Notes on Cooking has been published in German! Die Küchentricks der Profis (translated as “Kitchen Tricks of the Professionals”) is available on amazon.de. Here’s how the German publisher, Bassermann, describes it: Besser kochen leicht gemacht! Dieses Buch ist ein kleines Schatzkästchen mit den wichtigsten Profi-Regeln für den besten Umgang mit Rezepten, Lebensmitteln und Garmethoden. “Öl oder Butter? Welche Pasta – welche Sauce? Vorher oder nachher würzen?” Diese und rund 200 weitere Fragen werden in diesem Buch beantwortet.
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
When Anthony Bourdain exclaims that he is “choked with envy” about the quality of another chef’s memoir, well, you know it is likely going to be one hell of a story if not an exceptional work. Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” is better than exceptional… if there is such a thing.
The metaphor of the “blood, bones & butter” is the only predictable thing about the book. I, for one, was eagerly anticipating a couple hundred pages of cooking trials and food porn. Instead the book is an expertly crafted autobiography of a woman who happens to be the chef owner of a restaurant; that fact that she is a chef is almost ancillary. Hamilton herself, irrespective of her station at any given moment of her dizzying journey, is the thing that grips us. Her life story is both compelling and engaging, often bordering on the unbelievable. Her writing is simultaneously exquisite and alarmingly vivid, so much so that when she writes about having to deal with fecal matter in an unexpected place on the premises of her restaurant, I can honestly say I physically reacted.
Without giving too much away, the author has not led a “Leave it to Beaver” life in any respect, and thank goodness for the reader’s sake. She has done her fair share of drugs and spent time with people of questionable repute. The one thing that she seems to have been involved in quite a bit in her youth was shoplifting and theft. Many people have pasts where they have done wrong like Hamilton. She is in no way proud of those actions, but I never felt any sense of remorse on her part. And that bothered me. A lot. A part of me disdains to feel the admiration that was marinating as I read her story. Nevertheless, I remain in awe of Gabrielle Hamilton, wishing that I were as worthy as she is in so many respects, if not at least as fearless.
I have never met Gabrielle Hamilton. However, I have seen her busy at work in her restaurant, Prune, the several times I have eaten there. I remember one night in particular, she must have been past the 36-week mark in one of her pregnancies, yet she was calmly and meticulously expediting. Perhaps at that point it was too difficult to work the line, her belly forcing her whole body back from the heat as any chef is otherwise accustomed. Maybe she routinely toggled between cooking and expediting, and that night was just like any other. I’ll never know. But she was magnificent to watch, just as her food was delectable to eat, which proved to be a satisfying, symbiotic experience. Reading her memoir has urged me to return to Prune so I can more fully appreciate eating in her restaurant, a higher form than I had known before.
My only complaint about “Blood, Bones & Butter” is that it ends too abruptly. I was literally angry when I read the last word, exclaiming “Is this for real?!? This is it?!?! She cannot just leave me hanging like that!” All I wanted was more–another page, another day in her life, just one more colorful description of anything she encountered. Yet Hamilton’s ending, so cleverly structured in both metaphor and self-realization, left me feeling like I had evolved along with her. The book was so delicious that, even having eaten Hamilton’s food many times, I am left wondering: is Gabrielle Hamilton an even better writer than chef? Or is she Midas with apron strings and Microsoft Word? Whatever she is, she is splendid.
Most kids in America do not eat a hot breakfast. Cereal seems to be most common when breakfast is eaten at home. But breakfast is too often eaten on the go, a granola bar in hand as an afterthought while racing out the door. Starting the day off right, as they say, is incredibly important. My latest book, Eat Your Breakfast or Else!, helps young children understand this through the book’s main character, Jared, who encounters a harrowing journey to outer space when he does not fuel up properly. I now have a video live on KitchenDaily that shows you how you can serve fluffy and flavorful flapjacks any day of the week in under a minute! Yes, literally in under 60 seconds. Watch the video and you’ll see…
Serving a hot breakfast is pretty easy if you plan ahead. Make 2011 the year that you feed your family something homemade and healthy for the first meal of the day!
About once a month I receive an email from a friend asking me if I would mind talking to someone they know who wants to go to culinary school. It is always my pleasure to provide some color and perspective to a potential career changer. I love what I do, and such conversations remind me of how fortunate I am to have traveled on this journey.
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times: “I just LOVE to cook. It’s my escape…my relaxation. My friends and family tell me I am the best cook. Do you think I should go to culinary school?” My advice varies, depending on the circumstances of the individual, but there is one universal caveat: know that when you make your favorite hobby your job, it will be a job. Your relationship with food and cooking will change. Be prepared for that. And never forget that everything in a kitchen is hot, heavy, and sharp.
There are many other issues to consider, like your own talents and abilities as they relate to food. Do you love trying out lots of recipes and have tremendous organizational skills? Consider becoming a recipe tester. If you are into nutrition as much as you are cooking, develop a career as a personal chef. Another thing to weigh is the cost of culinary school and the realities of the expected return in salary. Going to culinary school makes sense for so many, but definitely not all.
Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Founder and CEO of The French Culinary Institute, has written the bible on this subject, “Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry.” An amalgamation of her 25 years of experience in culinary education, “Love What You Do” functions as part culinary career brochure, part advice column, part workbook – the perfect dose of reality, encouragement, and information. It asks as many questions as it answers, forcing the reader to take stock and find direction. Before you invest upwards of $30,000 in culinary training, spend $12.95 and an hour or two reading this book. It is the very best first step you can take on your culinary path.
Watch Dorothy’s interview on ABC News about building a culinary career.
Literally and figuratively in the eleventh hour (p.m.) of January 1, 2010 I was looking for inspiration. Cooking inspiration, that is. Although I love perusing through cookbooks, even reading them cover to cover sometimes, I rarely use them when I cook. That is, I almost never have a cookbook cracked open on the counter for me to refer to pre-chopping or mid-saute. But when I find myself short on ideas, unable to unearth all the dishes, dinners, meals, and masterpieces in my mind, I turn to my cookbook collection to get the ball rolling.
Seldom bought, mostly given by a publicist, publisher, or t.v. producer, the cookbooks in my collection are a bibliographic timeline of my culinary career. Tonight I flipped through some old favorites: Michel Nischan’s “Taste Pure and Simple,” which he gave to me the first time I ever worked with him a few weeks before the book hit stores; Tyler Florence’s “Tyler’s Ultimate,” which I read cover to cover the night before I worked with him for the first time on The View four years ago; and “Modern Mexican Flavors” by Richard Sandoval, one of the only cookbooks I have bought for myself post-culinary school simply because his food inspires me.
And then I stumbled upon Susan Herrmann Loomis’s “Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin.” The moment I cracked open the book I remembered why I first liked it so very much. It is written the way a cookbook should be – with depth, history, culture, anecdote, and nostalgia. All that, and the recipe writing is meticulous, the techniques tried and true, the French cuisine utterly authentic, AND she offers a wine recommendation with each dish. What a good book! The words and flavors jump off the page and it is as though you are right there with Susan Herrmann Loomis in her Normandy kitchen.
I had the pleasure of meeting the author once several years ago in New York when she was touring for her book. I listened to her talk, watched her cook, and tasted her delectable fare. She inspired me then, and she did again tonight when I landed on page 55 (see excerpt below). May her words inspire us all for a scrumptious 2010!
How to Eat Like the French
I am often asked how the French eat so well, yet look so thin and healthy. Here are some tips I’ve learned:
1. Buy ingredients as close to the source as you can. Go to a farm, a farmer’s market, a shop featuring farm ingredients. Buy organic ingredients whenever you can. They may cost more, but realize that their cost is the real cost of producing food, for most organic farmers don’t get government subsidies.
2. Serve a green salad with lunch and dinner.
3. Serve bread without butter at mealtimes.
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
5. Avoid snacking between meals.
6. Always have seasonal fruit available. I often cut up fruit – apples, pears, melons, peaches – when my children are agitating for a meal and I haven’t quite finished preparation.
7. Serve vegetable soup often; it is a delicious and satisfying way to enjoy vegetables.
8. Have a glass of wine with your meal. Wine, particularly red wine, is believed to have health benefits when taken in moderation.
9. Avoid processed foods and soft drinks.
10. Don’t be afraid of your food. If you are comfortable with your food, you will enjoy it more and eat less.
11. Take time at the table so you can enjoy the meal you’ve prepared.
Pulled pork might take days to make but all the action takes place while you sleep. This past weekend I was part of a tailgating event for the last home football game of the season at my alma mater, Colgate University. On Saturday, the school featured me cooking tailgate food with a twist, and sold my two books alongside the free tasty fare: cider braised pulled pork sliders with apple slaw, and chicken satay skewers with coconut lemongrass sauce.
The event might have taken place Saturday, but the prep work began Thursday when I coated the pork butt (that’s really pork shoulder) in a spice rub of paprika, brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, chili powder, cayenne and white pepper, salt, and oregano. The heavily seasoned meat was wrapped tightly in plastic, then in aluminum foil. It sat for 24 hours in the refrigerator to cure.
The next day, I removed from the refrigerator the seasoned meat, now glistening a deep, glossy red from the paprika and sugar spice rub, and placed it on a rimmed sheet pan. It then went in a preheated 250F oven overnight. While I slept, the meat cooked, rendering its fat and loosening itself from the bone. When I awoke, the smells of barbecue permeated the house. I had cooked another pulled pork in my sleep! Now all that was left was a quick braise to make the “sauce.”
I love Texas barbecue, but only for brisket and sausage links. When it comes to pulled pork, I want it Carolina style with a vinegar/mustard based sauce. After 8 hours in the oven, the pork was juicy and tender to the bone. I let it cool a bit while I warmed half a gallon of apple cider in a large pot with yellow mustard, honey, molasses, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and liquid smoke (no other choice for a city girl who wants to impart that smokey flavor to the meat). I effortlessly pulled the pork off the bone and placed it in the warm cider braising liquid. I let the meat and juice mixture simmer for an hour before packing up and taking it upstate to Colgate.
The lesson: it is so easy to make pulled pork you can do it in your sleep!
One year. Two books. 87,000 words total. Even I can hardly believe it, but it’s true. It has been a very hectic 2009!
My second book, The Competent Cook: Essential Tools, Techniques, and Recipes for the Modern At-Home Cook, officially launches November 18th. It has been a work in progress over many years, beginning with the eponymous food column I had on cdkitchen.com, which launched in the spring of 2005. When I was approached to write the column and come up with a title, I thought “The Confident Cook” was alliterative and catchy. Thank goodness my father convinced me otherwise, pointing out that confidence without competence is worthless. Very true indeed. So, “The Competent Cook” became my weekly online outlet to help readers become better cooks and learn the standards I valued.
By late summer of 2006, I was seven months pregnant and gearing up to wind down. I worked until five days before my son was born (my last gig was for Tyler Florence on “The View.” Needless to say, I think he was pretty shocked to see me 40 weeks pregnant and waddling around the set with strip steaks and brandied mushrooms!) I was right back to work for Michel Nischan on a TV shoot three weeks later. I just couldn’t keep away from the work I love. In early 2007, when my friend and agent, Molly, encouraged me to consider what kind of cookbook I would want to write (she knew me too well to ask if I wanted to write one!), the theme of the The Competent Cook was the clear winner.
I have been privileged to be a culinary instructor in addition to all the other toques I wear (chef/caterer, food columnist, recipe tester, and food stylist). It has been a sincere pleasure to pass along to students the knowledge and standards that I have learned from others and from my own trials and triumphs in the kitchen. Everything from the equipment I favor to the way I store food impacts my daily cooking life. My favorite evergreen recipes and the techniques that go with them are now finally compiled in a book that has been a work in progress not just since 2005, but my whole life. The book was meant to be born.
Getting a book published can take a long time, and at one point my patience waned. In March of 2008 I was ready to give up and just move on to other things. I was given the opportunity to write Notes on Cooking with Russell Reich, and I jumped at it. As fate would have it, the very same week I had an offer for The Competent Cook to be published. Unwilling to choose between the two projects, I said, “Sure! I can write two books in six months!” And that’s exactly what I did. Notes on Cooking was just released in June, and now a few months later The Competent Cook hits the stands.
Since receiving my advance copy a few weeks ago, it has been gratifying to pick up The Competent Cook and find recipes like my basic pie crust and chicken satay with coconut lemongrass sauce without having to pull the files off the computer or my hand-written notes from a filing box. At last, my favorite go-to recipes are in one convenient collection! I hope you enjoy the book and find it to be the perfect compliment to Notes on Cooking.
Lately I have been reading blog posts and tweets about Sheila Lukins, the American culinary pioneer and co-author of the Silver Palate cookbooks. She died in late August, and many friends and fans remember her and her scrumptious food fondly. Chicken Marbella was by far her most famous dish: an unexpected concoction of chicken with prunes, olives, and capers so popular that you couldn’t escape it in the 1980′s.
I set out to make Chicken Marbella because it had been quite some time since I had it. Once I began to gather my mise en place, I realized that I didn’t have prunes (only dried apricots), and had mixed olives (not all green). I was out of red wine vinegar, but had sherry vinegar. And I had half a bottle of red wine already open so why bother with a new bottle of white? I was determined to get those flavors brewing in my kitchen and ultimately in my mouth, so I persevered with the same principles and ratios albeit on a slightly different path.
Chicken “Lorena” emerged:
8 chicken thighs, or 1 chicken quartered
4 cloves very finely chopped garlic (like a paste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted mixed olives
1/4 cup capers with the juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine
chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, apricots, olives, capers, and juice. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan and spoon the fruit/olives over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour the wine around them.
Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices.
Serve the dish warm or cold. It actually improves after a few days in the fridge.