League of Kitchens

Photos and story by Emily Stephenson

This past weekend I took a cooking class at the Queens home of Dolly, who is an instructor with League of Kitchens, a New York City-based organization that connects accomplished immigrant home cooks with anyone interested in learning about other cuisines and cultures.

I had wanted to take a class for years, but, as often happens with me, somehow never got my act together. (They fill up fast, life gets in the way, etc.) That finally changed this past weekend, when I was paid back for a favor done in the form of a cooking class. A few weeks ago, my friend and I compared calendars, and I crossed-referenced menus. The classes are very vegetarian friendly, but I wanted to make up for seven years of not eating meat. So curry goat and roti it was. Continue reading

Posted in American, Behind The Scenes

My New Favorite Burger

Story and photos by Pam Hoenig

I’ve always been a big fan of rack of lamb, leg of lamb, lamb chops. Roasted or pan-seared lamb is just one of the best things ever. But it’s only been in the last year that I discovered lamb burgers. Part of that has been due to the fact that my local food store, Adams Fairacre Farms, has been sourcing its lamb from the Hudson Valley (Josef Meiller Farm in Pine Plains). Before that, the only ground lamb I ever saw in supermarkets was an unsettling light pink and looked like it had been put through an angel-hair pasta extruder. The lamb I get at Adams is freshly ground by their butchers each day. And the burgers? Forget beef burgers of any ilk—my favorite burger now, hands down, is made from lamb. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Short-Order Sundays

Photos and story by Kerri Conan

My husband, Sean Santoro, and I make a big deal out of Sunday brunch together. Only we never eat the same thing. I recycle vegetables, soup, or salad from the night before as a base for poached eggs. (Mark’s recipe is unfussy and un-vinegary.) And Sean always makes himself bacon and something—an omelet or other eggy thing cooked in the pan drippings—and fruit, which I save for an afternoon snack, what with all the roughage going on already. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

What Cooking Questions Do You Have?

Photo by Romulo Yanes

Every week, home cooks send me a steady steam of troubleshooting questions to my general inbox. Recent questions have included:

“Why is my mayonnaise runny?”
Answer: either you’re adding the oil too fast and it never emulsified, or it broke—both of which will inhibit proper thickening. Either way, start with a new egg, and use the not-emulsified earlier attempt in place of oil. It’ll wind up super-rich. See HTCE, pages 41-42.

“What’s the difference between bread dough and pizza dough?”
Answer: Not much. Pizza dough usually has a little olive oil in it, but you can consider them interchangeable. You cook them differently, of course.

“How do I clean after cooking?”
Answer: With patience, care, and a light heart.

My team and I would like to answer your cooking questions here on markbittman.com, because chances are if you have a question, others do, too. Send ‘em along, either by leaving them in the comments, or by writing us at mark@markbittman.com.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Improvising Soup

Text and photo by Pam Hoenig

 

One of my resolutions for the new year was to make soup—lots and lots of soup.

In this penultimate week of January, I’m happy to say this is one resolution I’m actually keeping. Over the weekend, pea soup was on the docket. I’ve only made pea soup as a postscript to baked ham, cooking the split peas with the leftover bone, then shredding the meat clinging to it into the finished soup.

This time the peas lead the charge. To provide the requisite hammy-ness, I bought a one-pound ham steak and seared it well in the soup pot before starting, then took it out; that left a lot of browned bits stuck to the bottom. In went one chopped onion and two chopped carrots, which I sautéed in a couple tablespoons of oil just until softened, followed by a pound of split peas, stirred until they were coated with the oil and veggies. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Clean as You Go

By: Emily Stephenson

If you cook, you can’t avoid mess—or cleaning. Taking raw ingredients and transforming them with heat and fat is a chemical reaction, and the results are delicious food and greasy spatters. The downside of cooking is seldom discussed. So it’s no wonder Mark received an email from a new cook this week inquiring about his cleaning techniques. Here’s his philosophy from How to Cook Everything:

“As for me, I keep a spotlessly clean kitchen, [and] wash my hands about twenty times a day…It boils down to common sense: Don’t let your kitchen be a breeding ground [for bacteria]. Many experienced cooks and chefs are fanatical about cleanliness, and it works; that’s the best way to avoid food-related illness.”

He touches on the mantra in professional kitchens: “clean as you go.” Chefs are constantly cleaning because they are handling such a high volume of production in cramped conditions with a fixed set of tools. So you’re slightly better off at home.

But if you’re feeling bad that your kitchen doesn’t look like a spotless professional display kitchen, there’s more behind the scenes. Chefs have to be ready for the health inspector at any moment, and have a team of porters to wash dishes and cooks that scrub down every square inch of surface in the kitchen every night. Unless you run your family like a French restaurant brigade, you usually go it alone. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Smokin’ Good Spaghetti Squash

Text and photos by Pam Hoenig

I admit I’m vegetable averse. Growing up, if my mother had let me, I would have limited my consumption of produce to peas (frozen, of course), baked potatoes, and corn on the cob, which for many years I made my mother cut off the cob for me—sorry about that, Mom! Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Grilling, Produce

I MADE FRESH PASTA!

Text and photos by Kate Bittman

To say I was nervous about making homemade pasta would be a gross understatement. I put it off for as long as I possibly could, and judgment day loomed large. I had the KitchenAid attachment, 4 ingredients (flour, salt, eggs, and beets to color it), and I was (not) ready to go. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Italian

Smoke Your Own: The Cheese Edition

Words and Photos by Pam Hoenig

I know you can buy good smoked cheese in most every supermarket. And I love the typical kinds—cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, mozzarella. But what about other cheeses—would smoke add or subtract?

I’ve experimented with grilling cheeses, putting them directly over the fire—in the protective embrace of a cast iron pan (like provolone for the classic South America asado appetizer, provoleta) and right on the grates, like halloumi, paneer, and queso de freir. For this exploration, I wanted to try wetter, softer cheeses, grilling them indirect, surrounded with wood smoke.

At the cheese counter, I settled on a French feta, a rich goat cheese, and bocconcini. Then I had another thought: Could I infuse smoke flavor into ricotta? Into my basket went a container. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Doggie Bag Dinner

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

By the second bite of the first meatball I knew the mountain of perfectly sauced fresh spaghetti dominating the bowl was coming home with me for frittata. I’m actually lying: I knew before the menus arrived at the table. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Italian