Monday, December 19, 2011


I know this is not food, but closely connected to it. A few weeks ago I spotted flameware clay in Berkeley, make by the same company that makes by regular 50/50 mix. They offered me a "rusty skillet" glaze too. It's a cone 8 clay, so St. Theresa (the kiln) really had to work hard to get this up to temperature, but as you can see, it is very pleasant in color and texture. More importantly, in case you don't understand what this stuff is - a stoneware that goes right on the stove top. (Not soft earthenware, which chips and scratches.) So for the trial run there's a chicken and vegetables simmering in the olla. Broccoli rabe in the cassola. The pipkin is untested, as is a bigger pentola still unfired. Oh and the little butter melting cup up front. Despite the fact that it's 30 bucks for a 25 lb. bag, I think this set was worth it. Well done Leslie's and IMCO.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Robert May and Brian May

Have you ever noticed how Brian May, Queen guitarist, has a decidedly 17th century hairdo? Much like that of Robert May, celebrated 17th century cookbook author? Hmm. Did you also realize that May lived in the age of Hooke and Boyle, the birth of Astrophysics and other May has a PhD in the same subject? Hmm. There must be more. Well I was feeling in a Baroque mood today. This recipe is not exactly in May, but it could easily have been. It is 2 lbs of pork shoulder very finely chopped, with chopped apricots, dates, raisins, walnuts, pistachioes, candied citron, angelica root, sugar with ambergris, musk, all soaked in Batavia Arrack and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper. That went into a crust of mangalitsa leaf lard, sprinkled with coarse sugar. I'm hoping it will slide out and be sliced vertically. We shall see tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stupid Arbitrary Rules

Have you noticed how the world is filled with stupid arbitrary rules? I don't mean practical moral precepts, which are eminently useful. I'm talking about things people tell you to do which serve no purpose whatsoever. Cooking is rife with examples. People do things one way, it gets repeated a million times, then everyone thinks it's inviolable law. Perhaps no other food is so subject to the whim of arbitrary rules than beans. I've written some of these stupid rules myself. And this story just goes to show, such rules were meant to be broken. I got home last night with this brand new iron olla from The Spanish Table, and wanted to try it out so badly, that I just chucked in some dry red beans, water, salt, and a touch of oregano, and threw it on the fire. Not this fire, I mean in the fireplace fire. And left it there, until morning. Reheated it up and the beans were perfect, intact, and yet cooked through. Succulent, perfectly seasoned. And broke every rule about how beans ought to be cooked. Let me know if you have a similar rule-breaking story.