I've acquired an armload of new cookbooks—despite a total lack of shelf space to house them in our tiny cottage. I just can't resist, especially after reading so many entertaining and informative reviews, especially those from Food52's Piglet
competition. The newest tomes are piled up beside my bed, and any seasonal ones (grilling, popsicles, etc) are temporarily lodged in the attic. Cooking in the Moment
has now migrated from the bedroom to the kitchen and, though I've only officially cooked one recipe from it so far, I have added several more to my always evolving mental list of "things to be eaten soon." After reading Nigella Lawson's Piglet review of North Carolina chef Andrea Reusing's enticingly photographed and thoughtfully composed book, I was seized with the urge to make her roasted spareribs. Whatever she means by "cooking in the moment"—eating seasonally, I assume—I take it as an excuse to immediately make whatever I most feel like eating right this minute. So ribs it is.
My baloney has a first name. It's Mortadella. I'll bet you already know that baloney is a bastardization of bologna—actually, Bologna, for the city in Italy from whence this delectable pork sausage hails. But are you aware that it's named for the mortar (mortaio) that in conjunction with a pestle was originally responsible for the finely ground meat that forms the basis of this heat-cured salume? (Salume is how Italians refer to charcuterie or, more basely, cold cuts.) I have no love for Oscar Mayer's offspring, and shudder to think what goes into those inspid, rubbery slices. They're barely fit to kiss the hem of the real deal: a rich, dense and savory concoction, flavored with garlic, coriander, nutmeg and sometimes studded with pistachios.
this is not your childhood bologna
I get my mortadella at Eataly
's fabulous salumeria where I can have it cut to order in a thick slab. For some gathering over the next month I may even make this recipe
I came across for "Mortadella Smear" in Saveur.
Trust me, it surpasses its unfortunate name in every way. Pureed mortadella enriched with a velouté sauce and a little cream, slathered on grilled bread and drizzled with balsamic. What's not to like? This diverges wildly from the mortadella of yore and is more akin to paté whipped up by a lazy Italian contessa.
Mortadella has a fair amount of fat, so it fries up beautifully crisp. You can do thin slices, which are quite nice, almost chip-like, but I prefer chubby little cubes that come out chewy with crunchy edges. The perfect vehicle for them? A fresh escarole salad tossed with tangy anchovy dressing.
Escarole, also known as "broad-leaved endive" (but not called that by anyone you know) is a member of the chicory family, along with puntarelle
, radicchio and Belgian endive. It's slightly sweeter than its bitter brethren and is a sadly under-appreciated green. (Here's
a recipe for a very simple escarole soup.) Delicious cooked—sauteed with shallots and chile, wilted in garlicky oil—escarole is secretly a salad diva. Served raw, it's gutsy without being aggressive and has gently curled edges that are made for cupping dressing.
We had this salad one night for dinner along with cups of creamy butternut squash soup sprinkled with spicy toasted squash seeds, and it reminded me that I've been meaning to talk to you about something: GARNISHES. The way you finish a dish can make the difference between good and extraordinary. G calls it "kicking it up a notch"—unabashedly ripping off Emeril's catch-phrase—and it's a call to action in the kitchen. You can always make something just that much better with an extra drizzle of spicy green olive oil, sprinkling of coarse sea salt, frizzle of herbs or dollop of crème fraîche.
This is where the notion of condiments comes into play. Homemade chutney, spiced pumpkin seeds, curry salt, fried sage, pickled onions—these have the power to bring your cooking into focus by adding flavor and textural counterpoints. Use your imagination, your creativity and your palate, and have fun gilding the lily.
Business first: If you haven't yet tossed your name in the ring to win the gorgeous giveaway basket of Tate's Bake Shop cookies and brownies, today is your last chance. Just visit this post
and leave a comment by 12pm. I will announce the winner tomorrow.Happy Halloween! Or All Hallow's Eve, if you will. Tomorrow is the Day of the Dead, the traditional holiday for celebrating friends and family who have died. It's a big deal in Mexico, with elaborate picnics transported right to the grave sites featuring favorite foods of the deceased. It's sort of like a tailgate party, but without the football. In honor of this occasion, I offer you a recipe for one of my most beloved dishes, typical of the Mexican cooking I ate growing up. I wonder who will bring it to my gravesite when I'm gone...
photos from saveur magazine
Back from a restful week in Antigua—sadly without G, who is currently climbing palm trees in the Philippines. I went solo to a wonderful Easter lunch at Stephanie's yesterday. Took lots of photos of the beautiful table and the delicious pork roulade, and then promptly forgot my camera! But I'm sharing it with you nonetheless, recipe and photos courtesy of Saveur
. This was perhaps the best pork loin I've ever eaten, juicy and flavorful, perfumed with herbs and sauced with a savory onion jus
. The pork came from Fleischer's
, a fantastic upstate resource for organic and grass-fed meat. Also on the menu: frisée salad with preserved lemon and asparagus tips; pea soup with tarragon; mashed potatoes; roasted carrots; baked Alaska. On a lark, I made some carrot marshmallows with honey, cumin and chile salt. More about those, and photos, later this week.
For the current Charcutepalooza
challenge, we've moved on from simple salt curing and brining to the added step of hot smoking. Given a choice of making tasso ham or Canadian bacon, I made both. Perhaps I should say "we," as without G's smoking prowess I would just have lots of incredibly well-seasoned but essentially raw pork on hand. Having come out the other side of this process, I have to tell you how incredibly rewarding it is. The meat is so delicious, and it was great fun to see it through the relatively few simple steps it took to create all this rich and complex flavor. If you held a gun to my head, I think I'd have to admit I prefer the tasso—it's made from pork shoulder (otherwise known as Boston butt, the same cut we use for our July 4th pulled pork), and slow-cooking melts its generous fat through every fiber. I can't wait to use it in some traditional recipes like gumbo or jambalaya. The Canadian bacon is also remarkably good, especially when you consider that every bit of fat has been removed. I added an extra rub to mine, just a simple mixture of brown sugar, cayenne and cumin, but I like the extra kick it gives the smoky pink meat.
Would it surprise you to hear that last night we busted out the barbecue and grilled up some pork, and awoke this morning to the first day of spring covered in snow? During a stroll around our yard yesterday, I was so thrilled to spy the first signs of life: snowdrops, rhubarb, mint (photos tomorrow). The chipmunks were dashing about, shaking off the winter doldrums and nibbling on green shoots. All just a tease. We'll be out snowshoeing again tomorrow. Not sure if I'm complaining, but I think I am.Anyway, we were lucky enough to get in our first grilled dinner—steaks, but featuring the other white meat. Whoever heard of a pork steak? At Dickson's
, where we get our meat in the city, they frequently have interesting new cuts. If I'm not mistaken, this has to do with the fact that they are buying the whole animal. They like to find appealing ways to showcase parts that don't often show up in the butcher case. It's also why they can sell things like homemade suet, stocks, patés and terrines. So when G spied these pork "sirloins," he had to give them a try.
I'm a bit of a contrarian; it's just my nature. I tend to go against the grain and I've never been much of a joiner. But I am aware of the "Meatless Monday" movement, a non-profit campaign slated to help people—and corporations and entire nations—become more conscious of the need to eat less meat. Loads of bloggers participate by posting a non-meat recipe every Monday. I support this effort, but rather than finding one day a week to go without meat, I suggest we have only one day that features it. If we all ate meat just once a week, that would really make a difference to our health and that of the planet. So with that in mind, instead of hosting Meatless Monday, I'm going to introduce Meaty Monday
—with meat as the exception, not the rule. (This doesn't mean I'll never post about meat or meat-related recipes on other days; this blog is not about Draconian extremes.) This is also the perfect opportunity for me to tell you about something that, in true contrarian style, will totally contradict everything I've just said: I'm participating in Charcutepalooza
dessert at animal in los angeles
This bacon-chocolate crunch bar was the end to a very porky dinner at Animal
in Los Angeles. Does it surprise you to know I'm gearing up for a cleanse when I get back home? For those of you who marvel that the glutton is not obese, I want to point out that I only ate 2 small bites of this decadent dish. Still, I did share several other pork-intensive plates at this popular place opened in 2008 by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. Since then, they've been awarded Food & Wine Best New Chefs of 2009 and received a James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant. They also starred in a reality show on the Food Network called “Two Dudes Catering”and came out with a cookbook, “Two Dudes, One Pan.” If you're interested in reading a more in-depth profile than this one, they were featured in the New Yorker
in an April 2010 article by Dana Goodyear called "Killer Food
photo by sarah shatz for food52
I'm a terrible friend. I've been horribly remiss in preparing you for the grand holiday feast. I'm (sort of) ashamed to admit that I don't have a backlog of my own recipes and accompanying photos to offer you here, so I'm going to do another of my motley compendiums. Above is the roast leg of lamb with garlic sauce that I will be serving my sister and niece on the first night of their visit. Here's the recipe
. It looks pretty easy and, as a recent convert to lamb, I'll be sticking my thermometer in and not trusting my own instincts. I recommend you do the same. On the side there will be a rich and buttery puree of celeriac and potato—do you really need a recipe? Oh hell, here's one
. (I think I'll use buttermilk instead of the cream, though.) Also a simple arugula salad with a light champagne vinaigrette
. For Christmas Eve dinner, we're invited to some friends' home for paella. I'm in charge of dessert; more on that another day. Inspired? Here's a slew of good-looking paella recipes
A surfeit of green tomatoes had me racking my brain—and scanning the web—for recipes that called for neither frying nor pickling. I came across one that looked pretty easy and interesting on Melissa Clark
's blog. You've probably read her column in the Times
, but may not know that she has collaborated with all the best chefs on a zillion cookbooks, including Daniel Boulud's Braise
, a particular favorite of mine around this time of year. (It features fantastic recipes for short ribs; grouper with fennel and cashews; and carbonnade with Belgian beer and gingerbread, among many others.) So she knew what she was doing when she threw together this dish of country-style pork ribs slow-braised with green tomatoes, citrus and vermouth. And, if I do say so myself, I knew what I was doing by serving it with fresh, warm cornbread.