Thankful for Stuff (not Stuffing)

I’m a bit of a non-traditionalist, particularly when it comes to Thanksgiving. I think turkey pretty much sucks, stuffing does nothing for me, I don’t like pumpkin pie and cranberries are weird.

Kind conquerors feeding the savage Indians at the first Thanksgiving

Kind conquerors feeding the savage Indians at the first Thanksgiving

So I faced a dilemma when my in-laws asked me to bring a turkey. I joked with my mother-in-law that I was going to solve the dry-turkey problem by serving mine medium rare. She laughed uneasily. More

Advertisements

The Strangest Pizza

I remember when Wolfgang Puck was cooking at Spago, the original one above Tower Records on the Sunset Strip. I went there a few times as a kid, always glancing about for a Warren Beatty or Jack Nicholson sighting. Years later, I would find myself sandwiched between Priscilla Presley and Paul Prudhomme at a private Chinese New Year dinner at his second restaurant, Chinois on Main. But that’s another story. Back to Spago… it was here that in addition to star spotting, you could sample such radical and then unimaginable pizzas as goat cheese and sun-dried tomato (wow!), smoked salmon with caviar and Thai chicken.

John Huston's table, Spago Oscars party, 1986

John Huston’s table, Spago Oscars party, 1986

I’ve made a few strange pizzas in my day. Never one to extol novelty for novelty’s sake, I mostly hew near to the Neopolitan standard, sometimes getting a little creative with my toppings — fresh eggs and caramelized fennel, for example, or Kurobata pork belly and pickled red onion — or exploring different cheeses. Occasionally I’ll build a pizza around a single unique ingredient — a particular wild mushroom I’ve found highlighted in a cream reduction. But every so often, I throw convention out completely to the whim of inspiration. More

My Goose is Cooked!

The other day at my local supermarket, I caused quite the stir when I purchased a frozen goose.

Canada goose, John J. Audubon, 1838

“Is that a goose??” said the gal at the check-out counter, causing all the other shoppers waiting in nearby lanes to crane their necks as the frozen beast made its way forward on the conveyer belt. In California, you’re hard-pressed to find anything goose-related amidst the quinoa, skinless chicken breasts and tempeh. “Hey Esmerelda, look — a goose!”

More

Confit

In the old days before refrigeration, all those trendy rustic preserved things you see on menus these days — cured meats, preserves, terrines, rillettes, all foods pickled and/or fermented — were a matter of necessity. With the fall harvest came too much of everything. And with the desolation of winter around the corner, you figured out ways to preserve all the extra meats and fruits and veggies and grains.

Chicken confit in the Dutch oven

Fast forward to the era of refrigeration, microwave cooking and frozen entrees, and these foodstuffs became quaint reminders of a more difficult epoch. Perhaps it was nostalgia or the recognition of the enduring deliciousness inherent in many preserved… but as the pace of life grew ever quicker, preserves made a roaring comeback, trailing their salty sour tails like comets into the modern era. And that’s a really good thing. More

Waste Not, Want Not

I have an almost cellular aversion to wasting food. I don’t know if it’s the result of the steady drumbeat of “There are children starving in China!” I heard as a kid when I wasn’t finishing a meal (and which I now use on my own children, substituting a non-specific “somewhere in the world” for China). Or whether it’s just because I hate to see things wasted.

Wilted veggies from the Skinny Girls fridge

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before — I’ve written on this subject many times already in this blog. But it’s an issue that comes up often in my life, as I remind yet another dinner host to save the bones from the chicken they’ve just served to make a homemade stock. (Recipe: throw bones in a gallon of water with an onion, salt and bay leaf, cook until reduced by half.) More