Tom Colicchio’s always like “you didn’t develop any flavor” on Top Chef and most people are probably like “what’s he talking about?” My quick answer is: “He’s talking about making things brown.”
Generally speaking, when you’re cooking something, you want it to turn brown (or, to use a prettier word, you want it to “caramelize.”) What that really comes down to is taking things further than you might otherwise feel comfortable. The hard part is if you take them too far, there’s no going back. So you’ve gotta get in there, hover over the pan, but don’t hover too much–if you stare, you’ll be tempted to stir, and that stops the browning. It’s a delicate dance, developing flavor, but if you do it the right way you can create a dish that’s way more dynamic than it has any right to be–like this dish of spaghetti with crispy chickpeas and preserved lemon.
Scared you, didn’t I? Well I didn’t mean to. It’s funny how many people read my last post and assumed I was ending my blog. That’s not what I said! I just said that my blog was no longer my primary source of income; in many ways, it’s a liberating state of affairs. It means that if I post on here (as I’m doing now) it’s because I have something I’m really eager to share with the world, not just something to fill up space on the internet (like that time I told you that my cake stand is really a punch bowl; though, weirdly, that post really caught on). In any case: chicken under a brick. Have you tried it? If not, why not? I bet I can guess: you’re afraid. I was afraid too. Then, this past Tuesday, I tried it and–I mean this seriously–I don’t think I’ll ever make chicken any other way again.
Sometimes there’s a salad that you like, but don’t love, and then you change a few things about it and suddenly it’s your new favorite salad. That’s what happened with this salad, a familiar combination of apples and fennel and walnuts and golden raisins and arugula. It’s one you can probably find in my archives and that recipe in my archives is good but not great. This one is great. What’s the difference?
What you see above is one of my favorite meals I’ve ever made at home. It came about rather organically: after raving about Rancho Gordo beans in this post from last week, I went back to Cookbook (the store where I bought that first bag) and stocked up on more.
Say “raw kale salad” before serving dinner and you may not get the round of applause you were hoping for. That’s unfortunate, though, because raw kale–which, I should say here, is incredibly good for you–is so easy to dress up. I’ve had raw kale salads before, mostly at hip Italian joints like Franny’s in New York, but I’d never made one. Then last week I had some leftover kale (Tuscan kale, in fact) from a lentil soup that I love from my cookbook (just 8 more months ’til you can buy it!). I decided that, along with the leftover lentil soup, I’d serve up a raw kale salad that I would improvise on the spot.