Over the weekend I was working on a recipe based on the traditional low country dish, shrimp and grits.  I’d found excellent grits from this company at my grocery store, I tapped my friend and former instructor Eve Felder for her recollections of growing up in Charleston, and I made shrimp and grits for Donna, a late dinner after seeing the amazing Jeff Bridges performance in Crazy Heart. I’d made extra grits so in cleaning up after dinner, I poured the leftovers into a springform pan and refrigerated them.  By morning they were solid and sliceable. Donna happened to be setting up to shoot wine braised short ribs and semolina egg noodles.  I happened to be hungry.  I also happened to have some duck sausage and chicken sausage (from Charcuterie) on hand, a gift for Read On »

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I posted yesterday on twitter that I began cooking because I was hungry but continued to cook because I loved to eat, and it got me thinking.  There are so many different reasons to cook, as a number of twitters pointed out.  Self-defense was a good one!  And with the state of our processed food, one that every cook can claim!  Can I encourage other bloggers to post about why you cook?  Spell it out.  Writing it down forces you to know what you think.  When I was nine, I cooked because I was hungry and making things was fun.  Today, age 46 and devoted to family, I cook because: —I want my family to have great food all the time that’s tasty and good for their body and brains. —I cook because it relaxes Read On »

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James and I made popovers Sunday morning and sprinkled them with vanilla sugar, and this sugar made the popovers appealing in a surprisingly effective way.  Like fleur de sel on caramel.  It brought the flavors and textures together without overtly calling attention to itself.  When I’d posted a while ago in a recipe to discard the vanilla bean, I got what amounted to a scolding from Shuna, who found it appalling that one could so easily waste an opportunity for the pleasures of vanilla sugar.  She was right to scold. I had never really taken the time to appreciate the wonderful aromatic flavor of sugar but now I always will.  It deserves a place in the spice rack.  That it is born of economy makes it all the more enjoyable. If you’ve just made some Read On »

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After my minor salt rant, a number of people asked which salt to use and what I thought about various salts.  There are a mind-numbing array of salts out there, even big blocks of salt you can cook and serve on.  But, with apologies to Mark Bitterman, whose work and business I truly admire, I stick to three salts.  Kosher is my all-purpose, everyday, really-don’t-need-any-other-kind salt.  I use Morton’s because that’s what my grocery store stocks. If they offered a choice, I’d use Diamond Crystal, which is flakier and doesn’t have any anti-caking agents in it.  It’s just salt.  I use fine sea salt to season fish and vegetables I eat raw.  And I use a finishing salt for visual and textural appeal, fleur de sel or Maldon. I was given some smoked salt, which 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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