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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Our last night in Florida, my mom, having no real plans for dinner, thawed a pork tenderloin she’d been wanting but was in a quandary how to cook it. I find pork tenderloin a little on the ho-hum side, but a marinade 0f some kind would help it considerably. Marinades can be a contentious subject, especially when you include something acidic, vinegar or citrus juice.  Marinades do not tenderize meat.  I almost never include acid in a marinade because it “cooks” the exterior of the meat (in a good way if you’re making the ceviche below).  If I want something acidic with the meat, I add it just before or during the cooking.  Nor do marinades penetrate the meat, not to any real effect.  If I want flavors to penetrate meat I use salt or Read On »

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Update 9/13/07: Chicago Tribune writer Kevin Pang and anonymous reviewer are first to review the dish. I personally will not rest until this dish makes it onto The Cheesecake Factory Menu. Yesterday I received a heartening email about my plea to rid the nation of the tragedy called the Chicken Caesar Salad and my suggestion for a protest replacement.  It wasn’t from an esoteric ADD freaking madman cook putting rooster tops on romaine.  It was a man of the heartland, a relative unknown, a cook who’s spent a plenty of time in corporate chefdom.  His name is Mark Mavrantonis and he’s the chef at Mike Ditka’s suburban outpost in Oakbrook Terrace, a half hour outside Chicago.  (You gotta trust a chef who goes after his own king crabs.) It’s proof that some of these guys Read On »

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It’s the only way to redeem the catastrophe of the Chicken Caesar.  Wed it with pork belly that has been briefly cured, then gently poached in fat, cooled in fat, then sliced, breaded and deep-fried.  I want to say it again: Pork belly confit, deep-fried.  Oh, man it is soooo good. Following what I think is an extraordinary thread of comments on the Caesar Salad in America, for which I want to express huge thanks to those who took the time to write and argue; all of you help me to know what I think and I hope think better, and I am grateful—I humbly introduce … The Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar.  I didn’t do the croutons because of the crispy nature of the pork but Donna suggested that for a truly innovative interpretation, Read On »

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