Duck Confit: A Great Way to Fool People Into Thinking You’re Fancy

Duck confit sounds like a class act. It’s on every bistro menu from here to Boston not because it’s some tricky dish, but because it turns out it’s one of the easiest ways to impress people. Anyone can make it, as long as they have plenty of fat lying around. Continue reading

Total Hack: Ridiculously Easy Panna Cotta

OK, I’ve already taken you through my revelation that panna cotta is a cheat, but now I have a fool-proof recipe to prove it once and for all:

• One quart of cream
• 1/2 cup sugar
• Flavorings such as vanilla, cinnamon stick, Chinese five spice, grated lemon rind, etc.
• Two packets of gelatin, dissolved in water

Bring the cream to a boil while adding sugar and flavorings. Once boil is reached, mix dissolved gelatin in cream. Stir it up, pour it into ramekins, leave over night to set. Before serving, cut around ramekins, pop onto plate or shallow bowl, then top with a citrus syrup (sugar dissolved in water over medium heat, with tangerine and/or lemon juice). Done. DONE. What did I tell you?

Mushroom Pie: The Sweetest Pie That Isn’t Sweet

It was a ritual we had, my grandfather and I. We’d meet in front of the Metropolitan Opera House decked out in suits and ties, climb the steps to the Dress Circle and take our seats in the front row. We’d snooze through Act II, rouse ourselves for the increasingly grand finales, then walk through the crowd across the street to O’Neal’s where, no matter what else we ate, we always ordered the mushroom pie. Whenever I make it now, this is what I think about. Continue reading

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me Panna Cotta Was a Cheat?

I enjoy the panna cotta. As you might already know, a month ago I attempted to make some from scratch, using a recipe from the hallowed Silver Spoon cookbook, aka Il Cucchiaio D’Argento, with which Italians have been making proper chow (ciao?) since the ’50s. Only thing is I failed. Why? Because I overthought it, and used an ancient egg-based recipe. Yesterday, retribution came, with a nudge from the Big Yellow Cookbook and a stinky packet of Knox gelatin. When you cheat, panna cotta รจ spigliata! Good thing everybody cheats, even restaurants. Continue reading

People Who Don’t Wash Leeks Are Living on the Edge (of Poopville)

This isn’t a lesson or anything, except for the obvious one: For the love of God wash your leeks. Split ‘em first, because the mud gets down deep. I don’t know what kind of hipboots it takes to be a leek farmer, and I don’t want to know what farming techniques or growth patterns seal that mud so damn far down, but jeez oh pete, that shit is nasty. On the flipside, I’d be nervous if I got a leek that wasn’t muddy. I’d feel like it was grown in a lab, or made in Captain Picard’s replicator, or something.

One quick semi-related tip: Anyone making potato leek soup should do what Julia Child did, and run it through a food mill. I love stick blenders, but I’m never using them on potatoes or leeks again. Food mill doesn’t glue up the potatoes, and it doesn’t let the super stringy parts of the leek through. You get fluffy flavorful soup that you don’t have to futz with to get the right consistency. More on soups later. For now, just wash your damn leeks!

GGS: The Secret Heart of 2 Billion Asian Dinners (Spicy Lettuce Burritos Included)

Garlic, ginger and scallions are the Asian mirepoix, the Far Eastern alternative to carrots, celery and onions, the combo that flavors both the wanton and the broth, the short ribs and the stir fry. It’s the characteristic Chinese/Korean/Japanese cooked-meat flavoring that you’ve known your whole life but possibly never placed. Along with soy sauce, it’s what grounds an otherwise arbitrary list of ingredients. Continue reading

Why I Deliberately Effed Up a Perfectly Decent Lemon Square Recipe

You’re looking at lemon squares. OK, circles. Very very ugly lemon circles, founded on delectable golden shortbread, crowned with mysterious disks of meringue. They taste amazing, but they are the result of a series of fuckups. I committed them on purpose, because it’s the only way I know how to learn. Continue reading