It was cold, windy night, dark by 5 pm, and I was in the mood for chili. I was also alone in my pajama pants and had no intention of leaving my toasty apartment for the tomatoes and onions I didn’t have. I knew I had a frozen pound of ground beef in the freezer, a box of pasta, a stalk of broccoli, though. So instead of putting the meat in the chili, I figured I’d put the chili in the meat, make chili meat balls, serve them on garlic pasta, with a side of good-for-you greenery. I keep a good stash of fresh spices in my freezer. I made the preparation hard on myself by cooking the spices and garlic in some olive oil before adding them to the meat—brings out the flavor in the Read On »

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My trusted assistant, Emilia Juocys, emailed to say she was making her holiday eggnog and I said, “Take pix! I want to remind people to get their eggnog made!” She did, see above, then pointed me to this intriguing Food Lab article on aged eggnog: http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/is-aging-holiday-eggnog-worth-it.html. It seems intuitive to me that the longer anything ages, the more complex and funky it will be. But is it better? That was the case with two-year eggnog, which had turned a kind of dangerous-looking brown, but I enjoyed the deep funk. How can you keep dairy and eggs in your fridge for a year or three? The alcohol kills the bacteria that cause food to spoil (not to mention salmonella that might be in raw egg). This is a good thing to remember if you need to leave Read On »

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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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  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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