Posts Tagged ‘Joy of Cooking’


Gosh, I hope you’re all braised meat fans, or I’m about to bore you. 🙂
Pulled pork for lunch was my buddy Casey’s* idea (and he’s actually prepared it umpteen times before, and has a fancy-schmancy Cuisinart slow cooker), so he took the reins on that. He rubbed the meat (pork butt, which is pork shoulder, but saying pork butt is far more appealing) with a mixture of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and salt. Then he plopped it into the Cuisinart on a cozy bed, bath, and beyond of sliced yellow onions, fresh sliced garlic, and chicken broth. It dozed in there for a blissful five hours. I know they were blissful because when we sliced off the first piece of meat and tasted it, it was nearly liquid.

Here it is, singing ‘Swanee River’, in a very happy puddle.

Wait…let’s back up to that morning. Case assigned rolls and barbecue sauce to me. Finding the sauce was easy, thanks to another buddy, Ray, who makes BBQ Buddha Memphis Mop sauce**. The rolls I wanted to make myself, so I used a recipe from my well-worn, duct-tape-spined Joy of Cooking, adding whole-wheat pastry flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour called for. I also tossed in a handful of yellow onions that I caramelized in olive oil.

Every time I make bread I forget how easy it is.

I packed up the sauce; all of the rolls in a half-opened Ziploc (because they were still cooling); my laptop (because Casey also offered to help me design a postcard); and a box of homemade Nutella truffles (to thank him for the aforementioned), and headed north.

We kibbutzed and worked on the postcard, during which it became more and more obvious that my computer skills took a decade-long sabbatical sometime in the ’90s. Then we ate.

I pulled out the fluffy underside of the top of the bun and popped it into my mouth, then I piled on the meat. This is what my sandwich looked like…for about four minutes.


*Just as an aside: Case’s blog—part snarky, part poignant essays on modern relationships—is here.

**Local guy makes good! If you want to try this, and/or Ray’s other barbecue products, his site is here.

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It was chilly in my apartment all last week, so I did what came naturally: turned on the oven and cooked.

The above and immediately below are coconut custard pie. I have never made one, so I blind-baked my basic crust, stirred up my basic custard, and did what my revered and liberally duct-taped Joy of Cooking suggested: tossed a 1/2 cup of shredded coconut into the bottom of the baked crust and then poured the custard on top of it. This was pretty good, but it needed to be more coconutty. So I threw in a splash of coconut extract and gave it a stir. And I ate it for breakfast all week because early-American settlers used to eat pie for breakfast, and while I can’t abide everything they did back then, I sure can this.


Gratuitous second shot.

Next I found a recipe for Quick Jambalaya in an old February issue of Martha. I used San Marzano plum tomatoes, a red bell pepper (which I never buy out of season, but it does not do to argue with Martha), garlic, red onion, Old Bay, dark meat from half a dozen chicken legs, smoked andouille sausage, and jasmine rice. That last is an embarrassing anachronism, and per my last controversial post makes it Not Really Jambalaya, but either way it was pretty solid.


Trader Joe’s had an awesome deal on blood oranges, so I snapped up a bag and made a sort of marmalade with them, but with less sugar. My cutting board looked like a vampire crudite platter.*

Then I made some vanilla-bean scones and ate it all up with a little plain yogurt. Also a worthy breakfast, early-American or not.**


The below is my favorite pic. It was not a product of my kitchen.

While I was waiting for the woman at my local post office to ring up my purchase, I asked her what was in the pastry box on the counter next to her. I’ve always thought her sort of standoffish, but when I asked her she brightened and said she didn’t know, and was excited to take a peek. When she did, she squealed, and said I must take one with me.

Yet another reminder—and there will be more, and I will document them, count on it—that food can be miracle-izing. She didn’t know I’d had a chilly week, and was feeling kind of poopy. It hit the spot in a lot of ways. She even introduced herself. Thanks, Chantal.


*That was totally gross. But true.

**Not. Whatevs.

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laurie colwin, novelist and food writer, refused to buy bakeware anywhere but at garage sales. she had a wit so dry you could towel off with it, she was not above eating an entire pan of anything by herself, and she hated fussy food. laurie was also a fan of english food. this invites giggles and eye-rolling from one’s friends, which, if nothing else, makes you stoic. my kind of chick. RIP, and I wish I could have met her. I can picture the two of us shamelessly downing a pan of roasted red peppers with garlic and oil.

jane and michael stern, formerly of Gourmet, presently of Saveur, wrote a column called road food. it took us readers with them as they crisscrossed the continent, finding rinky-dink holes in the wall that served incomparable food, usually home-style cooking. at their recommendation I ate off-the-bone tender chicken and dumplings in the backwoods of new york state, dense ice cream made from jersey cow’s milk at woodside farm in delaware (they called the vanilla ‘maximum moo’), and the lightest, crispiest fried fish sandwich served in a brown paper lunch bag at coleman’s fish market in west virginia. the owner didn’t believe in tartar sauce, saying it distracted from the flavor of the fish. I didn’t argue with him, and I am glad.

woodside farm's creamery wall.

I’ve always been a serious cook, eater and writer, but these three writers are my framework and the horizon I shoot for when I write. honest, fresh, clever–I hope I come close to what they have done.

on to publications.

Gourmet. I’ve moved a lot, and I always schlep my collection with me (1997-2007). the magazine was always wonderful, if a bit tweedy, but in recent years it has evolved into something great. now online only, it’s much more quirky and readable than it was in my parents’ day. they had a subscription for forty years (!) and I grew up eating Gourmet recipes.

Gourmet home runs: moroccan chickpea soup; salmon with wasabi and soy sauces; easiest thanksgiving turkey; zeppoles with orange zest (a childhood favorite).

Living. Martha’s…um…fastidious, and in my eyes, sometimes unnecessarily so (only light brown sugar! always strain the sauce!). but her staff is enormously talented, especially with sweets. I keep my collection of old Living magazines right alongside my Gourmets and have never made a Living recipe that I didn’t love…even if I always use dark brown sugar and don’t strain sauces.

Living home runs: homemade s’mores; cinnamon-rum ice cream; chocolate cinnamon babka.

martha's s'more. digging how the marshmallow kind of oozes down over the chocolate.

Joy of Cooking (1997 edition). mine has a cracked binding and the pages are loose in the yeast bread section. great stuff, basics and otherwise. this is the go-to for every comfort food and classic your little heart can think of, as well as the place to learn method. when I brought home local clams and didn’t have the slightest idea of how to cook them, this is what I turned to.

JOC home runs: hot cross buns; really gooey, sticky, dark gingerbread.

who and what do you read? curious.

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I’m grateful that lots of people have said nice things about my cooking, but I’m actually proudest of my disasters. they make a better story at a boring dinner party. what would you rather hear about—the award-winning brownies, or the hateful wretched marzipan so hard that you could have used it to cut diamonds?

I want to wear my disasters like war medals. so let’s get on with it.

a few years ago I made an angel food cake, which I adore. if you’re normal, you can eat it with a fork, or if you’re a heathen like me, you can pick up bits of it with your fingers, squish them into tiny sugary nuggets, and pop them into your mouth. with this thought as temptation, I found a recipe in The Joy of Cooking, that bible of classic recipes, and followed it to the letter. baked it in the right kind of pan with the hole in the middle, the whole bit.

now, an angel food cake is a sponge cake, and thus is supposed to be light and airy. if you let it collapse, you get an F. how to do this? Joy told me to turn the baked cake upside down and poise it over the neck of a wine bottle. (yup.) did it like a good girl. and a minute later watched the cake drop to the counter like a brick in the river.

then there was the pumpkin-chocolate pie last november. oh and it looked so pretty. accidentally whacked it against the oven rack, which made the whole thing flip-flop upside down, splattering pumpkin-chocolate goo 1) into the hot oven 2) onto the hot oven door 3) into the drawer under the oven, conveniently loaded with every pan I own and 4) best of all, around my kitchen, making it look as if I had recently acquired an incontinent schnauzer. I used every rag and napkin in the house to clean up, and still detect a faint smell of burnt chocolate whenever I turn on the oven.

just last weekend I made some crazy-yummy cupcakes called irish car bombs, featuring crazy-yummy baileys buttercream. but tired as I was, I dumped all of the buttercream ingredients together. and soon, once I realized even a team of EMTs with the shiniest state-of-the-art equipment couldn’t resuscitate this, dumped it all into the trash.

as julia child once said, ‘you’re alone in the kitchen’ (and you have to say it like her, out loud, or it doesn’t have the full effect). which means no one needs to know the sordid details of what really happened at 11:45 last night, as long as you recover. good news for me.

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