Gee, gee, ghee
If you can melt butter in a saucepan, you can make your own ghee—and flavor it too.
This week’s newsletter is a reprint of my most recent newsletter for TASTE (plus some Snack Cart additions), where I’m part of a rotating cast of newsletter writers. To get my newest stuff as soon as it’s out, subscribe to TASTE.
My very first cookbook was an old Craig Claiborne volume in college. The book covered a bunch of basics but represented a different era in cooking (the first recipe was a soufflé!). I was too inexperienced to know the book was dated, and I dived in. One of my favorite recipes was for anchovy butter, which I kept in the back of the fridge to fancy up my toast. Little did I know that I just needed to spend a bit more time with it to make the butter more useful.
Mehreen Karim explores the world of compound ghee. She walks through the steps to create clarified butter, which is used around the world for cooking, and suggests a few spice blends to infuse it with extra flavor. Ghee has a higher smoke point than regular butter, so compound ghee is a great way to add a burst of flavor to roasts or sautés. Ghee is even shelf-stable, though I’ll need to do more research before leaving anchovy ghee out on the counter. Also, make sure to check out Mehreen on one of this week’s podcasts (see below!).
Hope’s wine meme of the week
Most red wines are served too warm. Even if it’s coming from the part of the wine list that’s not listed as chilled, don’t be scared to ask for an ice bucket to cool it down. Cooler temperatures balance strong tannins and high alcohol, bringing out more delicate aromas.
If the waiter gives you side-eye they don’t know what they are talking about. I still feel like a jerk when I ask for an ice bucket and I do this for a living. You aren’t a philistine, you just want the wine to taste as good as it can! Just ask nicely and they should accommodate you.
(On the flip side, chilled red means chilled, not fridge temp! It shouldn’t be freezing cold when it’s served. If it is, serve everyone a glass and order a round of drinks or fancy water while you wait 5/10 minutes for it to warm up).
Cathy Erway dives deep into fish sauce. Once relegated to being a “secret ingredient” so as not to gross out diners, chefs (especially ones from Southeast Asian backgrounds) are increasingly trumpeting the ingredient. Along with more attention comes more specialization, as fish sauce providers are exploring different versions of the sauce.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, corporate intrigue has collided with local zoning. Crumbl, a cookie chain, is opening a new store. The location requires them to have glass windows surrounding the store, but Crumbl is protesting over fears of cookie espionage.
Former president Jimmy Carter is most associated with peanuts, but the dude was nuts for dairy. Read this December 1976 report on the incoming president’s dining habits, which included a plate of saltines with butter before dinner.
Jocelyn Delk Adams’s book Everyday Grand isn’t just a cookbook, it’s a manifesto on taking more joy in life. Rachel Sugar interviews Adams on the inspiration for her book and how to bring more joy into your life.
Ali Francis at Bon Appétit asked AI to help her define and create a “New American” restaurant. The results were cliché and forgettable, which Francis says is more a reflection of how we talk about food right now than of the AI’s capability.
Speaking of Bon Appétit, their food diary series is really terrific. It’s got all the voyeurism of Grub Street diets, but with a much broader lens. A recent one featuring a lunch lady and mother of two in the resort town of Big Sky, Montana, was fascinating! The school district is lucky to have her.
Pete Wells’s review of Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi is truly one of the best restaurant reviews I’ve read in a while. Expectations for Onwuachi’s restaurant were insanely high, and Wells deftly breaks down how the food is great—but even more than that, how the restaurant is making a statement about Onwuachi, New York, and the entire country. This is top-tier art criticism that you should read even if you don’t live in New York.
The teams behind two popular Food Network shows are unionizing, bouncing back from a number of pandemic-driven cuts to demand basic benefits like health insurance and overtime. This will be an interesting test case to see if the unionization drive spreads to more unscripted food TV.
This remixed recipe for leeks vinaigrette will make a winter allium feel like a spring salad.
Zola Gregory suggests you make frozen vegetables the star. While garlic scapes aren’t here yet, there’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t make pesto out of frozen peas.
The root vegetables at the farmers’ market may look a bit tired, but they’ll feel fresh and light if you crisp them up and hit them with aggressive, bright flavors.
And if you manage to get some early greens and want to preserve them longer? The folks at America’s Test Kitchen realized you can use your SodaStream to make them last twice as long.
To keep in mind: We’re heading into a time I think of as “false spring.” The days are longer. Maybe you can get away with a light coat, you think. Surely spring is here! But a trip to the farmers’ market shows the truth: You may be craving fresh greens and young vegetables, but nature isn’t quite ready yet. Still, there are ways to scratch your spring itch. Check out a recipe from the TASTE database.
Watch, stream, listen
This week Alison Roman stops by the TASTE podcast. She’s written three cookbooks in just under five years and produced a TV show and a web series, all while penning columns and newsletters. She and Matt discuss her many projects, her newest dessert cookbook, Sweet Enough, and how important salt and acid are to desserts.
Grabbing ingredients off a moving platform to cook a dish for Gordon Ramsay to judge truly sounds like a stress dream we’ve had before—but for Mehreen Karim, it’s a good time. Get to know one of the most exciting voices in food.
If my Instagram account is to be believed, Italy is hot right now. If you are planning a trip to Rome, you might be thinking about a food tour with cookbook writer and Italian food expert Katie Parla. Katie stopped by the podcast to talk about her tours, what lunch really looks like in Rome, and her new book on the food of the Italian isles.
One of the loudest voices in food media is a rapping cheetah who teaches recipes to his singing roommate. TikTok is truly weird. Jordan Michelman interviews Noah Morayniss, the man behind the account. Definitely give this a read, if only to cringe a little when Morayniss refuses to concede that the cheetah is not a real person.
We are all this red carpet interviewer befuddled at how Tessa Thompson has never eaten a hamburger.
Atlas Obscura published a great essay on the world of Asian culinary comics. Comics prove a way for Asians, especially those in diaspora communities, to share recipes, memories, and cultural touchstones. You will come away from this with a reading list.
YouTuber Eddy Burback dives very, very deep into ghost kitchens. There’s a lot of helpful information here, though the entire thing is framed a bit too much in the conspiracist vibe for my liking. Burback raises a lot of interesting points about food safety and regulations, but some of them are a *touch* misleading. (I don’t think health inspections have anything to do with allergen contamination.) Overall, it seems as if completely abstracting the process of buying food from other people via delivery apps may not be great!
Out of context J. Gold of the week
Among the hillocks of grilled spinal cord, the mountains of blood sausage, the garlic-reeking Alps of short ribs to be found in Los Angeles, none is quite as majestic as the picada combination plate served at the restaurant Cali Viejo in Van Nuys. Link