Of all the foods characteristic of New Orleans – from pralines to muffalettas – my all-time favorite remains the King Cake (la galette des Rois).
I can remember gathering around the large loaf in grade school, eagerly holding out my plate, and wondering if my piece would be the lucky piece. If the teacher was feeling generous that day, she might indulge our personal choices, and allow us to select that prized piece ourselves. There were those that favored the edge pieces. Others favored a particular color of icing – be it green, yellow, or purple – certain that good luck lay beneath it. And others still allowed simple chance to play its part.
I don’t remember what my particular stratagem may have been, but given the importance of the situation, I certainly had one. You see, hidden in the dough was a small plastic baby. And whoever pulled the baby from his or piece was king or queen for the day.
In grade school, this was no mere sinecure. Continue reading
There are over twenty cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, the collection squeezed between a small, black, plastic bookend on one end, and the beige kitchen wall on the other end. From the kitchen, you can see the various spines, with a variety of colors, types, and themes. There are books on baking and grilling. There are books devoted only to Italian and Greek cooking. And there are books from restaurants encountered along the way.
My collection, in other words, has a nice variation. Except in one respect. On the wall side, wedged between my Cooking Light Desserts and Justin Wilson’s Cajun Cookbook, sits seven books, each spine beginning with the words “Barefoot Contessa.”
Ina Garten is, in other words, my go to chef. So with my New Year’s Resolution to make more main courses, I naturally Continue reading
Caitlin arrived in Cincinnati last Saturday, partly for work, and partly to celebrate her 27th birthday (that Monday).
After picking her up at the airport, we headed to dinner. After dinner, we returned to my apartment, where – as is her custom – Caitlin examined the contents of my refrigerator. After sampling the almond butter and my homemade tzatziki sauce, she concentrated her sights on the large, domed item, carefully wrapped in foil.
It was, obviously, her cake. But what kind of cake, she wondered. Alas, I could not answer the question; it was not yet her birthday.
After a small amount of pleading (it was, after all, her birthday weekend), I agreed to give her a series of hints.
It had pumpkin, I told her, knowing Continue reading
There’s a certain moment in the bread-baking process where you remember exactly why you spent all that time kneading, crafting, and waiting.
It’s not the moment you take the bread out of the oven, or the moment you finally bite into a slice. It’s several minutes before that time. It’s the moment when you perk up, and notice that your entire apartment smells of freshly baking bread. It’s that moment, above any other, that reminds me why I enjoy the bread-baking process.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt Continue reading
Like any man, I love my gadgets.
Three years ago, I moved into my current apartment. A few days after the move-in, the place barely looked inhabited. I had only a bed, a bookshelf, and a desk in my new place. At the time, I had been uncertain how long I would be in Saint Louis, and the thought of another quick move had encouraged a minimalistic lifestyle. I had no couch, no chairs, and little cookware. I also had no television.
Four weeks later – or should I say two paychecks later – I was ready to spruce up the apartment. I scoured the Internet, looking for the right price for the right item. I searched a number of different stores in the bi-state area. If Missouri did not have what I wanted, I was happy to head to Illinois. And that’s where I ultimately went.
One Saturday morning, I called the Target store in Belleville, Illinois, to confirm that I was coming. Continue reading
This past weekend, Caitlin graduated from law school. But she didn’t just graduate; she graduated with style, earning a number of academic honors and awards.
But a few days before the graduation, I found myself sitting around with a lot of extra egg whites (you’ll see why in a few days). Rather than toss perfectly good egg whites, I decided to make meringues. And rather than make the simple spiral meringues, I decided to spice them up a bit — literally and figuratively!
After a healthy dash of cinnamon, and a few twirls from my piping bag, Continue reading
French recipes are, understandably, often steeped in history. The nation is as proud of its culinary traditions as it is of its epistolary and philosophical ones. It’s why the incursion of soft drinks and hamburgers are as noxious as the incursion of English words like “le leader,” “le power” and “le hot-dog.” It’s why Jose Bove can become a national icon for burning down a McDonalds, and why Maria Antoinette’s remarks about brioche could topple a monarch. The evolution of French culture and identity can be easily traced along the x-axis of language, and y-axis of cooking.
The center of this graph, the 0,0 point, might well be Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, or The Remembrance of Things Past. In one section Continue reading
I have an impatient streak. It’s why I don’t play golf, and why I can’t read music. It’s why I prefer talking to texting, and why I bring work home. It might also be why I scheduled this post to publish while on vacation. So when things take longer than I think they should, I get frustrated. And when things don’t work out the first time, to say nothing of the second time, I get equally frustrated.
In the kitchen, however, I’m a little more forgiving. In the kitchen, I’m usually willing to forgive a first mishap, and to chalk it up as a culinary rough draft. Some of my recipes even look like the galleys of a novel, with the characteristic cross-outs and line-edits. Ingredients are substituted or subtracted like unwanted sentences, cooking times expand or contract like secondary characters, and quantities increase or decrease as if page numbers.
As writing is to cooking, I’m willing to work through a few rough drafts. And this recipe took more than a few. In all, Continue reading
From a Croque Norvegien to an ABB&M, I’ve been in sandwich mode recently. Which got me thinking. Instead of running out and grabbing a new loaf of bread, maybe I could make my own.
I settled on brioche, a butter- and egg-enriched yeast bread, French in origin. Yet, despite its French origins, the French put their brioche in the viennoiserie basket. Unlike something in the bread basket, a viennoiserie (meaning “in the Viennese style”) boasts the addition of eggs, butter, milk, cream, or sugar, which gives it a pastry-like character.
Viennoiseries are leavened, often layered, and commonly served in the morning. Beyond brioche, Continue reading