More Tiny Little Fishies

I don’t know what it is about small fish that is so appealing to me.

I remember being in Italy as a child, and looking on in horror as my parents dug into platefuls of tiny fried fish, uncleaned and with heads intact! (Why this was more objectionable to my 11-year-old sensibilities than the squid tentacles I was gobbling with wild abandon that same trip I’ll never know.) Fast forward a quarter century of so, and I can’t get enough of the small fry.

Italian-style “fritto di mare” fried whitefish

I buy teeny, tiny “ice fish” — no longer than a nickel and pale white — at the Japanese market, coat them in a light tempura batter and make fish fries. I buy smelt or other little fish, and recreate the fritto misto that traumatized me as a child in Italy. I purchase silvery sardines to pickle or throw on the grill. I can’t remember when it all changed, perhaps it was the climbing-a-mountain/crossing-a-new-frontier aspect it. But whenever and however, I became a devotee of diminutive dabs. More

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In the Burger Lab

I like entering contests of skill. I won a big Le Creuset dutch oven recently in a contest where I had to write a semi-autobiographical essay about my childhood memories and how Le Creuset fit warmly into them. (There must’ve been one somewhere in my childhood, right? Anyway…) A recent item caught my eye in the Los Angeles Times food section: Best Burger Contest.

My entry in the Best Burger Contest — the Chorizo burger with Manchego, caramelized fennel and spicy sweet pimenton aioli

My go-to burger is sort of a knock-off of the now-famous burger from my old neighborhood dive bar, Father’s Office: thick medium-rare burgers, blue cheese, caramelized onions, bacon and arugula. I figured two thirds of the recipes submitted to the contest were going to be some variation on that theme, so I decided to enter the Burger Lab (my kitchen) and get to work on coming up with something utterly original, and unbeatably delicious. More

Fennel Grilled Pork Shoulder

Certain flavors were just meant to be together. Such it is with pork and fennel. Add orange, and you’ve got a divine trinity of deliciousness. And here, I share one of my best grilling preparations with you. Make this for your next barbecue, tell your friends you made it up yourself (I don’t mind), and you’ll be revered in the backyards of your neighborhood.

I love pork shoulder. It’s one of the least expensive cuts, it’s usually huge, and it’s got an amazing flavor and meat/fat ratio. Confirming its pedigree, it’s the pork most often used for Mexican carnitas. Now that’s some street cred! More