hello again

So yeah it’s been a long time. Sorry about that. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—quite the contrary. I have just been cooking (and running around) too much to sit down and write down.

Last week we were in Williamsburg for 4 days where I did zero cooking. Why would I when I can get Korean fried chicken and homemade kimchi delivered in 45 minutes; hot pepperoni pizza only three blocks away at Artichoke Pizza; juicy burgers from the Italian place downstairs and really good (if not authentic) Mexican food that even the kids will eat (with portions big enough for lunch the next day.) Ah Brooklyn.

When we got back, I declared a vacation-inspired no cooking zone and then quickly reneged on that when all four of us were home for three meals and innumerable snacks a day. Every night we said: Let’s go out. But where….? Then I wound up cooking.

So here’s a little synopsis of my recent kitchen outputs. I’ve actually taught myself a few new techniques and found or invented a couple keepers. (If anyone is reading this and wants recipes or more info, please ask.)

Wednesday (dinner party)
Wedge salad—I just quartered an iceberg head and made a dressing of blue cheese, buttermilk and sour cream then threw in a few croutons from our giant Costco bag which never seems to go stale...hmmm. 


Sous vide steaks I’m obsessed with my sous vide machine! It's as easy as sticking the machine in a container of water to create a steady low temp cooking environment and then slipping in vacuum sealed meats. After an hour, you remove the steaks from the plastic and sear or grill them for 2 minutes. (See below.) There’s no better way to make tender meat and Serious Eats is the best source of recipes.

Sous Vide Steak

Sous Vide Steak


Spanish salted potatoes - these were from Milk Street magazine, created by the former editor of Cooks Illustrated, which is my new favorite cooking magazine. After being boiled in way salty water, the potatoes became encrusted with salt but they were creamy and not salty inside. Served them with a fancy take on Russian dressing.

Sugar-free ribs: We were headed to Long Island where my father in law is struggling with diabetes so I made up a ribs recipe without sugar:

I rubbed pork spare ribs with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder. Then baked at 325 on a rack/baking sheet for 2 hours; brushed with sauce (salsa, chicory root sugar substitute, the spice rub mix and butter—all boiled down together) and cooked for another 1-1.5 hours.

Served with this homemade sriracha made by Asian Farmer Dumplings that we picked up at Irvington’s fabulous farmers market.



Oven-steamed salmon: This is a great way to get soft decadent salmon with no effort: put a pan of water in the oven as you cook the fish. Served with plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice and pepper.

Sous-vide salmon: Brine for 30 minutes, add salt, pepper and herbs and a little oil then seal in a bag. Cook at 125.5 for 40 minutes and then sear skin in hot pan.


Steamed broccoli topped with parm cheese, lemon and olive oil
Toast spread with the excellent salmon cream cheese from the Bagel Emporium in Tarrytown.

Sunday (dinner party)


Reverse seared pork loin with couscous greens and roasted spring onion. Served with tomato and mozzarella crostini. The reverse-sear method also belongs to Serious Eats and is similar to sous vide: cook low and slow then sear or broil (in this case) for a crust. It's stupid easy—season meat and cook. Then increase heat and cook more.


Of course the kids didn't eat any of this so there was plenty of takeout pizza this week too (but none as good as Brooklyn's.)

jerk chicken in slow cooker

I love my slow cooker these days. I like being able to throw it all in, turn it on and not worry about dinner. Plus we've had some good meals-shredded Mexican chicken, pulled pork. Once you get the hang of it, it is worthwhile. The problem is that I'm not so practiced in it that I can just improvise. I've been using Cook's Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution book but found it was too complicated for a slow cooker meal so then I bought their second volume: Fast Prep. Much better. This Jerk Chicken recipe came from that volume. Basically you blend the ingredients (scallions, ginger, molasses, etc.) into a paste to cover chicken. Then you slow cook and at the very end, put under the broiler for a crisp skin. 

more about me and my slow cooker


So I'm kind of obsessed with my slow cooker (some people call it a crock pot but I think those people bought theirs between 1940-1980.) I bought one a couple of years ago, originally for my mother-in-law who does not cook. She can boil — pasta and eggs. She can microwave takeout containers and she makes a mean salad but actual cooking (sauteeing, roasting, baking, broiling, braising, grilling, frying) is not her thing.

Of course she never used it and it stayed at her house gathering dust from the one time I used it there. (On Passover I made Smitten Kitchen's Tangy Spiced Brisket which was tasty but despite all that slow cooking, it was still a little tough. I might even try this recipe again, in the oven.) I also tried Sara Moulton's short ribs which was recently published by the AP News. This was really good but a little too rich for me. And not actually all that easy.

And this is my thing with the slow cooker. If you're already sauteeing onions, garlic, adding spices, browning meat on the stove before you put it in the cooker, why not just cook it on low in a pot ON the stove. I like being able to turn the thing on and forget about it. It's kind of exciting to see it transform over time. But I can cook without it so either 1. there's something unique about the actual vehicle and the way it cooks the food or 2. it's a throw-everything in and let it rip so you can't do it fast and easy.

I started experimenting with Cooks Illustrated's Slow Cooker Revolution. Those guys cooked a million briskets before nailing down the perfect recipe. (They even invented a technique of microwaving onions and spices before adding to sauce.) I've now made Mexican Chicken, Everyday Chili, Tortilla Soup with chicken, Tequila and lime Turkey Chili and Cauliflower and Cheese sauce (which was just dense and clumpy and wound up in the garbage disposal.) Basically I've made every kind of Mexican stew. And Michael has kindly suggested I move on.

And I'm trying to figure out a new angle for the slow cooker because I'm not done with the thing yet. The stews benefited from long and slow because the meat got tender and the flavors melded. That said, the prep was fairly intensive and they were all somewhat similar. I've seen Sara Lee of the Food Network literally throw a raw roast into a slow cooker and pour in some canned broth and voila-dinner. But is the roast any good? If so, this might be a new direction.