mostly retired, Italian-American disabled veteran who lives for good food and wine

  • Location: Birmingham, AL
  • Favorite foods: Italian (not Italian-American) dishes, crab, veal
  • Last bite on earth: world's best veal saltimbocca

The Food Lab Video Series is Here!

I am a long time reader/ user of SE and agree with many others that the "new" SE is not an improvement. Kenji's posts are great reading, entertaining and chock full of useful information - just as they' ve always been. The majority of the rest is not high value. I will cheerfully buy Kenji's cookbook, and probably gift two more, because I know much of what's in it works - and easily. I will not be renting or buying any videos. The biggest thing missing in the "new" SE is the community. We have become the target audience and potential customers, no longer the participants.

Make Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi in Less Time Than it Takes to Cook Dried Pasta

Very nice post with the video, photos and all. Ricotta gnocchi were my favorite until I developed lactose intolerance. Now, it back to ricing potatoes, which is the way to prevent making lead sinkers out of your gnocchi.

The Secrets of the Juiciest, Most Tender and Flavorful Italian-American Meatballs

Another way to insure moist and tender meatballs is to add about 1/2 cup of fresh ricotta to the mix. If someone wants/needs to avoid either the egg or the panade, this will help.

How to Make Meatball Pizza

For pizza, so one time I like to bake meatballs instead of frying. I shape them using a 1 inch scoop and bake in a large clay type lasagna pan. After the pan is loaded, I press each meatball slightly creating a flat bottom which makes them less likely to slide around ( or off) your slice.

The Food Lab: Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

@ Kenji - wondering why you added the fish sauce at the end vs at the beginning as with most sauces calling for chopped anchovies?

@T.R.Appleton: you can make a nice Bolognese style using ground chicken thighs and pancetta. I typically use the same amount of chicken as beef called for, but double the amount of pancetta to 1/2 lb to replace needed fat. Also use Italian tomato paste
( preference is Pastene) that I brown in the pancetta fat vs whole tomatoes. Agree with Kenji that whole San Marzanos are the way to go with beef and pork.

The Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

Agree that John's has a very good cheesesteak. Also agree that it isn't necessarily easy to find a truly great cheesesteak in the city of Phila. It' s actually fairly easy to find lots of very good, and a few great in the suburbs west of Phila, in South Jersey, and around Wilmington, DE. One sandwich found in the city which is great is the roast pork at Tony Luke's with sharp provolone, long hots and broccoli rabe.

The Food Lab: How to Make The Ultimate Creamy Spinach Lasagna

Ever try broccoli rabe as a substitute for spinach. More bitter than spinach but dynamite in a lasagna like this with some crumbled hot sausage.

The Best Way to Reheat Lasagna: Fry it Up! (Plus: Party-Ready Crispy Lasagna Skewers!)

Worrying about what to with leftover lasagna is like worrying about what to do with those leftover twenties that are always hanging around. Not gonna happen in my house!

Breakfast of Champions: Why New Jersey is Crazy for Pork Roll

Grew up in Delaware. We always had Taylor pork roll, typically eaten alone on toast as a sandwich or with fried eggs. I used to alternate days between pork roll and scrapple.

For those in FL, GA, AL, Some Publix stores carry Taylor Pork Roll, any store can order it.

What Cookbook Would You Buy For a First-Time Cook?

Bought my kids Bittman's How To Cook Everything, but wanted to say Kenji's book, if he ever gets it out (maybe too much globetrotting)!

Because Bacon: 35 Bacon Recipes We Love

The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous)

How about using bresaola as a substitute for the jerky?

The Serious Eats Guide to Italian American Recipes

Saltimbocca.......veal, chicken or pork. Easy dish with great flavor would be a good addition.

Taste Test: Is Domestic Parmesan Cheese Worth Using?

The main reason why domestic parms taste is so different, and not in a good way, from P-R is the grass eaten by the cows in Parma. A smaller, secondary taste influencer is the salt used. I totally agree that the domestic parms taste like cheddar.

The Best Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce

As an Italian, I wanted to be greatly offended by this technique......but it absolutely works for all the reasons stated. It can only be improved by including a nice neck bone, either beef or pork. Braise it about 3 hrs, remove the bone, pull and cut off off the little pieces of meat and add back to the sauce.

The Food Lab's Emergency Cooking Kit: How to Fit All the Tools You Need in One Small Box

Like your list Kenji, but would add a small cutting board, nesting measuring spoons, timer, and my flat digital scale. Might just include a medium capacity tall sided pot, small enough diameter to nest inside the saucier and cast iron, but enough capacity to make pasta, soup, etc. and most of the rest of the items would pack inside it.

Manner Matters: How to Share Food Without Being Rude

I found this post very well written, although not quite as interesting to me as some of the earlier topics addressed. In general, I agree with Daniel's remarks, but at the same time I'm ok with anyone commenting that they found the topic uninteresting. If I disagree with their comment, or don't care for their tone, I can respond accordingly, or ignore them, as I choose. Isn't that what you do in a "community"?

How I Got My Degree From Hot Dog University

In the present economy, Hot Dog U will probably serve you better than the master's. Good read.

Robyn Lee Is Leaving Serious Eats a Mere 7 1/2 Years After She Got Here

Best to you going forward. Really have enjoyed your posts which nearly always caused me to laugh out loud.

Extra Large, Cage-Free, and More: How to Shop for Eggs

Sound advice re washing. We raise our own chickens and wash all eggs, then refrigerate. They are way healthier and fresher (by weeks) than even the most expensive eggs in any store. Most store eggs are between 1-2 months old by the time you buy them.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen?

One in the kitchen, in the cabinet under the cooktop. One in the garage. One in each car.


Usually this problem is related to low oven heat. Preheating home ovens, with stone or steel in place, for one hour is a must to achieve minimum adequate baking temp to generate good oven spring. A light water spray can also help in electric ovens which tend to be very dry environments. If you are baking more than one pie, make sure you let the oven re-heat at least 15 minutes between each bake.

The Food Lab: Maximize Flavor by Ultra-Smashing Your Burger

Finally got around to making these - two ways. First, I put my Lodge cast iron pizza pan on my gas grill and preheated on high for 20 mins. The burgers tasted great but did not develop enough crispness, probably due to heat loss with the lid up. I then went indoors and used my stainless sauté pan preheated 20 mins on electric flattop. Not only were these smash burgers super crispy, the taste was well, smashing! Surprisingly, the smoke was minimal and nothing my hood couldn't handle.

Cornmeal Issue Part 2: Less smoke & folded pie

Adding to what others have said, get your pie stretched out to size before you get it on the peel. Next, get that dough topped within a minute. Pull your rack with stone on it out and tilt your peel as high as it will go with front edge resting on the stone about an inch from its back edge and shake it. Pie should come right off. Parchment paper works well too. Find it near aluminum foil in the market. It goes on the peel before the dough and gets sprinkled with Wondra or semolina.
Leave it a good inch bigger on all sides than your peel. Then follow above. After 3 mins, reach in oven with tongs in front of pizza and grab a corner of the parchment and snatch it out from under the pie, then finish cooking. It will add about a min to your bake time due to heat loss.

Jeff Varasano on Baking, Branding, and the Business of Pizza (Part 2)

Great interview, very interesting post. While no fan of fast food, if no other option is available, I will go out of my way to find Chik-Fil-A. The food may not be great, but I have never had anything horrible at any location, and, the customer service is always very good, cheerful and the stores clean. I strongly prefer an independent owner operated restaurant where there is unique food and atmosphere. Two problems I encountered often over many years are, these can be hard to find without local help, and sometimes, if they have become very successful, you can encounter arrogance from the staff.

Cooking/shopping help for expats in Japan

My son and his wife recently relocated to Hamamatsu, Japan. They have a fully equipped kitchen (minus oven) but little Japanese. I have been trying to send them easy recipes made of ingredients likely to be available locally. Anyone have any experience or suggestions? Thanks in advance.

The other (better) pork loaf

I keep reading about how great Spam is - I think not. Nor do I enjoy sousemeat or head cheese. But there is one kind of pork in loaf form that cannot be beat: scrapple! I'll have mine crispy brown cooked slow in a cast iron skillet. By itself, with eggs and hash browns, in a sandwich and fantastic with homemade salsa on top. How do you like your scrapple?

Need help with nutless pesto

I need to make a pesto but must leave out pine nuts, or any other nuts or seeds. In order to have some nut flavor, I was thinking of increasing the parmigiana then reducing the salt in the pasta water to balance. Anyone have any different ideas or experience? Thanks

Gas grill hack help needed

Going to try a modified gas grill hack today. Plan to put my 5/8 in Cord. stone down on the grates. The warming rack of my Weber Q320 is just wide enough to span the stone and should hold my Emile Henry stone about 3 inches above. Do I need be concerned about closing off the sides and back (there is little room)? Wondering if just having the top stone will produce some faster, and better tasting, results?

Pizza on Big Green Egg

Had a few owners of the Big Green Egg tell me that it is as good as a wood fired oven for cooking pizza and baking bread, it's just smaller. What has your experience been? If you couldn't have an WFO, would you buy one? What size?

Help with toppings

My dough is proofing in the fridge and I want to make some pies tomorrow. On one I would like to use the 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms leftover from tonight's dinner. What one other topping would go best with the porcini?

Desperate for tomato pie recipe

I grew up eating "tomato pie" but cannot locate a recipe to make it anywhere. This was made at most Italian bakeries on sheet pans and cut into squares. Different than pizza or "sicilian pizza", the crust is thick but soft, and it typically was topped only by a thick layer of paste-like tomato sauce with herbs: sometimes a few anchovies were added. Thanks for any help.

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