Confession: if I lead a post with an image that isn’t the finished dish, that’s because the finished dish isn’t very pretty. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t very good. In this case, the dish comes from a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time, a book that my publisher published around the same time my book came out: Burma by Naomi Duguid. As much as I felt like I went on an adventure with my book, this book is The Amazing Race to my Double Dare. What’s so remarkable about Duguid’s work here is how immersive it is: the book isn’t just a cluster of recipes, it’s a beautifully assembled collection of stories, pictures and anecdotes about life in Burma.
When you have a three year-old staying with you, chances are you’re probably not going out to dinner. We did go out one night and that’s a whole story in and of itself. Most nights, though, I cooked and that turned out to be a lot of fun, coming up with food to make for a small crowd (other friends dropped by in the hours leading up to dinner). One night, someone suggested going out for tacos and I responded, “I can make tacos right here!” Then I ran to the store and bought a bunch of stuff to prove that my homemade tacos would be just as good as whatever we’d get at a restaurant.
The other day I was in Atwater Village driving past a large Indian grocery store called India Sweets and Spices. I decided to do a very sensible thing: I parked my car and went inside. In the front, there’s an actual restaurant where you get food from a counter and the food looked pretty good. Then, behind all that, is a large supermarket-sized store with aisles and aisles of food from India. In my mind, I was seeking out something very specific, something that I first encountered in Elberton, Georgia when I cooked with my friend Shirin’s Pakistani family; it’s also something I re-encountered in Georgia, a few years later, when I cooked with Cardamom Hill’s Asha Gomez for my cookbook. I’m talking about curry leaves.
Go ahead and imagine the most flavorful bite of food you can. What makes it so flavorful? Is it the amount of salt? The amount of heat? The amount of fat? The amount of acidity?
All of these factors come into play in this recipe for lamb curry from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Pig. It’s undoubtedly the best curry I’ve ever had in my life; but it may also be the single most flavorful bite of food I can remember eating in a long, long time.
At that same Jewish dinner where I made the chopped liver, I decided to try my hand at stuffed cabbage. Over Thanksgiving, my brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother (did you follow all that?), a Holocaust survivor named Anka, told me her recipe for stuffed cabbage. “The secret,” she let me know, “is raisins in the tomato sauce.” After that, stuffed cabbage was on my mind and when I started planning this dinner of Judaism I knew it would be my entree.
Nate Tate and his sister Mary Kate Tate (yes: their real names!) are the authors of a brand new cookbook, “Feeding The Dragon,” that documents their travels around China (nine regions, 9,700 miles) and the recipes (100) that they collected on their journey. I first encountered the book when they asked me to write a blurb for it (look for me on the back cover); I didn’t know what to expect when they sent it my way. But what this book contains is the real deal: authentic recipes, impressive photography, and real world stories of making one’s way around China. (Don’t miss the episode where they’re chased by feral dogs, pg. 69.)
It’s been tricky to keep the contents of my cookbook a secret. For example, certain chefs have led me to purchase certain cooking equipment and/or ingredients that have transformed the way I cook at home. Do I share those revelations here or do I wait for you to experience them in Spring 2012, when the book is finally published? I choose the latter, though this post cheats a little.
I’ve always been a very truthful food blogger and so I’m going to tell you the truth about the video you see above. Part One of the truth is this: the Bombay Chicken Curry that Chef Floyd Cardoz (chef at the celebrated New York City restaurant Tabla) made for us in the first half of this video was the best chicken curry I’ve ever had in my life. Part Two of the truth concerns the chicken curry that I make in the second half of the video. Despite my assurances that it tastes delicious and the somewhat appealing (though slightly saturated) image at the end, the chicken curry that I made that day in my old Brooklyn kitchen was deeply flawed for two major reasons.