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.

The Makings of Beecher's Amazing Flagship Cheese

Personally I think Beecher's recipe (made with their Flagship and Just Jack) is hands down the best homemade mac recipe I've ever had. You can give it a bit more zip with more chipotle powder. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I never really liked most mac and cheese recipes as much as I liked the Kraft blue box, until I had Beecher's. I think the reason is not so much about the technique, but about the cheese itself. Most m&c recipes are basically the same - you make a bechamel, stir in some cheese, throw in the pasta, and bake. Buttered panko on the top before baking optional.

Sorry, New York; Why Los Angeles is the Best Pastrami City in America

@SilviaC: I was wondering about that too, and you gave me the motivation to google it. Turns out it's Yiddish for "to snack or eat, either very often or in very large quantities."

So basically, it's a way to describe those huge New York deli-style sandwiches that come with ridiculously huge piles of meat.

Which reminds me of great Mitch Hedberg bit about there being too much meat on those sandwiches:
It's like a cow with a cracker on either side. Walk in, order a pastrami sandwich. "Alright, anything else?" "Yeah, a loaf of bread and some other people!"

Sorry, New York; Why Los Angeles is the Best Pastrami City in America

@johncarl: I can see that nothing gets past your keen observation. It's true - Los Angeles has very few immigrants, and those few that we do get never open restaurants.

The Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches in the Midwest

Holy moly, these look delicious. I'm not *too* jealous - we've got pretty good food options here in Southern California - but I sure wish we had these as an option too!

The Food Lab: Introducing Lasagna Napoletana, the Meatball and Cheese-Packed Lasagna of Your Dreams

@Kenji: I made this on Sunday. I ended up having to put it in the fridge and cook it Monday night, and I don't think it suffered any ill effects. It was darn delicious, although I think I would skip the smoked mozz next time. Just didn't work for me.

I do have a question, though! Do you think it would work to make smallish patties instead of meatballs? Maybe about the diameter of your palm, and about 1/4" thick? Seems like it would be easier to get better browning (I had the devil of a time getting all sides of my meatballs browned without smooshing them). Also they'd be thinner and easier to layer in to the lasagna. Since the meat's already braised, it's not like hamburger where you want a looser mix before cooking, so no worries about packing the meat too tightly, right? I know it'd probably take a bit longer to form than a meatball, but you're using more meat each time, so maybe it'd balance out. I dunno, just a thought.

I was also wondering about the sausages - instead of braising and then slicing, what about slicing and then browning the slices in a sautee pan? That's what we usually do around here for sausages going into pasta sauce. The browning definitely adds flavor.

Just wondering what you think.

The Best Gin to Buy on a Budget

I may have to try that New Amsterdam. Sounds good. The trouble is that I'm a big fan of Hendrick's - I really like the cucumbery notes in there - but it's pretty damn expensive. If I could find a good cheap gin (Seagram's is a bit rough for me) I would probably drink it more often, but for now I'll probably stick with Evan Williams.

The Food Lab: Introducing Lasagna Napoletana, the Meatball and Cheese-Packed Lasagna of Your Dreams

Well. Now I know what's for dinner on Sunday.

In Defense of St. Louis-Style Pizza

Well, I'm from L.A., but I'm no pizza maven, so I'm game to try something new. How bad could it be?

But unfortunately, there appears to be no St. Louis style pizza anywhere around here. There was a restaurant in the Valley some time in the late 90s, but it doesn't seem to exist any more.

Imo's will ship, but the shipping is outrageous. 62 bucks to send two pizzas to California. I've gotten frozen pizzas from Malnati's in Chicago and it's nowhere near that pricy.

Anyway, so, the upshot is: Does anybody have any other suggestions that don't involve flying to Saint Louis? Or, Kenji, perhaps there will be a Pizza Lab forthcoming?

8 Great Hangover-Busting Dishes Around the Country

@PommeDG: I totally get you. Their LA coverage has always been spotty. In fact, their coverage of pretty much everywhere that isn't New York or Chicago is spotty. But they *used to* have two LA correspondents.

8 Great Hangover-Busting Dishes Around the Country

Whoops - that was Damon, not Damien, Gambuto.

8 Great Hangover-Busting Dishes Around the Country

@PommeDG: They have, or at least used to have, several. Damien Gambuto wrote burger reviews in LA, and Farley Elliot did taco and other reviews. Damien retired, but I thought Farley was still around. Perhaps not.

The 10 Best Budget Bourbons

Well, in Southern California I've never seen Old Ezra (maybe I should check at Bevmo). But they do sell 750ml bottles of Evan Williams for 11 bucks at the grocery store. Sometimes a handle will be on sale for $20. It's good and it's cheap. What else do I need?

All-Belly Porchetta

I made this for Christmas, and it was incredible. The only problem I had was that after the initial 2 hours, it was still nowhere near 160, more like about 110. But I think that probably has more to do with my oven than the recipe. I knocked the heat up to 325, and with about another hour of roasting and basting it was ready for the final two hours. I think the skin might have gotten just a bit too dry because of the hour, but luckily it only crisped up to *almost* burnt. I got it out just in time.

I also did the potatoes, and frankly they were almost more amazing than the pork itself. I'd been worried, because up until that final 500 degree blast, they looked a little pale and greasy. But 20 minutes at 500 turned them into something truly majestic.

In short, this is a damn fine recipe. And I still have an entire other roast in the freezer.

The Food Lab: My 11 Favorite Recipes of the Year, 2014

Holy crow, that smash burger looks good. Oh man. I want some of that.

Enter to Win Our Favorite Chef's Knife, a KettlePizza Kit, Le Creuset Dutch Oven, and More!

Wow, that's a fairly amazing package.

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.

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