It’s a Long Way to Go For a Roast Chicken…

And also, there are so many times when you need to make a quick escape, but humans don’t have their own wings, or not yet, anyway, so what about a birdseed shirt?

When I was a kid, my grandma would toss my sister and me into her 1968 Chevy Malibu (that she bought her damn self, complete with plastic seat covers) along with a cooler of some off-brand fruit flavored soda, chips that weren’t *quite* Pringles, cookies that weren’t *quite* Oreos, and we would head up to Lake County to our family compound where we would live on the edge for a little bit.

We would float, both figuratively and literally in the still waters of Clear Lake (which, in fact, are never actually *clear* per se) for some indeterminate length of time. Could be a weekend, could be a week (occasionally two), but who cares when the early autumn light is shining through the oak trees and you can still catch that layer of sun-warm water on the top of the lake?


A part of me wants to be 7 again, floating in that lake until my fingers and toes are pruney, letting my legs drop down every now and again, just to make myself gasp at the cold just below the surface.

Maybe it’s something about living on the literal edge of the continent that allows you to be a little more open to things, try new things, be new things. It also makes you just a tad more raw than most people when you know that 10 minutes to the west, you run out of land. Maybe that is what makes the more figurative float possible. I mean, if as far as you can go is well…right over there, you may as well peek over the edge as often as possible, right? Just to satisfy your curiousity about what’s there (or not).

It can also make you a bit of a daredevil, sending you straight for the high-dive over the lake made out of a ladder and an out-of-commission surfboard because while the pier is fun, the high-dive is…funner. Likewise, the tire swing behind your house is absolutely perfect for sending your sister out over a 50′ drop without even thinking twice, or being supervised in any way. You use your roller skates to get to and from school and hook your hoodie over your head and glide down the hill (in the middle of the street, ‘natch) toward home like a superhero, note pinned to your chest from the school informing your parents that while tether ball is fine, they won’t allow you to run tournaments on the playground any longer.

Or maybe it was just the 70s in Northern California, land of little girls on dirtbikes, being home before the streetlights came on, and limitless wilderness to explore (just don’t go too far and don’t come home with any more snakes…).


What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war.

The last 8 months have been full of inestimable loss, both for me and my little raft of the chosen few. Two suicides. Two accidents. One terribly violent murder. Enough already. Universe, it’s OK to take a break and look the other way for a little bit.



What about a device that knew everyone you knew? So when an ambulance went down the street, a big sign on the roof could flash DON’T WORRY! DON’T WORRY! if the sick person’s device didn’t detect the device of someone he knew nearby. And if the device did detect the device of someone he knew, the ambulance could flash the name of the person in the ambulance, and either IT’S NOTHING MAJOR! IT’S NOTHING MAJOR! Or, if it was something major, IT’S MAJOR! IT’S MAJOR! And maybe you could rate the people you knew by how much you loved them, so if the person in the ambulance detected the device of the person he loved the most, or the person who loved him the most, and the person in the ambulance was really badly hurt, and might even die, the ambulance could flash GOODBYE! I LOVE YOU! GOODBYE! I LOVE YOU! One thing that’s nice to think about is someone who was the first person on lots of people’s lists, so that when he was dying, and his ambulance went down the streets to the hospital, the whole time it would flash

This year, after three years apart, I filed for divorce. And it’s OK. We’re friends (because we always have been). And because (many) moments like this exist:


My sister, my shadow, my partner in all things unapproved by parents, the only other person on earth with the same smile (see below), the person most likely to call me out, who I would go to the mattresses for (and have), and who is so deep in my corner the next person has to elbow their way in, moved 700 miles away.


Grief and loss are probably the most fearful creatures that exist. But loss shouldn’t be a fearful creature. It should be a creature of wisdom. It should teach us not to fear that tomorrow may never come, but live fully, as though the hours are melting away like seconds. Loss should teach us to cherish those we love, to never do anything that will result in regret, and to cheer on tomorrow with all of its promises of greatness. It’s easy and un-extraordinary to be frightened of life. It’s far more difficult to arm yourself with the good stuff despite all the bad and step foot into tomorrow as an everyday warrior.

And because the universe is ridiculous, it’s also been a year of…amazing.

I walked away from a rent controlled apartment in San Francisco (I know, right?!?), and moved back to Oakland. Best decision ever. I’ve got a ton of people I’ve known for *ages* all within stumbling distance of my house…











And this doesn’t even do the smallest justice to the number of people I have surrounding me daily. It’s incredible. You should be so lucky. You should have a Paige, an Angie, a Tony, Chris, Scott, Bob, Jen, Kate, Carolyn, Damien, Lexi, Cristalle, Mindi, Vita, Amy, Amy, James, Allyson, Cherilynn, Mom (x3), Dad (x2). Lorraine, Nigel, Havel, Joyce, Debbie, Liz…the list goes on and on and on…

I opened a restaurant. In 10 days. Like an idiot. But here’s the thing: It works (mostly). Who does that?!? I’m doing (ever so slightly) better than breaking even in one of the hardest industries out there to be an entrepreneur. As a woman. Which shouldn’t mean anything, but it does.

I fell in love. Absolutely in the way I do all things: Completely. Right guy, wrong time? Doesn’t matter. I won’t speak for him, but I couldn’t have helped myself even if I had wanted to. So we didn’t. I chose him. I would still choose him. He’s amazing, I won’t give up a second of it, and if I could rewind the clock and relive the last six months or so, I totally would. I knew the risks, but I got the rewards too.

That said, I’m nobody’s second fiddle (except that time in Junior High when I got knocked down from first chair violin to second by Susie Hitchens, that talented bitch), and I’m not a very good placeholder because I require that I be chosen in return. I’ve been needed over wanted before, and it’s not nearly as amazing nor hard in the right ways as being chosen for exactly who you are. Because people don’t change. Not really, and not even you. Sure, you may gain new interests, learn things, alter others, develop new habits and drop the old ones…but your wiring is already there and it’s not even about changing it, it’s about finding the right hydrogen bond that makes the double helix hold.

So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!

And I have been adopted. By a cat. She hangs out with me when she chooses (she usually wanders in around 6PM and curls up on my feet while I read or makes this delightful Kathleen Turner type growl when I’m occupied with something else). And she has these incredible yellow dragon eyes.



…is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.

And so it goes. Sometimes, the parting is permanent. Sometimes, it’s temporary or “just for now”. And, while hundreds and thousands of people come and go in your life, occasionally you run into that person who really sees you. And who you don’t see through, but who you see into. And sometimes they can stay, and sometimes they can’t, for whatever reason. All you can do is leave the door open and try not to predict the future because you never know how or when that person will step back through that door.

…only someone who’d never been an animal would put up a sign saying not to feed them…

And if you’ve gotten this far, don’t you deserve something? Of course you do. Now, I normally think of chicken as that thing people eat when they don’t know what to eat but you know better, right? So here goes. I give you the Zuni Roast Chicken because there is no better roast chicken on the planet. Judy Rogers was a bright star and is missed deeply in the little culinary world I live in, and the even smaller world of women chefs.

Seriously, when you go to Zuni, you just order the chicken, which is for two, which is the best way to eat a roast chicken. You don’t even need the menu.

And don’t even think about serving this without the bread salad.

I want an infinitely blank book and the rest of time.

Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken
Adapted from the cookbook from the Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

Serves 2 to 4

One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (we used a 12-inch cast iron frying pan for a 3 1/2 pound chicken). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. You can let it rest while you finish your side dishes (or Bread Salad, below).

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Cut the chicken into pieces, spread on the warm platter (on top of the Bread Salad, if using).

Zuni Cafe Bread Salad

Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried currants plumped in 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon warm water for ten minutes or so
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
A few handfuls of arugula, frisée, or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried

Preheat the broiler. Carve off all of the bottom and most of the top and side crusts from your bread (you can reserve these to use as croutons for soup or another salad). Tear bread into irregular 2- to 3-inch chunks, wads, bite-sized bits and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

Toss them with just a tablespoon or two of olive oil, lightly coating them, and broil them very briefly, just to lightly color the edges. If you’d like to toast the pine nuts (recommended) you can put them on your broiler tray as well, but watch them very carefully — they cook quickly!

Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.

Heat a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold them in, along with the pine nuts, if they were not already mixed with the bread scraps from the broiling step. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again.

Taste a few pieces of bread — a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well.

If you’re going to serve the salad under the roast chicken (recipe above), you can pile the bread salad on the serving dish you want to use and tent it with foil. If you want to serve it separately, do the same, but in a 1-quart shallow baking dish. Hang onto the bowl you mixed it in — you’ll use it again.

Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time, for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Tip the bread salad back into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

*All quotes from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Recipe for Zuni Chicken adapted from the adaptation by the inimitable Smitten Kitchen.

A Toast…

I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty. – Madame Lilly Bollinger

This is how I feel about toast. Incidentally, it’s also how I feel about champagne, but that’s another post.

You wanna know what chef’s really eat? It’s not like we come home after a day in the kitchen and then bang out one more masterpiece before we call it a day. Well, OK…when I’ve got someone to cook for, that’s actually one of my favorite things to do, but left to my own devices? Toast. Like, all the time. After a day of plating, saucing, braising, brunoising, eating a million tiny meals off the back end of a spoon (because you use it twice, yo), nothing makes more sense of the world than toast. And if you live in the land of $4 toast…well it’s a done deal.


So when this is on (or this one, which is what made me teach myself guitar just so I could play that hook which I still can, whew)…or there’s a new book to dive into & I’ve got sun streaming through the window along with an ocean breeze…or when the whole world is turned upside down and spun six ways to Sunday…or the kind of day that makes someone amazing wrap their arm around you and pull you closer because they just want to be…closer…or when your little Kintsukuroi heart just can’t take any more. This is when I want toast.

And I’ve eaten a lot of toast this last year. On all of the occasions above and then some. There is nothing in the whole wide world that can bring everything into focus like toast. And I’m not giving you a recipe for it, because it’s motherfucking toast. And also because I once saw a recipe for gluten free croutons that included “Gluten free bread, olive oil, salt” and I almost threw my computer across the room because it’s fucking croutons. Crou. Tons. CROUTONS.

But I will give you some “guidelines”. Some ways to ensure that if you are going to join me & Nigel Slater – my favorite food writer of ALL TIME who once wrote It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you….Once the warm, salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands. –  in our love of toast, that you do it right.

  • Use good bread. Once again, the rule of “garbage in, garbage out” applies. Get rid of that sliced sandwich bread and get your hands on some ciabatta, or dense brick of German whole grain bread. Or maybe you are close enough to here  or here to get your hands on some lemon/rosemary bread. Your bread should fight back. with flavor or structure, but ideally both.
  • Got an avocado? USE IT.
  • Sliced tomato? YES.
  • Peanut butter &/or jelly
  • Cheese (I really don’t care what kind, because it kind of doesn’t matter)
  • Mustard
  • Pickled anything
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Salt (seriously.)
  • Lemon zest
  • Chili flake
  • Sautéed greens
  • Banana
  • Nutella / Cookie butter (Biscoff)

Basically, anything spreadable works. Or anything you can chop up and put on top of anything spreadable. And if all else fails:

robert downey jr

It’s supposed to be *exactly* this simple…

“I like my sugar with coffee & cream.” – The Beastie Boys, Intergalactic

I once saw this bit of graffiti in London, which was a Henry David Thoreau quote:

“Simplify. Simplify.”

And some bright spark had come along and…corrected it:

“Simplify. Simplify.”

And I’ve tried to live by this ever since.

Except when it comes to food, a subject that holds infinite fascination for me. It’s a universal experience (*everyone* requires nourishment on some level), and you get to do it (at least) three times per day. More if you are lucky.

I spent a fair portion of my 30s training to be a pastry chef. But, I don’t have a sweet tooth. At all. I’ll happily choose salt over sugar any day of the week (in my people and the things I eat). So it then begs the question: Why train that hard for it? Why give up three years of your life learning it, punishing yourself for not doing it well, much less perfectly? Why work that hard solely for the exchange of knowledge instead of money? Why subject yourself to having a level rested on your perfectly glazed Opera Cake (ruining said perfect glaze) simply to prove that it is perfectly level?

Well, for the swagger. Naturally.

I love being able to approach a subject that most chefs are afraid of with confidence. I adore being a double threat. I really like walking into any (and I mean *any*) kitchen and picking up either (with obligatory double click test) tongs or an offset spatula with equal “I will kick your muthafuckin’ grill station ass, guapo so just get the fuck outta my way.” attitude, and knowing that it’s true. Never cooked the dish before? Pfft, whatevs. It’s not just gonna be pretty, it’ll be mind-blowingly fucking beautiful, cabron.

But because of that graffiti, not a lot of people see this side of me. Only a few people get to see the tiger in the trees, unless you are the next white jacket down the line, or on the post-apocalyptic survival raft (that’s a whole other post). Because flying another person’s standard into the world instead of just your own is not a choice, it’s a simple thing that just is, but results may vary and complication is sure to ensue. And to be anything other than humble about what I can do devalues…me. And the cook next to me, who’s worked just as hard to get to where we are at that moment in time.

And it’s misrepresentation of who I am. Do I like the above, and have I cultivated it to some (or a huge) degree? Sure. Absolutely. But at the end of the day, what I really want is for you to be happy. To be nourished. To have gained some perspective. To see what I see in you. The good, the bad, and the ridiculous without asking for change or alteration. Because that would devalue you. And the myriad things you have worked as hard as I have to achieve.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually doing the right things in this search for simplicity, and whether or not my day to day is good enough. And in one of those moments got some unexpectedly apropos advice from someone I’ve come to expect this from. Because he’s made of amazing. And it wasn’t really even advice, but hit me like the graffiti did above. “You already know how to be good at something, now you just need to apply those same principles to this.”

And I am good at something. Actually, a lot of things. Which doesn’t’ change the fact that there are some things I just plain suck at:

Having a hidden agenda: You’ll always know *exactly* what’s up.

Doing anything at a level lower than “Fuck, yes!” or “No.” I go to 11. There is none more black. In for the rough and in for the easy. Enough said.

Being on time. Usually about 15 minutes, but sometimes it veers into 30. Sorry.

And when I get more wrapped up in the things that I suck at than the things that I’m good at, I want to touch base with that simplicity. And nothing is more simple than simple, which is what chefs refer to when what they want is simple syrup. A 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, you could not ask for anything more plain in cooking. You can use it for a million different things, but I recommend that you put it to work in the purest of pure things: Lemonade.

There is a balance in lemonade that I find truly lovely. It’s sour. It’s sweet. It can be swayed any number of ways with spice or herbs or nostalgia. This might have been a better post if I could write about memories of a childhood lemonade stand, but in truth my youth + lemonade = Countrytime out of a can while shouting the lyrics to some Doobie Brothers song in the waaaay back of the family limo (a 1970 something VW bus) with my sister as we rolled through some NorCal backwater sans seatbelts (because 70s). But I can give you this. The lemonade you wished was yours as a kid.

Spicy Ginger Lemonade

Adapted by me from The Kitchn

1 lb. fresh ginger
2 cups sugar
8 cups water, divided into 4 & 4
2 cups freshly-squeezed lemon juice (from about 15 lemons)

Peel the ginger and chop into roughly 1/4-inch pieces. Combine the ginger, sugar, and 4 cups of the water in a medium pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer (I mean just simmer – do not boil this or you’ll wind up with a pot of ginger caramel and have cleaning nightmare on your hands) for 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temp. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the ginger with the back of a spoon. You should have about 3 cups of syrup.

Combine the lemon juice and remaining 4 cups water in a large pitcher or po (add more or less water depending on your taste or application – stronger if using for a cocktail – or use bubble water if you want something designed for a porch on a hot day). Stir in all of the ginger syrup. Chill before serving or serve over ice. And don’t forget the garnish (a nice lemon slice, a little bit of mint in the pitcher, etc.)

And by the way? I saw this not too long after that first one. Somewhere on Brick Lane, within the sound of the Bow Bells, where Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were forged, the fog is ever present, and the tea tastes of the Thames.


Peace would be nice. Balance is better.

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Your Mother…

“…They dined on mince, and slices of quince which they ate with a runcible spoon. And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon.” – Edward Lear, The Owl & The Pussycat

I spend a lot of my time teaching people how to cook. More accurately, I spend a lot of time helping people feel more comfortable in the kitchen. I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at it. Yeah, sometimes I can’t help it and I’ll grab the spatula out of someone’s hands because “OMFG, would you stop moving that chicken around and let it cook already?”

But for reals…

1. I love the “A-ha!” or even the “A-ha?” moment. When the switch flips and everything locks into place, you can actually see it on peoples’ faces, and it’s gorgeous. And the questions! The ones that make me think about things in new ways and develop new approaches to things I’d always done because that’s how I was taught? Fanfuckingtastic.

2. I like teaching the rules, and then very much like teaching how to break them without breaking the code of “make it nice, or make it twice”. In other words, shortcuts are rarely ever shortcuts, and sometimes that diversion is just for fun. And if it is a shortcut? Totally fine, as long as you know when and how to deploy them without sacrificing the dish, or your credibility.

3. Lastly, I really adore showing people how to have a good time in the kitchen. I mean, relax people. Pour that second glass of wine. Put on that podcast you’ve been meaning to catch up on (or better yet, this). You are making dinner, not curing cancer. If you just slow down and realize that if you tell people what you did make, rather than what you tried to make, their expectations are calibrated, and you have had what was probably a very necessary learning experience.

And at the base of all of this is a need for everyone that I spend time with behind/next to/around the stove to understand the basics. Lately, I’ve been spending time around the stove with one particular person, who oddly enough seems interested in what I have to say about food and feeding yourself/others, and viewing food as more than fuel. And I like it. I mean, really really like spending time seeing the kitchen through new eyes with him. In the latest episode, I let go of my very favorite sauce, hollandaise. This was a big deal for me. While I love getting people to “do” in the kitchen over “observe”, this one was more than casual for me. But I let it go, and he did the thing, and it was awesome. On many levels.

Simply put, hollandaise is the best. It’s warm. It’s ever so slightly dangerous (it could break at any second, become grainy, is stored at a temperature designed to breed bacteria – pffft, we’re tougher than that – or could just fail for no reason at all). It’s butter whisked into velvet submission with a little lemon and chili. You know, for the sex appeal. And it’s the mother of all mother sauces.

What’s a mother sauce, you ask? Well…if you, like me, spend entirely too much time reading about food and the “rules” that accompany it, you may have stumbled on the list of the 5 Mother Sauces. My list has seven, but that’s because I include two cold sauces while the traditional five sauce list is for warm sauces only. The idea is that every other properly made sauce begins with one of these seven. I guarantee you’ve eaten every last one of them (or their progeny) at some point in your life because if you break it down, every other sauce (called “small sauces”), again properly made, originates with one of the following:

Hollandaise: Egg, butter, lemon, chili, salt & becomes Béarnaise, Foyot, Dijon, Choron, Maltaise, & Mousseline sauces. You’ve eaten this on eggs benedict time and time again. NO REGRETS.

Béchamel: Flour, butter, salt, nutmeg, cream/milk & becomes Crème sauce, Mornay sauce, Cheddar sauce, Soubise sauce, Nantua, and Mustard sauce. You’ve eaten it in Mac ‘n Cheese, straight out of the pot with a wooden spoon. Probably late at night. Definitely with a John Hughes joint on like this or this or this.

Veloute: Stock, flour, butter, salt & becomes Normandy sauce, herbed seafood sauce, Poulette sauce, Aurora, Hungarian, Shrimp, Bercy, Mushroom, Allemande, and Supreme sauce. You’ve eaten it on biscuits and gravy. Repeatedly (if you are anything like me and just order it the second you see it on the menu).

Espagnole: Dark roux, tomato puree, veal stock & becomes Marchand de Vin, Lyonaisse, Sauce Robert, Chasseur, Charcuterie, and Madeira sauce. You’ve eaten this any time there is a vaguely unidentifiable brown sauce on the plate (Salisbury steak, anyone?).

Tomate: Tomatoes, mire poix, pork, veal stock, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf & becomes Spanish, Creole, Portugese, and Provencal sauces. You’ve eaten this any time you eat pasta with red sauce. I mean, you *know* this sauce.

Aioli: Eggs, olive oil, lemon (optional), mustard (optional), garlic, salt. This is just mayonnaise and basically becomes any other sauce you would add mayonnaise too. You’ve eaten this more than you could ever imagine, and it’s my second favorite (but most used) sauce.

Vinaigrette: Vinegar, olive oil, salt, mustard & becomes the basis of every salad dressing on earth. If you are smart, you’ll start making it the basis of most of your marinades too. You’ve eaten this anytime you eat a salad. I mean, *any* time you eat a salad (because who eats dry greens?).

OK, so now you have an idea of the basic sauces and are now probably dying to get started, right? I mean, who doesn’t spend a Tuesday night roasting veal bones for a brown stock and then a dark roux to make Sauce Espangole so that you can then make Sauce Robert (say it with the French accent – you’ll feel better, I promise)?

We’ll get to each of the mother sauces in the next few weeks, but I want to start with my all time favorite, mentioned above. It’s super easy to fuck up but with some attention and desire to do it right, it’s also dead easy to make. It’s great on eggs, perfect in spring on blanched vegetables, makes a crudité dip like no other, and will cause those around your table to bow down to your greatness and bring you the objects of your greatest desire to your next dinner party. Too much and you’ll cut your life short based on butter consumption alone, but in just the right amount I swear you’ll see an uptick in your “once over twice” count. The rewards for showing someone else the way? Even greater. So, put the blender away, and let’s get to it:


Adapted by yours truly from Alton Brown

You’ll need:

  • 1 sauce pan
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 whisk


  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (clarified is best but not 100% necessary – if not clarified, cut into 1/2″ pieces)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or hot sauce of your choosing)

Make a bain marie by simmering about an inch of water in the saucepan. The pot should *just* fit your bowl. Too small and you’ll give yourself a nice steam burn. Too big and you won’t get an even heat on your egg yolks and your sauce won’t come together. If you are like me, and throw caution to the wind like a Gunny Sack prom dress, you can skip the bain marie altogether and just make the sauce in the saucepan, but you absolutely cannot leave it unattended for even a second and you will need to play with your burner’s intensity so as not to cook the egg before it becomes sauce. It’s more like taking a bath over taking a shower, if that helps at all.

Place egg yolks and 1 teaspoon water in the mixing bowl and whisk until mixture lightens in color (don’t worry, you’ll see it) which takes about 2 minutes (don’t skimp on this, you’re adding air to your emulsion which you need to make the fat and the other fat become friends).

Place the mixture over the simmering water and whisk constantly for 3 to 5 minutes, or until there is a clear line that is drawn in the mixture when you pull your whisk through, or the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from over the pan and gradually add the butter, 1 oz or one piece at a time, and whisk until all of the butter is incorporated. Place the bowl back over the simmering water occasionally so that it will be warm enough the melt the butter if unclarified. Whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper, and don’t forget to taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Spoon, nap, push under, pour over, drape, dip, and enjoy on anything even vaguely reasonable.

Salad Days…

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.” – Oscar Wilde

Why the hell are you still buying bottled salad dressing?

It’s totally crammed with horrible things for you (sugar, sugar, sugar, salt), and only serves to make something that was potentially really good for you actually really terrible for you.

I mean, unless you are my old friend M, who has a pathological fear of condiments (and salad dressing is nothing if not a condiment made out of other condiments), there is absolutely no reason for you to have to work you way through a bottle of $4.50 dressing simply because you spent $4.50 on it when you could be making a fresh dressing based on what you want to eat. Tonight. And, you’ll be doing it for pennies on the dollar.

Rest assured, this isn’t some post encouraging you to eat a fat free diet guaranteed to help you ring in the new year with a halo of self righteousness, perched ever so jauntily upon your noggin. We all know I’m just not that kind of girl.

First up, pick your fat. The world is your oyster here: sour cream, mayonnaise, olive oil, eggs, or plain yogurt (if you are feeling overly virtuous). I, personally, like to mix my fats for dressing, wanting the rich eggyness of mayo against a tart sour cream or lighter oil.

Or you could opt for a slightly more exotic oil…

And if you are feeling particularly lush…

Yeah, yeah, it’s made by perfumers and most likely doesn’t have even a whiff of actual black truffle in it, but I DON’T CARE – I LOVE IT. Suck it, Bourdain.

Then pick your acid. This too, could be anything you have lying around. A lemon, a lime, a couple of oranges, vinegars of all types (apple cider, plain white, balsamic, rice wine, whatever).

Then you need to choose what you want to flavor your dressing with. And the great thing here is, that you can choose *anything*. Got a little harissa in your fridge you don’t know what to do with? Have a go. Likewise any little bits of cheese, dried herbs, spices, etc. The important thing here is that you make sure that you match up your flavors with the fat/acids you have on hand. In other words, you probably aren’t going to be very pleased with adding Parmesan to sesame oil, but you could be absolutely knocked out by chilli powder with avocado oil, sour cream, salt & pepper, and red wine vinegar or better yet, lime juice.

And there is always this little guy…

So where does this land us? Well, we know that we need to do the following:

1. Pick a fat

2. Pick an acid

3. Pick a flavor

Now you have to get them all to play together nicely. I like to use a blender, because standing there whisking a dressing into submission is something I do only when I don’t have a blender handy. So, if you have one, chuck everything in and turn that thing on high and let it go for a minute or two.

If you don’t, get your acid and flavor components into a bowl, and then put that bowl on top of a wet towel (to stop the inevitable chasing of the bowl the length of your counter and eventually onto the floor), and start whisking.  Add your oil in a slow, steady stream (like honey off a spoon). When it’s all worked in, it will be opaque and have a thicker consistency than the sum of its parts would let on.  Add a little water (seriously, no more than a teaspoon) at the end, and it will help your emulsion hold itself together (kinda like that glass of water between drinks at a bar).


And if you’ve gotten this far, you deserve the most amazing salad dressing recipe in the whole wide world. I honestly do not go a week without someone saying something about this dressing or asking for the formula. And the thing is, it’s super famous and from my home town. Chef Philip Roemer of The Palace Hotel (c. 1923) in San Francisco is responsible for making every salad it has ever graced three times better than it should be. It’s called Green Goddess, and I swear, it could get you married if you aren’t careful. And it’s not just good for salad! I put it on sandwiches, toast, push it on the plate under grain salads, use it as my go-to crudite dip, and pretty much want to bathe in it. My blender rule (or food processor) is in full effect with this one. You want a fully emulsified and thick texture at the end.

You’ll only need a few tablespoons per salad, but make the full batch because I (and you) know you’ll be back for more.

Green Goddess Dressing

Adapted and Updated by Yours Truly

You’ll Need:

  • Blender or food processor (seriousl)y, no foolin’ here)


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 bunch parsley (the whole damn thing)
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1  bunch basil (just the leaves) or tarragon
  • 6 anchovy filets
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Whack everything into the blender or food processor. Let it run for at least a minute. It will be thicker than you think necessary, but just trust me. Holds for about a 2 weeks in the fridge. Put. It. On. Everything.





People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching cold. – John Jay Chapman

Muffins really do get the short end of the stick in the baking world.

Which is really too bad, because if they are done right, they are pretty awesome. A cross between a quick bread and a cupcake.

But (and with apologies to Longfellow) when they are bad, they are horrid. We’ve all had the lame-ass conference room muffin, the gas station stand-by as you roll through Barstow (a town as equally uninspiring as that saran-wrapped banana nut travesty).

But I’m here today to tell you that they are worth your attention.

Especially when you are presented with a basic recipe that can accommodate not only the last of the season’s peaches, but next season’s cranberries. Or next year’s strawberries, or raspberries, or gooseberries, or snozzberries…

…and has a super delicious crumble top…

…and tastes like teensy little bits of “good morning!” that are perfect to wake up to.

The only failing I can find in this recipe is that it takes a couple extra steps and maybe an extra bowl or two, but trust me, they are worth it. You, and your paramour, will thank me.

Fruit Crumble Muffins

Adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery

You will need:

  • 1 muffin tin
  • 1 small saucepan
  • 12 cupcake liners
  • 1 small bowl
  • 2 medium mixing bowls
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 1 citrus zester
  • 1 whisk
  • 1 magic ice cream scoop

Ingredients for muffin batter:

  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced (you should have 1/3 cup juice, strained to remove pips)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature, natch)
  • 2 1/4 cup flour (bread flour is best but if all you have is all purpose don’t worry, it’s cool)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup seasonal fruit, diced if needed

Ingredients for crumble mixture:

  • 6 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Make crumble mixture by placing all dry ingredients in the small bowl, and melting butter. Pour melted butter on the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork, breaking it up with your fingers as needed. Set aside.

In one mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift brown sugar into the dry ingredients to remove any lumps (I use a strainer for this). Whisk together.

In the second bowl, whisk wet ingredients (milk, oil, eggs, orange zest and juice) together.

Pour wet ingredients over dry, and stir to combine. Don’t go crazy here, a few lumps are OK. Fold in whatever fruit you are using.

Use your magic scoop to portion the batter into the muffin cups. My magic scoop was given to me by my mom, who got it from her mom, etc. and so on. You may not be so lucky, but never fear – in the end, you want your paper liner to be about 2/3 full.

Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the tops of the muffins.

Bake at 400 until a tester comes out clean (15 minutes, give or take).

Enjoy with tousled hair, a cup of coffee, and the New York Times.

Some (but not all) of the reasons…

When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London. – Bette Midler

It’s been some time since I’ve been here. Quite awhile, actually.

It isn’t that I’ve forgotten, I’ve just been a little bit busy. But it’s nice to be here.

Even if nobody is looking.

So, where have I been?

Well, I went here:

Which involved some of this:

And this:

And some of this:

There were also cookbook shops (one and two), people to love and enjoy, pouring rain, and the dinner of a lifetime with three of my favorite men, here.

Afterwards, there was a trip to Las Vegas for a bachelorette fete for a lovely and delightful friend, a dislocated ankle (not mine), meeting Ferran Adria (FERRAN ADRIA!!!), going to see Gabrielle Hamilton speak with Kim Severson, helping a lovely friend harvest her backyard vineyard, Anthony Bourdain at the Paramount, and a million other small things that take up the day to day that kept me from the here and now.

All of which leads me to why I am (finally) here today. Turns out that turning everything off for a bit can distill things down and clarify your thoughts and perspectives into something understandable and (dare I say it) meaningful.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a LOT about why professionally crafted food is so different from what most people make in their own homes (not that it’s better or worse, just…different), and it turns out, I have some opinions (shocking, I know).

I won’t claim that that the below is an “end all, be all” list of why restaurant food is better than yours (because who’s to say that it is?), but I do think that its a good start, for me, and for you.

Reason #1: Salt

It’s built and sustained cultures. It has been the basis of international trade and destroyed empires. It is one of the basic tastes the human tongue can perceive, and yet we vilify it, use it sparingly, treat it like a sin. I’m here to tell you that salt is one of the most powerful tools in your cooking arsenal, you just have to learn how to wield it (wisely). Restaurants treat salt differently than you. On the line, salt is an ingredient, not a flavor. It’s part of the elemental structure of a dish, and it’s treated as such. Some starting places for you are:

  • Salt is salt is salt. There no way way to change the NaCl nature of the beast (that expensive pink salt from the Himalayas? Guess what: It tastes exactly like that $5 canister of sea salt you have on your countertop – salty), but the way in which salt is handled after harvest makes a huge difference in the way the tongue perceives it. That flaky sel de mer? It’s fantastic on salads. Finer grain salt is better suited to braises and sauces because it melts more readily into the liquid. For baking, get your hands on some kosher salt (preferably Black Diamond). The point is to think about how you are going to use the salt, and to use the right tool for the job.
  • Ever notice that in the better restaurants, there isn’t a salt shaker on the table? That’s because salt is not only used liberally, but it is also used in layers in a dish, and in (almost) every component on the plate. Think of salt as an integral part of your cooking, and add it as you go along, rather than going crazy at the end.
  • Remember what the goal of salt is: to enhance flavors, not, in the end, to make your dish taste salty. By considering the texture of your salt, and when you add it to your dish, you are already half-way there.
  • Lastly, understand that you will use more in the process of cooking, but you will use less in the end, because you will have enhanced the flavor of your food to a point where shaking more on is actually going to detract from your dish.

Reason #2: Time

This is really a two parter, the first being the amount of time we spend in the kitchen vs. “doing other things” and then the amount of time our food actually spends in the pan.

Part 1: Turns out, not every citizen of the US of A is dying to spend their evening hours toiling over a braised pork shoulder or laminating dough (it’s fun! I swear!) However, as a nation, we spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to reduce our time in the kitchen, looking for a “5 Ingredient Fix” or a meal for a family of 4 that takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.  And I get it, I really do. It’s hard to raise children/have a job/care for your house/keep it all together.


What I hear in all this is a desire to have more time to spend as a family. What if, just what if, we treated time in the kitchen not as a chore, but as that family time we are all so desperate to have? What if we saw it for what it is – a way to pass on traditions or make them up as we go along? What if, when our kids leave home, they are prepared to feed themselves on something other than fast food and prepared meals? What if we taught them how to prepare vegetables in a way in which they will actually enjoy them, rather than finding ways to hide them in things? What if they had that one killer thing they can make that will land that guy/girl they’ve got their eye on?

What if we treated the thing we have to do three times every day with a little respect?

Part 2: As a rule, all this hurrying in the kitchen is adding to another way in which we short-change our food. Long story short: it just simply doesn’t spend enough time in the pan. That super delicious chicken you had at Chez Whathisname? I guarantee you it was better because Chef didn’t pull it out of the pan the minute the exterior looked even remotely done. She left it there to get a little brown, let the natural sugars (yes, there are sugars in meat) caramelize and create a deeper flavor. That croissant in Paris? Delicious not only because it was made with a veritable fuck-ton of butter, but also because the patissier didn’t remove them from the oven when they were golden, he waited until they were that deep mahogany, allowing the butter to truly vaporize and create an astounding, flaky, crunchy delight. And that bread at your local artisan baker? Only better because they aren’t afraid of a little dark spot on the loaf.

So, wait a little longer. Go a little further. Let the food do its thing. Don’t burn it, but don’t puss out either. If you aren’t a little nervous, you haven’t gone far enough.

Reason #3: Heat

I need you to start thinking of heat as a tool, as a way to achieve results. Restaurants don’t bake everything at 350. They don’t always use the “medium” setting on the burner. Think about what you are doing, and then think about the heat that will be required to achieve your desired result.

Searing requires a high (yes, use the max setting you have available) heat. It’s OK to get a little agressive. If you need a sear, you need to show your food who’s boss. Are you looking to braise something? I want you to think Marvin Gaye. Low and slow is the way to handle this particular situation. Making soup? This is where the middle ground pays off, letting it bubble along, rather than rapidly boiling it’s way into extinction.

Heat is a tool. Learn how your stove works. Warm (or chill) your plates and bowls. Calibrate your oven, think about what you want your end product to look/taste like, and operate your dial as required.

Reason #4: Garnish

Why aren’t you doing this? It’s easy, and if you are already making dinner, you have all the tools at your disposal.

Did you cook chicken in that pan? A little wine and butter makes a great pan sauce. Did you make a salad dressing? Reserve some herbs and garnish your pork roast so that everything is tied together. Got nuthin? What about a little cheese, or olive oil, or mayonnaise, or yogurt, or balsamic, or mustard, or something, anything to pull it all together.

One caveat: Anything you use to garnish your plate should be edible and make sense. There is nothing worse that than lame-ass piece of curly parsley on the corner of the plate, and don’t even get me started on that ubiquitous sprig of mint that comes on every damn dessert on the planet. If you are really thinking about your garnish, it will not only be edible, but will serve to pull a dish together, make it taste even better, and perhaps even telegraph to the diner what they are about to experience. For instance, you wouldn’t garnish a lemon tart with chocolate shavings, instead, you might want a little whipped mascarpone with lemon zest on top. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to put a red wine sauce on a chicken you marinated in lime and garlic, rather, lean toward a sour cream and chipotle sauce.

And there you have it. Four ways in which to start thinking, really thinking, about the food you eat, and how to make it better.

After all, you only get to do it three times a day.