Entries Tagged as 'Pork and Beef'

Coke-Braised Carnitas

January 12th, 2015 · 30 Comments · Pork and Beef

A few soda-related joys in life: Icy Coke with grilled cheese after a day at the beach; a can of Dr. Pepper to wash down my slice at Sal’s Pizzeria; Orange soda — the nasty, neon kind– with grilled hot dogs at my elementary school end-of-the-year picnics circa 1978.

My kids have no such romantic association with soda. Last weekend, when Andy grabbed a giant bottle of generic cola off the shelf, you would’ve thought we’d tossed a few bricks of cocaine into the shopping cart.

“Dad! What are you doing?” Abby shouted. “That’s SODA!”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “And it’s uh.maze.ing.”

He knows the deal.

It’s not like our kids don’t drink soda or even that we have officially prohibited it in the house. They drink it on vacation or at the beach or with lunch at the hot dog stand or Shake Shack. (Chasing down a burger with water just doesn’t cut it somehow.) Thanks to movies like Fed Up, books like Chew on This, and mayors like Bloomberg, we never had to explain that it wasn’t exactly the healthiest idea to chase down a meal with a 12-ounce drink that contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. You could say the conversation was in the air. (Or in the case of Fed Up, screened in an actual 7th-grade classroom.)

“I’m not going to drink it,” Andy told the girls. (Phoebe was now piling on). “I’m going to cook with it.”

Needless to say, this explanation didn’t do a lot to quell the riot in aisle four. And by the time he glugged almost half the bottle into a hot Dutch Oven over a pork loin in pursuit of candied carnitas, the girls were thoroughly disgusted. With him. With us. With the Coca-Cola Company. With Atlanta. Until, of course, we poured them a tall glass over ice. With the mercury dipping into the single digits, this was decidedly not lunch at the beach, but the girls (like the rest of the world, hence the problem) were powerless against soda’s siren call.

And the tacos, of course. I was tired of the basic tomato-based braise. I was in the mood for a more sweet-and-spicy filling, which is why Andy seized on the Coke plan. Not like he was the first. Coke, with its distinctly caramel-y irreplaceable flavor profile has long been used by chefs and cookbook writers in braises. It’s the key ingredient in my sister’s Hanukkah brisket every year. And when paired with some heat (hot sauce) and salt (soy sauce) for an all-afternoon pork braise, it’s a contender to show up on our dinner table a couple times a year, too. If the kids allow it, of course.

The pour. You want the braising liquid to be about half way up the pork.

Slow-braised Pork Carnitas

2 to 2 1/2 pounds pork loin
2 tablespoons peanut oil (olive oil is fine if you don’t have peanut)
2-3 cups Coke (or enough to go half-way up the pork; see level in bottle above, that’s how much what was left over)
1 tablespoon hot sauce or Sriracha
2 tablespoons soy sauce
6-8 tortillas
toppings: avocado slices, shredded cabbage, cotija cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, salsa

Preheat oven to 325°F. Over medium-high heat, brown pork in peanut oil in a Dutch Oven on all sides. (Don’t skimp on this part. You want a nice brown crust.) Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and place the pot in the oven with lid slightly askew. Turn every 30 minutes or so, and remove after about three hours. Remove pork from liquid and shred on a cutting board using two forks. Place pork in a bowl or platter as you go. Toss with a little bit of the braising liquid — just a little, it’s very sweet. (See: 10 teaspoons sugar above!)

Heat tortillas directly on burners (or in a cast-iron pan on high heat) for about 20 seconds a side until charred. Keep them warm under foil as you go.

Garnish with desired toppings and serve.

Freeze extra pork for easy weeknight dinners.

Chef’s privilege.

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Top 10 Fall Favorites

September 23rd, 2014 · 14 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Pasta, Pork and Beef, Seafood, Vegetarian

All right, guys, the open-toed shoes are getting packed away, the leaves are going all gold on us, and soccer season is starting to actually feel like soccer season. In other words, fall is here, which means we can justify a dive back into the archive to find some of my heartier favorites.

1. Pomegranate-Braised Pork Loin with Cabbage (pictured)
Good for: Entertaining (as long as it’s not Rosh Hashana dinner) and weeknights if you are working from home and the smell of pork wafting through the air increases your productivity the way it increases mine.

2.  Dinner: Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs
Good for: 
Rosh Hashana dinner (pair with this killer kale-apple-walnut salad, plus Ronnie’s challah and pomegranate molasses-glazed carrots) or entertaining families.

3. Roast Salmon with Brussels Sprouts and Ginger-Scallion Sauce
Good for: Fast weeknight dinner when you just. can’t. handle. another. big. clean-up.

4. Dinner: Spaghetti Carbonara
Good for:  Nights when you are thisclose to ordering take-out — it’s a five-star recipe that will save you bucks and taste better than anything you’ll order in a restaurant.

5. Dinner: Bittman’s Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken with Soy & Lime
Good for: Weeknights when you are staring at your raw chicken breasts for the hundredth time this week thinking “If only there was something new to do to these that doesn’t involve a lot of brainpower.”

6. Dinner: Butternut Squash Soup
Good for: Weeknights. Serve with a big chunk of crusty bread and topped with chopped walnuts, sour cream, and chives. (By the way, I think it’s illegal to do a fall food round-up and not include some version of this soup.)

7. Dinner: Arroz con Pollo (page 52 Dinner: A Love Story)
Good for: Friday or Saturday night family dinner, when the clock isn’t ticking. Book owners: This recipe has no photograph and is somewhat lost among its other much-regaled neighbors (it’s right next to Black Bean Burritos and Salmon Salad), but please do yourself a favor and make it soon. It’s one of my all-time favorites — the kind of meal I eat and think “Why don’t I make this once a week” — and it kills me to think it’s not getting the love it deserves.

8. Dinner: Soba Noodles with Greens and Crispy Tofu (page 186, Dinner: The Playbook)
Good for: Nights when you want substance without the meat.

9. Dinner: Minestrone
Good for: 
Sunday Dinner — I take the extra and freeze in single-serve portions to thaw as I need for late-coming soccer players, or mix into pasta for Ribollita.

10. Dinner: Cider-Braised Pork Meatballs
Good for: Putting your farmer’s market apple cider to good use.

Dinner #4, Carbonara, in all it’s artery-clogging glory.

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Spicy Pork Tacos with Peach Salsa

September 3rd, 2014 · 20 Comments · Grilling, Pork and Beef

When you picture dinner in my house, do you imagine two starving little middle schoolers, banging utensils on the table with both hands, and rolling their eyes at their mother as she snaps photos and re-positions garnishes just so? Or me shouting “one more second” from the next room waiting for the sun to sink to just the right place, creating optimal lighting conditions? Well, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. That happens — but only selectively. To think that we are making something that needs to be photographed every single night is to assume two things: 1) That we are cooking something brand new every single night and 2) That what we are making is always fit for DALS. (Believe it or not, just because it was eaten in the DALS house doesn’t mean it’s a DALS-esque meal — the super-dry chicken burgers that went unfinished by even the grown-ups come to mind, as does the sushi take-out we ordered this past Saturday night.) The truth is, we have our weeknight family favorites — most of which are bundled up and memorialized in two books now — as well as our various permutations of those favorites, and in order for a meal to qualify as “blog-worthy” there has to be a little learning involved. If I’m writing a post where the recipe is the star, the answer to the question “Is there something new to write about here?” must always be “yes.”

So there I was on Labor Day, the night before school started, eating my grilled pork tacos with peach salsa (prepared by Andy) and not even thinking about taking a photo because hey, we’ve written up tons of tacos already…heck, we’ve even written up pork with peaches. But mid-way through my dinner I realized that something magical was going on with this taco, besides the fact that every diner at the table had stopped talking in order to focus and grunt a little — the cilantro-heavy, sweet-hot, more-peach-than-tomato salsa was a revelation. And when we drizzled some Mexican crema on top of the spice-rubbed pork, well…I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from eating long enough to take a photo, even if the sun had been in the right position. For the rest of the night I was following Andy around the house asking “Why didn’t you make me take a photo of that dinner? It would’ve been perfect for the blog…” (His response: “Wow, you really blew that one.”)

So I had no choice but to recreate it for lunch the next day. That’s how much I love you. And this dinner. Here you go:

Grilled Spice-Rubbed Pork Tacos with Peach Salsa
Makes about 6 tacos (2 for 2 grown-ups, one for each kid)… (more…)

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No-Stress Vacation Dinner

August 18th, 2014 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Travel, Uncategorized

On Saturday we found ourselves in an unusual predicament: It was 4:00 and we hadn’t decided what was for dinner yet. Oddly, if it were a normal weekday at home, this wouldn’t be an issue. But we were on vacation, and as anyone who has read my first book (or read the post “My Drill Sergeant of Leisure“) might recall, on vacation, we like to lock down the dinner plan over morning coffee. This way we don’t steal away a single unit of psychic energy from what should be the only order of business: kayaking, swimming, pretending-to-read-but-really-napping. (OK, so that’s a few orders of business.) Andy’s idea of hell is wandering a packed grocery store with other sunburned dinner-makers at 5:30, the time he should be mixing up an icy, limey Gin and Tonic on the porch.

But this is where we found ourselves nonetheless. We knew we wanted to grill — that was a given. But what? A family meeting on the pool chairs didn’t yield any obvious candidates: One kid wanted burgers, the other wanted fish. I suggested the old healthy stand-by, yogurt-marianted chicken, but Andy wasn’t in the mood. (I think we’ve made that twice a week all summer long.) And plus, we didn’t have time for any marinating.

I should’ve known that we’d wind up anchoring the plate to grilled sausages. No matter where we are in the world, there is a variety to choose from (pork, chicken, lamb, veggie) to suit different tastes, they can be grilled (we’re at the beach so there is a moratorium on oven use) and they don’t require a single second of prep-work, a crucial quality when there is a bike begging to be ridden. To round out the ideal vacation dinner formula (grilled something + fresh something + something the kids go crazy for) we added cucumber raita and a puffy, salty grilled flatbread, which Phoebe said tasted like a doughnut. Done and done.

Grilled Sausages with Cucumber Raita and Grilled Flatbread*

1/2 cup plain yogurt (if you have time to strain the yogurt, add yogurt into a strainer lined with a coffee filter and let sit over a glass in the sink for a half hour)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic (or garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
handful fresh mint, chopped
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite size pieces

2- 2 1/2 pounds good-quality sausages (extra credit for merguez, but can be hard to find, we did a mix of sweet and hot Italian)

Grilled Bread
1 16-ounce ball pizza dough, divided into four pieces and placed on a cookie sheet
olive oil
sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic cumin, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mint. Toss with chopped cucumbers and chill until ready to serve, so flavors meld.

Meanwhile, heat your grill. When coals are medium-hot, add sausages and grill and turn until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from grill and cover with foil to stay hot.

Meanwhile, brush each ball of dough with olive oil, then using your hand and fingers, flatten and press into pita-size pieces. Flip the dough as you shape it, so oil is covering the entire ball of dough. Sprinkle with salt. When the sausages come off the grill, add the dough to the bread and flip a few times, making sure they don’t burn, until cooked through and puffy, about 5 minutes total.

Vacation dessert is never hard to figure out when you have access to Good Humor Bars. (The only dilemma: Toasted Almond or Chocolate Eclair?)

P.S. As for styling the photo with starfish: Guilty as charged.

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Rut-Busting Pulled Pork Sandwiches

May 22nd, 2014 · 17 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef

Let’s talk about ruts. Specifically the rut I’m in right now, which involves waking up committed to getting some good writing done, and then going to bed twelve hours later with almost nothing to show for it. (Unless you count a few facebook and instagram posts, a lot of soccer-related emails, and a screentime-overload-induced headache “something to show.”) Ruts, no matter what form they take, can be soul-crushing, but I have to believe a writer’s rut is a special kind of torture, because if I sit in front of a computer all day in a small, dark office, and get nothing done, I am haunted by all the other healthy-minded, Vitamin-D-absorbing ways I could have been spending my spring day. I could’ve planted some flowers in the backyard, or gone for a run, or taken my poor ignored dog, Iris to the park. In under 20 minutes, I could’ve been wandering the Garden Court at the Frick**, a quick shot down the West Side Highway. But instead, Iris and I sit there at the end of the day, two lumps, as uncultured and dull-witted as we were when we woke up that morning. (I will also add that all this non-productivity doesn’t exactly make me Mother of the Year. I notice my capacity for yelling is absolutely in converse correlation to the day’s wordcount. Sad, but true.)

I have been at this long enough to realize that I’ll come out of it (and as soon as I get something down on paper, I’ll write off the whole rut as “process”) but until then, I’ve discovered a neat trick that goes a little ways towards making myself feel better. Last week, after re-writing my next book’s introduction for the fourth time (Note to my editor: JT! Still isn’t quite working!), I was seriously craving progress that was measurable. So I browned a pork loin, adding some garlic and onions to the pot, then braised the sucker low and slow all afternoon in some barbecue sauce. (There you have it: my BBQ nod to Memorial Day.) That way, while I was upstairs in the office, deleting and writing, writing and deleting, and burning my eyeballs out all the while, at least I could say something was getting done somewhere else in the house.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

2 1/2 pounds pork loin roast (or shoulder if you want it fattier, meltier, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), patted dry with paper towel
1 teaspoon-ish dried thyme
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup barbecue sauce (homemade would be lovely, but no pressure; see page 238, Dinner: A Love Story)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
bay leaf
2 dried guajillo chiles (if you don’t have, just add a few drops of hot sauce)

Heat oven to 325°F.

Rub pork all over with thyme, salt, and pepper. Place a large Dutch Oven or deep ovenproof pot on medium-high heat and add oil. Brown pork on all sides (about 5 minutes a side) and remove.

Turn heat to medium/medium-low and add onion and garlic. Cook until softened. Add barbecue sauce, cider vinegar, bay leaf, and chiles and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and add pork. The liquid should come about 1/3 of the way up the pork. If it doesn’t whisk in a little water.

Place the pot in your oven and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Keep it in there for 3 to 4 hours, flipping every 30-45 minutes.* When you’re ready to eat, remove pork from pot. Discard bay leaf and chiles. Shred pork with a fork and place back into the pot. Toss with sauce, which should now be thick and glazey. (See above photo.)

Serve shredded pork on potato rolls with slaw or pickles.

*At one point, I left the house for an hour and a half, turned off the oven, came back, turned it on again. I’m telling you this not because I think you should do the same, but to make the point that when the heat is low and you have a nice block of time, it’s really hard to mess up.

**Weekday museum visits have been on the agenda for roughly four years, ever since I lost my 9-to-5 office job and made a vow that I would see more movies and more exhibits. The movie part of the pact is alive and well (Who wants to talk Godzilla???) but the other part…well, let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

Poor Iris.

In a dinner rut?? Behold your almost-published solution, available for pre-order.

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Grilled Steak Tacos: Just Plain Good

May 15th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

I have been looking for the right angle to write about these steak tacos for a few weeks now, which I’ve decided is just plain unfair. Why deny you guys a solid recipe just in the name of story-telling?  As I’m sure you know by now, my goal with this blog and my next book, is not just to chronicle what to eat for dinner, but to put that dinner into context — to give you the how of dinner, i.e. how we here in the DALS house organize, cook, and (most of the time) consume a meal together at the end of a long, chaotic day. (This is reason why you will see “Last Night’s Dinner” posts every so often, showing the exact timing of how and when everything happened, and why I talk about deconstructing dinners ad nauseum.) I hope this comes through, and, more important, I hope it helps. But anyway, sometimes, the day is neither long nor chaotic. Sometimes, I have before me a simple, regular old weeknight, i.e. a simple, regular old angle: These steak tacos with pickled onions and a cilantro-yogurt sauce were delicious and the kids loved it. So there you have it. I will let this recipe tell its own story. The End.

Steak Tacos with Pickled Onions and Cilantro Sauce
By this point in our relationship you probably know this already, but I’m going to say it anyway: Too many ingredients? Too many steps? Just skip what looks dealbreaker-y to you. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of breaking out the blender for the cilantro sauce, just skip the sauce altogether and top with chopped fresh cilantro and sour cream. Kids don’t like pickled onions? (You don’t like pickled onions?) Lose ‘em. Don’t have time to marinate? Use whatever time you’ve got. Just get something on the table.

1 1/2-2 pounds flank or skirt steaks
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
squeeze of lime
salt and pepper

Pickled Onions
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced crosswise (optional if you want to avoid heat)

Cilantro Sauce

1/2 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup cilantro (stems and all)
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste  

Everything Else
4-6 large whole wheat tortillas (or regular ones)
a few torn lettuce leaves (we like butter or Bibb)
queso fresco or avocado (optional)
lime wedges

Marinate steaks in olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours) before you plan to grill.

While steaks marinate, do your quick-pickling and sauce making: Bring red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, water to a boil, add onions and jalapeños and reduce to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes then drain, add to a bowl and set on table. In a blender or a small food processor, whirl together all cilantro sauce ingredients. Pour into a bowl and place on table.

Heat your grill (or stovetop grill — as you can see we were still indoors a few weeks ago when we made ours) to medium high and cook about 4 minutes a side. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing on the bias and placing on the table. (For little kids, please cut steak into teeny tiny pieces.) While meat is resting, add tortillas to the hot grill, flipping frequently until they bubble a little, about 1 minute each. (I like a little char on there.)

Set tortillas and remaining toppings on the table and have everyone assemble his or her own tacos. Squeeze with a little lime and serve with rice.

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Orecchiette with Sweet Sausage Bolognese

April 10th, 2014 · 18 Comments · Pork and Beef

I’m a little obsessed with this dinner — even though I haven’t really eaten a legitimate bowl of it yet.

It started at the farmer’s market on Saturday — right now is slim pickins there in terms of greens and produce (see: Winter, Brutal) but I was still able to pick up a few old friends that I had been missing these past few months: Some good eggs (as you know) a mini blueberry and a mini lemon pie for Andy’s birthday (as of this tenth day of April, breakfast pie has officially eclipsed the birthday biscuit), and some sweet Italian pork sausages from Kings Roaming Angus Farm. Having a coil of these sausages in the freezer is Money in the Bank, as far as dinner is concerned. I usually don’t do anything with them except broil or grill as is, then serve with a shredded kale salad and a can of baked beans — a rich man’s franks and beans. But when I got home, I happened to place the shrink-wrapped pork next to a can of tomatoes, and just like that they spoke to me. “Sausage bolognese,” they said. “We dare you not to make it.” (more…)

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Abby’s Famous Swiss Chard (with a Side of Steak)

March 24th, 2014 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Guest-post from 10-year-old Abby:

I am so sick of kale. Good thing I taught my family to like chard with this world famous dish. Well not world famous, but famous in my house.

I love chard. The second I saw the rainbow-colored stems at farm camp growing in a garden with beautiful fluffy green leaves I knew that they would taste good. One morning I bought then at the farmers market. Later though, when we brought it home, I had no idea how to cook it. My dad started cooking the chard in a pan and putting red pepper on it. I took a taste, but it was a bit spicy, so I added some soy sauce to make it salty and to balance the spicy-ness. Then I tried it again, and it tasted really good, but it needed some sweetness. Finally I thought of the perfect solution: Rice Wine vinegar! (Mom’s note: seasoned rice wine vinegar!) I drizzled it on and sampled the chard. It was delicious! I put the whole thing into a bowl and honestly could not stop eating it. By the time it was dinnertime there was only half the amount I had cooked left in the bowl. Since that dinner, I make the recipe very often and every time it tastes even better.

And my mother (now typing) would like to add that it’s very delicious with a quick broiled (or grilled) marinated skirt steak. Here are both recipes:

Quick Broiled Skirt Steak with Abby’s Chard
Her mother would also like to let you know that this entire dinner can be made in 2o minutes, 15 if you have a 10-year-old sous chef taking over the chard. (more…)

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Friday Round-Up

March 14th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Uncategorized

If I can’t get to Tulum anytime soon, at least I can make Hartwood‘s skirt steak with roasted plantains. (You can just tell from the photo that it’s going to be easy, right?)

The Knork reminds me: it’s a fine line between ridiculous and genius.

Rebecca Lee should be more famous than Pharrell. (No offense to Pharrell.) Last week, I heard her read the title story from her short story collection Bobcat (all about a dinner party) and laughed my head off.

Adam Lanza’s father talks to Andrew Solomon.

Food Nerds Unite! Last week, I reviewed a novel for the Times.

I love Sara’s “pseudo mac and cheese situation” here.

On Wednesday, we screened the first two episodes of Eyes on the Prize – do you remember that epic 14-part series on the Civil Rights movement? The girls were as riveted as we were when we watched it back in the 80s. (Best for kids 10 and older — and even then, keep your hand on the remote, there are a few disturbing moments.)

My ten-year-old’s idea of the perfect birthday gift for her dad.

I only found out about this yesterday (thanks Momfilter!) but I’m already obsessed with Artifact Uprising, the app that lets you turn your iphone photos into beautiful little albums in minutes.

Our friends are coming over for dinner tomorrow and one of them, Jim, requested Milk-braised Pork for the main. How much do I love a guest who does the think-work for me?

From Andy:

This, because any new Truckers album is a reason to rejoice.

This, because it’s one of the best, most heartbreaking magazine stories ever written, and because it has extra poignancy this week, given recent events.

This, because we are unrepentant Pixar fans in this house, and Creativity Inc — by the founder of the company, aka hero to our children — takes you inside to tell you how they do what they do.

This, because it sounds absurdly good and, more important, practically fits into your pocket, allowing you to cook or entertain while SHREDDING HEAVILY, no matter where you are.

This, because Abby has decided white cleats are back, and I respect that.

This, because because.

Have a great weekend.

Photo credit: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times.


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Marcella Hazan 1924-2013

September 30th, 2013 · 25 Comments · Pork and Beef, Rituals

Marcella Hazan, who changed the way Americans think about Italian cooking, and who feels like family in our house even though we knew her only through recipes, died yesterday. She was 89.

Here is a beautiful obituary in The New York Times.

Here is a tribute I wrote this morning for Bon Appetit.

Here is her famous Bolognese.

Here is her famous Tomato Sauce that calls for three ingredients: tomatoes, onion, butter.

Here is her famous Milk-braised Pork. (I think it might’ve been of the first post Andy ever wrote for this blog.)

Here is proof of how important she has been in our kitchen, from the moment I first heard her name in 1993.

Here is the cookbook you should buy in her honor, and cook from for the rest of your life.

Thank you, Marcella.

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A Burger Even a Purist Could Love

September 12th, 2013 · 13 Comments · Pork and Beef

I’m pretty sure I’ve overused the phrase “I’m a purist” when it comes to burgers. That’s because Andy is in charge of them in our house and I’d go so far as to say “grills perfect burger” is right up there on the “Reasons to Keep Him Around” list with “can do ponytails” and “knows how to set the DVR to X Factor.” His burgers — juicy, salty, loosely packed, and cooked to perfect medium-rare doneness — never need more than ketchup, mustard, a slice of cheese, and a pickle to be my idea of heaven. I mean, really, if there is a meal out there that does not need to be improved upon, it is the American Hamburger. Right?

And yet. Last week, Andy was away on business, and after going on a vegetarian dinner tear for four straight nights, I was hit hard by a burger craving. A beef burger craving. Not a turkey burger, not a salmon burger, not a tandoori chicken burger. A burger burger. I had some ground beef in the freezer, but no charcoals (not that I would’ve fired them up anyway, it was a late soccer night and there was to be no messing around with charcoal chimneys at 8:00) and, more to the point, no Andy.

So I went my own way: I pan-fried some patties and did what I’ve been meaning to do ever since pulling up a stool all by myself at Umami Burger in Santa Monica last year: I made my own version of their popular Hatch Burger. (“No ketchup? No mustard?” I remember asking the bartender/server, who gave me a look that seemed to say “You’re from out of town, aren’t you?”) Rachel, one of my nicer readers who knew of my fondness for the meal, sent along what looked like an official recipe a few months ago, but in the interest of time (picking up a theme here?) I disregarded half of the ingredients and stuck to the three main components: beef, American cheese, roasted green “Hatch” chiles, a jar of which I had picked up in Santa Fe earlier this summer.

When I say this was the best burger I’ve ever made, I’m not lying. (Note the phrasing: best I’ve ever made.) The whole thing came together in about 12 minutes, which would’ve been enough to convert me, but the girls loved them too. I was fully expecting them to opt for the ketchup instead of the chiles, but neither did. I texted a picture of the dinner to Andy, who immediately texted back “That’s just mean.”

Next time it’s burger night, I’m cooking.

Hatch Burgers
Inspired by Umami Burger

4 loosely packed burger patties, about 1/4 – 1/3 pound each, and mixed with a few drops of soy sauce
4 slices American cheese
4 hamburger buns (we used whole wheat, but I think potato rolls are probably a better move; there’s a time for health and this wasn’t one of them)
4 heaping tablespoons roasted green “hatch” chiles (We used Santa Fe Ole; but you can find green chiles in the Mexican aisle of most supermarkets)

In a large deep skillet, fry patties over medium heat, until cooked rare or medium-rare, about 3 minutes a side. During last minute of cooking, top each with a slice of cheese, cover skillet and cook until cheese melts. Slide burgers onto hamburger buns, and top with chiles.

P.S. I’m sorry about the kale overload these days. It really has become the default vegetable in our house and I promise to shake things up on the side dish front as soon as the godd@#m farmer’s market stops selling such good-looking bunches.

PPS: Thank you Rachel!


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What Makes Something a “Keeper?”

September 3rd, 2013 · 311 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef

Keeper. It’s one of the more beautiful words in the language of Dinner. (As in “Yes, dear, this pretzel chicken? It’s a keeper.”) But for anyone who’s cooking for a family,  it’s also one of the more elusive words. Because families are usually made up of kids, and kids are usually made up of really weird genetic coding that makes them say things like “I don’t like pasta” or “the chicken has too much crust” or “I’ve decided I like cows too much so no more beef for me.” And we love them for it. We just don’t love how complicated it makes things at 7:00 on a weeknight.

So how do we optimize our chances of amassing a rotation of Keepers? Well, for starters, we can look to two ex-Saveur editors for advice. Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion (of one of the best food blogs out there, Devil & Egg) have just published a book called — you got it — Keepers. I love that title, but I love the subtitle even more: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen. The book is filled with my favorite kind of recipe: simple and straightforward, with just a little twist that elevates a meal from everyday to special — Asian Pork Sliders with Magic Miso Mayo, Greek Style Fish with Yogurt and Lemon, Skillet Lasagna, Sauteed Tilapia with Citrus-Soy Marinade, Japanese Style Meat and Potatoes that’s made with soy sauce and brown sugar and that is first in line to be cooked when the weather turns a little colder. Kathy and Caroline were nice enough to share a little Keeper Wisdom with us today. Thanks guys — take it away!

The Five Hallmarks of a Keeper
by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion 

Here are the 5 things that we think make a weeknight dinner a KEEPER, and by weeknight dinner we mean that, not only is the dish itself is brag-worthy and tasty, but also all the effort and time that you put into it (including the shopping, prepping, cooking, plating) was minimal, fuss-free, and dare we say, enjoyable. So here goes:

Accessible You can find all of the ingredients at your local supermarket (no ordering a custom blend of za’tar from a rare spice catalog or sourcing white truffle oil). Simple things from your grocery aisle like toasted seeds, lemons, and maple syrup, can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary, without breaking the bank (or forcing you to spend your weekend preserving lemons).

Low Impact After you’re done cooking, your kitchen won’t look like it was hit by a typhoon. Meaning, you didn’t have to use every bowl, pot, and utensil you own to make it, and your family doesn’t silently loathe you when they have to spend an hour doing the dishes.

Flexible It’s fine, actually encouraged, to incorporate leftovers whenever possible: A carton of rice from last’s night’s Chinese take-out, half a rotisserie chicken from the market, odds-and-ends from the vegetable drawer, a stale loaf of bread…all of these things can be transformed into something Keeper-worthy with ingredients like oyster sauce, a tangy homemade chimichurri sauce or carrot-and-ginger dressing, and the toaster.

Make-Ahead There’s always a good chance a recipe will stay in regular rotation if there is some part of it that can be done ahead of time.  Take these Asian Sliders below. It’s a good example of how a few minutes at the start of your day can lead to an extra-tasty dish in the evening. Marinating the tenderloin in a pineapple juice and garlic mixture tenderizes it and imparts a savory-sweet flavor. And then come dinnertime, it’s simple enough to make on autopilot while drinking a glass of wine. That’s a pretty essential hallmark, too: Easy. (Come to think of it, so is the word “Sliders” in any recipe title.)

Homemade The dish is a crowd-pleaser, one that your family and friends ask for time and again. How does this happen? Because you’ve used good ingredients, seasoned it well, and put love into it.  Yes, we know that you can’t always please everyone. Chances are that there’s someone in your family who’s gluten-free, leaning towards vegan, will only eat food that’s beige, or a raging carnivore. But putting something in front of them that you made yourself is a good start.

Asian Pork Sliders with Magic Miso-Mayo
from Keepers
Serves 4

We coat the marinated meat with hoisin sauce, roast it, slice it, then put it on light, fluffy potato rolls with extra hoisin and sliced scallions. Some Magic Miso-Mayo and/or hot sauce are really good, too. You can also serve the pork and fixings in lettuce leaves or on bowls of steamed white or brown rice. If you can’t spare any time in the morning, marinate the pork for as long as you can before cooking (up to an hour at room temperature; any longer and it should be refrigerated). (more…)

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I’ll Deal with That After Vacation

August 26th, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef

Do you guys have that list? The I’ll-Deal-With-it-After-Vacation List? Earlier in August while scrambling to get everything organized before we dropped off the face of the earth for a while (real earth, not blog earth) I found myself keeping a mental list of all the things I’d just figure out once I got home. Taken on their own, in the rosy glow of pre-vacation denial, all those tasks seemed so infintisemally minor — a magazine deadline, a bunch of volunteer obligations, afterschool activity scheduling, a 300-page manuscript to read through. (More on that soon.) And yet, like clockwork, the night before re-entry to reality, each one of those items on my list team up — I picture them rubbing their palms together and laughing an evil laugh —  to form one really not-min0r-at-all get-organized list. This usually  happens somewhere around three o’clock in the morning.  That was last night for me, so I’m going to make this post short.

But even as summer vacation winds down, summer itself is still in full throttle. Which is another way of saying, the cooking is still as simple to deal with as ever. So for this week, at least, come dinnertime, I’m pretending we’re still on holiday. This grilled steak with salsa verde was our last meal in South Carolina and was good enough to deserve a reprise. As soon as I get through my list.

Grilled Steak with Salsa Verde
We served this with the most basic sides: Vinaigrette-tossed chopped kale and Chopped tomatoes and avocados with red onion, avocado, a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, s&p, and cilantro. On the screened porch overlooking an egret-speckled lagoon. I can’t promise you it will taste as good if you’re not on vacation.

Salsa Verde

1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh parsley or cilantro or mint or a combination of all three
10-12 large capers
generous amount of salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil


1 1/2 punds boneless ribeye steaks, heavily salted & peppered

Process all salsa verde ingredients except oil in a mini food processor or blender. Then, slowly add olive oil as you whirl and  the sauce emulsifies. Remove to a small dish.

Grill steaks over medium-hot coals 3 to 4 minutes a side. Remove from grill and and let sit five minutes before slicing on the bias. Serve with salsa verde spooned on top.

Oh sweetie! No scraps tonight, Iris. (It’s steak for crying out loud.) But if you hang out with us for a bit, you might get a piece of kale.

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Summer Short Ribs? Yup.

July 17th, 2013 · 14 Comments · Grilling, Pork and Beef

If we were playing word association (since we just got back from vacay, there has been a lot of this game going on in our house) and we started with say, short ribs…Where would you go from there?

“Winter?” “Braise?” “Dutch Oven?” “Anna?”

I’ll tell you where I wouldn’t have gone:


Call me naive, but it never would’ve occurred to me to associate short ribs with backyard barbecuing — until a week or two ago, when our friends Todd and Anne had our family over for some dinner. Now, as you well know by now, dinner at their house in the summer is not your run-of-the-mill burgers-and-dogs-and-corn-on-the-cob kind of event. (Not that I would EVER turn down ANY of those things EVER!) But every time I walk in to Todd and Anne’s homey kitchen overlooking the Hudson River — whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall — Todd is busy concocting something curious. This time, he was mad-geniusing a cocktail: Lord only knows what the thing was — something that involved beer, cider vinegar, fresh lemons, bourbon, maybe even a small animal, can’t be sure, but whatever it was, it totally got the job done. Next to him was a platter of short ribs that Anne had dropped into a marinade a few hours earlier, getting ready to be tossed onto the grill. “It’s basically Tony’s Steak,” Todd told me, simultaneously working on a pot of quinoa and drizzling rice wine vinegar into some wilted spinach. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. This is so my kind of eatin’.

And I haven’t even gotten to the part in the story where the sun sinks into the horizon, casting a golden glow over the Hudson, the treetops, and the dinner table. So yeah, today, if you asked me to play word association with “short ribs” I’d have no choice but to say one thing: Summer.

Grilled Short Ribs with Scallions
Todd & Anne served this with an herby quinoa dish and wilted spinach that had been tossed with a drizzle of rice wine vinegar, a drop or two of sesame oil, salt, pepper, sesame seeds. Oh and also a nice cold glass of Ramey Chardonnay.

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Juice from one lime
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs
1 bunch scallions, trimmed (as shown above) and tossed in a little olive oil with salt

Add all the marinade ingredients to a large ziploc bag. Add ribs, seal it, and marinate in the refrigerator for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Heat grill to high and add ribs and scallions as shown above. Cook ribs about 3 to 4 minutes a side, about 10-12 minutes total, browning all sides. Flesh should feel tender, but not smushy. Scallions are ready when they are slightly charred and wilted.

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Where Do I Begin?

February 21st, 2013 · 25 Comments · Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

This is how a conversation went with my new friend Sarah, the first time I met her a few months ago:

Sarah: I really love your blog, it gives me hope.
Me: Hey, thanks. I’m so glad.
Sarah: But I don’t cook from it.
Me: Oh…you don’t?
Sarah: No, I don’t cook. I can’t do anything in the kitchen.
Me: Yes you can.
Sarah: No I can’t. I. Really. Can’t.

That week, I had just read a profile of Stacy London and it crossed my mind that Sarah felt the way about cooking the way I felt reading that story — the way I felt trying to figure out what I was going to wear to a fancy holiday party later that month: Intimidated. A little lost.

Me: It’s not hard. You just need a little confidence and one or two solid recipes in your rotation.
Sarah: Well, what are those recipes? I have no idea where to start.
Me: I have almost 500 recipes on my blog, start there!
Sarah: That doesn’t help.

She was totally right! Someone might as well have told me “How do you not have something to wear to that party? There are 500 stores in New York City that sell perfect party dresses.”

On this blog, sometimes we get so bogged down in the (admittedly plentiful) minutae of family dinner — from the benefits of cooking for your kids to how to stay on top of Meatless Mondays to what freaking books to discuss at the dinner table — that we can forget to dial back and address the most elemental of issues: Where Do I Begin?  It’s why I recently introduced the “First Time Here” button up there on the right. And it’s also why Andy and I wrote a feature for Bon Appetit this month called  A Family Dinner Primer. Besides telling you what to make for family dinner (including this rockin’ steakhouse steak salad pictured above), we hope it goes back to the basics and tells you how to make family dinner.

As for what to wear to family dinner? I’m open to suggestions.

Steak Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing
If you want to do this on a weeknight, I highly recommend making the dressing and the pickled onions ahead of time. They are minor tasks, but just the kind of thing you’ll be glad you don’t have to do after a day wearing heels that were supposed to be more comfortable.
For the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk the following. Can be made in advance and stored for up to a week:
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1-pound rib-eye, flank, or skirt steak
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
12 ounces fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
6 radishes, cut into thin wedges
2 cups greens (such as arugula or torn Bibb lettuce leaves)
Pickled Red Onions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat. Season steak with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked to desired doneness, 5-8 minutes per side for medium-rare rib eye, about 4 minutes per side for flank steak, or 3 minutes per side for skirt steak. Transfer meat to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.
While steak rests, wipe out skillet and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, season with salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 8-10 minutes.
Slice steak and serve with horseradish dressing, potatoes, cucumber, radishes, greens, and Pickled Onions.
Photo by Gentl & Hyers.

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Snow Day Dinner

February 11th, 2013 · 18 Comments · Pork and Beef

It’s been so long since it snowed in our neck of the woods — and by “snowed” I don’t mean the one-inch dusting that disappears as soon as the sun rises, or the icy kind of snow that lands in October on trees with autumn leaves still clinging to them. (What was that?) The snow I’ve missed so much these past few weird winters is snowman snow, snowball fight snow, sledding snow, snow so bright, you see blue when you walk inside after being outside for too long. Snow that gets everyone talking about the snow. Snow that gets everyone talking about what kind of dinner they’re going home to after a day in the snow. My friend Tom swore by his 2-ingredient slow-cooker pork  (“a bottle of root beer and a pork loin, and that’s it!”); my friend Bonnie had a big ole pot of minestrone simmering on the stovetop. There was chatter about a stromboli and at least a bolognese or two. Me? I had only one vision: short ribs and creamy polenta — which should go down with Cake and Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Bagel and Cream Cheese as one of the great romances in culinary history. Unless you are 9 or 10 years old, in which case, just the beef, no polenta please. But when it came to warming up snow-chapped faces, the shredded melty beef on its own still seemed to do the job just fine.

P.S. Valentine’s Day giveaway on my facebook page today.

Beer-braised Short Ribs with Harissa
Adam, the editor of Bon Appetit, was the first to give me the idea for serving short ribs with freshly grated horseradish. Just a light dusting cuts the richness a bit and gives the dish a subtle kick. It’s purely optional though. Especially if you are the type who wouldn’t know what to do with a leftover knob of fresh horseradish.

3 lbs short ribs, salted and peppered (we used boneless for this recipe, and they were great, but we both agreed that bone-in tastes better)
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chunked
1 pint dark beer
2 heaping tablespoons harissa
half of a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (about 3/4 cup), reserve the remaining tomatoes in case you need to add to the pot later
5 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly grated horseradish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large Dutch oven, brown short ribs in olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove once brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, and add garlic, onions and carrots. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in beer, harissa, and tomatoes to the pot, then add back ribs and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven for 4 to 5 hours. Toss every hour or so. (And add more tomatoes if liquid has boiled down too much and it looks dry.) After 4 hours, ribs should be falling apart.

Serve over Creamy Polenta with a sprinkling of freshly grated horseradish.


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Valentine’s Day? Forget Chocolate

January 22nd, 2013 · 9 Comments · Pork and Beef

I lied to Andy last Thursday. I called him from the car at about 5:00, which was two hours into a four-hour pick-up and drop-off marathon, and said I hadn’t had a second to think about dinner. I had thought about dinner. I had thought about it several dozen seconds that day — in the morning before I left for work, in the afternoon when I had returned from work with just enough time to wolf down a late lunch while standing in front of the fridge (thank God for string cheese) and then a few more times in between activities. “We have nothing to eat for dinner,” I told him via Bluetooth. That part wasn’t a lie. But since he’d be home from work before we’d be home from tennis/doctor/soccer, I figured he could deal with the slim pickins situation.

A few hours later we were sitting down to a frittata. (The girls, egg-haters both, had chili that had been thawed from the freezer.) I figured it would be a bare-bones, clean-the-fridge kind of frittata, but as soon as I had a bite, I tasted it. Bentons! How could I have forgotten? The country ham that I gave Andy for Christmas. The country ham that, when you have it around, means you are never far from a really tasty dinner. The country ham from Tennessee that David Chang and Sean Brock use in their (internationally-acclaimed) restaurant kitchens and that our friend Sean (different Sean) first shipped to us a few years ago as a thank-you gift. The ham that we keep in our freezer and deploy in the smallest amounts whenever we need a hit of smoke or depth — in pea soup, white bean soup, pasta with peas. The stuff is good. The stuff means we’re in for a treat. The stuff would make a great Valentine’s Day gift for someone you love a whole lot.*

*The waiting list can sometimes be long, your Valentine may have to be willing to accept a late gift. Also, no one’s going to stop you from ordering their bacon either.

P.S. Speaking of Valentine’s Day, just one-clicked two of these.

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I’m Tired of Pretending

January 14th, 2013 · 54 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef

“I’m tired of pretending.”

These were the words I heard from my husband while we sat by the edge of an closed-for-the-season swimming pool in South Carolina over the holiday break. The kids were getting dressed in the locker room after an hour on the tennis court. It was the last week of December and the sun was white in the lonely winter sky.

“Really?” I say. “So that’s it? Fifteen years of marriage and I find this out now?”

“Well, this is important — it’s our first vacation dinner and I don’t want to ruin it by pretending that I like what’s on the table.”

I had just told him I was thinking of making some kind of pork and sweet potato stew with hominy — a riff on a recipe Victoria Granof had developed for Time for Dinner.

“You could’ve told me before now,” I said, at this point more confused than angry. “All those sweet potato fries? All those Thanksgiving mashes with oranges?” The room narrowed and widened simultaneously. The many sweet potato moments in our lives together started pulsing before me like a scene from Run Lola Run. “Your father’s birthday party in our first apartment!” I said, louder than I had intended to. It was one of the first times we had ever entertained, rotating our scrappy desk sideways against the wall to create a makeshift dining room table. “We made Emeril’s Three Potato Lasagna that night — and you ate every bite!”

His eyes were fixed a heron gliding across a lagoon. He said nothing.

“You’re telling me all this time you never liked sweet potatoes?”

“Nope. Not really. Cloying. Overpowering. Too sweet. Like dessert, only bad.” Pause. “Figured I’d tell you before we go shopping. I’m tired of acting like sweet potatoes are good.”

The heron landed on a small upturned log in the lagoon. His eyes scanned the water, like he was looking for some lunch.

“And what about hominy?” I asked. “Should I even bother?” The girls were coming out of the locker room, their hair smooth and brushed in the front, but gnarly and knotted in the back where they couldn’t reach. I looked at him.

“Why don’t you just let me go shopping,” he said. (more…)

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