Better Baking with Brown Butter

Photo by Romulo Yanes

Samantha Douglass asked on Facebook:

“I love the flavor that browned butter gives to…well, nearly everything. Since butter also has a functional purpose in recipes, I wonder about using it in baked goods. Does butter lose its shortening power once browned? Ought one substitute it only for a portion of a recipe’s butter or is it possible to substitute browned butter for all the unbrowned? Does browned butter solidify sufficiently to use in recipes requiring solid butter?”

You’d think butter couldn’t be improved upon, until you discover brown butter: It’s nutty, it’s toasty, and it makes anything taste better. So why not bake with it? No good reason: If you have a recipe that doesn’t include it, but one you think would be improved (or just nicely varied) with those deeper flavors, there are a few things to keep in mind. Continue reading

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The Comeback Curd

Text and Photos by Kerri Conan

You can cream the mashed potatoes
And inhale the potpie, please.
I choose to get my comfort
From a scoop of cottage cheese.

Back in the nineteen-sixties
When curds were in their prime
Mom got quite creative
So we ate them all the time.

Continue reading

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How to Bake Everything: Better-for-You Rice Treats

Text and photos by Kerri Conan

The first thing that hit me when I saw Mark’s recipe for No-Bake Fruit and Cereal Bars in his new book How to Bake Everything was that it sounded a lot like Rice Krispies Treats®, only with fruit and juice instead of the sticky marshmallow sauce for glue. If I went with a puffed whole grain—Khorasan wheat to be exact—the bars would have a similar texture and, with the fiber and small bit of honey for sweetener, they’d actually be a healthy and satisfying snack. Continue reading

Posted in Baking, Mark Bittman Books, Recipes, Uncategorized

How to Bake Everything: Lemon Desserts are the Best Desserts

Text and photos by Emily Stephenson

In case anyone ever asks me what my favorite dessert flavors are (no one has yet), I have that answer ready, in descending order: lemon, caramel, almond.

If your list doesn’t look like mine, the Lemon Tart from How to Bake Everything is still worth trying. It’s also super easy to put together. It’s actually three different recipes from HTBE, which can all be made ahead of time and assembled right before you serve: Sweet Tart Crust, Lemon Curd, and Whipped Cream. Continue reading

Posted in Baking, Mark Bittman Books, Uncategorized

Announcing: How to Bake Everything Tour

How to Bake Everything—a five-year work in progress, a book that brings the spirit of How to Cook Everything to the generally most intimidating segment of life’s most pleasant “chore”—hits stores this week (you can obviously buy it online too, right now). In celebration, you can find me on TV, radio, and the Internet discussing the book and answering baking questions:

TODAY, 1 pm ET / Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC / (Streaming here)

ALSO TODAY, 2:30 pm ET /Live Q & A, Twitter

Wednesday, October 5th, 8:30 am ET / The Today Show, NBC

Thursday, October 6th, 4:30 pm ET /Facebook LIVE with Food52

Tuesday, October 11th, 6:00 pm PT / Interview, Tom Douglas Radio (available online) / Seattle, WA

Thursday, October 13th, 10:00 am PT / Interview, Forum on KQED (available online) / San Francisco, CA

And I’ll be signing books and answering questions in many cities, maybe even yours:

Wednesday, October 5th, 7:30 pm / In Conversation with Rick Nichols / The Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, October 6th, 7:30 pm / In Conversation with Peter Meehan of Lucky Peach / Words Bookstore, Maplewood, NJ

Sunday, October 9th, 2:00 pm / In Conversation with Amy Scattergood, LA Times Food Editor / Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, October 11th, 7:30 pm / In Conversation with Steve Scher / Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, WA

Thursday, October 13th, 7:00 pm / In Conversation with Margo True, Food Editor of Sunset Magazine / Jewish Cultural Center of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Friday, October 14th, 3:00 pm / Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas / Berkeley, CA

Sunday, October 16th, 2 pm / Book Signing at Market Hall Foods / Oakland, CA

Posted in Events, Mark Bittman Books, Uncategorized

RIP, Michel Richard

I may not have my facts perfectly straight here, but hey, it’s my site and the story is as true as I can make it.

Michel Richard, who just died at 68, was a friend of mine. We met in the mid-’90s, introduced, I imagine, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with whom I started working in the early ’90s. (A whole ’nother story, which I’ll get to sometime.)

Michel was a joyful character, perhaps a lousy businessman (until he opened Central, he complained to me about money whenever we saw one another), but a much-admired chef and a great lover of life, corny as that is.

Unlike most chefs, he knew how to enjoy the things he cooked. He also knew art, he understood politics, he could talk articulately about current events—he was someone you looked forward to hanging with. We taped together for Bittman Takes on America’s Chefs in 2002, and it was as good a time as I’ve ever had doing television; we spent two solid days together, morning until night, and I remember laughing nonstop. (We were with my producer and good friend Charlie Pinsky—who called Michel “The Elf”—which helped. Somewhere—I’m not looking for it—there’s a picture of us, three fat men blocking a doorway, grinning like fools.) We made insanely good lobster rolls (well, he did; mine were, I would say, pretty good); his “breakfast for dessert”— a variety of nonbreakfast foods shaped to look like bacon and eggs—was a ridiculously clever tribute to Ferran Adrià-type food, what idiotically came to be called molecular gastronomy.

Two other outstanding memories:

I was in Citronelle in D.C., shortly after it opened, so, 20 years ago. It was a stuffy, not-especially comfortable place, but Michel was at the height of his powers and the food was terrific. (Now we’d think it was too fancy, or at least I would.) As about half the room was on the dessert course—and the desserts were fantastic; more on that in a second—Michel appeared from the kitchen, bearing a brown cardboard box of Eskimo Pies, handing them out at every table. A small gesture, but in those days there was no other famous chef who would behave so playfully.

Two or three years later, in 1997, there was a fundraiser for the Beard Foundation run by Jean-Louis Palladin, the man who brought modern French cuisine to this country and almost unquestionably the most revered and perhaps most talented chef in the country in the early ’80s, when I began writing about food. Palladin was running a restaurant at the Rio hotel in Vegas (he was the first great chef to do that, too), and he was beginning to suffer from the illness that eventually killed him. (He died two years later, at 55; unbelievable to me now.)

There were two nights of festivities, one for chefs and hangers-on only, the other for a well-heeled public; I was there, as a sort of cook and as a reporter for Delta Sky magazine. (If anyone can find that clip, please post it or tweet it or something, but meanwhile, here is a link to my original, unedited piece, which I think is worth a glance. It’s slightly embarrassing, but remember that this was 1997. And it’s only slightly embarrassing.)

Everyone there—seven or eight “name” chefs (Ripert, Boulud, Vongerichten, Daguin), plus some helpers like me, under the supervision of Palladin—was responsible for a dish, but only Michel was in charge of desserts. He was an anomaly, a pastry chef who went on to become a head chef (still rare, but even more so then), and, as I recall (my piece doesn’t do it justice), his dessert was astonishing.

What didn’t make it into that piece—I’m not sure why—was a comment Jean-Georges made to me as all of the chefs gathered to watch Michel work: “Everyone is in awe of him,” Jean-Georges said. “He’s a wizard.”

He was. And he even looked like one.

Photo credit Michael Vonal

 

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Tomato a la Mode in Mexico

Caramelized tomato from Flora Farm

Photo by Kerri Conan

Yes, beneath this mound of just-churned vanilla ice cream is a caramelized tomato. I am responsible for the missing bites but not for inventing such a remarkable dessert. That honor belongs to Guillermo Tellez and his wife Leslie, executive and pastry chefs for the magical restaurant at Flora Farms just outside San Jose del Cabo in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I couldn’t stop thinking about the place or the tomato so I wrote Tellez for the recipe, which he was generous enough to share.

Now, during peak tomato, let’s all make one. Or a dozen. Tellez says to start with large ripe specimens—any kind, any color—and remove the toughest stem end, leaving the rest intact. Put them cut side up in a roasting pan. Dissolve a little sugar in sherry vinegar and splash it around, then slow-roast in at 200° and don’t do anything but look at them and baste once in a while until they shrivel and release most of their liquid, about eight hours.

The tomatoes collapse as they cool, leaving behind a texture that’s part persimmon, part flan—in fact that’s how the waiter described it—but the characteristic caramel is enhanced in a way that defies explanation. Top them with a proportionate scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you know and spoon over the aforementioned nectar until the plate fills just shy of overflowing. And I bet you’ll take a bite before you take a photo, too.

– Kerri Conan

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How to Cook: Miso Soup

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Photos by Romulo Yanes.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Photos by Romulo Yanes.

Continue reading

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Why I Quit My Dream Job at the New York Times

My new dream job is to get healthier food onto the plates of more Americans. See below for an excerpt from my recent story in Time.

Could there be a better week to form a company specializing in vegan meals? As everyone knows, the World Health Organization last week labeled processed meat a carcinogen and said red meat was probably dangerous as well. Not news, exactly, but a further confirmation that plant-based diets are where it’s at.

It was the determination to get healthier food onto the dinner plates of more Americans that led me to leave the New York Times, where I had what most people would think was a dream job: as weekly Opinion columnist and the lead food writer for the Sunday Magazine. But really: Not only was I ready for something new, it felt like it was time to put my boots on the ground.

So when David Mayer contacted me, I was primed. Mayer is the lead investor in The Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal kit company founded in Boston by Andy Levitt last year. Dave, who never uses 100 words when he can use 1,000, wrote me a long e-mail that said, among other salient things, that he wanted to build a company so people would “cook meals with real food, talk about it, show their kids what cooking is and connect on that and what it means. Imagine the implications … if we could help …. hundreds of millions of Americans to eat vegan at least two nights a week. Make it easy, really good and affordable.”

Get the full story here.

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12 Fantastic Ways to Bust Out of a Salad Rut

Salad greens matrixFrom late spring until at least Thanksgiving, myriad local greens flood our markets, each worthy of the euphoria we tend to reserve for other seasonal produce.

Romaine is fine, but dandelion, tender lettuces, chard, and arugula (real arugula, not the “baby” kind they sell in most supermarkets) can be as flavorful as the juiciest tomato. You can make a different salad with these greens every day for weeks without repeating yourself.

 

This week’s Matrix highlights twelve of the most available (and wonderful) greens, divided into four categories—tender, crunchy, sturdy, and bold—though the distinctions are often blurred. In any case, don’t be constrained by my recommendations; many other greens will fill in here just fine.

To learn how to prepare salad greens 12 ways, read this excerpt from my new book Kitchen Matrix here.

By now, you know the drill. Share one of these 12 salad recipes, or a favorite of your own using #MatrixChallenge. Celebrate these fresh leafy greens before the frost rolls in.

 

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