Looking to check out a new media format, the Kindle Single, I came across Ann Patchett’s long essay The Getaway Car. I bought it for $3 and was reading away on my sleak Kindle Fire moments later. (Impulse purchasing = Danger!) In this case, the purchase was well worth it. The highly regarded novelist tells her story—every writer has a different one. Patchett, in easy, conversational prose (it kind of reads like a long email to an acquaintance), traces her course from a girl who knew she wanted to be a writer pretty much since she became conscious of being conscious, through college, the Iowa writing program, skipping over a brief marriage, work as a waitress at TGIFridays where she made up stories in her head, to teaching writing, through the actual creation of her Read On »

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Chicken-Fried Pork Belly Ceasar/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman [A fellow Twitter hound tweeted this post from last May and I thought, it’s always a good time for more pork belly! Back to regular posting next week—M.R.] It is time again to bring out The Chicken-Fried Pork Belly Salad, which I created in August 2007 in the midst of my fury at the chief icon of American restaurant food: The Chicken Caesar.  Today’s post was sparked by Sam Sifton’s NYTimes magazine column on the Caesar salad, which addresses the fact that few dishes are truly authentic, and he uses the Caesar salad as an example. For me putting a chicken breast on a perfectly good Caesar is an emblem of American mediocrity, a lack of imagination, and our fear of food (The Shame of the Chicken Caesar Read On »

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I ran this photo by Donna a while ago, but came across it this weekend and love it so much I decided to put it back up. Just because. Want to see something even more beautiful? Watch this video, from Grant Achatz and the team at Alinea and Next, the restaurant that is now devoted to childhood. Anyone else tear up? It was the beaters that got me. (My colleague Emilia Juocys found it and put it in the Sidenotes here but it deserves to be featured.)

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Winners were chosen at random, but the ah-ha moments were so interesting and so vast, they deserve their own post, or maybe even a book!  Many thanks to all who offered their personal “Ah-Ha.”  And thank you Rob Levitt, of Chicago’s Butcher & Larder for suggesting this idea in the first place! Here are the winners of a signed copy of Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques; 100 Recipes; A Cook’s Manifesto and their “Ah-Ha” moment: Ryan: My Ah-Ha moment came the first time I used a knife that wasn’t from a garage sale or Walmart. Before that moment cutting food (much less cooking it) was always a chore; something done because it had to be, not because I wanted to. But from the first moment I used a real knife instead of a cheap stamped commodity Read On »

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As I begin to travel this week to promote my new book, I want to give away five personalized signed copies. But I want something from you. An “ah-ha” moment. Earlier in the month, promoting my appearance at Butcher & Larder in Chicago, owner Rob Levitt asked people for just such a moment, a revelation, a moment when you tasted something, combined two uncommon ingredients, used a tool in a new way, that changed the way you saw food, the kitchen, cooking. I’ve had many, and they’re always a thrill. I write about one in the new book, the time my chef instructor at the CIA, Michael Pardus, tasted my cream of broccoli soup and said, “This is good. But I want you to take this back to your station and taste it again. Then I Read On »

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