Back again with another technique and recipe—here the classic béchamel sauce, one of the great, yet rarely used, sauces for the home kitchen. We don’t always have veal stock around for classical demi or Espagnole, or often any stock for a velouté. But milk we do have: flavor it with some shallot, a little nutmeg, salt and pepper, thicken it with cooked flour and you have a dynamite all-purpose sauce, for chicken, fish, or my favorite sandwich on earth, the croque madame. So, so good. This is a great weekend lunch or anytime dinner. (FYI, I love the montage that opens these videos but if you’ve seen it, the technique begins at 1:11.) I asked to use this particular Le Creuset vessel because of its clever utility. In restaurant kitchens, sauté pans regularly double as Read On »

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We’re back again with another valuable technique, the water bath, essential for gentle cooking. The water bath uses the miracle tool, water. Water makes life as we know it possible. It’s one of the only substances that expands when it freezes rather than contracts (if it didn’t, ice would sink, not simply ruining your gin and tonic, but rendering the gin and tonic moot, as most of habitable earth would be flooded). Water cannot go above 212°F in normal circumstances (it can if you heat it under pressure or, with less pressure, specifically at high altitudes, it turns to gas at lower temperatures). And importantly, it cools as it evaporates (which is why sweating cools our body). In this video we use it to gently cook emulsified shrimp and cream, mixed with whole chunks of Read On »

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Introducing the first of a new series of cooking videos on technique, though admittedly this one focuses on an actual Le Creuset piece, the cocotte. I love these little dishes. They’re great to cook in and great to serve in. I’m dying to do a little snail potpie in them. In this video, though, I’m cooking my favorite ingredient, the egg. How many ways can this little miracle of nutrition and economy be brought to ethereal heights of soul-satisfying deliciousness? Enough to fill a book or ten (wait for mine, coming in April). Here, I’m going with perhaps the easiest way of all to cook an egg, baked in an enclosed vessel. There are three different terms applied to eggs cooked in an oven. The second, after baked, is coddled: covered and baked in a Read On »

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Video: looking for something different to make this summer, try Melissa Clark’s corn ice cream, via New York Times.

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The above is, technically, an intro to the Chicago restaurant Alinea, led by restaurateur Nick Kokonas and chef Grant Achatz, whose story I recount in The Reach of a Chef. The question “Are chefs artists?” almost always annoys me. Grant told me he considers himself as such (and not without reason). His mentor Thomas Keller considers himself, the chef, a craftsman. In a long-ago post I reprint from Reach of a Chef my chapter on chef Masa Takayama, making a case I almost argue against: that the chef can, in certain instances, rise to the level of artist. That chefs are artists is a facile assumption that is almost always wrong. To complicate matters in the funnest of possible ways, in walks Christian Seel, a chef as actual filmmaker, creating this, one of the most Read On »

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