On Shaken Cocktails

On my first trip to Japan over a decade ago, I had just come off my final, glorious night out in Tokyo. With an early flight out the next morning, I was wandering around the Ginza neighborhood, hoping to stumble upon a taxi stand. Instead, I happened across a gorgeous, oak paneled, dimly-lit den of a bar with more bottles of alcohol against the wall than I had ever known to exist. You don’t turn down encounters like that in Japan as a rule.

The Theory of Natural Cocktail Selection

Natural selection, at base, is the differential survival and reproduction of living things on the basis of observable traits. A cheetah is more likely to survive the wild, capture more prey and ultimately produce offspring if she has a new set of traits, ones which even her own parents lacked, that make her observably faster or more cunning than the average cheetah, for example. Her offspring have a greater chance of doing the same since they are more likely to have their mother’s advantageous traits. For this to occur, however, information needs to be conveyed from one generation of cheetah to the next, to preserve what came before. Through random and undirected changes in such information from one generation to the next, “innovation” (in a sense) has occurred. This basic idea serves as the bedrock for our entire understanding of biology. It’s a powerful idea to say the least, but it famously applies to a great number of things beyond living ones.

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.

A Brief Guide to Chicago Chinese Food (Reader Question)

The question has come in concerning the conspicuous lack of a bar and restaurant guide for Chicago, my home town: You’ve made semi-themed dining and drinking guides for New York, San Francisco and Denver (of all places). Do you plan to do a similar guide for Chicago in the future? I’ve personally had little luck with most Chinese food…

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…

Making Healthy Delicious

Delicious food can be difficult enough to make sometimes. But delicious and healthy often seem mutually exclusive to some. This need not be the case though. By combining some of the food science-based Cheap Tricks I’ve previously employed with a couple new ones, I’ve found a way that you can completely eliminate any empty calories, such as…

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?

Ask Me Anything!

Many of you have sent me your questions about everything from substitutions in my recipes, where and how to procure ingredients to alternative, time saving cooking techniques. I’ve been flattered by your interest, but I also have come to the conclusion that I should probably start a regular forum to address your questions. I’ve also made…

The Quintessential Thai Street Dish

In soliciting feedback from some of my readers, one thing that has come up fairly often is that my recipes are a bit complicated. Although that’s a fair point, this website is not entirely geared towards novices. It’s true, there are some complicated recipes that I’ve developed and published. That said, there are plenty of easy ones…

Thai Food, Explained

I’m no musician, but I do love music. Perhaps that’s because I happen to think music has a lot of parallels with cooking, as I’ve previously explained. But one of the biggest parallels between music and cooking is structural. Take classical music as illustrative. We have the great composers of history who write awe inspiring…

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.