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Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny's

Ramp Butter and Pancetta Crostinis from Franny’s

Back in December when I was going through my stash of new cookbooks and flagging recipes to make, one of the first that spoke to me immediately was for Franny’s ramp butter and pancetta crostini. After I rued the fact that it was December and that ramp season was still months away, I turned the page and lo and behold the good folks at Franny’s realize that one cannot live on ramp butter alone. An assortment of seasonal compound butters were listed,  including a divine chili butter that is also quite easy to make and an excellent foil for pancetta, even if you are using butter straight out of the freezer.*

After I got my hands on some ramps a few weeks ago, though, I was determined to make the ramp butter. Not only did I want to make the crostinis, but Michael suggested putting pats of it on some butterflied trout and veal porterhouse steaks we had purchased at Stew’s in the place of making a sauce. Kept frozen, the butter would be able to sit for a few months in the freezer, so unlike most of our ramp preparations we’d be able to enjoy it long after the season had ended…provided it lasted that long. Read More

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Eric Ripert, like most of the chefs who end up as judges on Top Chef, intimidates the hell out of me, mainly because he and his restaurant Le Bernadin in New York embody the word “flawless” in the way that few chefs and restaurants can. Simply thinking of the season 5 episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants visit the restaurant, have an amazing meal there, and then are tasked to recreate a dish they had enjoyed makes my stomach churn with anxiety to this day. I mean, this is the place that employs a guy whose job it is to properly break down whole fish, and he’s so good at it that when he goes on vacation, two people are required to handle the volume of fish he portions by himself and it’s still not enough to meet the demand.

Eric Ripert demands excellence and embodies it on a daily basis, and the rest of us are merely along for the ride. Read More

My blog-friend Kim recently mused on what makes a good cookbook, and for her it’s one that can be a big cookbook that’s not only chock full of recipes, but also of guidance. I’m inclined to agree, but I don’t necessarily need a “big” cookbook to do the job–just one that gets the importance of header notes and can provide direction on what level of heat to use during the cooking process. I think the absence of the latter is the single-most important reason why so many people I know like slow-cookers so much: they don’t have to worry that they’re going to mess something up by not heating the pan up enough or too much or cook it for too long or not long enough, and they don’t have to stand sentinel over a pan to gauge something like doneness. I can’t say that I love that uncertainty myself, but I’ve made peace with it over the years as I’ve practiced and asked M and others for advice and pored over the most helpful cookbooks.

Meat thermometers help, too.

So when I allowed myself to go off a months-long, self-imposed cookbook purchase ban a few weeks ago, I had it in my head that any substantial purchase had to fit the bill of being useful as well as inspiring. The two little cookbooks I bought in Spain technically count as recent purchases but were gotten as souvenirs rather than to be folded into a regular cookbook rotation–that is, until my Spanish improves–but the three larger books pictured above were acquired under more rigorous standards. Read More

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