Lard is the secret to this Mexican classic.
January 5, 2009 AT 9:20AM | BY Nick Kindelsperger

carnitas 15

By the time I fished the three pounds of pork hunks from the lard and stacked them on the cutting board,far more guests had arrived than I had originally planned.  It was a New Year's Eve party, but I thought dinner would just be an intimate gathering of 5 or so, and then we'd meet up with more friends later in the night.  But apparently my calls for meeting up later meant that they should come over right then and make me nervous.  I was also sick...but I tried not to let anyone eating the food know that.  I was trying to be brave.

See, Blake and I were together for the first time since he had skipped across the pond to Estonia.  I figured I'...

How to make the best burger at home.
December 11, 2008 AT 12:59AM | BY Nick Kindelsperger


You know the burger obsession is going off the deep end when semi-serious discussion takes place over the burger making skills of a cartoon.  Please stick with me.  This cartoon happened feature J. Wellington Wimpy, the burger-loving sidekick of Popeye.  Hamburger America author George Motz found this clip and was there to comment on Wimpy's burger making skills: "Notice how even in cartoons back then they got it right and scooped the beef, not hand pattied it. "

On the basis of this cartoon I went out and bought some meat...

December 10, 2008 AT 10:58AM | BY

Head on over to the Bon Appétit -- the folks over there have put together a wonderful slideshow of photographs from an impressive group of food bloggers they like -- and we're included!  "Adventures in Crazy-Ambitious Food Googling" is the new name for this blog.  We're totally honored.

The theme for the slideshow is dishes served for the holidays.  Our coffee cake recipe, handed down from my own great grandmother "G.G.," is featured, among lots of other inspiring dishes.  Speaking of, the half-recipe I made for the post was polished off in a single day by my girlfriend and me.  It's really good stuff.

Go check out the...

Start a holiday morning tradition with delicious coffee cake.
December 3, 2008 AT 12:37PM | BY Blake Royer

The holidays are incredibly food-centric times.  From the Thanksgiving turkey all the way until the Christmas ham, it seems like the whole country is suddenly swept up into mass foodie-ism.  Grandmothers start talking about their recipes.  Aunts compete with casseroles.  Somebody's got their secret, "this-will-change-your-life" salad, as if life-changing experiences didn't seem all that important any other time of year.

Most holiday recipes vie for a place on the table of the main event--the big family dinner that everyone sits down to.  After all, this is where a dish has the best chance to star.

But there's another holiday time meal that's often overlooked: breakfast.  And it's no less important...

A baby step towards making salami.
November 30, 2008 AT 4:52PM | BY Blake Royer

It's similar in appearance and texture, and has that unmistakable salty tang of cured meat.  I'm surprised it never occurred to me before, but the idea is simple.  Pork tenderloin, which is already in a convenient salami-like shape perfect for slicing, makes a perfect dry-curing project.

There is already one traditional cured meat called Lonzino, Italian, which is made not from the tenderloin but the regular boneless pork loin, a much larger piece of meat.  Lonzino is stuffed into a casing as well, rather than just being hung to dry on its own.  Lonzino is a difficult project because of its size and long drying...

Because fresh pasta deserves a sauce this good.
November 20, 2008 AT 9:46AM | BY Nick Kindelsperger


Once I figured out how to make fresh pasta, I waited all of 12 hours before I set out to create my own Ragù alla Bolognese.  It was a goal of mine ever since watching an episode of Heston Blumenthal's TV series In Search of Perfection.  The premise of the show is for the acclaimed chef to reexamine some stodgy British classics by going back to the roots of the original dish.  His final recipe usually involves dozens of ingredients and insane preparations, but I...

November 16, 2008 AT 5:48PM | BY

I've had a tumultuous history with fresh pasta.  Though I adore dried pasta in all its forms and permutations, my adventures with the fresh can best be described as a disaster.  I've wasted hours and honestly lost friendships to the stuff.  For this I've relegated fresh pasta to something I may order at restaurants but never, ever make at home.

Perhaps I wasn't giving it a fair shot.  When Blake and I first attempted to make fresh pasta not only did we not have a pasta machine, we didn't even have a rolling pin.  To roll out the pasta we had to first drink a bottle of wine, and then use the empty body to roll out the dough.  This sounded like a great idea at first, probably because of the wine, but after a few...

November 9, 2008 AT 10:38PM | BY

Oh, geez, where to begin.  While Blake was off gallivanting around the eternal city sampling the finer things in life, I was once again down in Kentucky on another bourbon tour.  I'm sure Blake spent his free time strolling along ancient streets admiring priceless art.  Yet, here I was staring down a family - complete with dog - made from whiskey barrels (the one with a bow is obviously...

November 3, 2008 AT 2:46PM | BY

It came in tin foil, a particularly unfancy receptacle for what was inside.  Our waiter, who had just dropped off plates of sea bass carpaccio and a veal meatloaf stuffed into chicken neck (including the head), put the foil on a plate and began unceremoniously unfolding its crinkled, crimped top.  It opened in a steamy, meaty rush, and none of us could do much but stare.  As Hamid, our host in Florence who Elin met in grad school (he's studying painting there) took a bite, all we could think was well, there's no disguising what that  is.  And also, what does it taste like?

"Well," Hamid began, reading our minds.  "Imagine crème...

Blake visits the Eternal City for one night only.
October 29, 2008 AT 5:44PM | BY Blake Royer


We only had one night in Rome to eat. So where would we choose?  We had no idea where to begin.

My friend Mitchell Davis came to the rescue when I emailed him to ask for help.  One night in Rome?  "I’d try Matricianella, I think, if I had one night. All the classics, well prepared, great wine list, not pricey."  Indeed, classics were what I wanted: specifically, a giant creamy steaming bowl of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, the glorious dish I'd have a monogomous relationship with if I had to pick just one.  I adore it, cook it often, and never tire...

October 27, 2008 AT 10:05AM | BY

I've dreamed about going to Italy for a couple years now. But with New York rent to pay, only a handful of vacation days to draw from, and 7 hours of plane time all conspiring against me, I've never been able to go.  By a great margin Italian food is my favorite food to cook.  As my love of Italian food has grown, so has this vaguely imaginary place called Italy--into a glorious land of grandmothers, pasta, and culinary ecstasy.  I've been lucky living in New York, where restaurants like Babbo and my local Franny's sell first-rate Italian food, where I can taste something very close to the real thing.  But I've always wondered what the food would taste like in Italy itself--and how unrealistically I was building the...

October 20, 2008 AT 1:04AM | BY

I've moved to Tartu, Estonia with Elin, where she is doing research, and I'm now neck-deep in a deeply confusing language which has no prepositions, word for "he" or "she", no future tense, and three different Os -- o, õ, and ö (ask me to pronounce them in succession: it sounds like I'm trying to lift a piano).  And of course, I'm learning to cook in this new place.  Good food is frighteningly central to my happiness, and the first week or so here was nerve-wracking.  Suddenly separated from my happy Brooklyn kitchen full of pots and pans and gadgets, and from a wonderful food coop stocking cheap, high-quality produce, here I was having to wonder whether I'd be able to go on without baby arugula, and how much money I was willing to...

October 13, 2008 AT 6:33AM | BY

Well, just look at that!  After all my anxiety and the lack of sausage stuffer before I started this adventure, on the third day I ate hot dogs.  They looked like hot dogs, smelled like hot dogs, and tasted like that perfect hot dog you always dream about (well, at least I dream about hot dogs).  Unbelievably beefy and with a hard snap from the sheep intestine, this was a truly wonderful dog. 

Too bad it was such a pain to make them. 

The night before had been a train wreck.  Everything that I feared about making sausages turned out to be true.  Casings were slippery and broke easily, stuffing was time consuming and messy, and the end product looked dull and gray and far from...

October 6, 2008 AT 12:53AM | BY

(Scene at the Paulina Meat Market in Chicago)

Butcher: "Number 37!"

Me: "Yeah, that's me."

Butcher: "What can I get for you?"

Me: "Yeah, I'll take 10 feet of sheep casings." 

I don't say that often enough in life, and up until this Saturday it had never crossed my mind.  But here I was at Paulina Meat Market ordering sheep intestines from butchers that make their own fine sausages.  The butcher, god bless him, even asked me what size of the sheep intestine I wanted.  "Whatever I'd use for a hot dog," I told him.  He then shuffled into the back, and a few minutes...

September 22, 2008 AT 3:51PM | BY

It was a last-minute whim, but there I was at the checkout, buying a whole duck. I've cut up dozens of roast chickens into legs, thighs, and breasts -- usually with the meat and skin steaming and burning my fingers -- so how much harder could it be to do the same with a duck?  Above all, it's much cheaper to buy a whole duck and cut it up yourself than it is to buy the parts separately -- and every duck has a generous amount of fat that can be rendered down for all sorts of culinary uses.  In the past, I've bought both legs and breasts separately to make duck confit and duck prosciutto, but it was time to eliminate the middle man, who was getting paid a generous markup to...

How to make the staple Mexican sausage.
September 18, 2008 AT 12:54AM | BY Nick Kindelsperger

The recipe comes from Diana Kennedy's "From My Mexican Kitchen".  This particular version comes from the Michoacán region.  She does give direction on how to stuff the mixture into casings, but I bailed out early.  Some day.   

As first sausage making experiences go, I'd have to say this was pretty remarkable.  I got about 2 pounds of fresh sausage and spent about $12 dollars.  Half of it is frozen right now, ready to be used at a moments notice. 


I used the first batch to make some chorizo and potato tacos, one of the more inspired...

How to make pickles at home without filling your place with the smell of pickles.
September 10, 2008 AT 9:38AM | BY Nick Kindelsperger

But all I did was worry.  Why was there no garlic in the dill pickles? Every other jar of dill pickles I had bought contained garlic.  And why did the pickling spice smell so sweet?  Dill pickles weren't sweet.  I worried that Ruhlman's recipe was too refined.  I wanted simple dill pickles.  I'd have to look elsewhere.   


I pulled out Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking and found Dill Pickles that looked much closer to what I wanted.  Indeed, there was the garlic.  But the biggest difference was instead of stuffing the jars in the back of...

September 8, 2008 AT 6:41AM | BY

When I spent a week with Nick in Chicago, we had grand plans for every single meal - especially the ones we cooked in his kitchen.  Nick's already covered the fatty, home-ground burger and our foray into making red enchilada sauce, our two major kitchen experiments.  But I also know that Chicago is a great eating town.  I grew up in the area, but my knowledge of Chicago food is shameful.  Unfortunately, I didn't slip out of my suburban kid suit nearly enough in high school; I went away to college, then drove out to New York where my tongue was awakened.  So I humbly came to my own hometown and let Nick boss me around.

Nick's only lived in Chicago for less than two...

September 1, 2008 AT 10:58AM | BY

A couple days ago Elin and I went to our community garden plots to asses things after a two and a half week absence from New York.  When we left, our garden was thriving with tomatoes, kale, collard greens, beets, carrots, corn, and peppers.  Despite our best efforts to screw things up, the Brooklyn soil continues to sprout edibles.

We returned to find out tomato plants brown, drooping, and shriveled. Yet as they had started to die, they seemed to panicly produce as much fruit as possible--presumably to pass on their seed.  Though the branches were frail and crumbling, the plants were studded with 50 or 60 cherry tomatoes, and from the others we pulled 6 large heirloom tomatoes, fragrant and soft....