I did not grow up in a "crock pot" family. We had one, an old avocado green job my parents got from their wedding registry. And, though I'm sure it got used, it wasn't something that characterized the food in our house. My wife's parents, on the other hand, were both doctors working day shifts, and according to her, nearly every thing her mom cooked came from the slow cooker. And, says my wife, protein + a mix of canned foods = dinners, all which tasted basically the same... like "crock pot food."
I remember when the cheese lovers started telling me what was "real" cheese and what was "fake." I remember taking them seriously because they were talking about cheese cultures (ha. pun!) I knew to be important: Italian, French, Swiss, Spanish, etc. "Cheese is alive!" these experts insisted. And anything that was not the product of natural fermentation and cave-aging was unacceptable. Eating the rind was important. The worship of bacteria in the process was expected. The presence of insect larvae was not necessarily a negative. Out of a world that had room for Cheeze Whiz, handi-snacks, and this bit by Mitch Hedberg, the celebration of authentic, non-adulterated cheeses was completely legitimate.
I've got favorite foods, in every category imaginable. In my head, I write little Pablo Neruda-style odes to each one of my cravings.
And in the snack world, popcorn reigns supreme. As long as it's still crunchy, I'll eat just about every form of burst corn kernel—air popped, microwaved, butter/cheese/caramel split into a holiday tin, warmed under a heat lamp at the movie theater concession stand and drenched in butter "topping." (OK, so I actually skip the butter.)
But the Great Emperor of the Popcorn Realm is now, and will always be, freshly oil-popped stovetop popcorn. As early 90's kid, I grew up on the microwaveable stuff, but I got the entrance to the backstage party from my cooking wizard mother-in-law, and I've never looked back. Nothing can cook the starch in popcorn kernels quite like hot oil, and it's so convenient to be able to salt it perfectly when the thin sheen of oil is still glisten atop each little puff.
Read on for the time-honored technique of making the best stovetop popcorn you've ever had!
Now, tomatoes are no stranger to canning; homemade pasta sauce is one of the handmade life's greatest joys, and pickled green tomatoes are delicious in that check-out-the-awesome-secret-restaurant-in-the-hidden-alley kind of way. But I've barely seen pickled cherry tomatoes register on the pickle scene, and it's a rotten shame.
Salt of the earth. Worth his salt. Take it with a grain of salt...
It doesn't take much digging into English idioms to recognize a pattern here: salt is valuable. As an essential mineral? Sure. As a time-honored method of food preservation? Yep. But most importantly? It makes your food tasty. I quote Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, distilling a conversation with award-winning chef Thomas Keller: "It is true not just for cooks in professional kitchens, but for all cooks in all kitchens, everywhere: learning to salt food properly is the most important skill you can possess." It doesn't get any more definitive than that.
The pursuit of properly seasoned food calls for action beyond just salting at the table. See, in my home, salt shakers are mostly for 1) decoration and 2) the occasional ear of corn in July. The reason is that my wife and I salt our food while cooking it. We caution guests to taste their food before they reach for the shaker because if they try to season it at the table, it'll taste oversalted.
In fact, when we're cooking, we actually dispense with a shaker entirely... and by the way, forget about the 1/4 teaspoon measure. We use an even simpler set of fundamental tools:
Chances are that somewhere in your town––either far away from the big box stores or in some area that is under-visited or out of the way––there is an amazing Asian market nearby. They exist in towns and cities of all sizes, so don't assume there isn't one near you until you actually look into it. Asian grocery stores are an immigrant's lifeboat, and they are one of the few, authentic cross-cultural locations you can find in most of America that isn't a temple or cultural center. They tend to have an array of products that confuse nearly all shoppers due to the sheer diversity of products that fall under the category of "Asian."
While the meat offerings and seafood tends to be absolutely exceptional and exceptionally inexpensive, the thing that routinely blows me away at my local Asian market is the produce. My god, the produce! Where your standard grocery store will have a small range of Asian ingredients, an Asian market will stagger you just in its section of radishes. Its refreshingly overwhelming, especially when you see something familiar––a bunch of cilantro or garlic or something––and recognize their exceptional quality. This is a place you should certainly familiarize yourself with, and return often.
And while you're there, you should use some of the wonderful vegetables that are, unfortunately, out of our Western culinary vocabulary. In an effort to help you navigate, here are some of the tastiest ones to look out for. This list is anywhere near exhaustive (we love you, too, ong choy), but a great way to start to learn to use some of the classic produce you just can't find at you local megamart.
A food dehydrator is on my list of kitchen appliances I should probably never buy myself. Like its brother, the deep fat fryer, I know I'd just get carried away, dehydratin' and frying stuff left and right.
But, that doesn't mean I don't wanna create my own tasty and natural dried foods every once in a while...particularly: jerky. Of all kinds. So, I figured out a way to make some without any specialized tools.
Making jerky at home can seem quite complicated, and it can be if you don't follow the right steps. But, here's the ManMade guide to making your own salmon jerky, complete with everything you need to know. Grab some meat and
At home, I am the cook of our family. I love to make meals, and… let's be honest, I really just love food in general. I also do all the grocery shopping. Typically, I’ll take one big shopping day at the grocery store during the week and maybe a couple short trips if I need specific items. But, whenever I announce I’m taking a trip to the Asian market, my entire family eagerly jumps in the car with me.
If you're not in the habit of shopping at your Asian grocery store, 1) you’re missing out on an entire hemisphere of goods, 2) it’ll open a new world of food and sundries that’ll keep you coming back, and 3) food, kitchen supplies – everything – is extremely affordable.
In short, tons of flavor. Great value. Win. Win.
In the sheer scope and magnitude of Youtube, I going to assume that we will one day see every conceivable thing that exists in the world. Because, we all know, that if it is weird enough for someone to try, there is someone around with a camera ready to film it. So, we can file this under, "what the hell is going on here?" But there's this guy with a Youtube channel whose entire purposes seems to be to constantly and painstakingly recreate a knife out of very different, very bizarre materials.
The best kind of writing, fiction or otherwise, is the kind that produces a strong mental image of what you're reading about. It's vivid and concrete; it's why metaphors and parables exist. To quote Strunk & White: "The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures."
One of my favorite ways that writers bring their stories closer to reality is when they plop descriptions onto my mental dinner table. Maybe it's because I just love eating, so I don't need a lot of arm-twisting to think about food; maybe it's that I like it when the lines between fiction and reality blur, like Mac Barnett waxes about in his TED talk "Why a good book is like a secret door." Regardless, I'm fascinated with collecting moments of characters interacting with their victuals.
Here are some of my favorite food mentions in books, linked up with recipes.
If someone were to ask you what your crucial, go-to, stranded-on-a-desert-island cooking gear includes, how would you reply?
Would you mention a chef's knife and cutting board? How about a large sauté pan and a flat-edged wood spoon, or a large, nonreactive heatproof bowl? (Incidentally, these are Michael Ruhlman's top five in his fantastic comprehensive guide The Elements of Cooking.)
What if I were to add that the addition of two inexpensive pieces of equipment can dramatically level up your cooking game, and that you could actually get these at an office supply store?
It comes as no surprise that spirits and beverage industry has identified the ideal glass for tasting whatever product they're trying to sell. There are separate wine glasses for enjoying your pinots noir and pinots gris, a wide variety of glasses to complement a certain style of ale or lager, and specific glasses for "fully experiencing" tequilas, gins, and brandies.
Mostly, this is insider stuff, employed at competitions, industry events, and certain high-end bars and restaurants with expansive "programs." But there is one specialty glass that has made its way into the homes of consumers and fans since it came into production in 2001: the Glencairn whisky glass.
In the Grand List of Essential Grownup Skills, somewhere between changing a flat tire and tying a half-Windsor, you'll find an entry for serving your loved one their first meal of the day before leaving the room where they woke up. It's a simple act, but with some care and a little finesse, it can be an incredibly thoughtful gesture that will reverberate throughout the rest of the week.
Let's take a look at some of the considerations for a perfect breakfast in bed!
Sparkling water. It's a thing. Whether a weird normcore love of the dated 90s can design, or an earnest attempt to cut back on sugar and chemical-laden soft drinks, the cool kids have embraced LaCroix. And drink manufacturers, in an effort to capture the energy, are coming out with dozens of their own brightly-colored alternatives. I went to the grocery store yesterday, and spied no less than seven distinct brands of pink and orange-canned flavored waters, all of which basically look the same (and all which include a version of pamplemousse), attempting to capitalize on the trend.
I'm no hater. Live and let sip. If it keeps you hydrated and drinking less sugary soda, or even beer, then enjoy yourself. But, if you truly love the bubbles, then allow me to nominate my lifelong favorite sparkling beverage that never doesn't taste unbelievably delicious and refreshing, and, dare I say, defines effervescence?
This happens to me way more often than it should––the day has gone longer than expected, I didn't plan carefully enough for what I was going to eat, and now I am home and hungry, without a plan. For much of my life, this has been a recipe to order something, pick up something, or heat up something frozen and in a box. But now I live in a place where few things deliver, the only foods close by are not conducive to living (or sleeping) well, and I have stopped allowing myself to buy things that come in frozen boxes, no matter how lazy I may be feeling.
If I have all the time and money in the world, I love to shop and cook. But my foodie
Ramps are magic. It's that simple. They appear of their own free will out of the ground, they bless the landscape with their beauty, their perfect aroma of garlicky-greenness––a combination you might approximate by breathing in deeply a bag of freshly mown lawn clippings while simultaneously crunching down on a double-sized mouthful of sour cream and onion potato chips. And then, just as magically, they disappear after an astoundingly short season, as spring gives way to summer.
A ramp is a kind of wild leek that looks like a cross between a scallion and a flowering weed. The aroma is, to me, something absolutely elemental; once you
Bon Appétit has become a paragon of food media lately with a gorgeous magazine, a wonderful podcast and some serious web content that is standing in where other outlets have stopped putting meaningful content in front of audiences. But they have quietly rolled out a series of videos on highly technical food crafts that are so well done, so well produced and so sharply executed that they serve as both educational content and an opportunity to truly marvel at people who have spent a lifetime perfecting their skills. Bon Appetite really deserves credit for providing a venue to showcase such talent and expertise.
In these videos you can
We would never want to actually judge this competition, but if you were to pit all the mass market hot sauces against each other in a taste test, the classic green nozzled sriracha sauce with the rooster on the label might very well come out on top. It's extremely versatile stuff, and offers heaps of complexity and flavors other than heat and vinegar tang.
The power of fermentation: instead of fighting off microbes, you invite the right kind to your party. It doesn't take a lot of culinary know-how to acknowledge that certain fermented foods get better the longer they ferment, like wines and cheeses. The more sourdough starter ages, the more complex its flavors become. Then you've got your fermentation standards like pickles, dairy products like kefir, soy-based miso and natto, and even Russia's beet-based kvass.
But did you know that occasionally tea gets invited to the bacillus party? Welcome to the world of pu-ehr!
We're living in a golden age of food media. Between exceptional print magazines like the gone-too-soon Lucky Peach and Bon Appetite, to Netflix shows like Chef's Table and PBS's Mind of a Chef, to David Chang's recent discussion of a developing food media empire, there is just so much professional-level food edu-tainment that an interested viewer need never go hungry.
And yet, even though the space is saturated with quality content, amateur programs are still finding their niche in online forums.