Simplicity in food has come to mean something antithetical to complexity. Simplicity is bad and complexity is good. Simply prepared foods are not delicious and probably lack flavor whereas elaborate, complexly prepared foods have deep flavor. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but it couldn’t be more wrong. By my view, complexity is a hiding place for lesser cooks.
Some Plays on Lyonnaise
Among my earliest memories was peering over the counter, watching my mom make quick work of dicing an onion. While all the other boys enjoyed spectator sports and rolling around in the dirt, scarcely able to stay still, I found myself more at home in the kitchen, fascinated by the preparation and the transformation of…
Rethinking Sunday Gravy, the American Frankensauce
With fall around the corner, it’s time to start talking about warming sauces. And no sauce is as warming as the Italian-American classic of Sunday gravy, a sauce with deep roots in big city American culture, where Italian-American immigrants tended to settle. Although Sunday gravy didn’t originate in America, all Americans have heard of it…
Canned Sardines, Three Ways (Reader Question)
Despite having already posted a simple and delicious canned sardine preparation in my brunch article, I continue to receive some variation on the following question from many of you: I always hear how healthy sardines are and how delicious canned ones can be, so I sprung for a six pack of good ones. After my…
Techniques in Meat
Risking sounding immodest, whenever I serve meat to friends and family, the first thing anyone says immediately upon tasting it is, “Wow.” After some processing time, they’ll follow up with a question: “What did you put in this?” My response, to their general amazement is, “Salt.” Strangely, no one has ever asked exactly how I cooked the meat they think is so delicious. The point, then, is not what you add to the meat that’s important, but rather it’s the meat itself and how you choose to cook it. No marinades, no additional seasonings are required, aside from salt, if you’re using good ingredients and you know how to cook them.
Your Meat Sucks.
One of my known mental failures is that I have a profound weakness for dualisms. I often see the world around me in the rigid terms of distinct dichotomy. There are right and wrong answers to the problems we face, good and bad decisions, wise and foolish outlooks. Over the years, I’ve found one particular dualism applies, without fail, to all of my close friends. There is one group of friends whose company I enjoy, with whom I indulge in food and drink and varied conversation. For the second group of friends, all of the above is still true, except they also require that I come over to their house and try their shitty cooking.
I Hate Brunch (And So Should You)
I have no deep or novel insights into human behavior. But I tend to try. And I honestly cannot fathom why people love brunch so much. Asking around, I got a response in the form of a combination of the following three factors: Bacon; Having sweet and savory items together, sometimes in the same dish;…
Spices and Flavor Pairings
Many of you have followed up with me in curiosity about why I haven’t tackled spice flavor pairings, having already done the more complex work of building a spice blending paradigm and classifying every aromatic I’ve ever worked with into categories to make that paradigm useful in a general sense. I recommend that you read those articles, if you haven’t yet, before proceeding with this one. Now, in a similar exercise to how I approached herbs previously, I’m covering spices in the specific sense.
The Curious Case of Chicken (Reader Question)
An extraordinary number of readers have had issues cooking chicken breast, which was best expressed as follows: I want to get into the healthy habit of preparing my lunches for the week in advance. I really like chicken breast but it never seems to keep well. If I eat it immediately after cooking it, it’s juicy…
Building a Better Fried Calamari (Reader Question)
In keeping with my pledge to answer all of your questions stemming from the Ask Me Anything I posted several days ago, I’ve decided to take a crack at this one: You posted a really delicious looking picture of fried calamari on the email page for this Ask Me Anything you’re doing. I searched your blog…
A Quick Guide to Herbs (Reader Question)
I asked you guys for questions and you delivered some great ones. Thank you so much for that! Unfortunately, to adequately answer your questions will take a lot of time and attention, so I’m going to take them one at a time and clear through them over the next couple weeks. That said, I’d like to start off with this one:
I love herbs and want to use them more in my cooking, but I just can’t figure out when to use them and how. Can you speak about some common herbs and their use?
An Abridged List of Aromatics
Below is the figure depicting the four types of cooking aromatic categories (where an aromatic is any spice, herb or aromatic vegetable) and their maximum suggested ratio of use. The ratio expresses the dominant aromatic category compared to supporting categories. For example, if savory aromatics are dominant, the ratio of use is generally four parts savory aromatics to a maximum of one part of each of the other categories by weight. Note that this is merely a rule of thumb and not a hard rule, applying to dry ingredients only and not to fresh ingredients which contain a varying degree of water.