We’re back with another cooking lesson and Le Creuset giveaway! This time with my favorite cooking method: braising. Why is it my favorite? Because it so definitively expresses what real cooking is: transformation. Great cooking is about transforming something that would be unpleasant to eat into something exquisite. In my view, grilling a steak is not cooking, it’s heating. That’s not to diminish grilling steaks—one of my favorite activities and foods to eat. It can be done well or poorly, but it doesn’t transform food, which is what truly inspires me in the kitchen. To transform pork shoulder into a sausage is cooking. Whether caramelizing onions to develop their sweetness or toasting seasonings in a pan to grind and create a curry, that’s cooking. And braising, transforming tough cuts of meat into meltingly tender mouthfuls of Read On »

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That 30 cases of salmonella have been reported in 18 states is, of course, troubling (HuffPo story here). I buy bottled stuff—mustard, mayo, ketchup, hoisin, etc.—and feed it to my kids. But the salmonella—have they isolated its source?—makes it an an opportune time to encourage people to make their own peanut butter. Why? It tastes better, it’s easy to make if you have a food processor, and it won’t have nasty bugs that can make your kids sick. And, it’s cheaper by far than buying commercial. At my local Asian grocery, a five-pound bag of peanuts costs me $9.99. A pound of peanuts ($2) will yield a little more than a pound of peanut butter, less than half what you’ll pay for decent peanut butter (Smucker’s All-Natural costs $4.83 at my local store and a whopping $11.66 from Read On »

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  On Saturday night in Cambridge, on a young friend’s recommendation, we dined at The Russell House Tavern, near Harvard Square, where chef Michael Scelfo and his mischievous band of cooks put out excellent high-end tavern fare. I was delighted when my 13-year-old son perused the menu and immediately asked, “Can we get the charcuterie board?” This question has only one correct response. I especially appreciated Scelfo’s pork rillettes, which were topped with a creamy layer of duck fat. Scelfo has a menu that would seem to be designed exactly for me, with items such as “Pig’s Head Cake” and “Crispy Pork Belly Sandwich,” but also deviled eggs and superb fried oysters. But it was the fact that he, like so many other chefs, offered charcuterie. Indeed the charcuterie or salumi board is now ubiquitous in American Read On »

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Because I love the interconnectedness of all things, including cocktails, My Girl Friday suggested a Daisy, which was in fashion in the 19th century, then out, then back in in the 20th, and could be again in the 21st, but not in Ohio, where ordinary citizens such as myself are unable to purchase it due to Ohio’s crazy liquor laws. But it’s damned gloomy and wet here in Cleveland and I am loving the idea of more brandy after last week’s Gascon Sidecar, so today it is the Brandie Blazer, which is in effect—connection here—an old-fashioned made with brandy. I’m adding some lemon and orange zest along with brown sugar to balance the Bitters, Old Men (I used the smoke bitters, which gives it a hint of the Islay whiskys I love, but citrus bitters or Read On »

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  When I published Ruhlman’s Twenty last year, Rob Levitt, proprietor of an old-school butcher shop in the great meat city of Chicago called The Butcher & Larder, invited me to talk about technique while we made sausage and soup. It was so much fun and Rob, who happened also to be a graduate of the Chef Pardus school of kick-your-ass, was such a delight, I’m doing another Chicago event with him on Friday, October 19, at Floriole Cafe and Bakery, with my partner in Salumi, Brian Polcyn. (Details here on Rob’s site.) It’s a great pleasure to see people such as Rob and his wife, Allie, doing things the right and the good way. Making use of the whole animal, for instance (Rob, what the hell is a “chuck flap”? a “Paleron steak”? Want!). Read On »

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