in the kitchen with noon

in the kitchen with noon

Because a visit to the local market did nothing but whet my appetite for Thai food, I press-ganged Chef Noon into a brief cooking lesson in the show kitchen at Paresa. Three courses plus dessert sounded a little daunting at first but with lots of room to spread out, ingredients at the ready, and the guiding hand of Chef Noon leading me step by step, it was enlightening. Nothing too fancy; just a beginners excursion into Rattanakosin, the modern era of Thai cooking, which happens to feature a strong Chinese influence: woks, deep-frying, noodles. Goong Sarong would be our starter, a simple yet visually impressive prawn marinated in pepper, salt, and coriander root, wrapped in vermicelli noodles and deep-fried. Next, we moved on to a red curry. The secret, I learned, is to first cook the curry paste in a little oil, add your meat – we used duck breast – then coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Take it off the heat and stir in eggplant, grapes, pineapple, to allow the flavors to be drawn into the soup. Bring it to a boil a second time, adding chilis, basil, and a soupcon of ever-present fish sauce and remove from heat again. The whole process takes about five minutes. Letting the curry rest infuses the broth with the fruits and herbs, giving it a heady smell and marvelously rich taste. (And in so short a period of time – I was amazed.) Chicken stir-fry was the most easily accessible of the courses: deep fry lightly breaded chicken pieces until golden brown and allow them to drain on a paper towel. Heat a little oil in a wok, quickly frying peppers, onion, chili, and cashews. Season with oyster sauce and soy before mixing in the cooked chicken and voila, dinner is done. The results were more impressive than I had imagined, but dessert is where things really got creative. Tiny sweet Thai bananas battered in rice flour and coconut, deep-fried and served with a scoop of ice cream. There was enough batter left over that I thought I might show the chef a few tricks of my own. Thickening the batter with a bit more coconut I tossed spoonfuls into boiling oil, rolling the resulting pillows in a mix of white sugar and coconut. Beignets, I told her: fried dough balls. A bit frightened at first, Chef Noon and Fern, the curious Sales Manager who stopped in to watch us, soon gobbled them up, proving that in the kitchen we’ve all got something to learn.

mise en place

curry, soy sauce, spices, sugar

vermicelli wrapped shrimp

thai red curry with duck

chicken stir fry with cashew

deep fried banana

my beignets

fern with chef noon


butchery is back

In a time when many Americans yearn to know the origins of their food, meat education has become a hot topic. As has whole-animal cooking, at-home butchery, and other trendy meat techniques. The current DIY spirit has inspired more home cooks to branch out, turning casual carnivores into informed authorities.

In The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising, Kari Underly, a third-generation butcher, reaches out to this new generation of serious home chefs, covering all the fundamentals of butchery, with photos of every cut, step-by-step instructions on technique, and the best beef-cutting tools as well as cooking methods. Her book starts big – at the carcass level – and walks the reader through parts of the animal and individual cuts: from primals and subprimals, all the way down to ground beef. In a word, she is the go-to expert for all things meat.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or simply a curious at-home chef, Underly’s book makes for fascinating – if somewhat niche – reading. But if butchery doesn’t exactly scream out to you as proper bedside reading, here is a clip of a recent crash course Underly gave viewers on the Today show.


naughty chicken

I got an email the other day with one of the best subject lines I’ve read in a long, long time:  The Naughty Way To Roast A Chicken.  Coming courtesy of Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan and the people at Apartment Therapy Media, it made for an amusing read.  Moreover, it’s suggests a rather inventive bit of adaptive reuse for those of us lacking the cabinet space to store myriad bits of kitchenalia.

So as to not spoil the fun, I’ve cut and pasted the complete e-mail below.  Click the link to sign up for their weekly email, The Kitchn.


Last week I went to a press lunch showcasing a collection of snazzy Staub cookware that Williams-Sonoma will start carrying this summer. The chefs prepared the meal almost exclusively in giant Staub slow-cookers (or cocottes, as they call them) and grill pans.  That was cool, but what really caught my eye was this phallic vertical roaster awkwardly perched in the corner of the kitchen, and naturally I started thinking about chickens.


Daydreams took me to another single-purpose item in my kitchen with a big upright pipe: the bundt pan. On the way home, I picked up a chicken and embarked on a rather obscene journey with the pan that until this fateful moment lived mostly in obscurity in the back of a cabinet, and occasionally made innocent cakes for sweet little tea parties.


For the uninitiated vertical-roasting virgins, you should know that the great thing about doing it vertically is that it’s more efficient and gives more even browning without having to tie up your bird. You can vertically roast everything from a tiny quail to your Thanksgiving turkey. The bigger the bird, the bigger the time savings. But you have to be brave enough to handle that raw meat from all sides and literally plunge it onto an offensively large shaft. You’ve read this far, so I know you can do it.

Before putting it in the oven, I rubbed the chicken down with salt, pepper and some dried orange rind I had laying around. This turns out to be a nice treatment, but honestly, I didn’t really care how my bird was dressed. I was just making it look pretty for a second before I did the deed. To prop it up, I put some baby potatoes and onion wedges beneath the chicken’s rear. These roasted in the peppery fat that dripped off the chicken and made for a tasty side dish.

I’ve written the recipe without specific seasonings and under-body props, so just ask yourself what turns you on, and dress accordingly. This is about a new position more than anything else.

Bundt Pan Vertical Chicken
serves 4-6

3 to 4 pound chicken
Salt, pepper and spices to season
Potatoes, hard fruits, onions to prop

If using seasonings on the chicken, rub them into the skin. If you have time, let them penetrate for an hour or more in the refrigerator. Otherwise, get right down to business.

Place an oven rack low enough to accommodate the bundt pan plus an extra few inches. For me, this means using the bottom rung. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Scatter a layer of propping fruits and/or vegetables on the bottom of the pan. Turn the chicken upright (legs on the bottom, wings on the top) and plunge the body onto the bundt pan’s central spike.

Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350°F and roast another 40-45 minutes, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the breast registers 155°F. Turn the oven back up to 450°F and roast another five minutes, or until thermometer registers 160°F.

Relieve the chicken of its bundt-y intrusion by carefully lifting it off with tongs. Set it on its back to rest on a plate. Check the roasted vegetables for done-ness. They should be tender but not mushy. If under-cooked, return them in the pan to the oven until done.

Congratulations. You’re innocent no more.


Bonne Année

Happy New Year!  Or as they say in Paris, Bonne Année!

I’ve done a lot of cooking at home with friends and relatives over these past few holiday weeks.  All that good, solid food puts me in the mind of the sturdy bistros and brasseries of Paris, where I’ve been lucky enough to indulge in some of the most magnificent home-style cooking.  Paris also happens to be the best place in the world to shop for kitchenalia of all kinds. (Those who know me well know my weakness for slipping copper pots, madeleine molds and obscure bits of cutlery into my luggage on every trip to the French capital)

And while you can find kitchen shops all over Paris, some of the largest and most well-known are located not far from each other near Les Halles in the first arrondisement. It’s not surprising that you’ll find the cookware shops here: for centuries, Les Halles was the site of the wholesale markets that fed Paris.  Dating to medieval times, when merchants from the countryside brought their wares into the city to sell, the distinctive iron and glass buildings of Les Halles were constructed in the mid-19th century, and the area became known as “the belly of Paris.”

By the early 1970s, Les Halles was seen as a dirty and noisy blot on the Paris landscape. In a fit of modernization – or desecration, if you will – the city moved the wholesale market to the suburb of Rungis and replaced the food markets with an indoor mall that’s never really worked well.  While the chefs of the city now go out beyond the Périphérique for their pre-dawn purchasing, they still buy their equipment in the Les Halles area.

So in the spirit of the new year – and new resolutions to bundle up against the cold and make more Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, and Soupe a L’Oignon at home – I wanted to share a few favorite shops which have altered the landscape of my kitchen over the years.

For many years, if you wanted to buy copper pots or anything special for cooking, you headed to E. Dehillerin. Since 1820, this family-owned store has supplied professional chefs and avid home cooks with knives, pastry molds, pots and tableware and obscure utensils you didn’t even know existed. Julia Child bought her copper pots here; they now reside in the Smithsonian Institution.

I’m not sure when the store was last remodeled – if ever – but the aisles are narrow, the shelves are stacked high, and the wooden floors are worn. Sales reps in green work coats stand near the entrance, but don’t expect them to rush to help you; they’re much more likely to be filling a commercial order. Instead, prowl through the poorly-lit crowded spaces before throwing up your hands and asking for help in finding that special Pommes Anna pan you’ve been searching high and low for. It’s a bit like stepping back in time, but make no mistake: Dehillerin probably has what you need – as long as it’s not electric.

18 – 20, rue Coquilliere. Open Monday from 9am to 12:30pm and from 2 – 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Closed Sunday.

Just a few blocks away, several other stores cluster near each other on rue Montmartre. Mora has been in existence even longer than Dehillerin – depuis 1814. But they’ve updated through the years (and moved from their original location) so the shop is contemporary in design, even if the aisles are still so narrow you have to negotiate with other shoppers to move through.

In addition to the professional-grade pots, pans and molds, you’ll find a specialty in pastry equipment. They’ve got lots more, including mandoline slicers, cutlery, cocktail mixers, bread and ice cream makers and glassware.

13, rue Montmartre.  Open Monday – Friday from 9am – 6:15pm, Saturday 10am – 1pm and 1:45 – 6:30pm. Closed Sunday.

La Bovida is the Paris outlet of a chain of professional chef’s stores throughout France. It’s a relative newcomer among these kitchen outlets, founded in 1921. You walk into a high bright atrium; a ring of shining aluminum pots hangs above your head.

The store extends over three levels, with an enormous inventory of serving dishes for catering. It’s a much larger store than Mora. La Bovida is also well-known for carrying a line of spices by the kilo, in addition to everything for the table.

36, rue Montmartre. Open Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 6:30pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, closed Sunday.

A. Simon has two separate stores next to each other, each with its own entrance. One store is large and well-lit and features supplies for professional hotels and restaurants, as well as table linens and china patterns for the table. The other shop is pastry-chef heaven – a narrow space crammed with everything a pastry cook might ever think of needing. Like the other cooking stores, this one has been an institution in Paris for over a century, since 1884.

48 and 52, rue Montmartre.  Open Monday from 1:30 – 6:30pm, Tuesday – Friday from 9 – 6:30pm, Saturday from 9:30am – 6:30pm. Closed Sunday.

Right around the corner from the cookware shops is G. Detou. Pronounced in French, the name sounds like “J’ai de tout,”  a play on the phrase “I have everything.” And though the store doesn’t sell equipment, it is the ultimate source for any obscure ingredients you might need to cook with. They’re stocked with a voracious assortment of chocolate, nuts, artisanal honeys, mustards (even Fallot’s!), preserved fruits and spices from around the globe.

Even if you’re not cooking at home or packing specialty items home for gifts (the tins of sardines are works of art), you can get foie gras and other gourmet snacks here to make a picnic of it.

58, rue Tiquetonne.  Open Monday – Saturday, 8:30am – 6:30pm. Closed Sunday.


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