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on our cookbook shelves

Candied Bacon and Curried Almonds (link to recipe at the bottom of this post)

With the holidays over and things slowly coming back to normal, I want to get back into the habit of blogging more regularly again. So in order to do that, I need to clear out some mental clutter.

1.
Tuesday marked the first day in about two weeks that the temperatures went significantly over the freezing point; when preparing to go out to pick up some bread for dinner, I had steeled myself for the slap of cold I had come to expect when walking outside and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was…mild. I know it’s still early-ish in January and we have a long ways to go until spring, but it’s nice to have a bit of a respite from it for at least a few days.

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Fried Oysters with Pickled Pepper Mayo and Cucumber Salad

With Christmas less than a week away, it’s time for me to start packing up all of our stuff to bring back to PA for the holiday weekend and get a cooking game plan set for Christmas Eve. We’re leading that particular dance this year, which is great since we did zero cooking during Thanksgiving. We are going to do the seven fishes this year, but in order to maintain our sanity and to make sure that everyone can try at least a bit of everything, we’re keeping the portions small and basically treating the meal like a tasting menu. Read More

Pressure-cooked fresh tomatoes–even better than canned.

I’m finally finished with my cookbook project–after nine months and change, I’ve cooked or made at least one thing from every cookbook in our primary collection, all 105 of them. In retrospect it was a really valuable exercise, not only because it gave me a new appreciation for the recipes that I had at my disposal, but also in helping me develop some really helpful techniques. Had I not set out to do this I wouldn’t have tried Massimo Bottura’s method for making pasta completely by hand, or Alton Brown’s shrimp scampi, or Mimi Thorisson’s dry pan-roasted mushrooms. I’ve pushed myself in ways I wasn’t expecting, and because of that I feel like I’ve grown as a cook, and I feel better-equipped to improvise where necessary. Read More

Shrimp scampi via Alton Brown.

Few dishes scream “I was big in the nineties!” like shrimp scampi, maybe because even writing words takes me back to a table at a Red Lobster with a plate of butterflied fried shrimp and shirmp scampi before me, with the latter drowning in too much butter and probably some crappy white wine. It was so ubiquitous (to the point of nauseatingly generic) that it served as symbol in the ’90s romantic comedy Only You* that a shared love of the dish was a superficial connection at best.

So color me surprised when a few weeks ago I was flipping through the remainder of my cookbooks that I had yet to use and I found myself flagging a recipe for shrimp scampi in Alton Brown’s first cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food. There was no butter involved here–just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil–and not even a mention of wine. Instead, the idea is that you broil the shrimp with the garlic and some seasoning (salt, pepper, and some Old Bay) for a couple of minutes, and then stir in some lemon juice, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley, and put it back in the broiler to let the shrimp cook through and the breadcrumbs attain a lovely golden color. Intrigued, I put it on the list of things to make for dinner this past week. Read More

Chicken teriyaki from Ivan Ramen

Despite taking that unexpected break from this project back in July and August, I’m actually really, really close to my goal now of making something from all of my cookbooks. Per the spreadsheet I’ve been using to track my progress I’m now 93% of the way there, and I only have seven books left to go before I’m finished. Most of this was due to me returning to this project with a vengeance in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve since flagged stuff to make in every single remaining book so I have a plan–I just have to figure out when I’m going to make everything.

One of the hopes I had for this exercise was to be able to introduce new recipes into our repertoire, because we had been leaning hard on old favorites a bit too frequently lately. My big hope was to find a few new ideas on what to do with our weekly boneless chicken thigh staples, because as I alluded to in my last post I had been resorting to throwing them on the Griddler and then tossing them with some sort of mango salsa or herby pesto. A fine idea to have, of course, but also kind of boring after doing it too frequently. Read More

Massimo Botturra’s meat tortellini from Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, finished in sage and brown butter.

Can I take a moment and say how smitten I am with the newest episodes of Master of None? We’re slowly making our way through the season–just one new one a week–and as such I feel like we’re SO behind because the various pop culture blogs I follow have already moved on to a bunch of other shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale and GLOW. (Both are really good, and I’ll be writing about the former in this space relatively soon.) Such is the internet in the age of Peak TV, but I still prefer savoring each episode on its own especially since it’s not clear if we’ll see another season of the show, much less one anytime soon. And given the ambition Aziz Ansari and his team had with this season, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be incessantly asked when the next batch of episodes would be coming because so many people burned through the current set so quickly. Read More

Ham and egg tapa from The Book of Tapas

One of the objectives of this whole cook-through-my-cookbook-bookcase experiment was to reconnect with cookbooks I used to use all of the time but have since…well, not abandoned, per se, but haven’t referenced as much as I’d like to. The Book of Tapas is one where I have a handful of recipes that have entered our regular rotation—I’m particularly fond of the lemon-garlic chicken wings—but a few Fridays ago I decided to finally try a recipe I sort of half-assed back in New York and then never attempted to make again: the ham and quail’s egg tapa. Read More

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