When a significant other goes out of town, most people use that opportunity to watch bad movies, to pig out on ice cream, and to spread out gratuitously in bed while sleeping. Me? I make risky foods. No, I don’t mean risky in a danger sense–I’m not eating supermarket ground beef tartar–I mean in a “will this be good?” sense. I take bigger chances when Craig’s not here because if I screw up, no one’s there to scrunch up their nose. So on Saturday morning, when I woke up and wanted breakfast, I opened Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book and studied the recipe for a sandwich that she says is Mari Batali’s favorite. It’s basically boiled eggs on arugula doused in Bagna Cauda. I didn’t have any bread and I didn’t have any arugula, but I did have the ingredients to make Bagna Cauda. And eggs. And, also–somewhat weirdly–farmer’s market Brussels Sprouts. An idea was born.
Ever since I made that 60 second aioli, I’ve been thinking a lot about hand blenders.
Ferran Adria, one of the world’s great chefs, uses a hand blender; that was his aioli recipe, after all. If a chef of his stature uses a hand blender, surely there must be something to it. Off the top of my head: it’s easier to clean than a regular blender. Whatever vessel you use for blending (a nice big jar, for example) can also be used for serving. Because you can move it around, you can make sure that you blend every last bit. It works better for smaller quantities. Plus: it’s kind of fun.
Infomercials rarely inspire awe, and yet I vividly remember watching a commercial for a handblender–this was back in the 90s, I think–that showed a glass jar filled with eggs and oil; then the hand blender plunged in, the host pressed a button, and magically it became mayonnaise. It was like watching a David Copperfield special only better: while I couldn’t make the Statue of Liberty disappear, I could buy a handblender and make mayonnaise in a jar. The only catch: I hated mayonnaise. So a handblender I didn’t buy.
Many of my best food memories from childhood occurred at chain restaurants. It’s an old story by now–how my parents didn’t cook, yadda yadda yadda–and we ate most of our weeknight meals in Boca Raton at restaurants owned by athletes (Pete Rose’s, Wilt Chamberlain’s) or country-wide chains like Chili’s, Friday’s and The Cheesecake Factory. At the top of the chain restaurant hierarchy was a restaurant that’s still in business around the country, and still just as good as it was the first time we ate there; that would be Houston’s.
I’ll let you in on a blogging secret. We bloggers want you to click all over our blogs because every time you click, we make $0.001 and, eventually, that adds up. (That’s why all successful food bloggers ride around in Porsches or, in my case, the subway.)
So it’s a fairly significant fact that in this post about salsa verde I am not going to link to the salsa verde in my archives, the one that I made in September 2010 (and that you can easily find by searching in the search box). That’s because, now that I’ve made that same recipe in a mortar and pestle, I disavow the old method. A mortar and pestle is the only way to do it.
When food icons have food blogs, you need to read them.
That’s certainly true of Dorie Greenspan’s blog. Her posts, like Dorie herself, are wise, witty and warm. And they’re full of good advice–like where to get pastries in Paris or how to whip up begger’s linguine–but the advice that’s stuck with the most was her advice, last April, to use the last remnants of mustard in the jar to make a vinaigrette.
The first time that I heard the word Sriracha, it was on an episode of “Top Chef” where the chefs tried to make Sriracha ice cream. Even though I’d been eating Thai food since college (at Doc Chey’s Noodle House in Atlanta) and I’d seen the red bottle on the table with the rooster logo, I didn’t know the name of the sauce that it contained.
But Sriracha, a spicy emulsion of chilis, garlic, and vinegar, is prized by chefs all over. You can find it in most speciality stores (Whole Foods has it in the international aisle) and if you squeeze a bit on to your take-out Chinese food or Thai noodles, you’ll punch everything up into the stratosphere. Your mouth will cry: “Oh baby.”
No one gets very excited when you say “apple sauce”–well no one except, maybe, people who just had their wisdom teeth out–but throw the word “pear” in there and the word “roasted” and you start to whet people’s appetites. My appetite was certainly whet when I saw this recipe in The Barefoot Contessa’s newest book, “How Easy Is That?” (When my friends Patty and Lauren saw the book title, they burst out laughing, because they recognized it as one of Ina’s favorite things to say.) To make the sauce, all you need is what you see above in my attempt at a still life, plus some brown sugar and a little butter.