How To Paint Your Kitchen


This is the story of how two dunderheads, one who’d never painted a room before, the other who’d only painted a wall, spent a full Saturday (from 11 am to 1 am) painting a bedroom and a kitchen. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the kitchen; a task that might seem daunting at first, but one that, as will be evidenced by the pictures, is well worth the effort.

Continue Reading

How To Make a Chocolate Souffle

One of the highlights of making our Amateur Gourmet show for, was the day we got to visit the kitchen of Le Bernardin–one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, great restaurants–to learn how to make a chocolate souffle from revered pastry chef (and blogger!) Michael Laiskonis. What follows is the video we made, with step-by-step instructions that result in a chocolatey souffle that’s as ethereal as it is delicious. Hope you enjoy! [For the full typed-out recipe, click here.]

How To Roast A Duck


Certain foods are meant to be cooked at home: roast chicken, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs. Other foods are meant to be eaten out: steak tartare, sushi, a flaming baked Alaska. Sure we can make those latter foods at home, but often times they’re not worth the hassle or the danger (raw steak at home? setting cake on fire? I’ll let a pro handle that, thank you).

Duck, I’d wager, is something most of us eat out. We expect the skin to be crispy and for there to be some kind of glaze. It’s a fancier food unless we get it in a Chinese restaurant and then it becomes a mysterious food: how do they make this duck taste so good? And why, when I try to make duck at home, does it either bomb dramatically or make me sick or both?

Continue Reading

How To Make An Apple Pie


Some of us have Oedipal complexes, others have Electra complexes, but very few of us have a complex based on apple pie. Allow me to lay on your therapist’s couch for a moment: I have a serious pie issue. My apple pie is inadequate–it comes from Martha Stewart–and though it often inspires a happy nod and a fleeting smile, it rarely induces the kind of exaltation that comes when Craig’s dad–who we’ll call “Steve” because that’s his name–makes his signature apple pie.

What is it that makes his pie so good? Why do my pies never measure up? On a recent visit to Bellingham, Washington–home of “Steve”–I decided to solve this mystery once and for all. What follows are the closely-guarded secrets of Steve’s Signature Apple Pie; a pie that I finally recreated at home to much acclaim–so much acclaim that I don’t need this therapy anymore. How much do I owe you?

Continue Reading

How To Do A Cooking Demonstration


There a came a moment on Saturday at The Baltimore Book Festival where I looked out at the crowd and down at the food in front of me and realized: “Holy (expletive): I have to cook something for all these people!”

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. When I was first invited to The Baltimore Book Festival, I was under the impression that all they wanted me to do was read from my book (which, incidentally, comes out in paperback tomorrow!) I’ve read from my book several times, to various crowds, and the lessons I learned from those various experiences–read slower than you think necessary, lift your head now and again–had little application when I learned that in addition to reading from my book, the Baltimore people also wanted me to cook.

Continue Reading

How To Cook For A Group


Journeys of self-discovery are often internal; we go to the desert, we go to the beach, we go to the forest, and, in our solitude, we unlock secrets from the past, untapped desires, revelations about who we are and why we are the way we are. Other times, journeys of self-discovery are external: case in point, my trip to Cape Cod with Craig and his film school friends a few weeks ago. It was there in Cape Cod that I discovered something about myself, something that I didn’t really know: when it comes to cooking for a group, that ain’t my thing!

Continue Reading

How To Organize Your Kitchen


1. Take everything out of the cabinets, drawers, cupboards, closets, etc. and lay it on a table.

2. Clean off the counters, the cabinets, the cupboards, the drawers, etc.

3. Go through all the STUFF and throw out anything you don’t use on a regular basis. Especially if you have a tiny New York apartment, there’s no sense keeping that cracker meal from the time you made salt and pepper shrimp or half-empty boxes of rock-hard brown sugar or two bags of corn meal when one will suffice, etc. etc. This is the hardest part because the frugal part of you will want to keep everything–waste not, want not–but you have to think more like a zen master than a Jewish grandmother: the more you get rid of now, the more peace you will find when you open your cabinets later and boxes and bags don’t come tumbling out. Believe me, I lived in a cluttered kitchen for the past year (as you can see from the picture above); clutter is not your friend.

4. Once you’ve purged, begin putting things away. Here’s where you get organized: choose the items you use most often and make those the most accessible. Over my sink I have a shelf that’s just an arms-reach away while I cook; there, now, I keep my olive oil, a few vinegars, a few different kinds of salt, my pepper grinder, vanilla, baking soda and twine. These are the things I use most often in my kitchen. In my biggest cabinet, now, I have a shelf for flours and sugars: bread flour, cake flour, all-purpose flour, etc; and white sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, etc. Below that I keep extraneous spices that don’t fit on my spice rack as well as all the chocolate I use for baking (Ghiardelli bitersweet mostly); on the top shelf are all the extraneous items that I didn’t throw out because I do use them somewhat frequently: corn meal, malt powder (to make David’s ice cream), etc. Above the stove, I’m storing my dried goods–pastas, dried beans, polenta–and miscellaneous oils (corn oil, canola oil) as well as other bottled items like pomegranate molasses, Thai fish sauce, etc. It’s not smart to keep oils above heat so I should probably move those (they may get spoiled) but for now, I think they’re ok.

5. Behold my organized kitchen!


Follow these steps, and you too will live in organized kitchen bliss.

Tuesday Techniques: How To Make Jam


Craig’s cousin Matt came to stay with us this past week and he and his friend (who also stayed with us) had a wild time. Out every night, hitting up the town, they’d wake up bleary-eyed every morning and ask me what Craig and I did the night before. “We, ummm, bought a keg and threw a block party,” I’d lie, ashamed of the truth: that I’d made dinner, we’d watched “The Wire” on DVD, and went to bed early.

And then any credibility I had as a vibrant young person went out the window when they came home one day to find me at the stove next to a pile of cherry pits.

‘What are you doing?” they asked, watching me sweat and stir.

“I’m making sour cherry jam,” I said.

They looked at one another and then back at me. “You’re making your own jam?” they asked, incredulously.

“Yes,” I said and suddenly felt my hair turn gray, my glasses slide down my nose, and my back hunch over. “Oh no!” I gasped. “Can it be? Do I have I.G.S.?”

I checked my symptoms online, consulted a web doctor, and my worst fears were confirmed: I’d caught the bug, and I wasn’t going to get better. Instant Grandma Syndrome. I was a hunched-over jam-maker, and “Golden Girls” reruns and early bird specials were to become my new way of life.

Continue Reading