December 23, 2011
Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce
Okay, it's two days until Christmas, and you suddenly realize that you're behind on your shopping. It's too late to mail-order anything, and you've no time to go to the store. What to do?
Got ten minutes? Then you can make this terrific sauce that requires nothing obscure in the way of ingredients. (If you have no Bourbon, you can substitute Scotch, Cognac or Armagnac – or simply leave it out altogether. )
One suggestion: Before you begin, read David Leibowitz’s wonderful post on making caramel, here. Caramel can be tricky, and it will save you a lot of trouble down the line.
And another: Use a larger pot than you think you'll need. I use a 5 1/2 quart casserole. Trust me – it makes everything easier.
Cut 3/4 of a stick of the best butter you can get your hands on into small pieces and put that next to the stove. Let half a cup of heavy cream come to room temperature. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of Bourbon. Now pour a cup of sugar in an even layer into a large, heavy, light-colored pot and watch it melt over moderate heat. When it begins to liquify around the edges, begin stirring with a spatula, watching carefully. When it is completely liquid, has turned a deep copper color, and is just on the edge of smoking, stir in the butter until it is completely incorporated into the sugar. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream mixture. It will hiss and sizzle and generally act nasty. Ignore it – this is the nature of caramel – and whisk until you have a smooth sauce. Add a generous quarter teaspoon of coarse salt (or a bit more if you've used unsalted butter).
This is great on just about everything, and it will keep for a month or so in the refrigerator. (Rewarm the sauce in the microwave for a minute before serving.) Divided into half cup portions and poured into pretty jars, it will make three friends very happy.
December 22, 2011
A Perfect Way to Boil Water
I think this is the most beautiful teakettle ever made. A big statement, but I really do love this.
I first saw it at the Museum of Modern Art – or at least one very like it. You can see the picture here. Designed by John G. Rideout in 1936, it was manufactured in Ohio. But that kettle has a design flaw – the only way you can remove the lid is with a screwdriver.
This English version, which has been made by Picquotware in Scotland since the 30s, has a removable lid. But more importantly, it’s still being made. When I went to the company’s website, I put my phone number in and ten minutes later I got a call from Scotland. It's too late to get it in time for Christmas, but who cares? In this case, a promise would certainly do. Anyone who loves this gorgeous object as much as I do would thank you every morning when they put the kettle on.
Incidentally, when I told the man that I had burned up the handle on my first one (the handle is sycamore), he told me very sternly that I should have sent it back. “We refurbish them so that they look like new,” he said. “We want them to last you a lifetime.”
December 21, 2011
The Chinese may call it the year of the rabbit, but 2011 was actually the year of the meat eater. This was the year when butchers became cool, the year when the meekest people began picking up knives and carving up cows, the year when every cook worth his salt was wrestling whole pigs onto the grill.
If you’ve got a red-blooded friend with a passion for meat, Pat LaFrieda’s Big App for Meat would make the perfect present. LaFrieda (the man behind the famous Minetta Tavern burger), teamed up with Tony Bourdain’s producers (ZeroPointZero) to make this new app which takes you literally into the belly of the beast. There's almost an hour of video, with LaFrieda showing you how to age, cut, and cook meat. (Along the way he reveals why he think the Porterhouse is a sucker cut.) Any carnivore with an IPad and an appetite would be thrilled.
December 20, 2011
A Food Writing Class
These days everybody wants to be a food writer. Colleges and universities offer food-writing courses. Culinary schools do too. But if you know someone who wants to start a food blog, write a cookbook or indulge in a food memoir, you’d be doing them a great favor if you enrolled them in one of Molly O’Neill’s virtual seminars.
Molly’s done it all – she was a reporter at the New York Times, a cookbook author, food memoirist and an internet pioneer in the food space. For these courses she’s drawn on both her experience and her connections, and she’s a born teacher.
(Full disclosure: I owe Molly bigtime. In 1993 she was at the New York Times, and I’m pretty sure that if she had wanted to become the restaurant critic, I never would have gotten the job.)
December 19, 2011
Enough oysters. To me that is the greatest luxury. That’s why the present I’m buying myself this year is 100 oysters from Island Creek (purveyor to many of your favorite chefs). Order today and they’ll be plucked from the Cape Cod waters and shipped straight to your house. Covered with a wet towel they’ll keep in the refrigerator for a solid week. So every time the urge for an oyster hits, you can stroll to the refrigerator, pluck out a few and eat them standing at the kitchen counter. (And still have enough left for a Christmas celebration.)
Island Creek will send you salty Chathams or the sweeter Wellfleets (which I prefer). Today’s the last day you can order them in time for Christmas. Believe me – this is a present that no one will ever forget.