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Updated: 2010-02-24T07:20:19Z

 



Chicken Cooked in a Pig's Bladder (Chef Eric Frechon at Daniel)

2010-02-24T07:20:19Z

Maybe I'm crass, but when I think bladder, I think pee. When the bladder comes up in conversation, it's usually in the context of "my bladder is going to explode, please pull over" or "ouch, don't sit on my bladder, I just drank a liter of Coke." It's rarely: "Mmm, you know what would be delicious? Puffing up the bladder of a pig and cooking a chicken in it!" If someone said that to you, you might stare at them, mouth agape, wondering how quickly you might get to the nearest exit. Yet, at some point before I arrived at the NYT 4-star Michelin 3-star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, the visiting chef--another Michelin 3-star chef, Chef Eric Frechon from The Bristol in Paris--made that very statement. And no one recoiled in horror; in fact, they helped him do it.... Maybe I'm crass, but when I think bladder, I think pee. When the bladder comes up in conversation, it's usually in the context of "my bladder is going to explode, please pull over" or "ouch, don't sit on my bladder, I just drank a liter of Coke." It's rarely: "Mmm, you know what would be delicious? Puffing up the bladder of a pig and cooking a chicken in it!" If someone said that to you, you might stare at them, mouth agape, wondering how quickly you might get to the nearest exit. Yet, at some point before I arrived at the NYT 4-star Michelin 3-star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, the visiting chef--another Michelin 3-star chef, Chef Eric Frechon from The Bristol in Paris--made that very statement. And no one recoiled in horror; in fact, they helped him do it. First some background: Chef Daniel Boulud (the Daniel behind Daniel) invited Chef Frechon to cook at his flagship restaurant to celebrate both of them getting their three Michelin stars. Here they are talking to the crowd: Chef Frechon brought along his crew from The Bristol and Chef Boulud, in turn, invited the media. At this luncheon, there were placecards for Florence Fabricant and Christine Muhlke of The New York Times, heavy hitters from Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine and then, well, me. I felt a bit out of place in such austere company but I was quickly set at ease by my table mates: to my left, Rachel McLennan, part of the P.R. firm that brought me, and to my right Pamela Parseghian of Nation's Restaurant News. Both were easy to talk to and non-judgmental as I pigged out and got slightly tipsy at one in the afternoon. The food, from the get-go, was pretty spectacular. The first course was Cauliflower Mousse with Red Onion-Sherry Gelee with Haddock Foam (in French: Gelee D'Oignon Rouge Au Xeres, Ecume de Haddock): This had the smoked fishiness of whitefish salad but was far smoother and more refined and perfectly balanced with the other components, particularly the gelee. Next was: Scallop and Oyster Tartare, Curried Lemon Whipped Cream (in French: Saint-Jacques Et Huitres, Tailees Au Couteau en Tartare, Chantilly "Citron-Curry"): This was pretty amazing: you cut in and there, inside that shell, were cut up raw oysters and scallops. With that lemon whipped cream, it was a lovely, decadent and yet refreshing plate of food, maybe my favorite of the whole meal. Then there was Oven Baked Cod, Watercress Jus, Lemon Butter (Cabillaud: Epais Cuit Au Plat, Jus De Cresson De Fontaine, Beurre Citron): This was nice, if a bit gimmicky with that foam (not every plate needs foam on it in the 21st century), yet sightly forgettable, especially since the next course was... Now before you're truly disgusted, I've done some serious research (I Googled "chicken in a pig's bladder") and came across a list of superstar chef Marco Pierre White's favorite dishes of all time, one of them being this very dish which he attributes to legendary chef Fernand Point. Here's what Chef White has to say: "What Point did was genius: putting a chicken in a pig's bladder with truffles under the skin and port, Madeira, Armagnac and truffle juice." The article goes on to explain: "The bladder poached in water insulated its contents but stretched and swelled up like a bal[...]



The Great Soup Battle of 2010

2010-01-29T17:08:06Z

Hear those distant drums? A great battle is about to begin: the Great Soup Battle of 2010. As readers may remember, last week I announced a big contest on my blog. Submit your favorite soup recipe--it didn't have to be original, just a soup recipe that you love--and the best one would win a $450 VitaMix blender. Then 325 of you, that's right 325 of you, submitted recipes. And little old me had to wade through them to pick the best. It was hard work, not for the faint of heart, but I wound up choosing the three most intriguing; recipes that, for whatever reason, grabbed my attention and made me hungry to try them. Then I invited my friends Diana Fithian (an enthusiastic home cook) and Leland Scruby (who works at the French Culinary Institute) over to help me make them. The three of us, plus Craig, would sample these soups and carefully choose the winner.... Hear those distant drums? A great battle is about to begin: the Great Soup Battle of 2010. As readers may remember, last week I announced a big contest on my blog. Submit your favorite soup recipe--it didn't have to be original, just a soup recipe that you love--and the best one would win a $450 VitaMix blender. Then 325 of you, that's right 325 of you, submitted recipes. And little old me had to wade through them to pick the best. It was hard work, not for the faint of heart, but I wound up choosing the three most intriguing; recipes that, for whatever reason, grabbed my attention and made me hungry to try them. Then I invited my friends Diana Fithian (an enthusiastic home cook) and Leland Scruby (who works at the French Culinary Institute) over to help me make them. The three of us, plus Craig, would sample these soups and carefully choose the winner. First, Leland, Diana and I had to choose which soups each of us were going to make. Here's Leland and Diana surveying their options: Leland selected the first option, Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli) submitted by Allen Small. [Note: all recipes will be posted at the end.] I chose that recipe for the top three because of the intriguing combination of pancetta (or slab bacon) and anchovies; plus the recipe tells you to put a Parmesan cheese rind in with the soup as it simmers. I just had to know what that would taste like. Diana chose the second option, Veselka's Cabbage Soup submitted by Youri. This recipe fascinated me for many reasons, mostly the combination of simmered pork butt and sauerkraut. What would that taste like? Again, I just had to know. Finally, I chose the Szechwan Carrot Soup submitted by Mira. This was the simplest of the bunch, but no less exciting. You simmer carrots with ginger then blend them in a blender with peanut butter, soy sauce and sesame oil. Wouldn't you want to know how that would turn out? We immediately got to cooking: Here's Leland's work station. Notice how organized he is; organization is one of the most useful things he learned as a student at F.C.I., he told us. Into the pot went the bacon and the veg: Meanwhile, Diana discovered that her first step would take two hours (oops!). She added cubed pork butt to the pot with chicken stock, marjoram, bay leaves and allspice: As it simmered, the smell from the bay leaves were particularly intense; almost foresty in their pine-i-ness. Meanwhile, I cut up my carrots and ginger: And got them simmering with the stock: Here they are, the three soups going at once: Leland's was ready first. He removed the Parmesan rind: And served up four beautiful bowls of this: Isn't that gorgeous? In there you'll see cannellini beans, orzo, parsley, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese grated on top; plus the bacon and anchovies that provided the flavor base. We all ate the soup thoughtfully, considering its merits (which were many: flavorful, hearty, fresh-tasting) and its flaws (which were few; in fact, I can't think of one): Then it was my turn up to bat. I took my softened carrots (it took longer to get them soft than the recipe said; though my heat was p[...]



Do-It-Yourself Dumplings

2010-01-26T16:24:57Z

Brothers and sisters, I have seen the light! All these years, these years of reading Calvin Trillin (the poet laureate of dumplings) and fake nodding as my Manhattanite friends (ones who grew up here) debated dumpling dives, I faked an interest that didn't really exist. You see, I didn't really get the big deal. What's so great about dumplings? Aren't they just glorified ravioli, greasy gut-bombs that you dip in soy sauce and that make you feel gross and un-full and desperate for a salad? This, of course, is sacrilege in the food world but my confession here is a precursor for an absolute conversion that came about because of a little web show called Working Class Foodies.... Brothers and sisters, I have seen the light! All these years, these years of reading Calvin Trillin (the poet laureate of dumplings) and fake nodding as my Manhattanite friends (ones who grew up here) debated dumpling dives, I faked an interest that didn't really exist. You see, I didn't really get the big deal. What's so great about dumplings? Aren't they just glorified ravioli, greasy gut-bombs that you dip in soy sauce and that make you feel gross and un-full and desperate for a salad? This, of course, is sacrilege in the food world but my confession here is a precursor for an absolute conversion that came about because of a little web show called Working Class Foodies. Rebecca Lando, the show's star, along with her boyfriend/collaborator/director, Kit Pennebaker, invited me on a trip to Flushing, Queens for a Chinese food adventure. We were joined by VendrTV host, the exuberant Dan Delaney, and my good friend Diana. After a fun day of gorging--lamb sandwiches, duck buns on the street, and, the best, dumplings in an ice cream shop called White Bear--I met up with Rebecca and Kit to recreate those dumplings in their kitchen. All of this is captured in the following, beautifully-shot video: The dumplings we ate in Flushing were really exquisite--hot, mysterious, and very satisfying--but the dumplings we made at home were revelatory. Why were they revelatory? Because they were so ridiculously easy! And really delicious! As a testament to how revelatory this experience was, the very next night I decided to make dumplings again, this time for Craig. To start, I made two dipping sauces (Rebecca made two too, you just don't see them both in her video): The one on the right is the one you saw her make in the video: a simple combination of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chopped ginger and sliced scallions. The one on the left was her attempt to replicate what they put on the dumplings in Flushing--a spicy mixture of fried garlic, chiles and sesame oil. Rebecca made it look so easy and it is, in fact, very easy; in a skillet, fry chopped garlic and red chile flakes (or broken up chiles) in a neutral oil (I used canola) just until they're dark golden brown, but no further (you don't want them to burn): Put the fried bits in a ramekin and then stir in toasted sesame oil: Let that sit and you're done: two sauces in 10 minutes. As for the dumplings, watch how easy. In a bowl, combine one pound of ground-up pork, a chopped up knob of ginger... ...a chopped clove of garlic, a bunch of sliced scallions, and a big splash of soy sauce. Mush it all around (not too aggressively or the dumplings will be tough) and you're done! (I skipped the leeks and they were fine): You may notice in the above photo the secret weapon: wonton wrappers. These are what make the process so incredibly simple and rewarding. Lay out your wonton wrappers, wet them around the perimeter, scoop in using two small spoons about 1 Tbs of filling, and then seal them shut. They don't even have to be that beautiful, as you can see here: [Note: the really messy one on the upper right is from when I was just using my fingers to do it; the ones on the left are from when I switched to spoons.] Here's the process close up: Just make sure, when you fold it over, to seal tightly and to push all the air [...]



Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta

2010-01-25T16:25:14Z

White food is supposedly unappetizing. Tom Colicchio, on "Top Chef," will mark down a plate of food if everything on it is white or beige. I see his point: there's something almost clinical about a plate of white food. That's why parsley's such a useful ingredient to have around; it's an easy color-solution, the flecks of green create a vibrancy and sparkle a plain plate of white food just doesn't have. That said, there's always one plate of white food that makes me smile. It makes me smile because it's white food with a secret; a plate of white food that explodes with flavor. And that, faithful readers, is my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta.... White food is supposedly unappetizing. Tom Colicchio, on "Top Chef," will mark down a plate of food if everything on it is white or beige. I see his point: there's something almost clinical about a plate of white food. That's why parsley's such a useful ingredient to have around; it's an easy color-solution, the flecks of green create a vibrancy and sparkle a plain plate of white food just doesn't have. That said, there's always one plate of white food that makes me smile. It makes me smile because it's white food with a secret; a plate of white food that explodes with flavor. And that, faithful readers, is my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta. I call it my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower pasta, but it's really a riff on a recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook: "Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower." That recipe has nice color contrast between the broccoli and the cauliflower and if you're concerned about color, you can make that dish and be very happy. But usually, I don't want to buy broccoli AND cauliflower. And somehow, over the past few years, this recipe just evolved for me. Maybe because it's easy to grab a box of ziti and a head of cauliflower (the grand total? $5), go home and using ingredients I already have on hand (anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds) create a pretty intensely flavorful dinner. That's the secret, by the way, of the cauliflower pasta. Those flavors--again: anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds--are so powerful together, you'll take one bite and feel totally corrupted. That's where the "Hell" part of the title comes from; those flavors are so bad-ass, they're definitely going to hell. And the heaven, of course, because it looks almost all-white. One technique I've developed, after years of making this, amplifies those flavors even more. Judy Rogers, in the Zuni book, has you caramelize the cauliflower and broccoli, then add the garlic, anchovy, etc and cook that along with the veg until you add the pasta. Now, I conserve half the garlic mixture and only add it at the very, very end, so yes, the finished plate has raw garlic and raw anchovy but so, for that matter, does a Caesar salad and you don't hear anyone complaining about that, do you? [Note: in the above picture you can see the empty spice bowl, with the fennel seeds, garlic, etc. That bowl is a bowl of SIN.] I make this pasta at least once a month; it makes us feel a tiny bit wholesome from the cauliflower (another reason for the "Heaven" in the title) but naughty from all the olive oil and bad-breath inducing ingredients (the "Hell"). Are you ready to whip up a wicked plate of white food? Here's the recipe. Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta adapted from Judy Rodgers' "Zuni Cafe Cookbook" Ingredients: 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets Extra virgin olive oil 8 cloves of garlic, chopped 1 tin of anchovies, chopped (I know, I know, it's a lot: trust me) 1 - 2 Tbs fennel seeds Red pepper flakes to taste (depending on how spicy you like it) Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 2. In a large saute pan, coat the bottom with olive oil and turn up the heat to medium-high. Leave it for a minute or two until adding a piece of cauliflower makes it sizzle. 3. In a bowl, combine the garlic, the anchovies, the fennel seeds and [...]



How To Host A Vegetarian Dinner Party (Answer: Mushroom Bourguignon)

2010-01-21T15:32:36Z

My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we'd sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we'd cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we'd rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I'm back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner?... My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we'd sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we'd cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we'd rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I'm back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner? Travel through my archives, and you may note that when I have people over for dinner I almost always serve meat. There's something about serving meat at dinner parties--whether it's braised meat (like short ribs or lamb necks) or big roasts (like a pork loin or a whole roasted duck)--that inspires "oohs" and "ahhs" from the audience. It's difficult to get the same reaction with cauliflower. Complicating the equation was the fact that five of the six dinner guests (Eric, Ricky, David, Craig and myself) were big carnivores. It wouldn't be enough just to make a salad and a big cheese casserole (though I considered it): I was cooking to impress. What dish would satisfy both the blood-thirsty meat eaters and the meat-averse vegetarian? I didn't want to cook something meaty and extravagant for the five and just a side dish for Lisa; I wanted to make something everyone could love. Enter my friend Deb of Smitten Kitchen. You may know Smitten Kitchen as the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring food blog ever. Every time I visit, I get very, very hungry. So I asked Deb what I could make for this dinner party that would meet all this criteria and Deb wrote back: "I know! I know! Mushroom Bourguignon! It's all of the proshness of the beef version but vegetarian-friendly." I clicked the link and there was the answer: Mushroom Bourguignon. What a perfect solution. I spent a few hours working on this and the results were pretty incredible: a thick, meaty stew without any meat and all the excitement and aroma of a Bourguignon made with beef. Seriously, the smell of the garlic, the mushrooms and the red wine cooking is so intoxicating, no guest would be unhappy walking into your apartment if you were making this for dinner. And served on egg noodles, it's incredibly hearty and good. We started with fried chickpeas from Food52 to snack on with wine: Then an endive salad with Meyer lemon and, for dessert, flourless chocolate cake (recipe here). Look at the happy-satisfied David, shocked at how delightful a vegetarian dinner party can be: I was doubtful too but now I'm a convert: it's fun to cook for vegetarians. If there's a vegetarian in your life you've avoided having over to dinner, let this meal inspire you. You won't miss the meat: promise. Mushroom Bourguignon recipe by Deb Perelman of Smiten Kitchen [Note: I doubled this recipe to serve six people and that was plenty, plus leftovers.] Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons butter, softened [...]



Spectacular Sweet Potato Soup (PLUS: Win a $450 VitaMix Blender)

2010-01-19T18:06:49Z

A splash of this, a pinch of that: that's the kind of cooking I've always wanted to do, but I've never been very good at it. Sure, I'll sprinkle some cinnamon into my oatmeal and, yes, I'll sex up a plate of pasta with some red chile flakes, but the ability to cook impulsively, to grab ingredients out of the fridge and make something scrumptious, has always eluded me. That is until I discovered soup.... A splash of this, a pinch of that: that's the kind of cooking I've always wanted to do, but I've never been very good at it. Sure, I'll sprinkle some cinnamon into my oatmeal and, yes, I'll sex up a plate of pasta with some red chile flakes, but the ability to cook impulsively, to grab ingredients out of the fridge and make something scrumptious, has always eluded me. That is until I discovered soup. Of course, I've always known about soup. I've been eating it my whole life. But what I didn't know is that of all the things you can cook in your kitchen, soup is the dish that allows for the most poetic license: you can literally boil shoes in water until they're soft, whir them in a blender and you'd have soup. And so now I'm a soup-making fiend: at a dinner party a few weeks ago, I whipped up a fennel onion soup (from "Roast Chicken & Other Stories") that was such a cinch to make and so comforting on a cold winter's night, I was hooked. And what I'm loving now about soup (as you'll see with the sweet potato soup ahead) is how easy it is to improvise: how if you have an onion, any other vegetable (broccoli, peas, carrots, turnips), and a box of stock (chicken or vegetable or even just water), you can turn out a delicious soup in no time. And fooling around with spices and other aromatics, you can really make the soup your own. It helps that, a few months ago, I was sent a free VitaMix blender (yes, this stuff really happens to bloggers). I felt a little funny about it, this being a major kitchen appliance, so I kept it in the box; but only recently did I break it out. And I'm really glad I did, because this blender is a kitchen superstar. It blends things up with a vengeance and the soups I've made with it so far are so incredibly smooth, you don't even need to strain them. Plus you have lots of control over how fast it spins, so you can start out slow and build to warp speed. It's not only a fun toy to play with, it's incredibly useful. It's because of this blender that I was inspired to invent a soup of my own. After my recent epiphany about food shopping (see here), I had a refrigerator filled with potential soup ingredients. I settled on sweet potatoes. What follows is my first truly improvised recipe--a splash of this, a pinch of that--that results in a pretty killer soup. I dare you not to love it. Before we get to cooking, though, I have some exciting news: I've convinced the good people at VitaMix that if a putz like me gets a free blender, you should get one too. So they're donating a brand new VitaMix 5200 blender to one of YOU lucky readers. This blender, according to their website, has a value of $565.00 (though they sell it for $450) and it's the blender you see them using on shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef. You know you want it. So here's how you win it: share your favorite soup recipe in the comments. It can be someone else's recipe, your own recipe, or one that you make up as you type. I'll choose the ones that appeal to me the most, test them out in my kitchen, and invite a few judges over to help me pick the winner. The winner will be revealed in a post next Friday, January 29th. You have until this Monday, the 25th, to share your recipe. Make sure to include your e-mail address with your comment so I can contact you if you win! As for my winning recipe, here it is: spectacular sweet potato soup. You're going to love it. Spectacular Sweet Potato Soup 1. Chop up one onion, two carrots and a stalk of celery. If you don't have carrots or cele[...]



6 Years

2010-01-14T17:12:22Z

No need to make a fuss, but today's the 6th anniversary of my blog. Six years ago, on January 14th, 2004 to be exact, I wrote the following words: "Are you sick of competency? Of food blogs run by competent people with flawless track records and no history of salmonella? Are you tired of not having salmonella? You've come to the right place." Six years later, I can't believe how that small gesture changed my life so dramatically. Thanks to everyone who's supported me along the way (mentors, friends, colleagues, designers, illustrators, you know who you are) and, most importantly, thanks to you--yes YOU--for reading me. What do the next six years hold? I'm not sure, but if they're anything like the last six, I've got a lot to look forward to. [P.S. Check out this Serious Eats interview where I reveal my top 3 favorite posts from the past six years.]...

(image)

No need to make a fuss, but today's the 6th anniversary of my blog. Six years ago, on January 14th, 2004 to be exact, I wrote the following words: "Are you sick of competency? Of food blogs run by competent people with flawless track records and no history of salmonella? Are you tired of not having salmonella? You've come to the right place."

Six years later, I can't believe how that small gesture changed my life so dramatically. Thanks to everyone who's supported me along the way (mentors, friends, colleagues, designers, illustrators, you know who you are) and, most importantly, thanks to you--yes YOU--for reading me. What do the next six years hold? I'm not sure, but if they're anything like the last six, I've got a lot to look forward to.

[P.S. Check out this Serious Eats interview where I reveal my top 3 favorite posts from the past six years.]




The Best Tuna Sandwich in New York is at The New French

2010-01-14T16:48:45Z

Recently, I had my friends Rob and Kath over for dinner. They live in our building and we were chatting about the neighborhood, our favorite places to eat and, inevitably, The New French came up. "You know it's funny," I said. "At first I didn't love The New French, but recently I discovered their tuna sandwich and it's seriously the best tuna sandwich of my life." "You didn't just discover it," said Rob. "What?" "You blogged about it," he insisted. "Last year."...

(image)

Recently, I had my friends Rob and Kath over for dinner. They live in our building and we were chatting about the neighborhood, our favorite places to eat and, inevitably, The New French came up. "You know it's funny," I said. "At first I didn't love The New French, but recently I discovered their tuna sandwich and it's seriously the best tuna sandwich of my life."

"You didn't just discover it," said Rob.

"What?"

"You blogged about it," he insisted. "Last year."

I challenged this notion right away. "Nu uh!" I insisted. "I wrote about The New French, but I hadn't had their tuna yet."

"Yes you did," retorted Rob. "You were there with a food writer and you had the tuna. I remember it."

I ran to my computer, eager to prove this foolish dinner guest wrong, but as soon as I loaded up the post--this post, Lunch with Regina Schrambling at The New French--I felt like the fool. Right there, from July 2008 (almost two years ago), was a picture of the tuna sandwich I ate and the following statement: "You have never had a tuna sandwich like this in your life."

"See," said Rob. "I remembered because when I read that, I went there myself to try it."

That's the problem with having an aging blog; like an aging person, it (and you) begin to grow a bit senile.

That said, in that last post I didn't go so far as to say what I'm about to say now: the tuna sandwich at The New French is the best tuna sandwich in New York. It's an outrageously good sandwich. Lets look closely, shall we:

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The first thing to observe is the tuna itself. It does not come from a can, no no. The tuna is a real piece of tuna, cut into cubes, and cooked--I'm guessing here, but pretty sure--by slow poaching in oil. That's the only method that explains its unctuousness; it's the most unctuous tuna you will ever have. Then, as if that weren't unctuous enough (how many times can I use the word "unctuous" in this paragraph?), it's dressed in a rich lemon aioli.

But the real kicker is the bread: this isn't normal bread. They call it pizza bianca and it's crispy and pliant and flavorful like a focaccia. Along with all the other elements, it knocks this sandwich out of the stratosphere.

In conclusion, I may have grown redundant in my old age, but this sandwich is a sandwich worth seeking out. Plus, The New French is a charming space; bright during the day, with quirky hand-drawn art on the walls. Chances are if you go, you'll see me there; if you don't mind, will you help me cross the street when I'm done? I may need the help.

The New French
522 Hudson St. near 10th St.
(212) 807-7357




Caramelized-Apple Skillet Cake

2010-01-12T20:02:17Z

I had the apples, I had the butter, I had the sugar, the vanilla extract, and even the cornmeal. Jimmy was coming to dinner (see here) and, with only an hour or two to prep, I knew there had to be dessert. So I yanked down Karen DeMasco's newest book, The Craft of Baking, and followed her instructions for a caramelized-apple skillet cake.... I had the apples, I had the butter, I had the sugar, the vanilla extract, and even the cornmeal. Jimmy was coming to dinner (see here) and, with only an hour or two to prep, I knew there had to be dessert. So I yanked down Karen DeMasco's newest book, The Craft of Baking, and followed her instructions for a caramelized-apple skillet cake. For a quick, last-minute dessert it was perhaps a bit ambitious to attempt a riff on a tarte tatin (that French pastry of carmelized concentric apples cooked with a puff pastry) but I was in an ambitious kind of mood. Some people run for president when they're feeling ambitious, or write the great American novel, but I dumped some sugar into a skillet. You caramelize the sugar, then you add butter and then you add thinly sliced apples in a ring. On top of that you add a cake batter, this one made with corn meal (which gives it a nice corn bready sweetness) and bake. The dangerous/terrifying part comes later when you have to flip it out. And, like anyone with ambition who doesn't necessarily succeed (I'm talking to you, John Edwards!), Jimmy and Craig gawked as I tried to flip the finished cake on to the cake stand. This is what happened: Ya, not so inspiring. It wouldn't come out of the pan, so I had to cut the pieces with it right side up (or still upside down, depending on your perspective). The result? The piece you see at the top of this post, a pretty piece despite all the trauma, and--most importantly--it tasted fantastic. I loved the cornmeal in the crust, the gooey apple topping and all the crumbs I got to gobble up as I served everyone a piece. And everyone liked this mangled cake so much, they came back for seconds. So the moral is: even if you're running for president and you have an affair and a baby with your mistress while your wife is diagnosed with cancer, that baby might grow up to be a great kid someday, right? Same with this cake: it may have gotten off to a rocky start, but at the end of the day there can be little doubt, this cake's a cake any father, or pastry chef, can love. Caramelized-Apple Skillet Cake from Karen DeMasco's "The Craft of Baking" Ingredients: 1 cup sugar 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft 2 tart baking apples, such as Mutsu or Granny Smith 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, separated 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or fine polenta 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/3 cup whole milk Preheat the oven to 350 F. In an 8-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with 2 tablespoons water, stirring to make sure all of the sugar is damp. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar turns a golden brown caramel, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Peel, core, and using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the apples crosswise into 1/8-inch thick rings. Tightly shingle all of the apple rings over the caramel, starting around the outside of the skillet and working toward the center, overlapping the slices. [Note from Adam: that step may've been where I messed up, I only had one apple. But would that have made the cake less likely to detach?] In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, and the vanilla. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. M[...]



Food Writing 101

2010-01-11T18:53:24Z

For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, some exciting news: I'll be teaching an online food writing class for the Gotham Writers' Workhop next month. The class is eleven weeks, features direct feedback from yours truly on your writing samples, and--the coolest part--a workshop with New York Times food writer extraordinaire, Kim Severson. For more info on the class, click here.... For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, some exciting news: I'll be teaching an online food writing class for the Gotham Writers' Workhop next month. The class is eleven weeks, features direct feedback from yours truly on your writing samples, and--the coolest part--a workshop with New York Times food writer extraordinaire, Kim Severson. For more info on the class, click here.



How To Cook On A Budget

2010-01-07T23:06:58Z

I didn't grow up in a house with cooking, so food shopping was always a bit casual: a box of this, a bag of that. We'd have Fruit Roll-Ups in the cabinet and ice cream sandwiches in the freezer and so, when I became an adult and lived in my first adult apartment in college, I shopped the same way. I'd go to the store and buy a few frozen pizzas, a packet of cheese, a loaf of bread. There wasn't much thought behind it; the idea was when we weren't ordering in Chinese food or going down to Emory Village for dinner at Panera, I could make a grilled cheese or defrost a frozen pizza. Then, after college, I got into cooking.... I didn't grow up in a house with cooking, so food shopping was always a bit casual: a box of this, a bag of that. We'd have Fruit Roll-Ups in the cabinet and ice cream sandwiches in the freezer and so, when I became an adult and lived in my first adult apartment in college, I shopped the same way. I'd go to the store and buy a few frozen pizzas, a packet of cheese, a loaf of bread. There wasn't much thought behind it; the idea was when we weren't ordering in Chinese food or going down to Emory Village for dinner at Panera, I could make a grilled cheese or defrost a frozen pizza. Then, after college, I got into cooking. And from that point on, until just two weeks ago, I shopped in a very stupid way. I would pick a recipe, I would go to the store, and I would buy the ingredients for that recipe. It didn't occur to me when I was doing it that this method of shopping was stupid. I'd see a recipe I liked--oh, for example, the Thomas Keller recipe I just posted yesterday--and I'd go to the store and I'd buy the leeks and the rutabagas and the turnips and the chicken and the canola oil and the thyme and the garlic and I'd get to the cash register and, no joke, the total would be something like $40. I'd justify it by saying to myself: "Oh, it's ok that you're buying this canola oil, you'll use it plenty of times after this. And this thyme you can use tomorrow in tomato sauce or something like that." That kind of logic explains the cabinets full of obscure ingredients (black sesame seeds, Chinese five spice powder, walnut oil, pomegranate molasses) that I purchased for a single recipe and hardly ever used again. It also explains why, after several years of doing this, my bank account's grown slimmer and slimmer and cooking at home often feels more extravagant than eating out. This way of shopping, I've discovered, is no longer sustainable. It's actually Craig's parents who sparked this break-through. Every Christmas we go to visit them in Bellingham, Washington and every Christmas, morning, noon and night, a meal is provided, seemingly whipped up by magic. Hardly ever do I see his parents go food shopping, and yet there before us on Christmas morning is a breakfast casserole, the night before a large roast beef, and the night after a lasagna. What this is, I realized after talking to Craig's mom about it, is how you run a home when there are three kids and you have to cook on a budget. You don't shop recipe-to-recipe, flipping through cookbooks like a person of leisure in your bathrobe at four in the afternoon; you go to the store, you stock up and then you cook what you have on hand. Obvious to most, but a breakthrough for me, I returned to New York after Christmas and spent an hour at D'Agastinos, my local mainstream supermarket, and decided to shop like an adult, like someone who needs to feed a household for a whole week. I bought sweet potatoes because they would keep well in the refrigerator; I bought cauliflower because i could use it for pasta; I bought cans of tomatoes, anchovies, garlic; I bought boxes of pasta, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, a loaf of bread, granny smith apples, lemons, peanut butter and milk. By [...]



Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

2010-01-06T19:34:09Z

Roasting a chicken is a very personal thing; those of us who are regular chicken roasters (and, in the winter, roasting a chicken is almost a weekly act for me) know what we like. For me, that's a combination of fennel seeds, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt on the outside of the skin and thyme stuffed inside (see here). That recipe comes from the Chez Panisse cookbook and no matter how many other roast chicken recipes I try--the River Cottage one, for example--no chicken has been able to unseat the Chez Panisse chicken. That is, until last week.... Roasting a chicken is a very personal thing; those of us who are regular chicken roasters (and, in the winter, roasting a chicken is almost a weekly act for me) know what we like. For me, that's a combination of fennel seeds, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt on the outside of the skin and thyme stuffed inside (see here). That recipe comes from the Chez Panisse cookbook and no matter how many other roast chicken recipes I try--the River Cottage one, for example--no chicken has been able to unseat the Chez Panisse chicken. That is, until last week. Last week, I cracked open the Christmanukkah present I got from Craig's parents--Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home (thanks Julee and Steve!)--and decided to plunge in with the most alluring recipe I encountered on first flip-through: the roast chicken. It's not that his recipe was particularly revolutionary. Putting chicken in a pan with vegetables and roasting it is pretty much a technique you'll find in any and every cookbook on your shelf. No, what got me excited was his specificity: the specificity of the vegetables he wants you to roast ("tennis-ball-sized rutabagas," "golf-ball-sized red-skinned potatoes"), the specificity of the oil (canola oil instead of olive oil, because it's neutral), and the specificity of the oven temperature (475 for the first 20 minutes, then 400 for the remaining 45 minutes). God is in the details, as Thomas Keller well knows, and the chicken that came out of my oven last week was perfectly bronzed, a gorgeous golden-brown, and the vegetables were even sexier, deeply caramelized and slick with chicken fat. The vegetables, in fact, became the star of the show: while Craig and I devoured the chicken, we positively demolished the vegetables. Don't skimp on the rutabagas or the leeks, they're what make this dinner special. Is Chez Panisse dethroned? For the time being, yes. At the very least, I'll continue using canola oil (it makes the chicken more chickeny) and roasting a variety of vegetables with the chicken instead of just potatoes. And using those oven temperatures. And bringing the chicken to room temperature before roasting. And putting butter on the chicken breast before it goes in the oven. Oh, who am I kidding, this recipe is flawless: it's my new official chicken recipe. I'm guessing it'll be yours too as soon as you try it. Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables from Ad Hoc at Home One 4 to 4 1/2 lb chicken Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 6 thyme sprigs 2 large leeks 3 tennis-ball-sized rutabagas 2 tennis-ball-sized turnips 4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half 1 small yellow onion, trimed, leaving root end intact, and cut into quarters 8 small (golf-ball-sized) red-skinned potatoes 1/3 cup canola oil 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 475 F. Remove the neck and innards if they are still in the cavity of the chicken. Using a paring knife, cut out the wishbone from the chicken. (This will make it easier to carve the chicke[...]



Sardines, Mustard & Triscuits

2010-01-05T17:02:49Z

It all happened very quickly. My friend Jimmy IMed me and asked what we were up to, we said nada, decided to all go to a movie but first, I invited him over for dinner. "It won't be fancy," I warned. "Probably just some pasta." (I had penne in the cabinet and cauliflower in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make this recipe, minus the broccoli.) But after the plan was set, my hosting gene kicked in and I felt the need to also make a dessert and an appetizer. The dessert? I'll tell you about that later. But the appetizer came together in no time, and it had everything to do with having three ingredients on hand: spicy mustard, a box of Triscuits and a can of sardines.... It all happened very quickly. My friend Jimmy IMed me and asked what we were up to, we said nada, decided to all go to a movie but first, I invited him over for dinner. "It won't be fancy," I warned. "Probably just some pasta." (I had penne in the cabinet and cauliflower in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make this recipe, minus the broccoli.) But after the plan was set, my hosting gene kicked in and I felt the need to also make a dessert and an appetizer. The dessert? I'll tell you about that later. But the appetizer came together in no time, and it had everything to do with having three ingredients on hand: spicy mustard, a box of Triscuits and a can of sardines. Now if you're squeamish about sardines from a can, I thought I was right there with you. I always think of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," that scene where he's in the train car with a hobo and the hobo offers him a sardine. It's meant to be gross, isn't it? I've had high-end sardines at fancy restaurants, where the sardines are not from a can but fresh sardines grilled right there in the kitchen. But sardines from a can? No thank you, I'd rather not. That is until last week, at the grocery store, I saw sardines on the shelf and I thought to myself: "These might be good to have around, wouldn't they? Doesn't Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef at Prune (one of my favorite restaurants in New York) serve Triscuits, Mustard and Sardines as a bar snack? I think she does!" So I bought them. And I bought a box of Triscuits. (I already had the mustard.) And sure enough, with Jimmy coming over in just a few minutes, I now had the ingredients for a quick, unusual appetizer. As for a recipe, do you really need one? I think it's kind of self-explanatory: The sardines weren't fancy sardines, but I bet if you went to a fancy store you could get fancy sardines. The mustard was Roland French mustard, which I highly recommend. And the Triscuits? Were, well, Triscuits. Once assembled, I tasted one and a smile quickly alighted on my face. "These are good!" I said to no one in particular. And they were. Once out of the can, you'd never know the sardines were sardines. Their texture reminded me more of crab than any fish, and with the mustard and the Triscuit they make a cheap, delectable snack that pairs great with wine. When Jimmy came, I warned him: "You may be a little squeamish when I tell you what these are," I said, probably unnecessarily, as I offered him the plate. "It's not offal, is it?" he asked. "Nope!" I assured him. "It's sardines, Triscuits and mustard." "Oh, that's fine," he said, popping one into his mouth. "These are good!" Craig thought so too. And they were a cinch to make. And did I mention cheap? So next time you're at the store, and you walk past the sardines with your nose in the air, don't be such a snob. Buy a can, buy a box of Triscuits and some mustard. When you get home, put them away. Maybe you'll never touch them. But more likely, you'll break 'em out one day, grateful that you had them on hand and surprised, when you taste them toget[...]



Fill 'Er Up

2010-01-04T16:34:07Z

Are you cold? I know the feeling which is why this month's banner puts me to work helping you overcome the chill. Thanks, of course, to our marvelous illustrator Lindy Groening (this month's one of my favorites) and to Justin Dickinson for making the banner fly. Now: would you like yours milk, bittersweet or unleaded? Please pay at the pump.... Are you cold? I know the feeling which is why this month's banner puts me to work helping you overcome the chill. Thanks, of course, to our marvelous illustrator Lindy Groening (this month's one of my favorites) and to Justin Dickinson for making the banner fly. Now: would you like yours milk, bittersweet or unleaded? Please pay at the pump.



My Favorite Recipes of 2009

2009-12-31T21:23:10Z

Craig's sister Kristin and I joke that I should have a catchphrase, that when I meet new people I should declare, with mock-sincerity: "Food is my passion." Ok, maybe you have to be there for that concept to be funny, but regardless, food IS my passion and this year I feel like my cooking is entering the realm of "he's no amateur." Sure, I had my doozies. Remember my burnt sticky buns? My flambé incident? And yesterday, I made hummus for lunch in my blender and added way too much chickpea water so the result was rather pukey. But otherwise? I'm riding high on a wave of culinary competence. And these, my friends, are my Top 10 success stories of 2009. Are you ready? Let's get cooking.... Craig's sister Kristin and I joke that I should have a catchphrase, that when I meet new people I should declare, with mock-sincerity: "Food is my passion." Ok, maybe you have to be there for that concept to be funny, but regardless, food IS my passion and this year I feel like my cooking is entering the realm of "he's no amateur." Sure, I had my doozies. Remember my burnt sticky buns? My flambé incident? And yesterday, I made hummus for lunch in my blender and added way too much chickpea water so the result was rather pukey. But otherwise? I'm riding high on a wave of culinary competence. And these, my friends, are my Top 10 success stories of 2009. Are you ready? Let's get cooking. [Note: click the dish names for the original posts and recipes.] 10. Squid & Leeks in Red Wine We start with a strange one, a purply, seafoody stew direct from Richard Olney's "Simple French Food." I've never been much of a seafood chef, but this dish is rather foolproof: you cook leeks, then you cook calamari, you add herbs and garlic, then red wine, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. You'll wind up with something sophisticated, colorful, and hearty enough for dinner but not so filling that you feel sick. A perfect dish for date night or Valentine's Day, whichever comes first. 9. Baked Granola One of the funniest things that happened in 2009 is that I told you I was on a health kick. Remember that? Hilarious! But a happy side effect was that I made granola from the Baked Cookbook that instantly became a fixture of my repertoire. A simple combination of oats, honey, brown sugar and lots of spices yields a granola that's such a pleasure to eat, you're not even aware that it might actually be healthy for you. (I know, I know, mean heath-nut commenters, YOU don't think it's healthy, but as an alternative to cookies, doughnuts and cake, it's practically like a week of doing yoga). This granola is so good, I may actually make some now. See? I'm not kidding. 8. Homemade Ginger Ale In the summer, this was a real winner. From the Jean-Georges cookbook, the intensity of the fresh ginger and the fiery chili mixed with the sweetness of the sugar and the fizziness of the soda, made this an obligatory thrist-quencher on a hot, sweaty day. Bonus: we brought the ginger syrup with us to a July 4th picnic, mixed with some dark rum and had ourselves some delightful Dark & Stormys. To quote the Barefoot Contessa: "How bad can that be?" 7. Banana Cake Oh my God, I just had the urge to tear a hole in my computer screen so I can rip that banana cake out and eat it right now. Don't you want to do that too? It's just the best kind of cake, in my opinion. Unfussy, a bit messy, as I said in the original post: "a PTA bake-sale kind of a cake." It has bananas (duh) and buttermilk in the cake batter and cream cheese and sour cream in the frosting. Are you convinced yet? If not, you're a fool and I do NOT want to know you. How do you like them bananas? 6. Lentils with Bacon S[...]