Devil with a Red Apron on

Illustration of a woman in a red apron holding a pot of stew

Enter my mother’s kitchen, a domain she’s ruled with benign autocracy for more than 59 years, and all physical laws and culinary edicts cease to exist there. It’s like finding yourself in the loony world of a Warner Bros. cartoon where pain is comical, time and space are elastic, and gravity acts as if it never heard of Sir Isaac Newton. For example, when making garnish for a dish, my mother will grab a gargantuan bunch of parsley and, with the ferocity of the Tasmanian Devil, buzz through it in seconds, leaving a thimble-size pile of green flecks. She is a human Ginsu knife.

Best Food Writing 2005
Featured in
2005 Bert Greene Award
Finalist

Apparently, in her kitchen, short tempers seem to cause short cooking times, too. Proof: She will fill a pot with water, dump in three fistfuls of dried fava beans, add a 10-ounce link of Portuguese sausage, called chouriço, and crank the flame to high. If she’s had a rough day, she’ll give the pot a hooded glance, and the soup is roiling in minutes. Whoever said a watched pot never boils never knew my mother.

On her “Me Days,” though—peaceful afternoons when all she has to do is write several dozen e-mails, wash and iron my father’s underwear, and reorganize the silverware drawer—she’ll go through the identical process of soup making. Yet the pot, even though set over the same heat, will only burble, never boil, no matter how long it’s been on the stove. Considering her preternatural ways in the kitchen, it’s no wonder that until the age of 12 I was terrified that I was a real-life Damien, as depicted in the film The Omen: a prepubescent possessor of dark and supernatural powers. Read more “Devil with a Red Apron on” »

Homemade Maple-Espresso Bacon

Homemade maple-espresso bacon on a cutting board on a stone slab

Honestly, I’m at a loss for words–hard for me, the kid who was nicknamed “Chatty Cathy” through all 12 years of school. How can I begin to tell you how phenomenally easy it is to make your own homemade bacon? Or how incalculably better it is than that flaccid, wet, store-bought mush they have the nerve to manufacture and market? Homemade bacon is as different from Oscar Mayer as Grace Kelly is from Kim Kardashian. There’s true smoked flavor, and in this particular recipe, there are sweet maple high notes and a hint of earthiness from the espresso. And the texture. Homemade bacon has an exquisite chew–even thin slices do. That means you don’t have to cut a honking 1/4-inch-thick piece just to sink your teeth into it. Of course, if you’re a Baconite—a true bacon lover—you know there’s no end to what you can do with it. Like bacon and egg sandwiches (below), my breakfast every morning for a week. And there are the baked goods–bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano bread, anyone?–the stews, soups, casseroles, desserts, candies. The list never ends. And every day, Baconites all over the world come up with more and more ways to use this food of the gods.

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Corned Beef Hash-It-Out

Corned Beef Hash

Originally published  

As part of his wooing ritual way back in 1994, The One lured me up to his country house, in Barryville, New York, one weekend. The blush was very much on the rose back then. It was a time when I learned something new about my inamorato almost daily—such as how, on Saturdays, he would sun himself until he was the color of a number-two eraser (a practice cut short by skin cancer); how he’s constitutionally unable to lie; and how he simply must drive whenever he’s in a car, no matter whose it is. (Control issues, anyone?)

One Sunday morning, as I sat cross-legged at the kitchen table, all moony-eyed as he prepared breakfast, The One rifled through the cupboard and pulled out a can. He cranked open the lid, wrapped both hands around the inverted can, and pumped it up and down over the skillet as if he were pile driving a wooden post into the ground. On the third try, it happened—the long, slow can fart as the contents loosened and plopped into the pan. There it sat, a giant plug of gelatinous substance, the tin can’s bands embossed around its middle. Read more “Corned Beef Hash-It-Out” »