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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Cronkite: Thin-Crust Bliss on the Lower East Side

First-class toppings on an uncommonly good thin-crust pie are the draw at Cronkite Pizzeria. Opened in November by the owner of Williamsburg’s Fornino, it shares its sister restaurant’s artisanal bent–home-grown herbs, house-made fennel sausage, carefully chosen wine list, imported Italian tomatoes and burrata.

“It’s the best thing I’ve eaten in a while,” raves Peter Cuce, who tried the Vongole (clams, mozzarella, Parmesan) and the Lombardi (arugula, mozzarella, prosciutto). ironfrank describes a nearly perfect crust, cracker crisp with just the right amount of char from the brick oven. “It’s no DiFara,” he adds, “but it’s quite good.” Beyond pizza, check out starters like the tomato-buffalo mozzarella salad or polenta with roasted wild mushrooms.

Dissenters say delivery orders can fall flat and suggest that some combos on the ambitious, two-dozen-plus topping list don’t quite work.

Cronkite Pizzeria and Wine Bar [Lower East Side]
133 Norfolk St., at Rivington, Manhattan

Fornino [Williamsburg]
187 Bedford Ave., at N. 7th St., Brooklyn

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Cronkite Pizza–Over Budget but NOT out of this world
Cronkite Pizzeria?

Rockenwagner’s Bakery Rises a Second Time: 3 Square

The folks of Rockenwagner have opened up another bakery-café: Three Square. Those who love their bacon-cheese twists and pretzel twists: be psyched. Cinnamon rolls, scones, and the like run $3 apiece. They also have sandwiches–brie with caramelized pears and figs on walnut bread is great, says sharkgirl88.

Decor is design-y, with cool retractable tables; the crowd, though, is more like “yuppies who think they’re Dogtowners,” says bulavinka.

Three Square Cafe + Bakery [Beaches]
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

Rockenwagner Bakery [Beaches]
12835 Washington Blvd., Mar Vista

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Rockenwagner bakery is open
Checking out 3 Square bakery

The How-Tos of Browning Meat

Recipes often begin by ordering you to brown meat or poultry, before any braising or roasting or suchlike. Browning meat improves its flavor, and the bits left in the pan when you brown meat, called the fond, add flavor to sauces.

There are a few rules for successfully browning meat without having it stick to the pan. First, pat your meat dry with paper towels before you season and cook it. Heat your empty pan, and when it’s hot, add oil; with a good pan, it should get plenty hot over medium heat on a gas stove. When the oil is hot, add the meat. The next step is the most important: Leave the meat alone. All meat will stick initially when it hits the pan, but it will release when it has formed a crust. If you try to turn it too soon, it will stick. Wait a few minutes, then slide a spatula under your meat and see if it releases easily. If not, be patient and allow it to go a little longer. When it has browned, it will release; turn it over with a spatula or tongs and brown the other side the same way.

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Why do my meats stick when I try to brown them?

Smoked Mackerel

Mackerel is high in healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and smoked mackerel is delicious, on its own or used in recipes. It’s sold in vacuum-sealed packages, like smoked salmon, and can be found in specialty food stores, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.

Here are some ideas for using it:

Scramble with eggs and sauteed onions.

Put in a hash with potatoes and onions (add the mackerel late, when the potatoes are almost done).

Add it to green salads with a citrus vinaigrette, or with citrus segments and a mustardy vinaigrette.

Make a smoked mackerel stew: use a recipe for Manhattan clam chowder, replacing the clams with mackerel.

Make a pate by pureeing with cream, lemon juice, and melted butter.

Combine with cream cheese, sliced green onions, and a dash of lemon juice, and eat on crackers.

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Smoked Mackerel

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread, a.k.a. bubble bread, is usually a sweet yeast bread on the order of sticky buns. The bread dough is rolled into balls, which are dipped into melted butter and nestled side-by-side in the baking pan, then coated with a sugary glaze. The balls bake up all stuck together, and to eat it, everyone plucks a ball from the monkey mass. It was big back in the 50’s, but it’s just as fun to eat now.

Here’s some monkey bread trivia from the Food Timeline.

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Why is monkey bread called that?

Grazing in the Garden

Using fresh flowers as a garnish is a very effective (and delicious!) way to gussy up a dish. Some flowers, like violets, can be candied and used to decorate baked goods. This web site has lots of good tips on edible flowers and how to use them:

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help! ate some delicious flowers, don’t know their names…

Those Cephalopods

Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish get a bum rap from a lot of folks, but that’s only because a lot of folks don’t know how to cook ‘em. They should never be tough like “rubber bands.” The rule to follow when cooking cephalopods is to cook them very, very quickly (grilling works well), or over a long time in a braising liquid. Anything in between will yield those rubber bands.

Their flavor is mild and sweet. The body of the squid is a perfect shape for stuffing, too.

Buy the freshest you can find; they should smell good, and as with buying any fish, their eyes should be clear.

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Is there any real reason to eat squid or octopus?

Out of the Crate

Recently, we wrote about the controversy brewing in Sonoma County, California, over the use of gestation crates for pregnant and nursing sows. The rectangular cages, which are so narrow that the sows can’t turn around, have been dubbed inhumane by many animal-rights groups. They’ve already been banned in Florida and Arizona (two states, it must be noted, with very little actual pig farming within their boundaries), and will be outlawed in the European Union by 2013.

Now, according to The Washington Post, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, has promised to phase out the use of the crates during the next ten years. With a company as huge as Smithfield, only another corporate supergiant can make a difference. In this case, it was McDonald’s that leaned on the Virginia-based pork producer to make their farming practice—and thus the PR for the buyers of their ham and bacon—a little sweeter.

Maybe Smithfield is finally stepping up its corporate responsibility, after being dogged over the past few years with million-dollar lawsuits from environmental groups and governmental agencies for, among other things, violating the Clean Water Act by dumping hog waste into nearby waterways.

In a press release issued the same day as the Smithfield declaration, the Humane Society of the United States praised the decision and pushed for the rest of the pork industry to follow suit over the next five years.


In a post that launched some interesting discussion on Serious Eats, Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet asks, “Does Cooking Make You Gay?”

The basis for this question is Roberts’s observation that Easy-Bake Ovens weren’t marketed to boys when he was growing up (though now it’s a different story, as one commenter points out). “A little boy watching a commercial for an Easy-Bake Oven should roll his eyes or make a fart noise with his mouth to assert his masculinity,” Roberts muses. He describes how it wasn’t until he came out of the closet in college that he felt able to express his “newfound enthusiasm for artisanal cheese, cold-pressed olive oil, and Niçoise olives,” but accurately notes that the testosterone-driven world of professional chefs is a different story. The distinction, he says, is between men who cook at home and those who wield their knives in restaurant kitchens.

But many male commenters take issue with this breakdown, and some of their responses are ultimately more thoughtful than Roberts’s original post. As one asks,

Why do you relate ‘gay’ with being effeminate? Your headline should read ‘Does Cooking Make Men Feminine?’ That’s the real subject here…. What is wrong with being feminine? Historically, we as society treat women as inferior to men. Sexism. It exists in the kitchen because it exists in society. Even with all the celebrity female chefs (who are oftentimes exploited for their ‘sex appeal’), there exists a ‘stainless steel’ ceiling for women in the restaurant world. That would be a more apropos topic.

Roberts does raise the good point that there is probably only one openly gay man among the legions of Food Network and Bravo chefs (Ted Allen). And in other media outlets, gay male chefs like Pichet Ong of NYC’s Spice Market have discussed the prejudice that still exists in the kitchen. But another commenter points out that there are many more “out” lesbian chefs than gay men in the food world—or, in the joking parlance of some foodophiles, the “Dyke Food Mafia” (whose members include big-name chefs Cat Cora, Traci Des Jardins, Elizabeth Falkner, and Gabrielle Hamilton).

I haven’t read any profiles or reports of openly lesbian chefs discussing how their sexuality has changed their experience in the restaurant world—though many say that their sex (female) certainly is a rarity among chefs. What role do you think gender and sexual orientation plays in kitchens, both at home and in restaurants?

Top Spoiler

Oh dear, oh dear! We’re at the bitter end of a Top Chef season that has already been dogged by assaults, allegations of conspiracy, and general bad behavior, and now it would appear that Food & Wine is the next one to make damn sure that the second season of Top Chef will live in infamy.

Some sort of glitch—carelessness? subconscious desire to screw the viewers out of the incredibly dubious pleasure of watching the final episode of the season?—caused an article revealing the winner of the show to be posted on Food & Wine’s website.

Of course, when you go to the link now, you get a 404 error. However, it was too little, too late for spoiler seekers and probably a few innocent bystanders. It’s not totally clear how long the premature piece was allowed to languish in full glory on Food & Wine’s site—anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours—but after the link was posted at Television Without Pity, the piece was yanked swiftly. It would be remiss of me not to remind you (or tell you for the first time) that Gail Simmons, one of the Top Chef judges, holds a position at Food & Wine.

Since it was already gone by the time I made my usual rounds on those discussion boards, helpful TWoPpers emailed me the full story and, yeah, Food & Wine made a boo-boo.

Of course, since I have no desire to drag you wonderful people out there in the dark down the destructive path to Spoilerdom, I am not going to tell you what the piece said. However, Eater will. Click through at your own risk.