A Perfect Thanksgiving in Five Easy Steps

Snorkel

You don’t need me to tell you the five easy steps for a perfect Thanksgiving. The Internet is full of suggestions and there have been books written on the subject (my favorite is Sam Sifton’s “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well”; keep it in mind for next year).

At this point, there are only five other steps you need to take to make your Thanksgiving perfect. Actually, it’s five breaths, not five steps. Just remember to breathe, and everything will be perfect. According to The New York Times (and sages from across time):

Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat four times.

Congratulations. You’ve just calmed your nervous system.

I’ll have my drawing pad, but everyone has their lungs. Make the most of them this holiday. If you want to learn more, here's the Times article


Don’t Whine about Thanksgiving, Get Some Advice about Thanksgiving Wine

2016-11-20-19-30-wine-turkey-color-LR 1200

Longtime readers (oh, the faithful, I thank you) may notice a change to the layout of Stay at Stove Dad. I’ve freshened the design and made it mobile friendly, so I hope it’s easier to use. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is an awareness of my limits as a father. My darlings Nina and Pinta remind me every day! So when it came to picking wines for the big Thanksgiving holiday, I knew enough to ask around. I checked with my friend W. R. Tish, a father of two and a certified wine expert, for some advice this year. Here’s what he has to share. I found it very reassuring. Happy drinking!

Here’s to Thanksgiving, Our National Wine Holiday

With Turkey Day fast approaching, a chorus of call-outs can be found all over the Web, and in stores, on TV… for wines that belong on the Thanksgiving table. Lucky for us: It’s all pretty good. 

Yes. Most all of the heapin’ helpings of T-giving wine recommendations bobbing to the surface of the Great Wine Sea are in fact excellent. 

Without fancy 90-point numbers, with critics and consumers alike recognize that the Thanksgiving spread, whether classic or modern, is an exercise in controlled food chaos (stuffing and yams and cranberries — oh my!). And for the most part, wine advice has followed suit. Merchants and writers are promoting flexible strategies and relative abandon. 

Perhaps more ironically than ever in this politically haywire year, the unifying force behind Thanksgiving wine is… Diversity.

You’ve got your bubblies and rosés and Rieslings. You can pick a Pinot or three—Noir, Gris, even Grigio. Chenin? Sure. Chinon. Double-sure.

Then there’s Bojo (as in Beaujolais, Nouveau or Cru) and Chardo (as in Chardonnay—steely or oaky okay).

And Gee-whats-her-name-er. Yes, Thanksgiving is the holiday where if you bring Gewürztraminer, someone will cheer.

Plus reds galore to be poured without fear: Zin, Syrah, Shiraz, Grenache, Tempranillo…heck, you can even unscrew a Merlot without flinching.

I do believe we’ve reached a tipping point. People get it: Thanksgiving is open season, a solid green light to drink whatever you want—and/or to experiment. Think about it: what really does not go with Thanksgiving’s peaceful riot of flavors? 

Actually, there are some red-wine flags. You can leave your trophy Napa Cabs in the cellar, I’d say. And heavy Italian reds.  What else doesn’t fit… wines from Turkey? Butterball Vineyards? If it’s grape-based and fermented, there’s probably room for it at the Thanksgiving table circa 2016.

All things considered, I think the time has come to declare Thanksgiving America’s wine holiday. Time to put the Fruit of the Vine right up there with turkeys and pumpkins and pigskins. Let’s make it an annual cork-popping celebration of good taste, of course, but even more importantly, of Diversity.

Tish’s 2009 T-giving Top 10

Here are some perennial greatest hits from T-giving at my house, where we have had anywhere from 12 to 20 guests:

            ◦           Beaujolais Cru. Bojo Nouveau is feeling sooooo 20th century. Go for the real deal. Morgan, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Ven

            ◦           Off-dry Riesling. A fruity foil to sweet and tart and gamey flavors alike; and pleases Aunt Tillie from the get-go.

            ◦           Rosé. Because everyone’s drinking it. And it does flatter turkey.

            ◦           Pinot Noir. This is the one wine that is splurge-worthy.

            ◦           Bordeaux. Humble Bordeaux, that is. Nothin’ fancy.

            ◦           Rioja Reserva. Like BDX, a quiet crowd-pleaser, and worth stepping up to the Reserva level.

            ◦           Buttery Chardonnay. Never fails to keep someone happy.

            ◦           P-X. Nothing says hola! to pecan/pumpkin pies like Pedro-Ximenez.

  1. W. R. Tish is the Managing Editor of Beverage Media, and develops wine tastings via his website wineforall.com. Follow him on twitter @tishwine

Welcome NPR Readers: A Few Thoughts on Parenting, Procrastintion, and Mortality

Great_Martini_Sky

My dad died of prostate cancer eight years ago. I was thinking of this today, because I received very sad news this morning. Michael Crawford, someone I did not know well but who I was proud to call a friend, died yesterday of the disease. I had learned a week or so ago through Facebook, that he was terminally ill, and I wanted to see him before he was gone. But even a delay of a few days was too long. Crawford was a remarkably talented cartoonist and artist (Michael Maslin’s blog Ink Spill can fill you in), and his passing reminded me not to procrastinate.

My father was a complicated man who kept his complications to himself. I don’t think I’m any less complicated than he was (being a man, and above all, his son), but I am not going to harbor my complications. I’m going to air them out. It’s the only way I’m going to make sense of them. And I know that my chief complication has become universal: It is no longer clear what is expected of a father these days.

When my dad was raising a family, I think, it was clear to him what he was supposed to be doing—mostly making money and acting as a moral compass for the family. Those things are expected of me, too, but that is where the certainty ends. I’m also expected to a little more, such as make the lunches, make the dinners, balance the check book, pay the bills, tend to my daughters’ homework, take the kids to soccer, and, and, and; I’d go on, but not even the whole Internet itself has enough space to list all the responsibilities that are mine.

In my dad’s day, these were things handled by my mom, who banged out dinners every night, or skipped over the rest of it. Things like homework, sports, and college applications were if not entirely self-directed, pretty loosely supervised. These days, you practically have to pry the pen from the parent’s hand if you want to see a child’s college-application essay. What is expected of mothers has shifted radically, too.

There is no model for what parents do these days. We are all making it up as we go along. Which, I suppose, is what our parents did too, but it was easier back then. Think about the car. All they had to worry about were seat belts. I remember installing our cars seats when Nina and Pinta were young, and being told that the local fire department gave classes on how to do it correctly. And forget about having them sit in the front seat. Even they know that one has to be thirteen or something to sit there safely, because of the airbag. There is just so much more to keep track of now.

But I’ll stick to what I know best, which is my own experience, with art and the kitchen. My dad could not have modeled the right behavior for me had he even wanted to. The only thing he knew how to do in the kitchen was to make coffee. I on the other hand, have many ideas about how to feed one’s family. I was recently interviewed for a post on the NPR blog about cooking for busy families. If you’ve been reading along here, you know some of my strategies. If you want more ideas, check out their post, here.


The Three Secrets to No-Stir Polenta

2016-07-10 color spoon page #0

Polenta has a terrible reputation for requiring endless stirring. But no-stir polenta is not some mythical unicorn. It’s within reach*. And the benefit of no-stir polenta is that you can have a lush and delicious side dish (and, even, a proper entrée, if you top it with roasted beets and cheese, or something equally rich,) with very little work. You just need to know a few small secrets.

  • You have to start with good cornmeal.
  • It will take a long time.
  • You will need to do some stirring.

About that cornmeal: Go with what tastes good to you. I’ve tried various reputable brands but they did not please the missus. I found one at my local coop that’s marked “New York State Cornmeal.” I know nothing more about it, other than it has a sweet and deep flavor that pleases. Enough said. Do some experimenting.

About the amount of time you will need: Bank on a good 50 minutes to more than an hour.

And you will need to stir the pot. Not continually, but every ten minutes or so. Here are the instructions:

No-Stir Polenta

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (note that I use a little less, but this often leads to the question, “did I salt the polenta?”; do what you think is best)
  • 1 cup cornmeal of choice
  • 1 Tablespoon (or more) of butter
  • ½ cup (or more) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring the water to a boil.

Add the salt.

Whisk in the cornmeal very carefully, practically a grain at a time.

Stir for a good minute.

Cover the pot and turn down to a simmer.

Every ten minutes, stir the pot for a good minute, scraping up off the bottom that which sticks.

Repeat until the polenta is cooked. About 50 minutes to an hour. You can tell by taste and consistency. When it tends to stick to itself, and pull easily from the side of the pot, it is done.

Stir in the butter and cheese.

Enjoy!

*I did not invent this method. Far from it. Marcella Hazan and Mark Bittman each have recipes for it, the former somewhat reluctantly and the latter somewhat gleefully. I’m sure if you looked further, you can find others. The beauty of cooking, of course, is that no one invented fire. It’s just there, and I’m here to help you figure out what to do with it. Same for cornmeal.


Happy Father's Day: The New Yorker Runs My Dish Rack Drawings

IMG_6023

Happy Father’s Day to all. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Let me explain. Lately, I’ve been cooking up more than food in the kitchen. I’ve been making drawings, and making peace with myself. The drawings are of my dish rack, which I’ve been illustrating just about every night since March. I wrote an essay about why this is important, and how it benefits my children. The essay is now on The New Yorker’s website, which also has a couple of dozen of my early efforts. For the complete dish-rack experience, I’ve also created A Dish Rack a Day, on Tumblr, but that’s another story for another time.


How to Be Smart about the Smart Kitchen: Introducing the HieBAR Kitchen Media Platform

HieBAR_Clean
With the exception of refrigeration, the technologies that captivate me in the kitchen have been around since the beginning of time. Fire and water are pretty much all I need. But there’s no stopping progress. My brother-in-law recently wrote about how his new oven is connected to the Internet so I know that the smart kitchen is already here. But as my brother-in-law's post makes clear, the smart kitchen has yet to be perfected. According to my friend Ryan H. Behroozi, a Brooklyn-based product designer, the problem with the connected kitchen isn’t in the software, it’s in the hardware. But he’s not suggesting getting a new tablet or touch-screen. He has a better solution, his new HieBAR Kitchen Media Platform, a premium piece of kitchen hardware designed to give safe, ergonomic viewing and fluid access to your tablets and cookbooks.

  • The HiBAR holds tablets with or without covers, as well as cookbooks big and small
  • It makes it easy to move your media and still be able to view it
  • It easily converts from countertop-to-undercabinet mode
  • It is fully adjustable for height, tilt, swivel
  • It is all-metal and hand-crafted in the USA
  • It folds up, back or removes when not in use
  • It is super-easy to install

“Existing countertop stands and clip-in/clip out tablet mounts have not done much to bring us the kitchen of the future we all saw on ‘The Jetsons’,” Behroozi says. So he invented a beautiful object that is both flexible in how it can be used and durable in its construction. The HieBAR frees up counter space because it can be mounted under cabinets. “Countertop tablet stands and do little to enhance working access and tablet safety, are difficult to move when loaded, and really just add to countertop clutter,” he notes. “The tablet is still far away from the viewer and still vulnerable to spills and splatters.  We move around our workspace to perform tasks and the tablet is only useful when we can comfortably read it.  The notion of using a tablet mount to set up a fixed “information hub” that remains relevant throughout all phases of our kitchen practice, simply does not make sense.”

The answer, Behroozi says, is “a safe, accessible multi-location parking capability” for our tablets.  “Ideally, a chef should have safe, fluid access to their tablet adjacent to prep areas, sinks, stovetops, refrigerators and other storage areas.  Sometimes that means simply being able pick it up and move it from its perch, without going through a big clamping and unclamping routine.”

The HieBAR’s unique design makes it extremely easy to use. “You should be able to sit on your couch, pick a recipe, then go to the kitchen and park your tablet in a convenient place based on what you are doing and where you are doing it.  You should be able to do all this without having to take your tablet out of its case or cover and then re-clip or re-clamp it into a stationary mount.” 

“The HieBAR lets you configure and reconfigure your ‘parking’ platform in different undercabinet and countertop working arrangements to see what works best for you and your situations.  In countertop mode HieBAR stands high off the counter and you can move it, fully loaded with a heavy book and/or tablet, with just one hand.  In undercabinet mode it is high and safe, off of the counter and adjusts (height, tilt, swivel, lateral) for optimal viewing.”

The HieBAR’s construction and design sets it apart from other contemporary products. Behroozi says this addresses the “disposability fallacy.” Most clip-in/clip-out tablet mounting gadgets are made of IM Plastic, extruded and stock aluminum tube and assembled by grey market labor, Behroozi points out. “Because our tablets and electronics are perceived as ‘disposable’ with a two-to three-year useful life, people often reason that the things that hold and display them should be similarly throwaway,” he says. “They don’t expect these enabling utilities to be beautiful design objects, built to last and nice to look at even when empty.  I'm clearly working to change that view.  HieBAR is not a tablet accessory.  It’s a new soon-to-be essential kitchen enhancement.”

The HieBAR is locally sourced, made in nearby Poughkeepsie. “Consider people who invest installation time and money ($300-$1,200) in a nice quality overhead pot rack to display and access their cookware,” Behroozi says. “I'm advocating the idea of giving your kitchen that same respect with regard to media display and access.  We’re even going so far as to initial and number the first 100 HieBAR Units engraved ‘series A’ to emphasize that beyond being functionally unique, it is really a design object made with the best, materials and craftsmanship.”

The market is responding.  “You may notice on Houzz.com, our exclusive web-retailer, that rather than being in the ‘recipe and cookbook stands’ category, we were curated into the ‘pantry-and-cabinet-organizers’ offerings with items that require complex installation, many of which, are priced in the $200 to $1,100 range,” Behroozi notes. “Like these items HieBAR is an investment in your kitchen.  Unlike these items,  the HieBAR undercabinet track is very easy to install and works on virtually any cabinet.  You also get two track sections with each HieBAR package so it can mount and move under any two cabinets in your kitchen as well as perch comfortably on any work surface.”
 
When asked why his product is engineered to hold even oversized cookbooks, Behroozi, points to his potential customer.  “We built this product for people who are avid chefs and design enthusiasts – not necessarily in that order.  They are going to lead the way in advancing this idea.  We see them as people who embrace the digital but will always have an appreciation for the analog.  Plainly put, while our customers like their tablets, they keep and cherish their cookbooks – and they love their kitchens.”
 
The HieBAR Kitchen Media Platform is debuting at the Bklyn Designs show open May 6-8 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and you can also find out more about the HieBAR on its Facebook page.


Gluten-Free Popovers

000020_GF_Flour_Color_Box_LR

I know little about gluten, beyond its troublesome reputation, but, frankly, that’s enough. I have friends and relatives who suffer when they eat it, and I cannot help but notice a correlation between how much of it we consume and my children’s eczema. The less gluten we eat, the better their skin appears. Still, we miss it. As my eldest told me yesterday, “Being gluten-free is not so good because you miss out on all sorts of stuff and you have to double check and you have less of the foods you like.”

Less of things like pizza and bagels, the former a staple and the latter a New York City treat. This is because gluten is instrumental in getting dough to rise. The gluten acts like a balloon, trapping the gasses from the yeast. This tiny bit of knowledge has stopped me from trying to make gluten-free pizza dough. The only other thing I know about gluten is a bit about its etymology. The word “gluten” dates back to the 16th century, initially referred to animal protein, and can trace its root to the Latin word for glue.

At some point, I’ll try making gluten-free pizza dough (anyone with any tips, send them my way). In the meantime, I figured I’d start with something easy, like popovers. “JK,” as my ten-year-old says, when she slips into texting language: “Just Kidding.” Popovers are incredibly temperamental creatures, but, after nearly two decades of marriage, I have an affinity for such things.

Plus, I had King Arthur’s multi-purpose gluten-free flour on my side, and the box comes with a recipe for gluten-free popovers on the back. I’m good at following directions and the recipe worked. We were salivating as the rising popovers filled the kitchen with a delightful aroma, they were airy and crispy from the first bite.

King Arthur Flour’s Gluten-Free Popovers

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 cup multi-purpose gluten-free flour
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 12-cup popover pan or muffin pan (Note: my popover pan is for six large ones, and it worked fine).

Whisk together the eggs, butter, and milk in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the the dry ingredients to the bowl of milk, eggs, and butter, whisking continuously.

Whisk the mixture until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the greased cups, filling each one about 2/3 full.

Bake for 25 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.

During baking be sure to NEVER open the oven.

Remove pan from oven and let popovers firm for 5 minutes.

Remove popovers from pan and eat immediately, preferably with butter and jam

Here’s how they looked when I put them on the table. Enjoy the smiles.

Popovers_LR


How Quickly Did These Gluten-Free Corn Muffins Disappear?

000018_GF_Corn_Muffin_Orange_LR

As an experiment to improve the heath of our children, we are trying out the gluten-free lifestyle. Like me and many of their forebears, Nina and Pinta have long had eczema, to varying degrees. This recently distressed Santa Maria so much that we agreed to try going gluten free.

Santa Maria was even willing to give it a shot herself, though lacking any health need she said she had nothing to gain. On the contrary, I told her, she would at least now be trendy. She didn’t really like that, but as the one charged with stocking the pantry every week and shoveling coal into the bottomless furnaces of our growing offspring day in and day out, I felt entitled to a bit of humor.

We started the experiment a few weeks ago, mostly by eliminating such beloved items as pizza and bagels from our diet. Aside from asking gluten-free friends for bread recommendations, we haven’t really tried replacing baked goods (though on the first day I attempted gluten-free pancakes, without doing proper research, and we all suffered). Monday afternoon, however, Santa Maria whipped up a batch of gluten-free corn muffins that made everyone forget the experiment.

She found a recipe online and substituted King Arthur’s gluten-free multi-purpose flour (which from subsequent pancake attempts we discovered is a good, if slightly sweet, replacement for regular flour, in some recipes). The muffins were light and crunchy, with a crispy edge and deep corn flavor. She added frozen blueberries and raspberries which delighted Pinta and added another level of color and complexity. Toasted and topped with melting butter, they disappeared faster than it could be revealed that they are gluten-free. I could barely find one left to draw when all was said and done. I hope we see more of these around the house soon. Here's her recipe.

Santa Maria’s One Bowl Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

  • 1 cup cornmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill coarse grind)
  • 1 cup King Arthur multi-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries and/or raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Grease muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Optional: add 1 Tablespoon frozen organic blueberries or raspberries to the center of the batter (my favorite is a mix of both).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean and the tops are lightly golden.

Serve with butter and a frosted glass of cold milk!


What Are You Doing for Valentine's Day? I Have An Answer

000017_BAM_Valentine_Clean_Color_LR
Ever since the beginning of time, one simple question has bedeviled men: what to do on Valentine's Day. Worry no more. I am introducing the Build a Meal feature, a simple map of an excellent repast. Most folks who visit blogs like this or who look at cookbooks know how to do many things in the kitchen. What might be lacking are ideas. How do you put together a memorable meal? If you are working or have kids to take care of (or for most parents, you are doing both) it can be very difficult to carve out the time to think about these things. And on Valentine's Day this is no trivial matter. For those who know how to cook, the above picture will do the trick. For anyone else, let me explain the steps.

1) Steal a salad. I was recently at The Odeon, where I had a most enticing baby kale salad topped with knobs of white goat cheese and sweet red pomegranate seeds. You can riff on this recipe here, which, by the way, I stole from Prune, years ago.

2) Make a mushroom risotto. Instruction are here.

3) Get a good steak. I suggest the 28-day aged steak from Union Market, if you are in Brooklyn.

4) Cook it like I showed you how here. You can't lose (though it will get smoky).

5) Finish with some store-bought ice cream. You've cooked enough already.

Now go get shopping (and don't forget the wine. If you need some help there, try my friend Jim's site, JVB Uncorked or if you are on a serious budget,  Cheap Wine Curious.)


Hammer Time! New Cookware from Hammer Stahl

HammerStahl_Pan

I don’t believe that one needs fancy cookware to make a fine meal. It’s more important to knows one’s cookware, to know one’s stove, to know one’s ingredients, and, of course, to paraphrase the Greeks, to know one’s self. All the same, it's nice to have good pots and pans. I cherish the Le Creuset Dutch Oven that Santa Maria and I received as a wedding present many years ago. And now I can count among my treasures a brand-new Hammer Stahl sauté pan.

The manufacturer recently gave me one to test out and write about and it is a fine addition to my kitchen. The bottom is thick and heats evenly. It has a pair of handles, which I found useful while making bacon. And it’s deep, holding four quarts, and comes with a lid, which means it can do double duty making sauces.

I used it the other night to prepare my “trusty” puttanesca. I put trusty in quotes, because in recent months the sauce has fallen out of favor with my youngest one. However, the night I used the Hammer Stahl, she ate it enthusiastically. Could it have been the new pan? Who is to say?

Through the end of the year, Hammer Stahl is making it easy for you to find out for yourself. It is offering the new, 4-quart deep pan with cover at the special price of $99.00 (regularly $229). Visit www.hammerstahl.com/316Ti to take advantage of this offer.

And if you don’t know how to make a puttanesca, get thee to the stove and get started!

Puttanesca Sauce

  • 1 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes, crushed (or hit with an immersion blender, which is very fast and kid friendly)
  • 4 or more cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 1T capers
  • 12 or so black olives, sliced
  • herbs such as basil or oregano to taste (completely optional)

        Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic and anchovies and chili pepper. Saute until garlic is soft, add tomatoes and reduce.

        When the sauce thickens (in about fifteen minutes), add capers and olives and any herbs.

        Serve over the pasta of your choice.