It was so hot here in L.A., last week, I couldn’t bear to go outside. Then, quite abruptly, the heat went away and this morning I found myself turning off the A/C early, chilly under our light summer blanket. A change of season is afoot–especially in places that aren’t L.A.–and mood-wise, that might be kind of depressing, but food-wise? This is my favorite transition, from light summer salads to hearty winter braises. Consider this particular recipe, adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, the perfect transitional tool.
To understand my Mexican food expertise, consider this: when I was younger, I took several cruises with my family that brought us to Mexico. Cozumel, mostly. Upon arriving in Mexico, my family would immediately trek to the center of town where my mom would shop for jewelry and my brother, dad and I would stand around impatiently. Then it was time for lunch and, without fail, we’d almost always go to the same authentic Mexican restaurant, The Hard Rock Cafe. I even had the Hard Rock Cozumel t-shirt to prove our devotion. Which is why, when it comes to Mexican food, I’m as gringo as they come.
A food writer friend is coming to L.A. this week and asked for my tips on where to eat (specifically, Mexican and Thai restaurants). For Mexican, I expressed my love for Loteria and my admiration for La Casita Mexicana; for Thai, I brought up Jitlada and Saap and Pa-Ord but finished my sentence by recommending Night + Market, where I ate this past Saturday, as “my favorite Thai meal I’ve had so far in L.A.”
Of all the shameful things a home cook can do, the most shameful is letting leftovers go to waste.
I’ve been guilty of this; maybe I’m craving sushi instead of yesterday’s lentil soup, and the lentil soup sits, gathering mold over the weeks, and getting tossed when it might’ve provided a perfectly satisfying second night dinner. But lentil soup is one thing, meat is another. And when you have leftover meat, you have absolutely no excuse not to make a sandwich.
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.
When the James Beard award-winning editor of The Washington Post food section writes a cookbook, you know you better buy it. In my case, I blurbed it–(look for me on the back cover!)–because the book in question, Joe Yonan’s “Serve Yourself,” is truly excellent. It’s not one of those cookbooks full of familiar recipes that have been tweaked in such minor ways you wonder why you bought it; here everything is fresh, smart and mouth-watering. Especially the recipe on pg. 66: “Yucatan-Style Slow Roasted Pork.”
There’s a psychological phenomenon–and I’m not a psychologist, so cut me some slack here–by which, even though we know what’s good for us, we don’t do the thing that’s good for us. So, for example, let’s say we’re an aspiring journalist and there’s a convention downstairs, in our building, for working journalists who are looking to hire interns. And let’s say we want to be an intern–it’s a crucial step in our professional trajectory–but, on TV, is a marathon showing of The Real Housewives of New York City and it’s the episode where Jill Zarin shows up, uninvited, to the Caribbean. Even though all we have to do is turn off the TV, splash some water on our face and walk downstairs, we don’t. That’s a real phenomenon (perhaps it’s called self-sabotage?) and I’d like to talk to you about it today in the context of pork chops.
When going to lunch with a James Beard award winner, it’s best to let them choose the venue.
Such was the case when I had lunch with Rachel Wharton last week. I first met Rachel years ago when she profiled me for The Daily News and we ate lunch at S’Agapo in Queens. I thought Rachel was one of the quirkiest and most spirited food writers I’d ever met and also one of the hardest working. Now her hard work has paid off: she won the 2010 James Beard award for her “Back of the House” columns that appear in Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, beating out luminaries like Colman Andrews and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl in the food-related column category.
Which is all to say that Rachel really was the one to choose where we’d eat lunch when the lunch date we’d planned arrived last week. I pitched Chinatown and sure enough Rachel came back with a James Beard Award-worthy response: “Excellent Pork Chop House.”