Last summer, on assignment for Condé Nast Traveler, I visited a farm that raises ducks for foie gras, driven there along harrowing roads in southwestern France by Kate Hill. I’d never seen the practice, vilified in America, of force-feeding ducks and, being in the land of foie gras and confit de canard, I had to see for myself. The farm, Souleilles, run by Yves and Geneviève Boissière, is wide, wide open in the town of Frespech. The husband and wife were warm and welcoming and watched me take an iMovie and iPhone pix of the practice while Yves spoke at length about the process. The ducks are pasture raised most of their lives, then force fed for 14 days, beginning with a little less than half a pound twice a day, increasing to less than Read On »

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Tuesday or Wednesday is usually soup day here, as it was last week when Donna’s sister, Regina, was here for Cakes 101, to teach me cake basics and all about the creams and curds that fill a cake and give it flavor. I wanted to be able to show what a proper cake could look like in the book we’re currently working on, and as Regina bakes wedding and special-occasion cakes in the Hudson Valley, we brought her in for a working visit. We spend Thanksgiving with Donna’s family in Germantown, NY, and last year Regina had two big pots of soup on the stove as the family converged on the house, one of which was so beloved by my daughter that I asked Regina to make it while she was here. She asked only Read On »

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There was no other way given everyone’s schedule. We arrived from a relaxing vacay with Mom in West Palm on Monday night, and Donna’s sister, Regina, a professional cake whisperer, arrived first thing the next day ready to work (and teach). I am cake challenged. I’m sweets challenged. My idea of sweets is pictured above. But the subject I’m writing about now, cleverly integrated into the above photo, demands that I address cakes. Thus, despite Regina’s patience, energy, and expertise, each day has for me ended with a feeling of depletion and fatigue, requiring a single end-of-the-day cocktail before I began dinner (which would be followed by more baking—cakes can be, should be, frozen—and/or photography). So I wanted something strong, complex, familiar, and easy at the end of these challenging days, no straining into a Read On »

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Say you have a whole ham and your wife, named Donna, doesn’t want the thing hanging in your closet for a year, drying out for prosciutto. Or you live in a fifth-floor walk-up in Manhattan and don’t have a wife named Donna but you also don’t have a closet, let alone a drying room. Or you have a whole ham but do not have a holiday dinner to prepare and fourteen people to feed. Such is usually the case, in fact, so what do you do with a whole ham? I get this question all the time. The answer is that you break it down into smaller, delectable parts. Here’s what one butcher, Rob Levitt, of Chicago’s The Butcher & Larder, does with his ham. It’s difficult of course to put into words exactly where to draw a Read On »

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Garlic has changed for me. Now that really good, hard-stemmed varieties are available, I love to use it just briefly cooked. I find that in the traditional uses—in mirepoix for stews and sauces—it is completely lost. That’s right, I almost never use it in tomato-based sauces—the onion does all the heavy lifting. If I want garlic in a sauce or a braise I add it late in the game. My favorite way to cook garlic is briefly and in abundance, so you can taste it. Cooked this way it’s the powerhouse we’ve always thought of it as. I love it just briefly cooked in oil and used with pasta or smeared on toast. Donna and I used it in great abundance with tomatoes and basil—the season is near! Here’s the video that uses the fantastic technique of Read On »

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