That chubby guy, from the thing. Yeah. I'm the one who used to work in the frozen pizza factory, remember?

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Favorite foods: Everything from asparagus to a rare ribeye to a chili-cheeseburger. I have far more of a weakness for salty and savory than for sweet. Bring me a steak and a baked potato, and skip the dessert.
  • Last bite on earth: I plan to never have a last bite, as I have no intention of dying.

In Praise of a Turkey-Free Thanksgiving

I think a good compromise might be to just roast some turkey legs. I mean, why screw around with trying to get the white and dark meat done at the same time when dark meat is all most people ever want anyway? We can get a package of sliced turkey breast from the deli for those weirdos who like the white meat. ;)

The Magic of Crispy, Creamy, Fully Loaded Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole

This is interesting, because for years I made "Grammy's Special Occasion Potatoes." It has milk, butter, an egg, and cream cheese. Also half a diced onion, and... I think sour cream? I can't recall for sure, because it's been a while. It also calls for whipping all the ingredients with a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer, and then you refrigerate overnight and bake it the next day for a few hours.

You'd think they'd be gluey as hell, but in fact it comes out surprisingly light and fluffy. Maybe it's the egg?

It's 2014 and Spatchcocking Is Still the Fastest, Easiest, Best Way to Roast a Turkey

@Kenji: Nope, no specific reference. Just... a la Python, if you will. Or possibly a combination of Python, Wodehouse, and Dahl, but only a pale imitation of any of them.

It's 2014 and Spatchcocking Is Still the Fastest, Easiest, Best Way to Roast a Turkey

@engill: You mean the rarely-seen Triple Spatchcock? But that hasn't been attempted since 1911, when Sir Trembly Game-Warden was blown 30 feet in the air during the St. Stephen's Day Feast!

Baked Saffron Risotto With Mozzarella and Crispy Topping

@Selma's Table: I think he means baking "dish", not "baking sheet." And if I had to guess why not to mix the bechamel and cheese into the rice is so that whatever residual heat is in the saucepan can't get to work on melting the mozzarella - I think you probably want it to still be as whole as possible when you put it in to bake.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

Son of a b! I posted that comment before realizing I'd skipped the end of the article. I wonder if it's just that he's got an older pan! Huh. And here all this time I thought something magical had happened over 40 years. I'll have to look at it the next time I see him, but I could've sworn the outside was pebbly, like a modern Lodge. Hmmmmmmm.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

Thank you so much for this, Kenji. The cast iron myths bug the heck out of me.

My stepfather has a cast-iron pan that he first acquired as a cook in the Marines, nearly 40 years ago. He cooked with it several times a day for four years, then brought it home (probably wasn't supposed to, but hell, it's a pan not a gun) and continued using it damn near every day since then. When I first started learning to cook, that pan was the first one I ever used. And every time, we washed it by hand with soap, in the sink, just like the rest of the dishes.

Is it non-stick? Nope. But it surely never got ruined either. And the finish on the inside feels like finest satin. It is unbelievably smooth. I don't know if that's from years of the iron being polished by repeated cleanings, or from years of absorbing polymerized fat into every nook and cranny, but either way it's a thing of beauty.

Use Your Potato Masher To Break Up Ground Meat in the Skillet

I feel stupid for not having tried this already. It really is a pain in the neck (and the wrist) to sit there chunking up meat while it browns.

My only concern would be if I'm cooking in a non-stick pan - I don't want to scrape a masher on the coating. But I use a Smood ( so that's not as much of an issue. It might be for people with other kinds of mashers.

Bacon and Avocado Take Your In-N-Out Animal-Style Double Double to the Next Level

I am deeply conflicted. On one hand, bacon and avocado on burgers are wonderful. But the Double Double is so perfect on its own.

I think my natural laziness will win out. It seems like a bit of a pain to dress up a burger that will be *just fine* without it. But I'm glad to know you did this and that it was awesome!

The Best Korean Food in LA's Koreatown

How could you overlook Toad House!?!?!? The answer, of course, is that it's hardly the best place for Korean BBQ. But it *does* have the best name and an awesome sign, at least, when the sign hasn't been defaced with graffiti.

The Friday Night Meatball Recipe That Changed My Life

@bobbob Yes, just think about those massive Friday Night Meatball riches she'll soon be raking in. She'll be able to use shredded hundred dollar bills instead of bread crumbs in her recipe! All guests will be provided with complimentary monocles and top hats! Meatballs? More like MeatBILLIONS, right?

Seriously, though, chill out.

Cast Iron Cooking: The Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots That Will Forever Change How You Entertain

Next weekend I'm putting together a subway pub crawl that's going to end at my house, where we will drunkenly watch Sharknado 2. I tell you this not because you care, but because I have just discovered what I will be serving as snacks. It's freaking perfect - make it the day before and let it rest in the fridge, then chuck some cheese on top and bake. Even after a significant number of cocktails, I'm pretty sure I can still manage that, and how much better will it be than a bag of chips and a sad tub of sour cream with french onion soup powder mixed in?

Also I will call it "Shark Bread," and I'm assuming everyone will be too drunk to notice that it has nothing to do with sharks.

Is it Really Necessary to Add Garlic After the Onions When Sautéing?

Interesting, but... I dunno. I don't mind waiting until the onions are mostly done and then chucking in the garlic until it's fragrant. It's not particularly onerous to have to do them separately. In terms of the cost/benefit ratio, it's a lot easier to spend that 30 seconds to cook the garlic at the end, rather than having to worry about controlling all the variables and having a significant risk of ruining not just the garlic, but whatever else is in the pan. I certainly wouldn't want to have to throw out the whole batch and start over.

The Food Lab Turbo: How to Make Lighter Tuna Noodle Casserole With Just One Pan (and No Knives!)

Even if I never make this recipe, it was worth the read to learn about the trick of forking a lemon. I mean, we have a juice reamer thingie, but I don't want to drag that thing out if all I need is a tablespoon. Do you stick it just once, or a few times? Do the seeds stay in? I love this idea and I want to know more!

Cheese 101: Why Imported Italian Mozzarella Isn't Always Better

I know I'm a bit late to this party, but the DiStefano mozzarella (which we discovered at, naturally, Mozza) is one of the finest cheeses I have ever eaten in my life. It is amazing.

How Spam Won Over America's Restaurants

I would've said "yuck" not very long ago, until I had some seared Spam. What a difference searing it makes! It's delicious. Also surprisingly awesome: Spam sliders from Jollibee. They're rich and greasy, so the small size is an asset. You wouldn't want to eat more than one or two.

5 Delicious Cheeses You Should Throw on the Grill

@lapbplayr I'm pretty surprised Cotija holds together will enough to be grilled. We get it all the time to crumble into tacos. Maybe you're getting a different brand? I think the last time I bought it was just at my local store, which is a Pavilions. (I'm in Southern California too, though, so there may be a Mexican market where I could find better cotija.)

How to Make Pillowy (and Pretty) Angel Biscuits

It's the Brangelina of biscuits! The TomKat of rolls! I want to kill myself now! Instead I'll probably just make these, because they sound pretty darn good.

8 Must-Visit Restaurants in Rome

I sure could've used this list when I was in Rome, in 2001. Of course, I'm sure not all these places existed then. In any case, we had a surprisingly difficult time finding anywhere decent where locals went. Almost every restaurant had the same sign, too, indicating that it was an "authentic" Roman restaurant, which seemed like a guarantee that it wouldn't be. I wish I could remember what it was that those signs said. Only once did we manage to stumble onto an actual neighborhood place, which was quite delicious.

Anyway, I figure I have to go back, because I've eaten Italian food in Tokyo. So now I have to eat Japanese food in Rome.

11 1/2 Things You Can Do With a Wooden Spoon (Besides Stirring)

Sometimes when making pasta, I use the spoon end to stir the sauce, then turn it over and use the handle to give the pasta a stir. It's probably silly of me to do - I mean, the sauce is going to end up on the pasta anyway, it's not going to hurt if a little comes off the spoon into the pasta water - but I do it anyway. Because heaven forbid I should wash *two* spoons. :)

Family Coming to LA? Take Them to These Restaurants

Let's not get to hating on El Cholo. It's not the most adventurous Mexican place in the world, but they're pretty good at what they do. Admittedly, it's not where I'd take out-of-towners, but as a reliably good place for dinner when we don't feel like cooking, it's great.

My parents and in-laws have enjoyed trips to Off Vine, Mozza, and Loteria (the one in Hollywood, though I wouldn't hesitate to take anybody to the one in the Farmer's Market, especially for breakfast). And there's always old standbys like Patina and Water Grill.

How to Make Quick and Easy Drop Biscuits

@Bill Woods: That's funny, I always get 11 and a bit too! Maybe we're both making them ever so slightly too big.

How to Make Quick and Easy Drop Biscuits

@BGEPizza: It makes anywhere between 8 to 20 biscuits - so unless you eat the entire batch by yourself in one sitting, it's not *that* bad. I think, honestly, you're going to have a hard time finding a decent low sodium biscuit recipe at all. They're almost all likely going to have at least a bit of salt and baking powder. This one only calls for one teaspoon of kosher salt, which is not exactly going nuts.

How to Make Quick and Easy Drop Biscuits

@badseed1980 and @Marissa Sertich Velie: For years I've been using a Cook's Illustrated recipe for quick drop biscuits that uses buttermilk. It's got a clever technique: You melt the butter and mix cold buttermilk into it, which gives you the tiny little chunks of butter. Then you mix all that into the dry ingredients. I wonder if the same method would work with regular milk?

Also, if you want something that looks more like a regular round biscuit, for forming you can use a 1/4-cup measuring cup sprayed with non-stick spray.

Manner Matters: Dealing With the Drunkety-Drunk

Or, just make friends with melancholy, brooding types of drunks. As long as they don't cross the line into "uncontrollable sobbing" you're golden! ;)

Can freezing a meatloaf make it better?

We make meatloaf about once a month or so. We usually use the Cook's Illustrated method (yes, the one with the gelatin, and I beg of you not to yell at me about authenticity) with a few minor modifications (details upon request but I don't think they're too terribly important in terms of this question.) However as with many recipes it makes far too much for our little family to eat in one night, so we usually take the finished mix and form it into two loaves - one to bake for that night's dinner, one to freeze and bake for another night.

So tonight I made one of the frozen ones, as my wife was called away at the last minute. I didn't even have time to defrost it, I just quickly made a pierced-foil-on-a-rack-in-a-rimmed-baking-sheet cooking platform and chucked it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. A probe showed it was still incredibly cold in the center so I put it back in for another 35, and then the center showed 150 - good enough.

The thing is... it had an *amazing* crust. Not just some browning like you get on most meatloaves, but a serious deep brown crust that took a bit of cutting to get through. And *yes* that crust was extremely delicious.

So after all that, I guess the question is... could it be possible that freezing a meatloaf could make a better meatloaf by giving it more time to brown on the outside before the insides get cooked?

London rioters defeated by kitchen staff

This story just came out today: a couple from Los Angeles were out for a fancy dinner in London recently, when rioters burst into the restaurant and attempted to mug them. Kitchen staff, armed with rolling pins and other "dangerous kitchen items" defended the couple and scared off the rioters.

Have you ever made your own flour tortillas?

Inspired by the recent post about making your own frozen burritos (I can't seem to find the link, but it was in the past few days), I'm considering making a batch of my own.

I also thought this might be a good time to make my own flour tortillas. One of the reasons I haven't before is that I'm not very good at rolling out dough, and so this seems like it'd be a huge pain for something my family probably wouldn't use up fast enough before they went bad. But if I'm making a batch of frozen burritos, spoilage shouldn't be a problem and the effort might be worth it.

So the questions are: Have you made your own? How much of a pain was it? Were they really tastier than store bought? And if you've got a recipe you really like, I'm all ears! (I gather purists say you must use lard, I'm totally okay with that.)

Potato Nails - do they work?

I've heard about people who put nails through the center of a potato they're going to bake. Does this really work? People say it does, but they give different reasons for what it actually accomplishes - does it speed cooking, or does it make the potato more evenly cooked?

I've always gotten quite good results by poking, oiling, and salting my potatoes, then baking them at 350 until they're done. No foil, no nothing, just right on the middle rack. It takes a while, but with a little planning that's not a big deal, and at least I don't have to do anything while they're cooking. As far as I can tell they're quite evenly cooked. If I used nails, would I really notice a difference in either cooking times or the quality of the final product?

Visiting New York

I'm taking my girl to NYC for our 10th anniversary. We're getting in the evening of the 28th, leaving late afternoon of the 2nd.

I should tell you that we've already got dinner plans for New Years Eve (which also just happens to be the day of our wedding anniversary): Restaurant Daniel. It's going to cost a mint, but what the heck, I expect to only have one 10th anniversary, so why not live it up?

Other than that, though, our gustatory options are open, and I'm soliciting suggestions for eats! Note: We've got theater plans for the 29th and 30th, so any dinner suggestions would have to be a place that has either early or late dining.

Also, fancy-pants is welcome, but certainly not necessary. How about a great place to get a slice? Is it worth standing in line at Shake Shack? Etc, etc. My only request is to go easy on the seafood places, since I'm deathly allergic to shellfish and not fond of regular fish.

I'm sure this isn't the first time this question has been asked, but if you don't mind answering again (and tailoring your suggestions for cold weather and my non-fishiness), I'd appreciate it!

Your childhood favorites: Are they still guilty pleasures?

Lately I've been overwhelmed with a desire to get some Strawberry Quik. Yes. The powdered stuff you mix into milk. and yes, I know: Blech.

But I can't shake the feeling that it will taste like my lost childhood, because man I loved that stuff. I can still almost conjure up the taste in my memory now. Still, we grow up and move on, and it must have been 20 years since I had any.

Besides, part of what I loved about it was the ritual. Back then it came in metal cannisters with a big round cap that you had to pry up with a spoon. You'd pour the milk, pop the cap, dip in the spoon, watch the crystals fall to the bottom of the glass, then stir and... drink.

These days they sell it in plastic jugs (yes, I've gone so far as to find it in the store. I know, flirting with disaster.) Not as good. Not at all.

So do you have any childhood favorites that you know are bad or bad for you, but that you can't help indulging from time to time?

A Sandwich a Day: Breakfast Sandwich at Market Café in Los Angeles

Market Café's breakfast sandwich ($6.75) breaks expectations even as it tows on the side of convention. The usual cast is all there, just in upgraded versions with better accessories. Eggs are scrambled in a thin layer, then folded and topped by aged cheddar cheese. A choice of turkey, baked ham, or bacon comes next. There is an ostensibly odd appearance of arugula leaves and sliced tomatoes, but any doubts tamp down upon bite. More