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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Between you and me, putting a salted bird in a heavy-duty pan and popping the pan into a really hot oven is almost too simple to be called a technique, but one of the most frequently asked question I get is, “How do I roast a chicken?” So, it must be a technique! In Le Creuset’s third giveaway (ten awesome roasting pans—for chicken, potatoes, brownies, cornbread, just about anything!), we’re roasting. We roast a chicken in this pan because it has low sides, allowing great circulation for the moist bird, and because we can put it on the stovetop to make the sauce after we’ve cooked the bird. How to roast a chicken: Either truss or stuff the bird (with a lemon or onion) so that hot air circulating inside the cavity doesn’t overcook the breast. Put Read On »

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