Recently, when my friend Lisa had me over for dinner and said we were having Cooks Illustrated’s White Chicken Chili, I was excited. Lisa is a very good cook (and amazing baker!) and I knew it would be fantastic. And, it was SO GOOD. I cleaned the bowl and wanted more, but I was polite. Thankfully, Lisa sent me home with some leftovers and about two weeks later, I made some for myself. I turned down the ‘heat’ a little bit, but other than that, I followed the recipe.
I’ve written before about Cooks Illustrated. I have an online membership (just $35 per year) and I use it all the time. I used to be intimidated by the magazine, but then I just dove in and it’s amazing. I’ve learned about different cuts of meat, how to grill, the best knives and more. What I love best about cooking is that you can keep learning as you go – whether it’s about cooking techniques, tools or ingredients. Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen are excellent sources for all these things.
Baltimore is beaming with Ravens pride. We’re going to the Super Bowl. Really and truly. We are going the Super Bowl (had to repeat it…) Everywhere you go, people are decked out in purple. They’re happy. Smiling. And, asking, “Where are you gonna watch the game?”
What I’m more interested in knowing: “What are you gonna EAT while you watch the game?” Here are some ideas if you want to add a little purple pride to the boofay without hitting the food color.
Since becoming an avid home cook — and giving up cable for about two years — I’ve begun to appreciate the cooking shows on PBS. You know, the ones hosted by Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, José Andrés, Lidia Bastianich and America’s Test Kitchen. You know the show: They work and work and work on recipes and figure out how they come out best – and then, they show you how to do it. I’ve learned such helpful, basic tips (for example: always cook pasta about two minutes less than the package states.) I’ve also become a Cook’s Illustrated online member so that I can check out videos and recipes whenever I want. In addition to recipes and cooking tips, they also have equipment and ingredient ratings, too. Best olive oil, immersion blenders, knife sharpeners and more. What a fabulous resource – well worth the $35 annual online fee.
So, you have a friend in the country with chickens. Or, you read an article online about people in Brooklyn raising chickens on a rooftop. Or maybe you opened up the new Williams-Sonoma Agrarian catalog and thought…I want chickens! Then you start to wonder if they’re even allowed where you live. Well, if you live in Baltimore City, here’s some advice from someone who’s recently jumped into city chicken keeping.
Comfort food. I’ve written about it before. I love what it does. It has a job.
Two years ago when my brother died after a mind blowing two week illness, my family needed comfort. After the funeral some of us gathered and I cooked. The night before, I had thought about what to make…and I decided that soup was the winner. And it had to be comforting soup, so I made Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder. I’d made it many times before and it’s delicious, filling and most of all, comforting. Kids and adults alike, everyone loved it. We sat around that table and multiple servings were had by many, me included. My sister-in-law Karen even made us all laugh and I was so thankful for that. What a terrible time that was, but I honestly felt like the food helped a little.
I think I’m in love. With a restaurant, Birroteca. And it’s literally a minute from my house, so…an affair has ensued. I think I’ve told everyone I know how fantastic this place is. It really could be love. And by the looks of the place, many other Baltimoreans are also having a love affair. Packed – all the time. So, be sure to make a resie on Open Table or just go early and sit at the bar.
If you’ve never been to Graul’s (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t been to Graul’s? It’s a Baltimore institution…) you have to stop in over the holidays. So many fun specialties line the shelves! House-made marinades, flavor-infused vinegars, cheeses, a full deli section (a little nicer than your ordinary deli section — so many pates!), terrific prepared foods (this time of year gets too busy to cook every night)…and we haven’t even mentioned the bakery!
What’s the best meal you’ve had in B’more recently? That’s a tough one. For me, it’s more than just the food. It’s the people I’m with, the surroundings, the service, the vibe, and yes, of course, the food. If the food is bad, what’s the point?
Some friends and I were talking the other day about our favorite restaurants in Baltimore. There were some strong opinions! Here are some of mine, not really in order. I love them all for very different reasons.
I’m completely fascinated by chefs that cook “nose to tail” — using every part of the animal like kidneys, brain, feet and more. Front and center of these chefs is Chris Cosentino. At his restaurant Incanto in San Francisco, he’ll often offer a plate called “Odds and Ends” making amazing dishes out of what many chefs toss. Some say gnarly, I say let’s try it. If you’re an Instagram user, follow Chris – he’s fun. He also founded the artisan salumi company, Boccalone, and it makes the most amazing salami and other tasty salted pig parts. I love the orange and fennel. The salume (the guy who actually makes all of this art), Stephen Pocock is a Baltimorean and a very cool guy. He also runs his own business called Damn Fine Bacon, which keeps Bay Area bacon enthusiasts quite happy.