Returned from one full week in Charleston feeling as never before what an exciting food town it has become. While I was there to film more Le Creuset demos at their new headquarters with Taste Five Media, as part of the fun I got to explore the town some more. By chance the Spoleto festival was underway and my dear mum was in town with friends. She’d booked a table at Cypress where Craig Deihl continues to serve house-cured salumi that is second to none in the country that I’ve tasted. My favorite was the Braunschweiger, smoked liverwurst. Most interesting charcuterie note was that for his emulsified sausages, such as the mortadella on the left, he grinds the meat five times rather than using a powerful chopper called a Buffalo chopper. Charleston is one of Read On »

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I first saw a grill pan used in 1996 at the Monkey Bar when John Schenk was its chef and I was trailing Adam Shepard while reporting The Making of a Chef. I was surprised and thought it was kind of cheating, implying to the diner with those grill marks that some smoky goodness was sure to come with it. But I saw it again and again in kitchens and when I finally was sent one as a gift, a rank second-bester compared with A-1 Le Creuset (which I still don’t actually own), well, I kind of liked it. If I cooked a tri-tip sirloin sous vide from Under Pressure, I could mark it off after in a grill pan and not only did it look great (a matter of no small consequence), but also the Read On »

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  Kitchen tools need not be expensive to be valuable. The above Benriner mandoline is one of my most valued kitchen tools for uniform slicing, julienning, and making brunoise (a julienne turned into a dice). By far my most valuable electric device in my kitchen is the hand blender—I use Braun that seems to be unavailable, but I bought this Cuisinart version for my mom  ($47) and it works well—these devices all do the job of pureeing soups and sauces, easy whisking, quick mayonnaise, and I make vinaigrettes in the cup attachment, which will even emulsify a great Caesar dressing will pureeing the garlic. Every kitchen needs a scale, the most reliable way of measuring, especially if you’re baking (which is why more cookbooks are including, if not leading with, metric weights, as does the ground-breaking Bouchon Bakery cookbook—another Read On »

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It’s time again for my picks for the big-ticket items, those expensive appliances and pots that are game changers, but real investments. I’ve just started a relationship with Le Creuset, the company that makes the best enameled cast-iron cookware on earth. My go-to pot is the 7-quart Dutch Oven (they’re made in France and the company wants me to call them French ovens, which I find interesting since there really should no longer be a nationality attached to the thing; my preferred name for this one is “My Favorite Pot”). It’s what I bought my beloved Dad long ago; now, sadly, I have two of them. My other favorite is the braiser, the everyday pot in which you can cook just about anything. (Here’s one of the videos we did, where I use this pot Read On »

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While I love this video—and, yes, Le Creuset is giving away ten of these awesome oval pots (yes, giving them away)—the video doesn’t show how succulent and delicious and simple these bean dishes are. Kate will be pissed that I’m desecrating her beloved cassoulet with American middle-of-the-week ease. Sorry, Kate (but not really). I got great Tarbais-style beans from Steve Sando of Ranch Gordo; these and a great pot are all you need. Sure, I’d love some moulard duck leg confit, but I don’t have it here! What I have is pork! And I love pork, and it’s delicious, and this dish adds up to just a few dollars a portion (even with Whole Foods meat!). Easy cassoulet, American style: thick chunks of bacon started in water (to speed the fat-rendering), browned, then pork shoulder chunks seared in the Read On »

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