The World’s Best Crab Cakes

Craig’s dad Steve has opinions about the title of this post. “Well,” he says, “if people like it, great. If they don’t, tell them it’s not my recipe.”

I have no qualms about calling these the world’s best crab cakes. Here’s my evidence: 1. The crab is freshly caught Dungeness crab; 2. That crab is cooked in sea water; 3. The crab cake itself is composed mostly of that crab; and 4. The man who makes them has the following sign in his kitchen.

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Cavatappi with Anchovies, Garlic, and Red Peppers

Following a recipe can sometimes feel like you’re on a mad voyage with a crazed captain determined to set your kitchen ablaze in a quest to capture that ephemeral, culinary white whale.

“Are you out of your mind?” I wanted to yell at Melissa Clark, whose Pasta with Caramelized Peppers and Anchovies inspired this particular dinner. “Put the anchovies in the hot oil first? Before the peppers?! And use a whole jar?” The spatter coated not just the whole pan, but the tea kettle next to it and my entire stove top. I was ready to jump overboard. But the resulting dinner had Craig aflutter, moaning “Oh my God” upon taking the first bite. As a person who makes pasta on a biweekly basis (in the two-times-a-week sense), this may be the most potently flavorful pasta I’ve ever drummed up in my kitchen.

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The Last Word Cocktail

Mixing drinks at home has never been a priority. We’ve been known to stir up a Negroni now and again — it’s such an easy drink, I basically eyeball it — but the days of Craig shaking up Sidecars at dinner parties has been in steep decline ever since I noticed how much more clean-up is involved (the shaker, the extra glassware, the jigger, etc). Plus Craig always leaves the bottles with the caps off on my cutting board as I’m trying to get dinner together and it drives me crazy.

All of that changed under our current circumstances. We’ve been mixing up cocktails on the regular, with Craig reclaiming the mantle as our resident mixologist. His favorite drink to make is a Paper Plane, which is a surprising combination of Aperol, Amaro, Bourbon, and lemon juice: producing a bright, summery drink despite the presence of a wintery spirit. He also makes a mean gin martini, a fizzy gin and tonic (the day he told me to buy “bespoke tonic water,” I knew we’d become monsters), and an excellent classic daiquiri. And now we’re making even more sophisticated cocktails with the arrival of David Lebovitz’s Drinking French.

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Nectarine Plum Pie with a Brown Sugar Crust

So I’ve been organizing all of my old posts into categories. It’s a huge process — over 3,500 posts covering a 15 year span — but it’s also oddly satisfying; like cleaning up a hoarder house. My goal is for you to be able to click “cakes” and to see every cake recipe I’ve ever posted.

On a personal level, reading through my archives is like watching myself grow up. My early posts were so dopey (remember when I wrote a song about frozen yogurt?) but also so innocent. Now I’m a jaded old man in my 40s! I started this blog when I was *gulp* 25. At least there’s the wisdom that comes with age. And nothing embodies how much I’ve grown than my relationship to pie dough.

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Stuffed Onions, Peppers, and Tomatoes with Sausage and Rice

Drinking before you cook has its benefits. For starters, it loosens you up; makes you less anxious about whether the salmon will sear perfectly or the Étouffée will be an Étoufail. On the flip side, drunk cooking might lead to cooking accidents and/or a viral web series.

On weekends, I like to enjoy a good cocktail before heading into the kitchen. My favorite, these days, is a White Negroni: equal parts Gin, Cocchi Americano, and this orange-flavored Amaro we get here in L.A. called Amaro Angeleno. It was after imbibing an especially potent version of this favorite drink that I decided to do something truly wild: I decided to stuff vegetables with random things that I had in my fridge and then to bake them in tomato sauce.

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Anytime Pasta with Scallions, Peas, and Parmesan

Pour one out, if you will, for the imported Italian bowl that you see above: I bought it on eBay a few years ago, it was my pride and joy, and yesterday — after doing the dishes — I was putting ramekins away high up in a cabinet and one of them fell and broke my most treasured kitchen possession. There are now two broken off pieces and my friend Rebecca gave me a Kintsugi kit, but it’ll never be the same.

Thankfully, its last night on this earth was a happy one (and, for the record, it has a twin in case you see the bowl again!). Happy because of this pasta which I made using frozen peas, a little butter, scallions, and lots of Parmesan. These are all things you should have in your fridge and freezer anyway: frozen peas (they’re better than fresh peas!), Parmesan cheese (guilty secret: I buy the good stuff, but already grated… don’t @ me), butter (I’m going through a Kerrygold phase), and scallions, which are excellent on eggs, in salads, and, as you’re about to see, pasta.

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Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Calling a cookbook “essential” is a bit cliché, but that’s not the case with Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee, this year’s James Beard Award winner for Best American cookbook. We’re in a state of reckoning right now in America, a necessary reckoning that’s had reverberations in the food world (see: Bon Appetit) and has forced many of us to question our own blindness when it comes to racial inequality.

For me, that blindness is made manifest on my cookbook shelf. I have hundreds of cookbooks — five Inas, for crying out loud — and yet so few of my cookbooks are by people of color. It’s an embarrassing state of affairs, one that I’m in the process of remedying; after interviewing Samin Nosrat on Instagram Live, I immediately bought some of her new favorite cookbooks, including Maangi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking and Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar.

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A Most Excellent BLT

You never know where you’ll learn a life-altering cooking technique. Longtime readers will know that I glean most of my food knowledge from Saturday afternoon PBS cooking shows (hat-tips to Lidia, Bridget & Julia, and Mary Ann Esposito), but today’s post is a result of following pastry chef extraordinaire Nicole Rucker on Instagram.

Nicole wears many hats: proprietor of Fat & Flour in the Grand Central Market, author of the delightful cookbook Dappled (you’ll be seeing some recipes here from it soon), and inaugural guest on my podcast, Lunch Therapy. She’s also, it turns out, a bacon whisperer.

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