Here’s the thing about turkey. If I were making it for my family, this year, I’d go the Gina DePalma route (click that link for her excellent essay on how to keep it simple): a whole roasted bird, some butter, some stuffing, the end. But, as it happens, I’m not cooking for my family this year (we’re going out! “It’s just easier”) so last week I made a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for some friends and threw tradition out the window. The first thing to go? The white meat. Sure, you can monitor the temperature and hope that it doesn’t taste like sandpaper when you roast it in the oven, but why bother when the dark meat–legs and thighs–are so much better? (Note: if you must have white meat, slow-roasting the breast is best.) Best of all, if you braise them, you can do everything the day before and it will only taste better. Let me repeat that. You can have all the turkey cooked the day before and don’t have to stress on Thanksgiving Day. That’s worthy of a parade right there.
It was just a small rectangle on the cheese plate at The French Laundry; a single bite of braised endive to complement the other elements on the plate (apricot, a square of pistachio cake, a sour ale gastrique).
But that single bite stayed with me. It was memorable because endive, which is normally bitter, becomes remarkably sweet when it’s cooked. Not entirely sweet, though; the flavor is complex–which is why braised endive has a place on the menu at such a distinguished restaurant. The surprise is that it’s really easy to make at home.
Have you ever made a roux? Like: really made a roux?
I’ve made a roux in quotes–a “roux”–whenever I’ve taken a roasted chicken out of its cast iron skillet, added some flour to the pan, cooked it for a minute or two and finished it up with a big glass of white wine. That makes for a thick, chickeny, winey sauce that’s very tasty. But after visiting New Orleans last year, and purchasing Donald Link’s indispensible cookbook “Real Cajun,” I’d been meaning to make a real Cajun roux. The kind that you have to develop for a while at the stove, the kind that you have to watch carefully, the kind that goes from a toast stage to a cardboard stage based on the smells its giving off. Which is why, last week, I made Donald Link’s Smothered Pork Roast Over Rice, a recipe he learned from his grandmother, and one that involves the creation of a peanut butter-colored roux.
The meat section at my local Gelson’s is pretty spectacular: if you name a cut of meat, they probably have it. And on Friday night I was craving lamb and, studying the lamb options there, I saw a giant leg of lamb for $70 and a rack of lamb for $40. Those prices would seem to make lamb prohibitively expensive, yet there was another lamb option there for a measly $10.
No matter what holiday you celebrate this holiday season, there’s going to be a dinner and since you’re reading a food blog right now, there’s a good chance people are going to expect YOU to make it. Your options will be fairly limited–people have certain expectations when it comes to holiday dinners–and in the canon of culinary techniques available to you, you’ll most likely choose roasting since that particular verb yields so many classic holiday dishes: roast beef, roast turkey, roast reindeer (see my banner.)
Dear New York Weather: it’s almost June, and yesterday I was wearing a sweatshirt and I had the heat on. And it’s almost June! I understand you have your peculiarities, that you’re grappling with a diminishing ozone and toxic emissions, but I bought some cute new short sleeve shirts from UniQlo in SoHo (what a deal!) and I want to wear them, ok?
But in the meantime, I forgive you because if it weren’t for your unseasonable chill, would I have tried my hand at Coq au Vin, a traditional cold weather dish? The answer, I think, is no. And what a loss that would’ve been because this dish, this French classic of chicken braised in red wine, may be one of the best dishes I’ve ever cooked. We devoured it.
First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due: look at the “c” I put in the word “Provencal” in this post’s title. That “c” has the appropriate squiggle in it; I copied it from the Wikipedia page for Provencal. What does that squiggle denote? I have no idea, but the squiggle is there and who do you have to thank? Me, that’s who.
Second of all: lamb’s neck. Are you grossed out? You really shouldn’t be. I first ate lamb’s neck at the offal dinner Chris Cosentino cooked at the Astor Center last year (watch video here). Unlike the raw venison liver I consumed, or, for that matter, beef heart tartare, the lamb’s neck was the least forbidding of the dishes served; on the plate, it looks no different from a braised lamb shank (except for the shape) and it tastes twice as good. Why? It’s a fattier cut of meat.
An easy dinner, one two three
Try it out: listen to me;
Buy some pork chops, one for each
Dry them off like your kid at the beach;
Heat some oil and some butter
Season the pork chops til you hear a sputter….