Food 52’s 2014 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks

2014PigletCookbooks

Here we go! It’s the 2014 Piglet from Food 52, their annual tournament of cookbooks, has started. I love it for a couple of reasons; because cookbooks are awesome and the judging panel adds a unique perspective to the books. The lineups of books that go through cookbook bracketville are always notable and this year is no different. And the judges are always interesting and neck-deep in the world of food and moving the conversation of food along.

For the 2014 Piglet, I’m backing Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. Most know of Edward Lee during his time on Top Chef Texas and he’s been plying his trade at his restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky for some time. What I enjoyed about his book was his storytelling and his perspective from learning in New York to moving to Kentucky and embracing the culture, lifestyle, and purveyors of the Bluegrass State. And the recipes I’ve cooked from his book have been great.

Until we know about a winner, there are three weeks of decisions to be made. I, for one, look forward to reading along. As one does with books.

Here are the books:

  • Balaboosta by Einat Admony
  • Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from our Restaurants to your home by Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner
  • Flour, Too by Joanne Chang
  • Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell
  • Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes by Nigel Slater
  • Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock
  • Robicelli’s: A Love Story by Allison and Matt Robicelli
  • Saving the Season by Kevin West
  • Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stores from a New Souther Kitchen by Edward Lee
  • Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quatrano
  • The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin
  • The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
  • The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters
  • The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia
  • Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
  • Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Here are the judges:

  • April Bloomfield
  • Brian Boitano
  • David Chang
  • Amanda Cohen
  • Nicholas Day
  • Kerry Diamond
  • Tad Friend
  • Andrea Gentl
  • Aran Goyoaga
  • Evan Hansen
  • Kat Kinsman
  • Liz Larkin
  • Joshua Malina
  • Tejal Rao
  • Maxwell Ryan
  • Sam Sifton
  • Christina Tosi
  • Emily Vikre

My Thanksgiving menu

turkey

Thanksgiving really is the best holiday. While I do love Christmas, Thanksgiving is wonderful in that you’re around friends and family and the centerpiece is food. And not just any level of eating; completely gorging yourself on food to incapacitation. And then you nap. Glorious. Here is what’s new to my Thanksgiving menu this year:

-Herbed Roast Turkey with Lardo – You heard me: Lardo. The fatty and unctuous cured fatback of pork will be used to add flavor and richness to the turkey. How so? You know how it’s suggested to add butter between the layer of skin and the breast meat? Why don’t we do our best Emeril and kick it up a notch with lardo? Butter melts so quickly while lardo will render slowly releasing its fat into the turkey. Yeah, it’s not really French to mix protein sources, but I’m not French. And neither is Thanksgiving. This lardo idea is a tweak from the sausage -laced turkey idea I did last year that I learnt from Michael Symon during an episode of The Chew. We loved this. But the sausage gave up so much of itself during the long cooking process that while the turkey was great, the sausage was less so. Lardo to the rescue.

-Rotisserie Turkey – Yup, another turkey. We’re feeding 12, another turkey is a must. The property where we spend Thanksgiving has a huge outdoor grill with a rotisserie. We’ve never used the rotisserie and figure no time is like the present. I’m looking forward to tending the bird as it does its slow rotation to deliciousness over heat and smoke. Thanks goes to the folks at Serious Eats for the guidance.

-Gluten-free dinner rolls – My friend, the Gluten-Free Girl, recently had this post on Food52 about a gluten-free dinner roll that also happened to be dairy-free and egg-free. I’ve taken this for a spin and it turned out great. Look forward to adding this to Thanksgiving dinner as there are members of our group that have allergies. But we’ll be subbing the almond flour for millet flour as there is also a nut allergy in our numbers.

-Fried crescent rolls – You heard me: fried crescent rolls. The tableside favorite, but with a twist. The inspiration behind this was the famed Cronut ™ (trademarked name to Dominique Ansel) from New York City that was explosively popular when it was first introduced in the spring. The idea for the cronut was to have a croissant-donut hybrid. Take the best of both worlds for each and voila; the Cronut™. But I’m not about to make a laminated dough, so I’m going to take Pillsbury crescent rolls and reshape those to my leisure. Here’s how to do it; par-bake the crescent rolls for six minutes at 375. Pull them out of the oven and drop them into frying oil that’s been heated to 350. Make sure they are golden, brown, and delicious (about 2-3 minutes total) pull them onto a plate lined with a paper towel and there you have it. Feel free to drizzle chocolate, a glaze, or decorate with powdered sugar or a cinnamon sugar sprinkle. You’re welcome.

The menu is still being finalized, but these are the dishes I’m excited about this Thanksgiving. What’s on your menu that you can’t wait start cooking? Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy the company of whomever you’re with, and see you around the table.

Food, blogging, and food bloggers – IFBC 2013

International Food Blogger Conference 2013 Seattle

In my eyes, in late summer/early fall 2013, there will be an inflection point in the world of food for this year. The Pacific Northwest will be the basecamp for this sea change. It also just happens to be on the same weekend. There is the delightful and decadent Feast PDX, presented by Bon Appetit; this will be the celebrity chef event driven down the I-5 South corridor to Portland. Here in Seattle will be IFBC 2013 (International Food Bloggers Conference), presented by Amazon.com. Hundreds of food bloggers will visit the Emerald City to network, eat, and converse about, well, food blogging. I’ll be attending IFBC this year and can’t wait to partake in all what the con has to offer.

Though I would love to attend both Feast PDX and IFBC; alas, my X-Man alias is not Jamie Madrox, so I won’t be attending the Portland event. My physical self will be at the W Hotel in Seattle; the home base for this year’s IFBC. This is the fifth year of IFBC and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t attend the inaugural in 2009. That year was crazy. At that moment in time, Twitter was truly cresting among food bloggers in the Seattle area. That summer was a whirlwind of meeting fellow food lovers in person. There was a camraderie, openness, and inclusion amongst fellow like-minded food lovers that I hope will happen again. And I remember from my fellow food friends that IFBC was one of the moments where food became culture here in Seattle, fully fleshed out with faces attached to names.

While I can hope this wave of excitement will happen again for IFBC 2013, I’m instead thinking of the value that I hope to get at the conference. The agenda is great; a keynote from Dorie Greenspan, talks on relevant topics, and the opportunity to meet other great food writers is always exciting. To hear what drives other writers. What their angle is and what they focus on. What inspires them. What they hope to share from their writing. I’m looking forward to IFBC 2013 and the next steps of what results from it.

As we get closer to IFBC 2013, I’m going to zero in and blog about this event in further detail. This should be fun, stay tuned.

If I were Danny Meyer, where would I open a Shake Shack in Seattle?

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First off, this is not to say that the rumor line is purporting that a Shake Shack is in the works for Seattle. Secondly, there isn’t a Shake Shack on the West Coast. Thirdly, this is all speculative and meant to be fun. Lastly, Shake Shack is awesome and would be welcome in Seattle. Where they may open is what we’re pondering.

I first learnt of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack about four years ago. I was asking my friends for suggestions on places to eat in Manhattan. Amongst the usual suggestions one gets when going to the city (the Momofuku restaurants, Balthazar, Katz’s, etc) was this suggestion of a little burger joint in Madison Square Park. It was called Shake Shack and was one of the many restaurants from Danny Meyer. My knowledge of Danny Meyer (and his Union Square Restaurant Group) was nascent, but I had heard of him; that he was a restaurateur of the highest order, he wrote the book Setting the Table, and that was it. But Shake Shack was the place that I wanted to check. It was a burger stand in Madison Square Park. The lines were legendary. And their burgers and ‘concretes’ (milkshakes) were purported to be delicious. We were staying nearby and knew we had to go.

Of course it was tasty. But it wasn’t just the quality of the food at Shake Shack that made it great; it was the experience. The park setting was idyllic. The lines were long but were part of the experience and was managed well by the Shake Shack staff. The staff itself was professional and courteous. It was that experience that I keep returning to. A lot of people that try Shake Shack often say that they don’t understand what the big deal is. Which is an opinion they’re entitled to, but taken with just the burger is missing the point. When Shake Shack opens up new locations, it’s part of a cultural zeitgeist and can revitalize and energize the area near where it opens. And that is why we’re going to list out places in Seattle that I think would make sense if Danny Meyer would open up a Shake Shack in Seattle.

Let’s talk about the criteria. The first Shake Shack opened up in a park. The recent openings have used existing storefronts. I’d like to take the park formula as there are a few Seattle parks that could use a shake-up. Also consider nearby food options, walking traffic, available parking, and area revitalization. Yeah, we could theorize that Ballard or Capitol Hill would make sense, but that’s too easy. And besides, this is all food nerd make-believe so we’re going the park route and what it would mean for the area. Continue reading

Porcine Party – Cochon 555 returns to Seattle

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Imagine a party. With a decadent and debaucherous vibe. A lively hum of conversation. All sorts of interesting people. Plenty of food and booze to revel with. And amongst the food, a focus on pork. And the people cooking are some of the best in the biz. The pigs they’re using to cook with are prized for unique fat and flavor. The booze has a local slant of buzzy wineries and distilleries that are so hot right now. Have that picture in your mind? Good. Because it’s real. And it is awesome. Cochon 555 makes its return to Seattle after a hiatus in 2012. The food lovers of Seattle couldn’t be happier.

We last touched on Cochon 555 in 2011. At that Cochon, the focus had the ‘555’ format; five chefs, five types of pork, and five wineries. I remember Ethan Stowell’s pork zeppole, Holly Smith’s maltagliatti, and John Sundstrom’s pork belly. And strips of bacon stuffed into Mason jars dotting every table as a snack. There were epic lines to each of the chef’s table. It was like Disneyland, but instead of waiting for Space Mountain, you waited for the swoon of pork fat. It was awesome and the Prince of Porc in 2011 was Chef John Sundstrom. And I couldn’t wait to the next Cochon 555.

Alas, it wasn’t to be as Cochon didn’t swing through Seattle in 2012. But the porky people at Cochon are returning to Seattle this weekend and they’re turning up the volume. They are referring to this year’s event as the 5th Anniversary Tour (pdf). This time there will be even more chefs featured; instead of the five of years past, there are no eight that’ll do their thing. They are:

A highlight of Cochon 555’s is to see what the chefs will do with their pigs. Be assured that each dish is unique from one another and taking it further; because of the various breeds of pigs, the flavor and texture will be different from one to the next. To get a gauge of the types of pork you’ll taste, check out what each chef is making and be mindful of the fat levels and richness from each one. Some pork will have a real milky fat, while others are very full and rich. God, I love pork.

Here is the breakdown of the event; it’s this Sunday, March 17th, with VIP starting at 4pm, and general admission at 5pm. The host for this pork gitdown is the Cedarbrook Lodge in South Seattle near Sea-Tac Airport. This page will give you all of the information you’ll need. And if pork isn’t your thing (impossible), there are a bunch of other things going on: butcher demo, bourbon tasting, mezcal tasting, a ton of wine, lots of beer, and so much more fun to celebrate with pork. In fact, if I was a playwright, I’d write a sequel to Die Fledermaus where pork is the source of all the fun.

Look forward to seeing you around the table, I’ll be the guy stuffing my face with crispy skin, pork fat, and trotters. Oh yeah.

The 2013 Piglet: Food 52’s cookbook tournament of champions

piglet

Cookbook nerds. We are everywhere. We frequent bookstores that only carry cookbooks. We think we have enough cookbooks. But we never have enough. We sometimes forget which ones we have and find ourselves doubling up on copies. And we love them. We love our cookbooks. Their stained pages. The stories they can tell. And like sports fans have March Madness, we have our tournament; The Piglet. There is even a bracket (PDF). From the fine folks at Food 52, this is their fourth annual cookbook tournament and it launches later this week. I heart the Piglet. You should too.

I wrote about the Piglet last year and touched on why I loved this series. The varying ‘judges’ that weigh in on the winners. The books that were the ‘competitors.’ Last year was particularly entertaining because of the championship round. On one side was the book of decadent indulgence from the Joe Beef crew from Montreal. On the other side, was the mad scientist baked goods book Momofuku Milk Bar. And it was judged by Alice Waters. Alice Waters. The chef that raised the bar for thoughtful, seasonal, and considered California cookery. The chef whose highbrow nature didn’t exactly jive with the debauchery of Joe Beef or the addled sweet tooth of Momofuku Milk Bar. The chef whose recap of the championship was dripping with disdain for the two books. Can there be a reluctant champion? Because that is the crown that Alice Waters bestowed Joe Beef.

As with any new year, things start anew and we are onto the next Piglet. Of the 16 books in this tournament, I have five of them. Of the judges, I’m only familiar with a handful of them. Which is a big reason why the Piglet showdown is entertaining. Different voices, different books. While I couldn’t fathom the bile Alice Waters had for last year’s finalists, at least she stayed on brand. And I’m curious to see how the judges insert themselves this year.

I’ll be sure to follow the tournament along. In fact, I’m betting on Canal House Cooks Everyday by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. It was one of my favorite books of the holiday season. We’ve been fans of the Canal House and their thematic food volumes for a few years. We were fortunate to have conversations with Melissa and Christopher on their recent visit to Seattle, where we got to hear their stories and how much fun they had with compiling all of their Canal House lunches. Which is the emphasis of Canal House Cooks Everyday. I particularly enjoyed the weather reports sidelining the recipes. Their writing has a way of welcoming us into their world. And now with the Piglet, cookbook nerds have the chance to feel a little closer to a bunch of new cookbooks, their recipes, and the chefs behind them.

Food 52’s 2012 Piglet

Photo courtesy of food 52

We’re through the first week of the Piglet – Tournament of Cookbooks; Food52’s annual cookbook battle royale. For cookbook nerds like yours truly, the Piglet is great fun. It’s a tournament where the folks at the food community website Food52 take 16 cookbooks published over the last year, pit them against one another bracket-style and have the books judged by various food-loving celebrities. It could be someone like Mario Batali or Nora Ephron weighing in on a winner. Like anything involving a bracket and a chance to place your bets to a winner, The Piglet is a fun read into the biggest, baddest, and boldest cookbook in the land.

This is the third year of the Piglet. The first year’s winner was Seven Fires by Francis Mallman with Peter Kaminsky. I have this book and yes, it is awesome. I particularly like the recipe for cooking an entire cow. But my personal favorite that year was David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku. Year Two’s winner was Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood. We’re now into the 2012 edition and I’m looking forward to seeing how this Piglet shakes down.

If the first two days of this Piglet is any indication, we’re in for a fun ride. Day One had the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson seducing us with her words. Day two had the delightful Celia Sack of San Francisco’s Omnivore Books weighing in. The third review by James and Caitlin Freemand of SF’s Blue Bottle Coffee, didn’t quite have the lushness of Lawson’s review or the perspective of Sack’s review. Conversely, the Freeman’s felt a bit stilted in my mind, and I couldn’t identify with their viewpoint. Reading these editorials often provides as much perspective about the cookbooks as the critics.

Which is one of the fun things about the Piglet. Because they have reviewers from various disciplines and industries; there will be unique and divergent opinions on cookbooks. Some might love the photographs, some might enjoy the clarity and detail in the recipes. One of my favorite reviews was from the 2010 Piglet when Grant Achatz’ review pitted Canal House Cooking Vol. 1 vs Real Cajun. What I enjoyed about the review was that Chef Achatz’ critiqued two books, each with recipes and styles radically different from his restaurants. His voice made for a great read. I loved it.

There are a few more weeks left in the Piglet, a bunch more reviews, and plenty of opportunities for some upsets. Like the glory of March Madness, we should be in for some surprises. Until then, visit Food52’s Piglet and stock up on those cookbooks. I’m at 336 and I’m getting a bit of an itch to go shopping.

How to make what I made at Will Bake for Food

Another great Will Bake for Food is in the books. With a donation total of over $2500 and a wagon full of donated goods, the two Jennys have created another fun community undertaking. From the army of food bloggers that showcased their wares to the throngs of giddy customers, we had a great time and enjoyed being involved with it. Thankfully, all of the festivities were to benefit the noble efforts of the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King Country. And here is how to make the baked goods I brought to the hoedown.

  • Frank’s Granola

I’ve already shared my recipe on how to make my version of granola, so please visit the post. The key takeaway; granola is easy to make and your imagination can create any combination that you like. Feel free to add nuts, dried fruit, candy, or anything else to your mix. The important part is knowing the ratios and not adding too much bulk that it won’t brown. And keep an eye on the granola after 60 minutes; this is the moment where it’ll start turning golden brown, feel free to stir to distribute the granola.

  • Brown Butter Nordy Bars

Growing up in Seattle, shopping at Nordstrom is a rite of passage. As a kid, the opportunity of having a Nordy Bar from the Nordstrom Cafe was a highlight of these trips. It was a perfectly dense, slightly rich, and delicious sweet treat. A hybrid between a blondie and a cookie, this was one of my favorite things about Nordstrom visits.

A recent twitter chat with some friends brought the Nordy Bar back into my mindshare. Naturally, it was to be made for Will Bake for Food. I did a bit of research and landed on this recipe that seemed close. Wanting to elevate it a bit, I thought of browning the butter to add that distinct nuttiness that brown butter gives.

The Brown Butter Nordy Bars were excellent. But they weren’t exactly a Nordy Bar as I remember it. I think I’ll spend some time researching the Nordy Bar and tweaking the recipe to see if I can create that perfect snack that I had growing up. And maybe start a grassroots campaign to have Nordstrom bring it back. Stay tuned.

  • Compost Cookies

These cookies have been written ad nauseum on the blogosphere and I wanted to include my take on these delicious cookies for Will Bake for Food. Made famous by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar, the chief baker, Christina Tosi used the notion of clearing out your pantry of various sweets and savory snacks to use in a cookie. It is awesome.

I’ve had the benefit of having the original cookie at the Upper East Side Milk Bar and through their online ordering system. But the recipe for making them at home hasn’t been crystal clear. Before the recipe was released in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, plenty of bloggers offered their take on how to make it. Some were close, but weren’t quite there. Then, the Amateur Gourmet found the recipe on the Live! With Regis and Kelly website, which is oddly random in its own right. So the recipe was available for all. Still, they weren’t quite right; they were close, but they weren’t the perfect compost cookie. I made a few different batches after reading the comments in the Amateur Gourmet posts and noticed that others shared my issue; the cookies ran, the ratios were a bit off, etc.

Then the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook came out this fall. Bakers rejoiced. I was able to see Christina Tosi recently at Seattle’s Book Larder to talk about the book and her history at Milk Bar. One of the chief takeaways that I had was her use of glucose in baked goods. This bit of food science was something she picked up from kitchen experience and cooking school and something I’ve never considered in baking (she’s a pro for a reason, folks). Glucose is an invert sugar syrup that aids in keeping the cookie crisper longer and add body and texture. I wouldn’t have known this without hearing Chef Tosi talk about her baking techniques. I now think I’ll work glucose into more of my baking.

Without further ado, here is how to make the version of Compost Cookies that I made for Will Bake For Food:

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Will Bake for Food this weekend

The 2nd Annual Will Bake for Food is this weekend. After having a great (and successful) time last year, the two Jennys, along with their food blogging friends, are back at it again to support the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County. Put on by the Jennys (Jenny Miller of Rainy Day Gal and Jenny Richards of Purple House Dirt), Will Bake for Food is an epic bake sale featuring a platoon of talented local food bloggers. It goes from 11am-2pm on Saturday, November 12 at the University Heights Center in the U-District neighborhood.

I’ll be helping out again and look forward to this year’s event. I have an idea of what to make and it should be tasty. Last year, I made Meyer Lemon Cookies from a recipe that my mom wanted to keep a secret. Until I posted it to the internet. Good food should be shared!

Be sure to join myself, the Jennys, and our blogging friends as we do our part to benefit the Emergency Feeding Program. Please bring non-perishable goods or monetary donations. And bring an appetite, I have a feeling my food-writing brethren will step up their game.

Food Network’s daliance with Seattle

The Best Thing I Ever Ate photo courtesy of Hulu

-This post originally appeared on Seattlest

In case you missed it, last Monday featured the Food Network crushing on Fremont’s Revel for the ‘Messy‘ episode of their series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The premise of this show is the Food Network featuring various culinary dignitaries waxing poetic on what they think is the best thing they’ve ever ate. And this past Monday was Revel’s turn to be celebrated. But this restaurant gem isn’t the only place in Seattle that they’ve considered for the best thing ever eaten; there are a solid group of restaurants famously noted by people talking about their food, famously talking about our city’s food.

  • Revel’s Asparagus Pistachio Olive Chutney Radicchio Rice Bowl – This Fremont hotspot has packed the house since their opening last winter. That likely won’t change with the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni expressing his love for Revel’s Rice Bowl. If you recall, last summer, Bruni shared his recap of his time in the area and one of those loves was for Revel’s Rice Bowl, so much so, he thinks it’s one of the best things he ever ate.
  • Toulouse Petit’s Cured Pork Cheek Confit Hash – This episode featured Toulouse Petit’s breakfast happy hour by Melissa d’Arabian; Season Five winner of The Next Food Network Star. She particularly likes the ‘Bang for the Buck‘ that one gets from Toulouse Petit’s Pork Cheek Hash.
  • Dahlia Lounge’s Lemon Scallion Dungeness Crab Cakes – Once again, the Food Network gives some love to Tom Douglas for his crab cakes at Dahlia Lounge on the ‘Obsessions‘ episode. Giada De Laurentiis was smitten with these glorious hockey pucks of crab meat created by the TDR group. This Seattlest agrees; these crab cakes are delicious.
  • Cafe Juanita’s Fruit Sorbet – Another Eastside  entrant, this time they give kudos to Chef Holly Smith’s Poco Caretto Fruit Sorbet at Cafe Juanita. In this ‘With Fruit‘ episode, Melissa d’Arabian sings the praises of the Beard award-winning chef’s sorbetto.

Eight different dishes from Seattle-area restaurants that the folks at the Food Network consider some of the best food they’ve ever eaten. Always good for the area to get culinary street cred. Now I’m hungry.

*Note – Give the restaurant a call if you want any of these dishes specifically. Menus are subject to change and just because it was on television doesn’t mean it will be there when you go.