How To

In a world where we’re always seeking out the new, making and remaking an old favorite has the advantage of propelling us towards perfection.

That’s what happened when Alex and I made pasta with tomato sauce a weekly dinner staple, its assembly a cherished routine. He makes the sauce, and I assemble the dish. As he’s grown to know exactly how the garlic should look and smell when you’re ready to add the tomatoes, I’ve determined the right scale of acidity to richness (olive oil, parmesan), and how to melt mozzarella in the bottom of the bowl so each forkful of pasta includes a cheese pull. These days, our pasta with tomato sauce has gotten really good, because of a few particular ingredients and techniques.

I know this might sound simple, even trivial, the idea of going through a dish that a lot of you could make in your sleep in such detail. But with a couple extra flourishes and some mastery of timing, I think you can transform a ho hum dinner into the kind of food that reminds you why you cook, why you eat, and why you rarely need to order take-out.

For a two-person dinner and leftovers, you’ll need 3/4 pound of pasta (any shape), one 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes, an onion, as much garlic as you can stand peeling, a hunk of parm to grate, and some good olive oil (if you care). I sometimes put mozzarella into my pasta, but the dish is also good without.

Here’s the step by step.

How to Make Your Own Chicken Biscuits

Posted by on Thursday Apr 9th, 2015

Most of the time, when I go to write a “complete guide” for this series, I have at least a solid relationship with the food I’m about to research and recreate. That’s because I’ve made a point to conquer only the most beloved classics like pizza, pancakes, and burgers.

But chicken biscuits are a beloved classic to many who adore Bojangles’, Popeyes, and Pies ‘n Thighs–they just weren’t on my personal menu. So, with the help of my friend Anika, who introduced me to the chicken biscuit at Cheeky’s, I pestered experts and tested recipes until I’d achieved some minor expertise. The result? Enough know-how to turn out flaky biscuits filled with crispy chicken tenders and condiments from cold gravy to jezebel sauce–all in my own kitchen. The full guide on how to master the chicken biscuit, over on First We Feast.  

How To Make Chopped Salad at Home

Posted by on Friday Jan 9th, 2015

Some office lunch staples just aren’t so good. But some are. Pretty much whenever I don’t pack a lunch, I seek out my day’s servings of vegetables at one of the chopped salad joints that have colonized NYC. Not even the lines can put me off. When you discover a way to make vegetables truly palatable, people line up, especially in January.

In my tastings, I’ve gotten to be pretty good at choosing the right mix of salad ingredients. But I wanted to know more about prep, assembly, and chopping, and so I turned to Nick Kenner, founder and managing partner of Just Salad, which has more than 20 international locations.

From Nick, I learned enough about salad to whip up this Mexican Chicken Chopped Salad (with manchego, red kuri squash, and creamy chipotle dressing) easily and well. Want to get chopping too? You should read all about salad over at First We Feast.

How Expert Cooks Do Easy

Posted by on Friday Nov 28th, 2014

The Thanksgiving feast is hard to execute and tastes delicious. But that doesn’t mean that all delicious meals are hard, welcome news on this weekend after the biggest cooking event of the year.

A few weeks ago, I asked an assortment of my favorite chefs, cookbook authors, and bloggers for the dishes they make that are deceptively simple yet outrageously delicious. The ones that require little effort but deliver a huge payoff. I wanted to point you to it today, because once I’m done gorging on leftovers, that’s the kind of food I’ll want to make. See the dishes, from salt-crusted fish to crispy fried eggs, over on First We Feast.

You’d think that a move between two apartments two blocks apart would be easy. But the distance from apartment #1 to #2 turns out to matter a whole lot less than the number of years you’ve hoarded kitchen equipment in the old place (four) and the sum of stair flights to be climbed between the pair of Brooklyn walk-ups (six and a half). Two blocks can be long indeed. We were going to need some help.

How to Make the Best Parm at Home

Posted by on Thursday Sep 25th, 2014

We grew up with chicken parm (served with French fries!) on the dinner rotation. Man, I loved that meal. Then, for a while, I neither made nor ate parm. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it had too many steps. Maybe red sauce Italian would just never fully be okay again.

Yet with the emergence of Parm as an NYC restaurant force, the dish is truly back. I decided to figure out the best methods for making it, plus suss out where it came from in the first place, what’s authentic when it comes to parm, and if you really need to bread eggplant and let frying crumbs splatter in your face to make a great dish.

You can read the full piece, with recipes and tips, over at First We Feast.

I started Big Girls, Small Kitchen because I love to cook at home–obviously. But when I’m inspired by the cuisine of a far-flung place, sometimes it’s hard to find the right ingredients to follow even a simple recipe, and the only option is to go out. To equip ourselves to cook any cuisine in the confines of our small kitchens, we’re sending contributor Lauren Rothman off to visit the Russian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Greek, and Italian supermarkets of New York City. Her shopping expeditions will yield the specialty ingredients we need in order to make the food we’re craving at home these days.

Today, Lauren’s off to Bangkok Center Grocery, a Thai emporium in New York City, located in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Will the store have everything she needs for pad see ew and som tum?

Here’s Lauren:

As an avid home cook and an enthusiastic eater of New York City’s myriad cuisines, my appreciation of southeast Asian dishes goes way back—all the way to middle school, when some like-minded friends and I (read: total geeks) formed an “ethnic” cooking club. As de facto president, it was my responsibility, each month, to comb through my mother’s extensive selection of cookbooks and select the 4 or 5 recipes that club members and I would prepare together before sitting down to feast. Ostensibly, any type of fare could be eligible for the “ethnic” moniker, but over and over again, I found myself drawn to fragrant Indian rice pilafs; bright, cilantro-and-mint-stuffed Vietnamese summer rolls; and, above all, fiery, fish sauce-heavy Thai curries and noodles. More often than not, the cooking club sat down to a meal redolent of galangal, palm sugar and Thai basil.

Part of the fun of preparing for these monthly feasts was the excuse, as an intrepid young subway rider, to hop a train to parts of the city previously unknown to a brownstone Brooklyn native, in order to seek out those exotic ingredients. That’s how, all those years ago, I first discovered what remains my favorite Manhattan source for Thai ingredients: Bangkok Center Grocery. A tiny, supremely well-stocked store located on Chinatown’s Mosco Street, Bangkok Center crams all the essentials of larger southeast Asian groceries onto its well-curated shelves, from fish sauce and dried shrimp to fresh herbs and bitter melon.