I knew I would be spending this afternoon with a dear friend, Laura, the girl I sat next to as we graduated from Duke in 1985. She’s in considerable anguish having lost her love to cancer, her soul, the man whose heart she carries in her heart, to use E.E. Cumming’s famous words. Harry, a lovely, brilliant, funny and delightful man, gone at 58. There are no words adequate to offer, only one’s presence. And soup. I roasted a chicken last night, ate some for dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but saved most of it, and all the bones, to carry on the subway along with 4 carrots, 2 onions, celery, three tomatoes a bay leaf, to the upper east side. I set to work immediately, getting the bones boiling (I didn’t have much time, so with 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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  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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Sunday night my dear friends JD and Catherine Sullivan invited me for dinner. JD is a good cook (see the sausage making video we did together; video also feature my partner in tools, Mac Dalton, an appearance by my young son, James, who now, lean and tall, looks me straight in the eye, and JD at the end; it’s a good primer on making sausage). But when I arrived to find that JD’s chicken Provençal was simply baked chicken with herbs I was prepared to be underwhelmed. JD explained that it was a recipe from the estimable Sam Sifton who runs the excellent NYTimes cooking site. Chicken is seasoned, floured, put in a baking dish and roasted for about an hour. It turned out to be a terrific preparation, thanks to the aggressive herbage, and also, importantly, Read On »

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    When Donna and I stay in New York we are five blocks away from my favorite butcher in the city. And it is my favorite not simply because it’s the closest. There are other butchers in the West Village, but none are quite like Dickson’s Farmstand in the Chelsea Market, a food emporium that runs a full city block of West 15th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. One look at the meat case and you won’t disagree with me. It runs the gamut from charcuterie and salumi (excellent dry cured meats, pâtés, duck confit caked in duck lard), sausage, fresh cuts of lamb, pork, and beef, and even very good frozen meat stocks, plus a few condiments (mustards, finishing salts) and several fine books devoted to meat. But it’s more than what Read On »

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