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.)

slow cooker plays steamer

Last night was my first attempt to use the slow cooker as a steamer. Huffington Post wrote about this technique and Grant Achatz opened up about his love for the crockpot in Food & Wine Magazine. (Achatz even uses one in a prix-fixe as a departure from all the fancy and precise dishes -- the actual container is served at the table for a family style dish). Even The New York Times is in the conversation.  It's happening: The Slow Cooker Revolution phase 2.

The most creative and sophisticated way to steam via crockpot is to create a flavorful bed for the food. Lemongrass or herbs can work for fish or vegetables and will impart added nuance to the dish. I didn't have either  and after trying to rig up something with bamboo sticks, I decided to just use my steamer—that flimsy red thing below—that fit perfectly in the cooker. I went super simple-an inch of water and raw asparagus lying on the red steamer. (There is a "steamer" button on the slow cooker but I don't know what it does exactly...must look that up!) So I just set it to high for 30 minutes: 15 to heat up and 15 to steam. It worked pretty perfectly. Asparagus was cooked but still firm. I transferred it to a plate and topped with some diluted cheese sauce I had made for the kids Mac and Cheese and parmesan cheese. Huge hit with Michael and, of course, Mack!

One more thought: could the slow cooker also sous vide? Does it hold the liquid at a reliably steady and low enough temperature...The Huffington Post explored that too (why is the HP so schooled in the slow cooker??!) and suggested that it CAN be done if you are a supersonic engineer that could rig a DIY temperature controlled device to the slow cooker wires. Um, no.

favorite recipe of 2014

My favorite new recipe this year, and the favorite of many New York Times readers apparently, is Velvet Chicken Breasts with mustard sauce  It's very easy to make and can be prepped ahead of time. The actual cooking only take a few minutes on the stove. The chicken is incredibly dense and moist almost like you'd find from a sous vide machine.

The Velveting technique--used in a lot of Chinese cooking to marinade meat pre-wok-- involves soaking the chicken breasts in a mixture of egg whites and cornstarch. (You whip the whites then blend in the starch to create a foam.)  Breasts can sit here for a few hours.

Next you make a simple sauce of mustards and creme fraiche which can also hang out in the fridge until dinnertime. When it's time to cook, saute the chicken very briefly in vegetable oil or melted butter. It's not long enough for them to even brown but when the egg white marinade touches the hot oil, it turns into a thick skin-like coating around the still raw breast. Remove the breasts and heat the sauce mixture in the pan. Then finish the chicken in the pan by gently heating through. 

sous-vide, sort of

Last week our friend David bragged that for fathers day he was making the all-time best pork chops. After years of trial and error, he had determined that thick pork chops from the farm marinated for 24 hours then sous vide at a low temp and briefly seared on the grill makes the perfect chop. Apparently he was right. Or at least that's what he proudly reported back.

The idea got me thinking...sous vide pre grill? Kind of brilliant. So this weekend at Loves Folly I made this recipe. It was a lot of work without a great stove or a sous vide machine or even a vacuum sealer like David has. I had to wing it and closely monitor the temperature, sliding the pot on and off the burner, adjusting temperatures every 20 minutes. But it worked-at least it was a revelation in sirloin cooking. The meat was super tender but tasty and perfectly charred on the outside so it didn't have that slippery grey feeling that just sous voiding can produce.

I served it with a simple salad and this amazing Zucchini Soup by Alinea chef Grant Achatz.

Seared Sous-Vide-style Tri Tip

  • One 2-pound tri-tip roast (can also use sirloin)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  1. Heat a large pot of water until it registers 134° on a digital probe or candy thermometer. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper. Rub all over with the thyme and garlic and transfer to a large, BPA-free resealable freezer bag. Add the butter and seal all but 1 corner. Press out all the air then seal.
  2. Add the bag with the roast to the pot and cook at 134° (or as close as you can get it on a regular stove) until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 130°, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
  3. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Scrape off and discard the thyme and garlic.
  4. Light a grill or preheat a skillet. Pat the roast dry with paper towels, then brush with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the roast over very high heat, turning once, until nicely browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Return the roast to the cutting board and let rest for another 10 minutes. Thinly slice the meat against the grain and serve.