I had a very good Cyber Monday, if I do say so myself. My KitchenAid mixer has been in decline every since that time, years ago, that I was using it to knead bread dough and heard a giant BOOM in the kitchen, only to discover it had toppled on to the floor, cracking a tile in the process. Now it looks like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, its whole back exposed to reveal stray wires and coils (the cover won’t stay on). The other day I accidentally put my hand on one of those wires and it zapped me. The thing is ten years old and so when I saw Jason Kottke link to a KitchenAid mixer deal on Amazon yesterday, it was if the food gods were smiling down upon me. I got the six-quart, professional series in Aqua Sky for $220 less than the normal price. It arrives tomorrow.
I may have also purchased a new food processor, a fire extinguisher (you never know!), and two mid-century serving platters on Etsy that weren’t discounted for Cyber Monday, but I was on a roll, so I just went with it. And then, one of L.A.’s most celebrated restaurants, Trois Mec, posted this on its Twitter feed: “We’re celebrating cyber Monday with a deal of our own! Buy for 2 and eat for 4, or buy for 1 and eat for 2! Valid for today only! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!”
I’ve been making the same oatmeal almost every day for the past few weeks and the time has come for me to share it with you.
There’s a good thing and a bad thing about this oatmeal recipe. The good thing is that it only has three ingredients, unless you also add butter (as the title above the title on this post says). The bad thing about this oatmeal recipe is that it features the single ugliest picture I have ever taken of food in my life. You’re about to see that picture, but I don’t want it to scare you. Just imagine it like those pods in the movie Cocoon, sitting at the bottom of the pool, waiting to hatch into aliens who will guarantee you everlasting life. At least I think that’s what happens in Cocoon? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.
There’s this notion that there’s an objective answer to the question, “Where’s the best place to eat in (insert city name) right now?”
Let me be the first to say that I don’t think it’s possible to be objective about such a thing. In fact, I’m planning a trip to Paris right now and listening to all kinds of advice. Many people are telling me about their favorite restaurants and I’m entering them into Google and though the menus look excellent, sometimes I just look at pictures of the restaurants on Google images and don’t get a great vibe. That’s enough for me to set that place aside, even if the food’s spectacular. Atmosphere matters just as much to me as the food (Craig too). That’s not true for everyone, but that’s true for us.
Why is it that there are things in this life that we KNOW are good for us and yet we don’t do them? Even if they’re easy? Even if the minimal amount of work that they require will yield enormous results, ones that’ll absolutely transform our day-to-day experiences for the better?
In case you couldn’t tell from the picture, or the title of this post, I’m talking about sharpening your knife. Raise your hand if you’ve had your knife sharpened lately. OK, very good, you can leave the classroom. Everyone else: listen up! Go to your kitchen right now and grab a tomato. Then get your main knife, your chef’s knife, the one that you use to chop everything. Drag it across the tomato without applying any pressure. Did it make a slice or did it barely make a dent? If it made a slice, very good, you too can leave the classroom. If not, it’s time we had a talk.
Cooking seafood for a crowd has never been my forté. The first time that I did it, over ten years ago!, I futzed around with a River Cafe Cookbook recipe involving potatoes cooked along with mussels, shrimp, and fish in a tomatoey broth. It was not a hit. The next time, about seven years later, I hosted an indoor clambake and though that was tons of fun, the sausage didn’t really cook along with the fish so I ended up dumping raw sausage on the table along with all of the clams and corn. I had to have everyone help me pick out all the sausage so I could pop it on to a cookie sheet and finish it in the oven. Again, not a triumph.
But last night I cooked seafood for a few friends and it was my best go at it yet. The key? Simplicity!
The idea of me teaching someone how to cook a few years ago would’ve been pretty laughable. I am, after all, The Amateur Gourmet, not The Gourmet Who Knows Enough About Cooking To Teach Others How To Do It (try loading that into your browser).
But, lately, I have to say, I’ve kind of hit my stride as a cook. I’ve been doing this now for over a decade and I cook meals at home about ten times a week (including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners), and after spending so much time in the kitchen, I guess you do get to a point where you’re more of an authority than not-an-authority. Which is why, when my friend Jonathan talked about wanting to learn how to cook, I said I’d be happy to teach him. I didn’t think he’d actually take me up on it. But then he did take me up on it and, this past Sunday, he was coming over at five PM to learn how to make some stuff. Suddenly I was cast in the role of cooking teacher. This was a lot of pressure!
A year or two ago, I got rid of my roasting pan. Not because I’m anti-roasting pan, or because I needed the space, but because I realized that my roasting pan had a non-stick surface and that I’d been scratching it up with a metal spatula over the years and that there was a teensy, tiny chance I’d been exposing myself and my loved ones to carcinogens whenever I roasted a chicken and that we’re all going to die and it’s all my fault.
So these days, when I roast a chicken, I rely on my largest cast iron skillet. Frankly, I think it works better. And I riff on the beloved Thomas Keller roast chicken recipe, the one I’ve been making for the past eight years, combining assorted root vegetables and potatoes and garlic in the bottom of the pan with a splash of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, and then topping it with a chicken that I stuff with thyme and garlic, also rub with vegetable oil, before sprinkling with lots of salt and pepper. Only, I’ve been much bolder with a certain ingredient to really make my roast chicken shine. Can you guess what it is?
I once wrote a post on here called Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party that was mildly controversial. Craig’s sister Kristin was offended that I included “boneless, skinless chicken breasts,” so on my next visit to Washington State, she cooked up a Chicken Piccata that really put in me in place.
And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.