Stock-Mise-en-place

  Want to make Thanksgiving day easier on yourself and ensure you have the best gravy ever? Start now. (Or this weekend.) This, too, planning ahead, is part of mise en place, one of the most important cooking “techniques” to recognize. Mise en place literally translates as put in place. To a cook, mise en place refers to his or her station set-up—having all that you need, at your station and in place, to accomplish the work ahead. Mise en place is shorthand for being prepared, at your station and in your mind. (I write about this more completely in Ruhlman’s Twenty.) It’s the cook’s first order of business, at a restaurant, at home. Making a roast chicken dinner with green beens and baked potato? Get everything out on the counter before you pick that Read On »

Share
4-Onion-Garbure

Continuing a series of soup posts as the weather cools (here in the Northeast at least), I’m offering this rich vegetable garbure. Garbure hails from my favorite food region, Gascony, in the southwestern corner of France. (I wrote about it here for Conde Nast Traveler.) It would traditionally include some kind of confited meat and cabbage. This version, which I included in Ruhlman’s Twenty, gets its depth of flavor from bacon rind, but you could substitute several slices of rind-on bacon, diced, or omit the bacon completely for a vegetarian soup. But pig skin, connective tissue, is loaded with a protein called collagen, which breaks down into gelatin to give the soup great body. If you can’t find slab bacon with a rind to remove yourself, order it from your butcher or meat department. Or, better Read On »

Share
Sweet-Bell-Pepper-Soup-Fini

This is a fabulous all-purpose soup method, here used with sweet bell peppers. But you can use it for just about any vegetable—asparagus, mushroom, pea, carrot. I learned it from Thomas Keller and wrote about it in his French Laundry Cookbook. Then I wrote about it again in Ruhlman’s Twenty because it’s such a versatile method. It’s very rich, so I only serve about 1/3 cup per person. This soup makes a great appetizer. (And a reminder: my partner in tools, Mac Dalton, suggested running a sale on our soup and serving spoons through this October.) Also, if you’re in Cincinnati tomorrow, come see me at Books by the Banks, where I’ll be signing my book, In Short Measures, a collection of novellas, reviewed today, happily, by Tara Laskowski. Have a great weekend, all. Sweet Bell Pepper Read On »

Share
French onion soup. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Without question, French onion is my favorite all-around soup. It’s a satisfying, nourishing meal. Not only does it have all the components of a meal—a nutritious broth, a vegetable, cheese, bread, and a big glass of a big red wine—it’s also got all the textural components that satisfy: it’s soft, voluptuous, gooey, chewy, and, if the cheese is properly browned, crispy. It’s an easy and economical soup. And best of all, it requires no stock, either homemade or store-bought. Yes, the best onion soup is made with water alone, seasoned at the end with wine and, if you wish, a few drops of vinegar. And we’re using this great soup to announce a month-long special offer on our offset soup spoons and offset serving spoon (I especially love how their being offset prevents spoons from slipping Read On »

Share
photo-2

In May 2011, I traveled to my alma mater, Duke University in Durham, NC, to attend the memorial of my mentor, Reynolds Price. Returning to the school felt like returning to my youth there, where I’d pursued my dream of writing fiction, in Reynolds’s class and then beyond. I felt out of my body, seeing myself as I was then, my friends, my life there, and also all the selves I’d been in between, sometimes worse for wear, sometime better. Upon leaving Duke, I wrote two novels over the course of five years, neither of which sold and, despite Reynolds’s urgings to carry on, I gave up. I’d had such a powerful response to Reynolds’s memorial, though, to returning to that hallowed place, that I began to write an essay about it. But soon a voice from those Read On »

Share