laura, the girl I sat next to as we graduated from Duke in 1985. She’s in considerable anguish having lost her love to cancer, her soul, the man whose heart she carries in her heart, to use E.E. Cumming’s famous words. Harry, a lovely, brilliant, funny and delightful man, gone at 58. There are no words adequate to offer, only one’s presence. And soup. I roasted a chicken last night, ate some for dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but saved most of it, and all the bones, to carry on the subway along with 4 carrots, 2 onions, celery, three tomatoes a bay leaf, to the upper east side. I set to work immediately, getting the bones boiling (I didn’t have much time, so with Read On »

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Ideas of what you want to can get stuck in your head until you actually cook what your brain won’t let go of. This happened last week when I chanced on a recipe for spicy orange beef in The NYTimes cooking newsletter. I love this dish and often order it when I see it, and I’ve made variations throughout the years. But having the second half of an excellent chicken breast from butcherbox (boneless but happily with the skin left on), I decided that spicy orange would work with chicken perfectly well. And so it did, in under 30 minutes in a tiny Manhattan kitchen. It’s all about the sauce, but coating and frying the meat is also important for flavor and texture. I didn’t have any cornstarch on hand so used flour in the egg Read On »

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Last week I turned in the final draft of my book about grocery stores in America, called GROCERY: THE BUYING AND SELLING OF FOOD IN AMERICA. One of the chapters discusses prepared foods in grocery stores, a category that’s growing but which is really hard to make money at if you’re the grocer. The narrative anchor of the book is small chain of stores in Cleveland and Chicago. And one of their most popular prepared dishes is this Chicken Romano. They sell 85,000 pounds of it each year, or about 1,700 pounds a week. I’d recently been sent some chicken breasts by a company called Butcherbox, a mail-order buisness offering grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and heritage pork. I’ve tried samples of all and the quality is excellent. While I still think that the fat of grass-fed beef is a Read On »

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  Today is my long gone father’s birthday. I want to say Hi to him, and to honor the Grace of this day. And I do so with food, which so often was the ultimate means of connection for us. He loved to grill, and he created what is still my favorite baste, for grilled chicken: a simple mustard-tarragon-butter sauce. I start it be squeezing lime into a pan and using the beurre monte technique, swirling cold butter into it. This keeps the butter homogenized and somewhat viscous so that it adheres to the chicken when you baste. It’s tart and piquant from the lime and mustard; the shallots give it sweetness and texture; and the tarragon adds its ineluctable ethereal grace notes. He shared a birthday with F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the book that matters Read On »

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  Just back from a fabulous trip to Hawaii on a magazine assignment. Such a great time, wanted to share some iPhone shots. Top: Opah, at the Honolulu fish auction. Terribly shabby view from my hotel in Maui, the Andaz resort. Breakfast at Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe (garlic rice, beef patty, mushroom gravy, egg). Below: Adam Watten of the soon-to-be-opened Hanai, a market and eating venue, standing at his makeshift smoker. Lee Anne Wong with chef Mark Noguchi. A farmers’ market on Kauai. Watten’s menu for the night he cooked for a group of us. Chickens on the beach in Kauai, where the birds run wild all over the island. The Papahana Kuaola, a restoration site on Oahu. Soursop fruit at farmers’ market. The biggest Spam display I’ve ever seen. Smoke-roasted baby pig from Steelgrass Farm, Kauai.   My final mai tai, alas. The Read On »

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