Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

Image of Zuni Cafe roast chicken adobo, with crisp rice salad

Zuni Café Roast Chicken Adobo

Few dishes fill a room like a roast chicken. It’s an ultimate comfort — a homestyle dinner that conjures a sense of warmth, togetherness, family. It’s crisp fall afternoons raking leaves in the yard. It’s a fuzzy sweater in a well-worn armchair. It’s Hannah and Her Sisters or an early Belle and Sebastian record. It also sucks butts nine times out of ten. Seriously, how many dry, flavourless chickens have you suffered through? Breast meat hammered so bad, it’s basically straw. Or, the alternative — a greasy, flabby bird wagging unrendered fat beneath its pale, clammy skin. There’s not enough gravy in the world to cover up these disasters. If only most chickens were this joyous. But when it’s done right, a roast chicken is a thing of marvel. There’s a reason one of the most storied restaurant dishes in American history is the chicken for two from the Zuni […]

Image of Spanish tuna poke

Spanish Tuna Poke

After last year’s string of rants, everyone knows my thoughts on summer. This year’s no different. The sooner everyone trades their board shorts and bellinis for textbooks and tea, the better. Let’s leave it at that. A hot summer day plays tricks with your palate, though. I’ve never been one to shy away from a rich meal (hell, I’ve roasted turkeys in July with all the fixin’s). But, it’s been creeping into the 80s here in Seattle this week and the heat’s knocking me dead. Suddenly, pot after pot of Texas chili doesn’t sound so good. Even my old standbys — pizza, takeout Thai, gyros — are too heavy for sitting pantsless in front of the fan, binge-watching Stranger Things. So, I’ve done as the clichés commanded — I couldn’t handle the heat and I got out of the kitchen. Instead, I’m looking to the masters of off-the-cuff hot weather […]

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Mexican Chorizo Hash

Reading The Postman Always Rings Twice a couple of years back, one thing really stood out. James M. Cain hated corned beef hash. In a hundred-odd pages, his characters bitch and moan about the hash house more than once. “That road, it don’t lead anywhere but to the hash house,” whines Cora. She and her illicit beau actually hatch murder plans just to keep her from slinging hash the rest of her days. Jiminy! Now, I can’t imagine working in a Depression-era diner was a swingin’ good time. Still, it unfairly gives hash a bad rap. Few dishes offer such rib-sticking satisfaction for such little effort. When you think about it, hash is just a chopped and sautéed salad. (The name does come from the French hacher, “to chop”.) At its simplest, it’s a bunch of vegetables and/or meat cut into small pieces and tossed in a pan. (By that […]

Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Girl, this curry’s gonna make you sweat (a la la la la long)

Clearly, we’re at the end of days. Maniacs are terrorizing the planet. Disease and destruction abound. The greatest rock stars in history are knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door to sound the seven trumpets (as if Prince couldn’t handle it himself). His Purpleness could do anything. All the media panic over the state of our world misses one big question, though: What’re you gonna eat when the Rapture comes to town? “Whoa! Lighten up, D! No need to go all Jim Bakker on us!” You’re totally right. Still, it’s worth considering how you’ll survive in an emergency. Even in a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re gonna have to make dinner. At least we’ll have forks covered. If you’re like me, you have an old pirate trunk stuffed with storage water and cans of Chunky Chicken à la King. (Or, you’re a normal person who’s never given it a thought.) Either […]

Crêpe with salad

Re: No more pancakes, please!

Hey Dad, We need to talk. We know you’re trying hard these days and we appreciate it — really. We know work’s been rough and your boss is really riding your tail. We know the drain in the basement keeps backing up. We know about the centipedes in the shed out back. We know Uncle Joe’s reptile farm — smart investment though it seemed — isn’t doing so hot. We know mom has been really busy since she started spending so much time with her trainer, Russell. Uncle Joe always was a wild one. So, we don’t want to sound ungrateful — really we don’t. But we can’t eat any more pancakes. Please don’t be offended. We love pancakes once in a while. Now and again, breakfast for dinner really hits the spot. (And your scrambled eggs got a lot better after you read that great blog post you showed […]

fresh tortilla topped with chipotle chicken and avocado

You’d be surprised how easy it is to make fresh tortillas from scratch

Some things just ain’t worth your time. Remakes of horror movies. Hooking up with your ex. Growing your own celery. They seem like fun at first, but each one is a weapons-grade headache in the making. Take my advice: Leave that stuff to the professionals. It’s a pattern throughout everything in life. There are costs and there are rewards. The trick lies in managing that balance — getting the most value for the least effort. Call it “return on investment” if you’re a business jerk, “bang for your buck” if you’re your dad. I prefer the line from my favourite mid-2000s teen sex comedy, The Girl Next Door: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Sometimes, it just isn’t. On top of the stuff I already mentioned, there are lots of things I don’t think are worth the hassle. Cleaning bony little fish. Vacuuming. Reading Victorian literature. Voting. A lot of […]

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What’s cooking… without cooking?

Riddle me this! What’s cooking… without cooking? The dream of single mothers everywhere? Probably. But, let’s try a little harder. Need a hint? How ‘bout this li’l ditty? Bright and fresh with ocean brine I go great with crisp white wine Especially on the Latin coast (Mexico, sure, but Peru the most). Tart and tangy, soft and sweet, I am cooked, but without heat. Acid turns me firm and white, Without any fire in sight. What am I? Give up? Clearly you’re not the Riddler-loving, brain-teasing dork I am. That’s OK, though. Ceviche doesn’t discriminate. Ceviche (say it with me now, “suh-VEE-chay”) rules the school of raw-ish fish preparations that now dominate restaurant menus and cooking TV shows (sorry, pesca crudo). At its simplest, it’s just sea critters and lime juice (although tomatoes, cucumbers, and chilies often find their way into the mix). The lime juice denatures the proteins in […]

The base for microwave crème caramel in a mug

How to make an incredible dessert out of stuff lying around your office lunchroom

Everyone’s so down on technology these days. “The Internet is turning us into drooling mushheads!” “No one talks anymore! They just fiddle with their damn cellphones!” “The government spies on us through our e-mail!” (OK, fair point.) Still, the joys of progress well outweigh the gripes of a bunch o’ crybabies. I’m not just talking about Roombas and 24/7 access to dirty pictures, either. I’m talking about antibiotics that’ve kept millions from writhing into an early grave. I’m talking about upgraded rice strains that fill the bellies of starving children. I’m talking about Class IV lasers that can crisp just the fat of bacon, leaving the meat striations crudo. “Wait… what?” Molecular gastronomy. It’s been a buzzword (or buzz phrase, rather) in kitchens ever since Ferran Adrià whipped up his first lecithin foam. Taking ingredients and techniques from the packaged food industry, so-called modernist chefs tweak the textures of their […]

gulyás with coleslaw

Try the gulyás. Skip the Kool-Aid.

If the Academy Awards prove nothing else, there’s still no accounting for taste. This year, I’m overjoyed (and not just because I won my Oscar pool). Spotlight strikes a win for journalism, classic Hollywood filmmaking, and plucky do-gooders taking a corrupt system to task. It’s the best movie of the year, easy. If only we could say the same about some other Best Picture winners. C’mon, even Paul Haggis thinks Crash sucks. Crash, Forrest Gump, Ordinary People — no one today thinks these were the movies of the year (if they were any damn good at all). Still, the old, white members of the Academy nodded and lacklustre producers waddled off with their shiny, gold, Clue-inspired murder weapons. Maybe these movies suck. Maybe they just ain’t my bag. It’s hard to say when taste comes into play (and my old lit crit profs would argue that to death too). In […]

Sautéed shrimp, broccoli couscous, vadouvan aioli, shaved cauliflower

Vadouvan aioli and why comedian Eddie Griffin is a secret genius

Let me be the first to say it (or at least the first this century). Eddie Griffin is completely right. Say wha’?! Now, maybe Ed wasn’t the funniest comic of his generation. Or the smartest. Or the most original. But, if nothing else, he made one vital point crystal clear to all of us – mayonnaise is a little sick. That’s right, mayonnaise! The creamy condiment of depressing office sandwich platters the world over. From Eurotrash french fries to your favourite burger joint’s “secret” sauce, it’s hard to escape the omnipresence of mayo. Way back in 2002, I probably would’ve agreed with the Undercover Brother. At the time, I was new to the world of emulsified salad dressings. Growing up, I hated mayonnaise. When Ma threw a sandwich my way, I demanded only the finest of spreads – Parkay Margarine. Really, I was one step away from loading up my […]