A year ago, my neighbor, Lois Baron, said she had to leave a party early to make schmaltz, as the High Holy days of the Jewish year approached and she was the cook in the family. Long having wanted to explore this oft-maligned fat, I asked for Lois’s help in understanding its history and use. (Almost everyone refers to it as “heart attack food,” but it’s not. It’s good for you! In moderation. Lois is in her 70s and cooks like a banshee, her husband Russell is in his 80s and still practices law, and Lois’s mom cooked schmaltz well into her 90s, though she wouldn’t admit it.) Schmaltz, rendered chicken fat flavored with onion, was such an odd topic, and so focused, it didn’t seem like a big-book idea, so Donna encouraged me to Read On »

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  I’m giving my site over today to my friend Stephanie Stiavetti, who writes The Culinary Life blog, and whose first book, Melt, will be published next year by Little, Brown. Here she focuses on cinnamon at a time of the year when the smell of cinnamon announces the celebratory nature of the month and soothes stress. It’s true, the smell of cinnamon bread baking makes for a better mood around the house. A note about yeast and temperatures—many novice bakers get in a fluff about it. Fresh? Active dry? Instant dry? What’s it all mean? I’m not going to go into it because it’s boring—use dry, it doesn’t matter what kind (I recommend Red Star or SAF, same company). You don’t need to be obsessive about the temperature of the liquid. This recipe will Read On »

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  It’s Thursday as I write this, a week before Thanksgiving. This year we’re driving to the Hudson Valley to celebrate with Donna’s big and growing family—something like 21 adults, a few teenagers, and a few youngsters. Donna volunteered me for the gravy because, well, let’s face it, gravy is a no-brainer and will travel well. (Recipes for stock and Friday Cocktail below.) A no-brainer if you make excellent turkey stock now! I’ll be doubling or tripling the below recipe this year. Today, I’ll be roasting drumsticks, wings, and necks. (I read on Wednesday in the Times that the venerable Jacques Pépin picks the meat off the neck of the turkey and adds it to the gravy. I might try that this year.) Roasting them will give your stock a nice flavor. All that golden brown Read On »

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My daughter was assisting Donna during these videos for Le Creuset cookware (which I love, and am genuinely honored to be working with this company; seriously, not worthy, but I try). After the shoot, Addison said, angrily, real anger, “Why don’t you make that potato cheesy thing for me?!” “Good lord,” I said, “I’d make them all the time if I thought you’d eat them!” [I didn’t say, “Because of all the things you refused to eat when I tried to make good food for you!”] I cherish her but she’s difficult. Fact is, these are the easiest, best potatoes ever, and in this Le Creuset gratin dish, they not only cook perfectly, they’re gorgeous to serve. Watch the video—shallots are key, and I love that you can start the dish on the stovetop. And Le Read On »

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That 30 cases of salmonella have been reported in 18 states is, of course, troubling (HuffPo story here). I buy bottled stuff—mustard, mayo, ketchup, hoisin, etc.—and feed it to my kids. But the salmonella—have they isolated its source?—makes it an an opportune time to encourage people to make their own peanut butter. Why? It tastes better, it’s easy to make if you have a food processor, and it won’t have nasty bugs that can make your kids sick. And, it’s cheaper by far than buying commercial. At my local Asian grocery, a five-pound bag of peanuts costs me $9.99. A pound of peanuts ($2) will yield a little more than a pound of peanut butter, less than half what you’ll pay for decent peanut butter (Smucker’s All-Natural costs $4.83 at my local store and a whopping $11.66 from Read On »

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