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

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"After a month eating in China, Chef Liu was the first place I ate that brought back the memories." - bbulkow

"When we walked through the door at 9:30 am, I could float on the aromas of falling-off-the-bone porkiness." - Cynsa on the posole at El Delfin

"Velvety chunks of white and dark boneless chicken meat, precise little cubes of carrots and potatoes with an intensely chicken cream gravy with a luxurious mouthfeel..." - Melanie Wong on the biscuit-topped chicken pot pie at P/30

Breast Cheese, Famine-Based Marketing, and Biggie Smalls

Breast Practices: NY chef Daniel Angerer starts making cheese from his wife’s breast milk, and serving it as a part of a canapé with figs at his Chelsea restaurant, Klee Brasserie.  Kinda gives the expression “know thy producer” a whole new meaning. via New York Post

Operation Snake Oil Salesman: The FDA sends warning letters to several food makers for having “misleading” healthy claims on their labels, including Diamond nuts, Drumsticks, and POM.  Some wonder if the feds went overboard: who really thinks Drumsticks are healthy? via MedicineNet READ MORE

Making Italian Gnocchi with Grandma Paola

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Granddaughter Isabella helps Nonna Paola Bagnatori make potato gnocchi with tomato-porcini sauce. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

Friskies Cat Food Makes Your Cat Have Visions

Um. I'm not sure what to say to introduce this, but apparently the Friskies cat food company would have us believe that popping open a can of their animal-based protein slurry sends your cat into a sensory wonderland with floating cloud windmills, golden fish-shaped sailboats, dancing turkeys, and cows with bangs.


Cougar Dens, Hooky Hangs: Tablehopper Reveals

Marcia Gagliardi's gossipy email newsletter, tablehopper, has been the must-read for food lovers and restaurant nerds in San Francisco practically from the day it launched. Always on top of the latest openings, closings, best places to get duck-fat frites, and more, Gagliardi's just published a guidebook to San Francisco with even more great recommendations and insider tips. Her trademark tell-it-like-it-is-sistah voice, and categories you won't find in Zagat make it a very fun read. We asked Gagliardi for some dish.

What are some of your favorite dive bars in SF?

The kooky atmosphere at Li-Po in Chinatown is a fave, and the abrasive and bawdy charm of Carl at the Ha-Ra will never cease to entertain me—it reminds me of the dive bars in LA I used to love so much (the vintage boxing pictures are kind of hot, too).

Cougar hang-outs?

Anywhere there is good wine and cocktails, there are cougars. The Balboa Café is of course a classic cougar den, but hotel bars like the Lobby Lounge at the St. Regis and the Clock Bar are other locations where I’ve noticed prowling.

Where's a good place to go on an internet date?

Café du Soleil in the Lower Haight is the ideal location because you can often find a table, and it works for any time of day: a lunch meet-up, a coffee, a glass of wine... And the atmosphere is just cute enough. The option for outdoor seating is a bonus.

Next time I call in "sick" to work, where should I go?

A mid-week brunch at Brenda’s French Soul Food is great hooky material, but I will take any reason I can get to scoot to Outerlands Café in the Sunset for its delicious levain bread (and a coffee next door at Trouble Coffee). Then: to the beach!

For more tablehopper magic, check out Gagliardi on as she gives her take on the perfect pesto.

Boob du Jour

When news broke this month that Klee's Daniel Angerer was serving cheese made from his wife's breastmilk, the media paused to cluck and cringe, but no one got around to the meat (milk?) of the matter. What does the stuff taste like? Gael Greene samples a chunk of human fromage in the Daily Beast:


Roast Your Way to Cauliflower Bliss

Is it hard to imagine putting away a head of cauliflower in one sitting? Many hounds say they could easily do just that if the cauliflower is roasted. "I've been roasting cauliflower for years," says lawmann, "and have made quite a few converts—people who never liked cauliflower until they tasted it done this way." And chowser says, "It's one vegetable my kids fight over."

The basic technique: Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and salt, spread on a sheet pan, and roast at 425°F until tender and browned, about 25 minutes, turning once about halfway through. "Give a taste when they start looking pretty," advises eight_inch_pestle. QueenB Prefers to slice the head of cauliflower into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices because "you get more surface in contact with your pan, which gives more browning and flavor." Hounds recommend drying cauliflower well after washing for best results, and some let it drain and dry overnight in the fridge before roasting.

Cauliflower roasted with nothing but oil and salt is delicious, but "it's great with different spices and condiments—from curry to Dijon mustard to cumin," says chowser. BigSal is a fan of CHOW's Pepper-Roasted Cauliflower, which is seasoned with soy sauce. Others add a squeeze of lemon or some balsamic vinegar before roasting, or sprinkle with grated Parmesan when it comes out of the oven.

smtucker mashes roasted cauliflower into a purée. "Wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes under braised lamb shanks or duck legs," she says. "The braising juices coat the mash and it is delicious."

Discuss: OMG—Roasted Cauliflower

Savory Ricotta

Many recipes using ricotta cheese are for sweets or heavy baked pasta dishes, but ricotta also stars in some simple pasta sauces and other savory treats. Fresh ricotta only makes these better.

Ricotta and vegetables combine to make easy pasta sauces. mcf purées ricotta, roasted red pepper, garlic, and olive oil and tosses with pasta; top with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley. cheesecake17 tosses pasta with ricotta, roasted broccoli, lemon zest, chopped Kalamata olives, salt, and pepper, thinning it with a bit of pasta cooking water.

jen kalb likes a simple Marcella Hazan recipe: Sauté chopped bacon, add baby peas and cook until peas are done; toss with pasta, then mix in ricotta, lots of pepper, and grated Parmesan or Pecorino.

Green Omnivore makes a white pizza with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses spread on the crust; bake the pizza, and when it comes out of the oven, top with arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

gwendolynmarie suggests combining ricotta, vegetables, and herbs to fill tarts or strudels made with puff pastry or phyllo. maplesugar recommends this herbed ricotta tart.

For crostini or sandwiches, consider CHOW's Herbed Ricotta Spread

Discuss: Fresh ricotta ideas (no sweets, please)

Techniques for Great Braising

There are lots of ways to make great braised meats, and hounds employ variations on basic techniques depending on their preferences and the results they want.

The basic method starts by searing the meat, then adding liquid. They should come part way up the depth of the meat, not submerge it. If it is cooked in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid at a steady temperature, the meat will cook evenly, even if not turned. Many do turn the meat, though, so that both sides will be exposed to the braising liquid and so it won't stick. valerie spoons some of the braising liquid over the meat periodically, which is a good option when braising large roasts.

Braised foods taste even better a day or two after cooking, and some hounds make them in advance and chill the dish overnight to reheat and serve the next day. c oliver cooks the day before, removes the meat from the liquid and refrigerates the two separately. "I can then easily lift off the congealed fat which is hard to do if the meat is in the liquid," she says. valerie slices braised brisket, lays it in a clean Dutch oven, covers with the sauce, and refrigerates.

There are many methods of creating a sauce from the braising liquid. Straining out the vegetables and reducing the liquid concentrates its flavors and makes an elegant sauce. If you wish to thicken the liquid, you can purée some or all of the vegetables and mix them into the liquid, or simply purée it all together in the pot, using a hand blender. Or thicken the liquid using a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry or a beurre manie (equal parts flour and butter kneaded together). "The beurre manie just adds that extra touch from the butter," thinks jcattles.

Discuss: A Few Questions Beyond the Braising Basics

The Domino’s Renaissance

A compelling business story in DailyFinance points out that since declaring their own (old recipe) pizza to be a bunch of cardboard-tasting garbage, the Domino's Pizza chain has done quite well for itself, indeed:

"Earlier this week, Domino's, America's second-largest pizza chain, reported that fourth quarter profits more than doubled year over year to $23.6 million from $11 million. Total revenue for the quarter came in at $462.9 million, an 8.1% increase over last year, with U.S. same-store sales climbing 1.4% and international same-store sales increasing by 3.9%."