Thank You, Teachers

As our kids head into their last week of school, teacher thank-you notes in tow, it got us thinking: What about our teachers in the kitchen? What about all the little voices that instruct us as we whip our cream, brown our chops… and overcook our dry-aged ribeyes? I’m not only talking about the Marcellas and the Julias and the Bittmans, but roommates, coworkers, grandmas, Scorsese characters, and all the random cooks who’ve imparted culinary gems of wisdom over the decades. Herewith, our belated notes of appreciation.

From Jenny:

Thank you, Aunt Patty, for teaching me that it’s way more fun to pass a whisk and a bowl of heavy cream around the table — and have everyone whip “til stiff peaks form”– than it is to just firehose the Reddi-Wip.

Thank you, Hunter, for teaching me how to chop basil by stacking the leaves one on top of the other, rolling them into a tube, then chopping crosswise into ribbons. (In 1992, how would we have ever known that the name for the result was a chiffonade.)

Thank you, Kelly, for teaching me that the most effective way to get an egg shard out of your cracked eggs is to scoop it out with one of the shell halves.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that garlic doesn’t exist in nature labeled, powdered, and jarred.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to never walk by Zabar’s or Russ & Daughters without purchasing a Babka.

Thank you, random girlfriend of Andy’s 1994 roommate, for teaching me that you can upgrade plain white rice by adding a little white wine before the water.

Thank you, Paulie, for teaching me the proper way to slice garlic is with a razor blade.

Thank you, Jerry and Estelle, for teaching me that dessert should be cake.

Thank you, Bobby, for teaching me that potato salad will be better if you mix in the vinaigrette while potatoes are still warm.

Thank you, Helene, for sending me the link to Cacao Barry when I asked for a cocoa powder upgrade.

Thank you, Kate, for teaching me how to spread peanut butter on the brownies that result from that cocoa powder upgrade. Or any old brownies actually.

Thank you, Alex, for teaching me that apples, potatoes, and fennel taste better when they’ve been through the mandoline.

Thank you, Rich, for teaching me that a sprinkling of cornstarch over the chicken before stir-frying results in a more authentic tasting stir-fry.

Thank you, Courtney, for teaching me that the easiest, though maybe not the politest, way to butter corn was to roll it around on top of a stick of butter.

Thank you, Jane, for teaching me that, as a rule, smaller fruits and vegetables are going to have more flavor than steroidal fruits and vegetables.

Thank you, lady on the fish line at the farmer’s market, for teaching me that a good rule of thumb when cooking fish is “10 minutes total for every one inch of thickness.”

Thank you, lady in the Conde Nast cafeteria, for teaching me how to fan an avocado by halving it, peeling off the skin, then slicing it lengthwise without cutting all the way through to the tip.

Thank you, lady working at the Tiffany’s counter, who taught me how to tie a bow around a box that would unfurl with one pull.

{Thank you, DALS readers, for letting me go off track when I’m excited about something.}

Thank you, Pilar, for teaching me to for Pete’s sake try out an anchovy already!

Thank you best friend’s high school boyfriend for teaching me that it’s probably a good idea to remove the shell of the shrimp before eating the shrimp.

Thank you, Rosa, for teaching me to always have a glass of ice water on the counter while cooking.

Thank you, Jeni, for teaching me to add horseradish to my mashed potatoes.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me that a few dots of cream cheese in scrambled eggs will always make them fluffier.

Thank you, college cafeteria director, for introducing me to the concept of chives in scrambled eggs, even if those eggs were most likely poured from a carton and stirred in a cauldron with a broomstick.

Thank you, Dyane, for teaching me about The Silver Palate.

Thank you, Matt, for teaching me about Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook Italian.

Thank you, Alanna, for teaching me that the perfect weeknight dinner is a salad and a “lightly pan-fried fish.”

Thank you, Naria, for teaching me that it was actually possible that humans under four feet tall could like raw kale.

Thank you Steve for teaching me that at a party, no matter how good the food is, it’s never going to feel right if there’s no toast.

Thank you, Ward family, for teaching me the importance of holding out on the cocktail until “the sun goes over the yardarm.”

Thank you, Frances, for teaching me that the best way to shortcut the caramelization of an onion is to add a few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end.

Thank you, Joan, for teaching me that dinner guests should smell something delicious when they walk in — even if it’s a single onion that’s been baking at 350°F for a half hour while you decant the take-out onto serving platters, then throw away your onion.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for teaching me that even meatloaf can be elegant if it’s served on china.

Thank you, Adam, for teaching me that if you don’t slightly depress the center of a loosely-packed burger patty, you will be eating a rock-hard shrunken hockey puck for dinner.

Thank you, Dave, for teaching me to undercook brownies by ten minutes, then serve them still warm, still in the pan, with a few dollops of vanilla ice cream and four spoons.

Thank you, Phoebe and Abby, for teaching me that even though I have 650+ recipes in the blog archives, at the end of the day, I only really need to know how to make tacos and pizza.

Thank you, Andy, for teaching me just about everything else, including: sprinkling my cantaloupe with sea salt will miraculously make it taste more like cantaloupe; that meat is done when it’s “firm to the touch but not rock hard;” that the quickest way to pour liquid out of a bottle is to first create a centrifugal force with the liquid, then turn it upside down and watch it spiral forth; that the proper way to eat edamame is not to shove the whole thing in your mouth like it’s a sugar snap pea; that you’ll enjoy your coffee about a thousand times more if you’ve exercised and showered before your first sip; that no one ever complains when you recognize a school award, a soccer victory, or simply making it to Friday, with a box of Li-Lac marzipan acorns.

From Andy:

Thank you, Grandma Ward, for teaching me about the greatness of the toasted coconut donut.

Thank you, Grandpa Ward, for teaching me about the crucial medicinal qualities of a good, cold cocktail.

Thank you, Rosenstrach family, for teaching me about dessert.

Thank you, Rapo, for teaching me that you can’t use enough salt and cracked pepper when grilling a good steak.

Thank you, Aunt Patty, for teaching me so much of what I know about food, but most of all, that there are good versions of dishes like chicken Milanese and bad versions of dishes like chicken Milanese, and you want to be the person who aspires to the good version of chicken Milanese.

Thank you, Aunt Patty, for teaching me that, in order to make that good chicken Milanese, you have to pound the chicken first.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that cookies are better with salted butter.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me that peanut butter is for breakfast (and goes particularly well with bananas, raisins, and, yes, bacon).

Thank you, chef-who’s-name-I-can’t-remember at Degustation, for teaching me how to fry an egg: separate a little of the white from the yolk first; then, hot griddle, and a little dollop of oil.

Thank you, Marcella, for teaching me to salt the hell out of the pasta water.

Thank you, Uncle Mike, for teaching me to put sausage in my chili, along with the ground beef.

Thank you, Joel, for teaching me about the Manhattan, a stunningly effective beverage.

Thank you, Sam, for teaching me that oysters have a place on the Thanksgiving table (and for showing me how to shuck them).

Thank you, David, for teaching me that Brussels Sprouts are much more than just a punchline.

Thank you, Ellis, for teaching me that the best combination is onion bagel with cream cheese.

Thank you, Phoebe, for teaching me about the Apricot Crumble, aka the rich man’s peach cobbler.

Thank you, Taco Project, for teaching me that jicama matchsticks and thinly-sliced radishes are certainly not going to make your tacos worse.

Thank you, chef at Harper’s, for teaching me that burrata with yellow tomato and pesto is extremely hard to beat as a crowd-pleasing appetizer.

Thank you, Bon Appetit, for teaching me that all you need for a kick-ass weeknight dinner is a cast iron pan, a bunch of chicken thighs, and some salt and pepper.

Thank you, Rapo, for teaching me that it’s okay not to enjoy, even a little bit, micro-brew beers.

Thank you, American South, for teaching me about the greatness of Duke’s mayonnaise.

Thank you, people of the United Kingdom, for teaching me that baked beans on toast is a meal that is not to be sneezed at.

Thank you, Nabisco, for the Mallomar.

Thank you, refrigerator, for keeping and protecting the Mallomar.

Thank you, my dear friend Trader Joe, for hooking me up with the tools to make the greatest weekday breakfast ever: toasted sprouted bread slathered with salted almond butter, and topped with fresh raspberries.

Thank you, Stone Barns, for teaching me what a real egg should look and taste like, (i.e., deep yellow and like an egg).

Thank you, Abby, for teaching me that it is possible to use every pot and utensil in the kitchen while making chocolate waffles… and then get your mom and dad to clean up for you!

Thank you, Phoebe, for teaching me that breaded flounder with tartar sauce, salad, and roasted potatoes might actually be the most perfect dinner on earth.

Thank you, Jenny, for teaching me just about everything else, including the importance of: Dijon in a vinaigrette, a very hot pan when browning, pairing pork with something sweet, the alchemical magic that happens when boring chicken breasts are marinated in yogurt prior to grilling, a true pate brisee, a slow-scrambled egg, herbs in a salad, a proper tablecloth when eating outside, a halved-and-sectioned grapefruit in the morning (sprinkled with sugar), the underrated qualities of butternut squash, and — most of all — the fact that cooking is so much more fun when you have somebody to do it with.

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i don’t disagree with you often, but cocktail hour is NOT 6:00…it’s 5:00. You got some bum dope on that one!

The Prestigious School

This is a great idea. I say thank you to my husband and children for always eating and complimenting whatever I put on the table. It has given me so much joy over the years!


You lost me at salted butter. There’s never a need to use salted butter because salt and butter can always be added separately.


I was listening to the Elise Gets Crafty podcast (episode 34) and they mentioned DAL! It was especially neat because they were making a connection between a point you made in the book about involving kids in the kitchen and their conversation on involving kids in their (the parents) crafty careers & workspace.


Thanks to Jenny and Andy for teaching me that there is no need to over-complicate dinner [wait… I can just make steak sandwiches and that’s good enough…? yes. yes it is.]


Can you elaborate on the white wine in the rice. Sounds pretty great. This list made me excited to cook and spend time in the kitchen even though its a million degrees. Thank you.


Thank you to my sister for teaching me to not be afraid of “the big knife” in my knife block, aka the chef’s knife which I use for everything now.

Thank you to Kathleen Flinn who taught me to put a damp paper towel under the cutting board to keep it from moving around. Amongst many other things her book taught me.

Thank you to Jenny for instilling a desire in me to cook real food–my cooking journey has been driven my need to not let my future kids be addicted to chicken nuggets.


These are my favorites! I really love lists, and you are championship list makers. Try a little sausage in your meatballs, as long as you’re adding sausage to things. xox