Hoping-John-lead

Happy New Year’s Eve day! Every first of the new year I make a big pot of hoppin’ john—and re-post this recipe—black-eyed peas and some kind of cured pork, yes for good luck, but mainly because black-eyed peas are an underappreciated treasure. Nutritious and earthy and economical and deeply satisfying as frigid weather pushes down on us and we look out at the horizon of winter with no May in sight. David Tanis wrote a good piece on black-eyed peas in the Times and their ancient history. He adds greens (symbol of cash) and suggests serving with cornbread (symbol of gold). But I like it humble, without hope or fear: bacon is the cured pork, tomatoes and onions for flavor, and beans beans beans. Wishing all a healthy and fruitful new year.   Hoppin’ John 1 pound Read On »

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A post-dinner reenactment of the crime now known as the “Rack of Lamb with Lettuce-Butter Sauce” debacle. Photo by iPhone. For the past several years my cousin Rob has brought me and his band of merry sailors to race in the Key West Regatta. I cook dinner for about 20 every night—sailors, spouses, itinerant friends, and other marauders who haunt the waterfront by day. What I do, basically, is what one cook or another at restaurants throughout the country has to do daily: Feed the staff with what’s on hand. Happily, I don’t have to then work the line all night, and then clean my station, and then store the leftover food. As if by magic, a half hour after dinner, someone has made the kitchen spotless. But it did get me thinking about family Read On »

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I stopped stuffing our Thanksgiving turkey reluctantly, as the stuffing was always my favorite part of the meal when Grandma Spamer made it. But my goal became a perfectly cooked bird, and you can’t cook a turkey perfectly if it’s stuffed. So now I make what we must refer to as dressing, no matter what Mario says (“That’s what you put on a salad.”). Dressing denotes that it’s stuffing cooked in a pan. And it can still be the very best part of the meal! Thanks to a versatile ratio, it’s a no brainer. Dressing, and there are infinite variations, is little more than a savory bread pudding. To make a great dressing you make the liquid a custard, the ratio for which is 2 parts liquid and 1 part egg, here 24 ounces stock Read On »

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Make your own vanilla extract at home, via Brown Eyed Baker.

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I love bitters for the complexity they bring to any drink, or situation in life for that matter, and I use them with a heavy hand in cocktails. One of my favorite cocktails is the Old-Fashioned (see below), so simple, so satisfying: whiskey, sugar, bitters. But what exactly are bitters? You don’t really know until you make some yourself. Bitters are simply flavor extractions. Happily, our neighbor Tobin Ludwig is one of the founders of Hella Bitters, which makes a variety of splendid bitters (about 1500 bottles a month), and he gave me a quick lesson in their making. “I totally encourage people to make their own bitters at home,” Tobin told me this summer. “It’s a fun experiment.” There is a single key to bitters: the bittering agent itself, most commonly angelica root or Read On »

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