Category Archives: Cool Cooking Techniques

Paula Wolfert’s “Unforgettable” Duck You Can Eat With A Spoon

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

With crisp skin and flesh so tender you can cut it with a spoon, this duck by Paula Wolfert is a masterpiece.

 

She is not a star of the Food Network. She doesn’t own a four-star restaurant that has a three-month wait for reservations. And she doesn’t write pithy food articles laced with expletives and bro-talk that everyone feels the need to read, dissect, and re-post again and again.

But Paula Wolfert should be as revered and renowned as any of those folks. More so, even.

She is one of the most influential cooks of our time — a woman who has dived deep into authentic Mediterranean cuisine long before most of us ever knew what a cassoulet or tagine was.

Over the years, she published eight seminal cookbooks. But when her friend, Emily Kaiser Thelin, a former editor of Food & Wine magazine, pitched the idea of writing a biography of Wolfert, no publisher would give it the green light.

So in a modern-day version of a barn-raising, Thelin rallied her friends and colleagues to the mission, recruiting photographer Eric Wolfinger, designer Toni Tajima, and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen to do editing duties. They mounted a Kickstarter campaign, which more than 1,100 folks supported, including yours truly.

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The result is “Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life” (M&P) by Thelin.

The title has dual meanings — and hints at why Thelin and her team were so driven to put Wolfert’s life and recipes down in perpetuity. Wolfert was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. The woman who once prided herself on studying up on almost a dozen languages in order to converse with cooks around the world, now finds most of those once familiar foreign phrases elusive. Even reading in English now and retaining its contents is difficult for her.

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What The Halibut — And A Food Gal Giveaway

Halibut cooked in olive oil -- a lot of it.

Halibut cooked in olive oil — a lot of it.

 

Yes, this recipe uses a lot of olive oil.

Yes, you’ll wonder what to do with all that oil afterward.

Yes, you can strain it, store it in the fridge and re-use it.

But yes, it may taste fishy.

That’s because you’ve poached halibut in it, creating a warm, bountiful bath of olive oil to cook it gently and slowly until the flesh is moist and incredibly silky. Best yet, it’s almost impossible to overcook the fish with this oven method.

If you’ve never tried olive oil-poaching here’s your chance with this dish of “Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Chermoula.”

Bathed in olive oil.

Bathed in olive oil.

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Home and Away: Simple, Delicious Recipes Inspired by the World’s Cafes, Bistros and Diners” (Arsenal Pulp Press) by Darcy and Randy Shore, of which I received a review copy.

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Sweet on Sweet Potatoes — All Year-Round (Sponsored Post)

Sweet potato roasted in ash.

Sweet potato roasted in ash.

If you think sweet potatoes are only for Thanksgiving, think again.

This Easter, make sweet potatoes the centerpiece of your spring holiday with this easy, dramatic and mesmerizing dish: whole sweet potatoes buried in ash, and roasted until blackened on the outside, and sweet, smoky and luscious within. Forget the colored eggs; all eyes will be on this beauty when it comes to the table.

Spread the flesh on warm tortillas with a dollop of creamy chipotle sauce enlivened with fresh orange zest, because we all know just how wonderfully sweet potatoes marry with sweet citrus.

This simple, sublime dish will make you look at sweet potatoes in a whole different light. It’s sure to become a year-round indulgence, whenever it’s grilling weather outside. It’s even vegetarian and gluten-free, to boot.

After all, California’s envious climate allows for sweet potatoes to be available year-round, according to the California Sweetpotato Council. They are grown in the San Joaquin Valley’s naturally sandy loam, cured in the ground first, before being harvested and cured in sheds.

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Andrea Nguyen’s Pho Of A Different Sort

Crispy on the outside, and chewy-custardy soft inside.

Crispy on the outside, and chewy-custardy soft inside.

 

There is pho. And then there is pho pancake.

Yes, my friends, get ready for something all together different and delicious.

Leave it to my friend and cookbook author extraordinaire Andrea Nguyen to come up with this novel version of everyone’s favorite soup noodles.

“Pan Fried Pho Noodles” is from her newest tome, “The Pho Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), which already went into its second printing before it was even officially released in February.

You may have enjoyed steaming huge bowls of brothy noodles countless times at neighborhood Vietnamese restaurants. But with this book, you’ll learn how to make your own — from preparing the broth from scratch to choosing noodles and assembling garnishes and toppings.

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Depending upon how labor-intensive you’re feeling, you can choose among quick versions of pho (which calls for doctoring purchased low-sodium broth or buying a rotisserie chicken) to pressure-cooker recipes that speed up the process to non-traditional riffs such as seafood pho.

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Naomi Pomeroy’s Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs

Dried porcini mushrooms add an earthy depth to this comforting chicken dish.

Dried porcini mushrooms add an earthy depth to this comforting chicken dish.

 

Rustic and comforting, this is like chicken stew — only made in a roasting pan in the oven.

“Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs” is a little deceptive. It looks like it’s a breezy one-pan chicken dish. But in all honesty, it will probably take you four pans to make it: a Dutch oven to saute the veggies, a cast-iron frying pan to sear the chicken thighs, a roasting pan to cook the chicken through, and a saucepan to heat the braising liquid.

But don’t let that dissuade you from attempting it. After all, what’s a little more time washing dishes when you can then dig in to enjoy such delightful rewards?

This dish is from the new cookbook, “Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking” (Ten Speed), of which I received a review copy. It’s by James Beard Award-winning Chef Naomi Pomeroy or Portland’s Beast restaurant, and Brooklyn writer Jamie Feldmar. You may recognize Pomeroy as a judge on Esquire’s “Knife Fight” and from her time competing on “Top Chef Masters.” I had the chance a couple years ago to dine with her and a roster of other female chefs at Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Lab, where the food was mind-blowing, and the conversation about molecular gastronomy thoughtful and insightful.

While appreciative of those techniques and high-tech gizmos, Pomeroy, herself, is more old-school. As she joked, her restaurant opened without even a hood.

TasteTechnique

Her cookbook features nearly 140 recipes. For the most part, they’re not dishes you’ll whip up in less than 30 minutes. But they’re also not so complicated and intimidating that you’ll feel too overwhelmed to attempt them.

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