Ideas of what you want to can get stuck in your head until you actually cook what your brain won’t let go of. This happened last week when I chanced on a recipe for spicy orange beef in The NYTimes cooking newsletter. I love this dish and often order it when I see it, and I’ve made variations throughout the years. But having the second half of an excellent chicken breast from butcherbox (boneless but happily with the skin left on), I decided that spicy orange would work with chicken perfectly well. And so it did, in under 30 minutes in a tiny Manhattan kitchen. It’s all about the sauce, but coating and frying the meat is also important for flavor and texture. I didn’t have any cornstarch on hand so used flour in the egg Read On »

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Last week I turned in the final draft of my book about grocery stores in America, called GROCERY: THE BUYING AND SELLING OF FOOD IN AMERICA. One of the chapters discusses prepared foods in grocery stores, a category that’s growing but which is really hard to make money at if you’re the grocer. The narrative anchor of the book is small chain of stores in Cleveland and Chicago. And one of their most popular prepared dishes is this Chicken Romano. They sell 85,000 pounds of it each year, or about 1,700 pounds a week. I’d recently been sent some chicken breasts by a company called Butcherbox, a mail-order buisness offering grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and heritage pork. I’ve tried samples of all and the quality is excellent. While I still think that the fat of grass-fed beef is a Read On »

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Just returned from the New York Times Food For Tomorrow Conference (this post being in keeping with my goal of keeping a culinary web log), and I found it energizing and amazing, in large measure because it was held at Blue Hill Stone Barns in Westchester, New York, an amazing place, led by chef Dan Barber, about whom I will say this: He can be really fucking annoying. Which I’ll get to.     I was there because NYT food editor Sam Sifton, who knew I was working on (just finished in fact) a book about grocery stores in America. I would be on a panel with Rodney McMullen, CEO of the biggest traditional grocer in the country, Kroger, with 2,600 some stores, including those in about 30 chains that do not bear the Kroger name. McMullen Read On »

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  Today is my long gone father’s birthday. I want to say Hi to him, and to honor the Grace of this day. And I do so with food, which so often was the ultimate means of connection for us. He loved to grill, and he created what is still my favorite baste, for grilled chicken: a simple mustard-tarragon-butter sauce. I start it be squeezing lime into a pan and using the beurre monte technique, swirling cold butter into it. This keeps the butter homogenized and somewhat viscous so that it adheres to the chicken when you baste. It’s tart and piquant from the lime and mustard; the shallots give it sweetness and texture; and the tarragon adds its ineluctable ethereal grace notes. He shared a birthday with F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the book that matters Read On »

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  When I began living in a 400-square-foot studio apartment in New York City’s West Village a year ago, I lost my cooking mojo. I had about three dishes I’d cook—stir-fried beef, curried chicken, steak or chop with sautéed potatoes and spinach—and the rest of the home meals were takeout form Mrs. Green’s on Hudson Street. But during a call with my therapist, she asked if I was cooking. I said, No, not much, though I used to cook all the time. She said, I think you might feel better if you spent more time cooking. She was right. So I have determined to cook more. And I’ve turned back to books to jumpstart my imagination. I looked first to Joe Yonan‘s Serve Yourself, a cooking-for-one book. Are these inherently unhappy books? No, but the book Vegan Cooking for One Read On »

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