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Pithy and Cleaver

Latest Entries

All the Garlic, All the Time: Garlic Chicken Risotto

“What’s for dinner?”

The way that you somehow know which food sounds good to eat at any given moment kind of astounds me. Do I want Italian tonight? Burritos? Maybe a banh mi? Or just an open box of Triscuits, a jar of Nutella, and a handful of Craisins? Sometimes I want something light and delicate and citrusy and green.

And then sometimes: sometimes I just want garlic.

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If this garlic-loving mood ever strikes you, I have the exact perfect thing: a gorgeously thick risotto with garlic two ways. It’s not delicate, it is not subtle; this pops you upside the head with flavor. Sharp pops of heat from the finely minced bits, and a soft, oozing unctuousness that tastes like nothing so much as sweet, mild honey, from the slow-cooked whole cloves. They are seriously magical, and you will probably wish that you had more than what the recipe calls for.

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I ended up skipping on the risotto-standard cheese finish — it was already easily rich enough, and I honestly kind of didn’t want the cheese to interfere with my garlicfest. The same restraint didn’t apply when it came time to consider the white truffle oil. (Sidenote: regardless of what unabashed berk Gordon Ramsay, et al. have to say on the matter, you can try to pry my white truffle oil out of my cold, dead hands…but chances are good I will reanimate as a zombie to prevent you. And then I will eat your brains. With white truffle oil on top.)

I will admit that I ate this on a pleasant solitary evening, curled up on my couch with a Doctor Who marathon, so i can’t speak to the state of one’s breath when all is said and done…so I’d probably suggest dishing this up DURING a date, to spread the garlicky wealth, instead of scarfing down a solitary bowl by yourself beforehand.
Read on…

Love makes you do the wacky: Blueberry pie.

Looking at my Con Ed bill, it’s hard to believe that technically, we’re still at least a couple of weeks away from the real dog days of summer. It is hot here, the sort of heat that renders asparagus limp and rubber-soled shoes sticky to touch. It’s the kind of weather that complicates my relationship with my kitchen; I love it dearly, I do, but I can’t bear the thought of a single second in its sticky embrace.

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Usually, this doesn’t present much of a problem–after all, there are plenty of delightful no-cook meals out there–but it does offer up a heavy dose of irony: it’s the perfect time of year to make fruit pie (berries! peaches!), and I can barely stomach the thought of turning on my oven. Combine that with the…complicated relationship that pie and I have cultivated, and you’re looking at a whole world of missed opportunity. At least, until recently.

Turns out, there is nothing on this green earth that Dr. Boyfriend enjoys so much as blueberry pie. And there are few things I enjoy so much as perfecting dishes that I know people love. Also, winning. Duh. Combine these three characteristics, and one thing becomes clear: I would master fruit pie. Oh yes.

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In order to achieve this, there were two problems I needed to overcome: first, I needed to find an idiotproof crust recipe. Second, I had to figure out how to keep the filling from being too runny–typically, my fillings collapse under the weight of their own deliciousness. Not a pretty sight. As I so often do in these situations, I turned to the internet. And hoo boy, internet, did you deliver.

First, I found what must be an utterly idiotproof crust recipe. Unsurprisingly, it came from Cook’s Illustrated. Surprisingly, it kind of recast everything I know about crust. Example: the dough that I set to rest in the refrigerator was very moist–kind of tacky, actually. It meant I had to flour my rolling surface heavily–which I’d been warned against doing in the past–an absolutely necessary step that somehow left the crust still tender and flaky (rumor has it that overflouring one’s crust makes it tough).

Second, I discovered the secret to a non-gelatinous, non-runny pie filling: quick-cook tapioca. I can’t really offer any further commentary, other than to say that this crazy ingredient achieves what flour, arrowroot, and cornstarch have all failed to conquer: it makes the filling cohesive, coherent, and not the least bit icktastic. Amazing.

All in all, the result was beyond what I’d hoped–I have a new crust recipe, and a newfound confidence in the kitchen. Also, someone for whom I’ll cheerfully turn on my oven in July. If that’s not winning, I don’t know what is.

Read on…

Savory Summertime, Here At Last: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I know. I know! You thought it would never happen, didn’t you? You thought that we would be mired in rain and cold and terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days forever, didn’t you. Well, check this: miracle of miracles, the sun has decided to finally make a prolonged appearance in our skies! This has had a few immediate impacts on my life. One, after a weekend spent largely outside I no longer look like a fishbelly. And two: PIC. NIC. TIME. If you know me, you know what picnic time means! Buttermilk fried chicken!

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As so many good recipes do, this one comes to us straight from everyone’s favorite culinary scientist, Alton Brown. He’s kind of like the wacky uncle of the food world, and I bet he’d be a kick in the pants to hang out with. At any rate, his fried chicken sure is! An overnight soak in buttermilk is the extra-special secret, the reason why, no joke, every single person who ate a piece last weekend said some variation on, “My god, how did you make it so tender and moist?” followed immediately by a conversation about how nobody likes the word “moist.” But tender it is, and moist it is, and when you eat it you will even be willing to overlook profligate usage of that particular word.

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The other secret is the dousing of the buttermilk-soaked chicken with a little spice rub. It’s no secret blend of herbs and spices — salt, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne — but it makes it just a little spicy, just a little salty, and a whole lot awesome.

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I also like to take the opportunity to practice my butchering skills; I generally get whole chickens and carve them into their component pieces, but feel free to give yourself a headstart with pre-portioned bits. One thing I do recommend, because it is fun and also because it makes the resulting bits way easier to eat when you’re in a park, is to remove the bone from the thigh, if applicable.

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When you’re frying, you should be able to fit two of each (breasts, thighs, drumsticks) into the pan at the same time. Don’t be afraid to rotate them around a little as you near the end of the frying time — because they’re essentially folded in half, I find it particularly helpful to prop the thighs up on the open side to help seal them shut into delicious little packages of fried chickeny goodness. Ideally when you serve this, all of your friends will have also brought something to share so you shouldn’t have to worry about sides and all that. Just sit back, and enjoy the accolades. And the chicken. Enjoy that, too.

Do you have a favorite picnic recipe? Let us know in the comments!
Read on…

More secret weapons than you can possibly imagine: Incredibly awesome chocolate chip cookies

A Scene*: We meet our heroes checking the weather for the day. The time is far too early. The day is not important.

Shiv: I’m not sure I understand what the weather is supposed to be doing; it’s going to be sunny, but raining at the same time? That icon is confusing.
Doctor Boyfriend: That’s not actually rain, it’s blood. It means that we should expect the apocalypse.
Shiv: For serious? But I don’t have any clean socks. I’m not ready.
Doctor Boyfriend: You can do laundry here. I will not send you back to New York unprepared for armageddon.
Shiv: It’s ok, I can wash my socks at home. I need to locate my flaming sword, anyway.
Doctor Boyfriend: Wait, you don’t know where that is? How do you lose a flaming sword?
Shiv: I mean, I *think* it’s under my bed. I’m pretty sure. Yeah, it’s got to be there.
Doctor Boyfriend: You know, if ever there were something you should keep track of…
Shiv: What, the end of the world is coming because I lost something in my apartment?  God is not only vengeful, but petty? Is that what we’re talking about?
Doctor Boyfriend: Well–
Shiv: Wait, no. No more military theology before coffee. Bigger question: am I going to need an umbrella?

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As there was no coffee to be had (I know, I can’t talk about it) we made these cookies instead; I’m hoping they’ll work as a peace offering if the sword is not where I think it is. And, frankly, I think they might–these cookies are (if I may say so myself) pretty flippin’ tasty. After years of trying, I think I have almost perfected the recipe–the cookies are dense and chewy, but not leaden. They’re buttery, but not greasy; sweet, but not too sweet. Of course (because I am so difficult to please), the recipe is probably going to remain a work in progress for the rest of eternity; where cookies are concerned, I am ever in pursuit of biggerbetterfastermore. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to mention them in the comments!

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*Content edited slightly for my brain’s inability to retain things verbatim.

Read on…

A distinct disinclination towards the proper precautions: Hoisin Duck Spring Rolls.

It’s a well-documented fact that I am something of a physical disaster in the kitchen. This is in keeping with my general character and way of navigating the world–I’m clumsy, I fall over a lot, and my balance is terrible. As such, it makes perfect sense that I rarely make it out of the kitchen unscathed (as I may have mentioned before, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the face of Jesus or Kate Middleton appears in the tangle of burn scars on my right arm). Knowing this, you’d think I might have the sense to avoid such extreme sports as, say, deep-frying without proper supervision or tools. You’d think I might consider ways in which to avoid obtaining a massive hot-oil burn on my fingertips. You’d think I might show some inclination toward self preservation.

You’d be wrong.

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For all the damage it does to my insurance premiums, however, my cavalier attitude in the kitchen frequently nets some really glorious dishes–like the hoisin duck spring rolls I made the other day. For one reason or another, I found myself with an excess of duck meat and a craving for something fried; and, given that my pantry almost always looks like an asian grocery store exploded inside it, a spring roll seemed like an excellent way to deal with both my reality and my desire. Plus, I hadn’t injured myself in a while, and it really was time.

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As woman cannot live by duck and oil alone, I opted to bulk up the filling with some braised savoy cabbage–with plenty of ginger and garlic, it’s about as addictive and savory as anything you’d ever hope to eat–and added a little crunch with some chopped scallions. The lightness of the cabbage was an excellent foil to the the rich roasted duck, and the sweetness of the hoisin made it complex, unctuous, and oh-so-irresistible. And, surprisingly, much easier than I expected! Of course, don’t limit yourself to this particular combination–I bet it would be equally lovely with tofu and carrots, or chicken, or anything else delicious that you’d like to fill the spring rolls with (I, personally, will probably try it with chicken and avocado next time).

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A quick note before you attempt this, however: no matter how nimble you are, no matter how ninja-like and quick, RESIST THE TEMPTATION to flip your spring rolls over in the oil using your finger. I promise you, you are not fast enough to avoid sacrificing a fingerprint to the gods of molten oil. Trust me on this one.

Read on…



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