Last week I wrote about our first meal in Italy with the Motturas—the fineness of the meal and the pleasures of sitting down to many courses. But many courses didn’t mean many elaborate courses but rather food of the simplest order. The first course was composed of nothing more than day-old bread and a few garden vegetables, seasoned with vinegar and oil. When this was done, our host Alessandra disappeared from the table to make the soup course. It too used vegetables from the garden and water. I’ve long espoused the value of water, devoting a whole chapter to its many uses in Ruhlman’s Twenty, and I was pleased to see it used so efficiently here. So much so that I bought a couple of small summer squashes at our Saturday farmers’ market to make Read On »

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So so so many people tell me they have a cookbook to write, asking for advice, and I almost always do my best to discourage them, with Asian delicacy and Germanic firmness, I hope. Because I believe that there are too many cookbooks out there already and the ones so often published add nothing new. So when writer and educator Dianne Jacob asked me what does define a successful cookbook, it got me thinking. She’s written an excellent post collating many, many responses from people in the industry. The responses are surprising in their diversity. The first and obvious answer is, a book is successful if it makes money for the publisher and author.  And there are many ways this can happen, meaning that a book that sells 10,000 copies can be a resounding success Read On »

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It requires a certain amount of stress to cook for a lot of people. Otherwise you won’t get it done. Too much work, and therefore too much focus and efficiency to both get everything done and also enjoy yourself. You’ve got to like this very peculiar kind of stress.  Or like the release that inevitably follows. And it’s not the same kind of release as it is for the guy who, when asked why he’s banging his head against the wall, responds, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”  But it’s close. You’ve just got to have that kind of love-the-pressure, love-the-release to cook for a lot of people night after night. If you do, you can make a good and happy living as a cook and maybe chef-restaurateur. Me, I really only liked Read On »

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I did two promotional videos for my new book, one a general description of the book (love that that one has a shot of Donna photographing, and one about an idea I thought people might call me out on. Even my recipe tester/organizer/overseer, Marlene Newell, had issues with this. Can food be a technique? I say it can. A technique is an action that has multiple applications. So while yes, an egg is an egg, it’s also an emulsifier, a leavener, a binder, and enricher. Therefore using an egg can be considered a core cooking technique. Knowing how to use salt, is one of the chef’s greatest assets. Learning how to think about these foods as tools makes you a better cook. Disagree? I’ve heard some gripes but nothing substantial. I’d love to read comments. Read On »

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In preparation for Thanksgiving, America’s biggest home-cooking day, I’ll be addressing a few of the most common issues and frequently asked questions about the basics: roasting turkey and making gravy. Friday, I’ll be introducing an innovate and  in my opinion the best possible way to roast a whole turkey (it involves a dual method and resulted last year in Donna’s saying, “This is the best roasted turkey we’ve ever had.”) But first things first: make turkey stock now so that you have it on hand to make gravy. I don’t know where we got the idea that a roasting turkey results enough juices to make gravy. It doesn’t. And you certainly want to have way too much gravy on Thanksgiving so that you have leftovers. My favorite day-after meal is hot turkey sandwiches, smothered in Read On »

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