Salted caramel rum ice cream.

So I posted a video and a picture on my Instagram feed of this salted caramel rum ice cream, the video showing the sugar caramelizing and the picture showing the final product. That generated a few recipe requests, so here’s my best rendering of what I did, because I winged it at a few points.

If you’ve never made caramel, it is chemistry in motion and the movement of the sugar through various stages never ceases to fascinate me … but it’s also a bit dangerous, as the sugar will reach temperatures well above boiling, and if it splashes at all, it will stick to your skin. Don’t skip the corn syrup in the recipe; the addition of an additional sugar beyond sucrose prevents sugar crystals from forming, which would prevent caramelization.

You’ll need an ice-cream maker of some sort for this, as well as a metallic whisk, and I recommend a heatproof silicone spatula for stirring the custard once the eggs are integrated.

Salted rum caramel ice cream

1 vanilla bean
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (2% or higher)
6 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp rum
large pinch of salt

1. Whisk egg yolks to an even blend in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the interior seeds into a sauce pan with the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Warm over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then boil rapidly, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan to remove any sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to turn brown, around 320 F/160 C. Swirl pan occasionally to ensure even heating and to prevent burning once the browning begins. When the entire mixture is a deep amber color (around 340 F), turn off the heat.

3. Add cream to the pan carefully (it may splatter), then return to low heat and whisk or stir to dissolve all solids. Add milk and heat to a simmer.

4. Slowly pour the hot mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. (If you pour too fast, you’ll just scramble the yolks.) Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring constantly until the custard reaches 170 F/76 C. (The heatproof rubber spatula will let you scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent any of the mixture from overcooking.)

5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rum and salt. Store in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, process in an ice cream maker; mine took about 25 minutes to reach the right texture. Freeze until firm.

If you enjoyed this, check out my annual list of cookbook recommendations or my gift guide for cooks too!

Stick to baseball, 9/24/16.

I named Houston’s Alex Bregman as our 2016 Prospect of the Year, and listed a bunch of other worthy candidates and the 2016 draftees who had the top debuts as well, all for Insiders. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the cute, fast-playing game New Bedford, where players build the town and send ships out on whaling expeditions to rack up points. I really loved everything about that game – it looks great, the play is simple, Within that review is a paragraph on its two-player spinoff, Nantucket.

You can pre-order my book, Smart Baseball, on amazon already; it’s due out in April. Also, sign up for my email newsletter to stay up to date on all the stuff I write in various places.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 8/6/16.

Seems like it’s been a lot more than a week since my last links post, since I’ve traveled twice in the interim. Here are all of the Insider pieces I wrote in that span, all of which relate to the trade deadline:

How the Yankees’ rebuild gives them a top 3 farm system
The Liriano/Hutchison trade
The Matt Moore trade
The Jay Bruce trade
The Lucroy trade
The Will Smith and Zach Duke trades
The Carlos Beltran trade
The Reddick/Hill trade
The Andrew Miller trade
The Melancon trade

My review of Quadropolis, the fun new city-building game from Days of Wonder, is also up over at Paste. It’s a little more complex than Ticket to Ride (DoW’s biggest title), but my daughter, who’s now 10, loved it. There are many ways to score, so it’s a game of choosing two or three of those paths to focus on rather than trying to do a little of everything.

There was no chat this week due to travel, and I’ll be taking the beginning of this week off to work on my book, returning to ESPN duties on Thursday (and chatting as well).

And now, the links:

  • HTTPS is now now vulnerable to a new exploit. This is kind of a big deal because the “s” is supposed to mean that the connection is secure.
  • The Rio Olympics are probably going to be a disaster, and the IOC is a corrupt mess, but the inclusion of a separate team of athletes who are refugees was one of the IOC’s most noble decisions in ages. One of those ten athletes is a Syrian swimmer who swam for three hours to push her refugee boat to safety, saving the lives of 20 other refugees in the process.
  • This week, vaccines and the Presidential race collided in a big way, as delusional Green Party candidate Jill Stein continued to pander to the anti-vaxer movement with equivocations so broad the Porter in Macbeth thought she was overdoing it. She’s wrong, and so is snopes’ defense of her statements, according to the important pro-science (and anti-pseudoscience) blog Skeptical Raptor.
  • Stein’s moment of science denial means Hillary Clinton is the only one of the four candidates who hasn’t pandered to anti-vaxers. This is important, because if you think people who believe something so monumentally stupid as this anti-vaxer bullshit are a constituency you can and should capture, I’m not voting for you.
  • The Sacramento Bee, a paper in a state where I’d guess Stein has some support, also ran an op ed calling her view disingenuous.
  • On to the election … Meg Whitman, a politically active Republican who ran for governor of California on the GOP ticket, has chosen to support Hillary Clinton with her money and her time, because she views Trump as a dangerous demagogue, comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini and – the part I both liked and agree with – “warned that those who say that ‘it can’t happen here’ are being naïve. I connected the Sinclair Lewis book of that name to Trump back in March.
  • The former head of the CIA quit his job at CBS and endorsed Clinton, explaining why he believes she’s the right choice for our national security in this first-person op ed.
  • In the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, columnist Nick Cohen writes that the cowardice of other Republicans has allowed Trump to get this far. This isn’t the GOP of Ronald Reagan, nor is it the GOP for whose candidates I have voted dozens of times in federal, state, and local elections since I first gained the vote in 1991.
  • I thought this was the best political-comedy tweet of the week:

  • Let’s move on to food, including this piece from 2015 on how resting the meat improves barbecue, even when the resting time is a few hours.
  • I missed this outstanding piece from the New York Times when it first ran in October, on genetics Ph.D. and wheat breeder Stephen Jones, called Bread is Broken, which explains how our wheat and thus our bread has become so much less nutritious over the last two centuries, and how we might fix it.
  • I’ve saved this recipe for watermelon rind preserves with ginger and lemon to make the next time we buy a whole melon.
  • The nation’s third-largest poultry producer is defying rising concerns and even a CDC warning about prophylactic use of antibiotics in our food chain, even running ads bragging that they still use these drugs. Antibiotic resistance is as real as evolution – the latter causes the former, inevitably – and this is flat-out irresponsible. But I’m glad they’re outing themselves so I can try to avoid their products.
  • Remember when I was horribly sick in January with a fever of 101+ for six straight days? The drug that finally defeated the infection was Levoquin, part of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, but those drugs have some nasty side effects, including tendon damage. WHO considers these antibiotics an essential medicine, one of the most effective drugs against gram-negative bacteria, but more doctors need to reserve them, as my doctor did, until other safer antibiotics have failed.
  • Germany’s Condor Airlines has started a “book on board” program that grants travelers an extra kilogram of weight allowance if they show a sticker from their local bookseller.
  • Jess Luther has done great work on the systemic problem of coddling college athletes who rape women, especially the rampant corruption in Baylor’s football program. Her book on the topic is coming out this fall and here’s her first interview about it.
  • In a related story, the University of Florida appointed a booster of the football program to adjudicate a Title IX hearing on a rape case involving Gator football players.
  • Deadspin reports on the opening hostilies in the battle over the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark boondoggle. The City Council of Arlington approved the stadium proposal 7-0 despite no evidence whatsoever of economic benefit and some early signs of public dissent.
  • ISIS has become a hot-button term in our Presidential election, but that doesn’t change what they are, the evil the Daesh do in Syria and Lebanon, or their attempts to sow terror in Europe. This piece on how they’re kidnapping and training child soldiers will chill your soul.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing an opponent in the Republican primary for his seat. This wouldn’t be notable except that his opponent wondered aloud why we allow any Muslims to be in our country.

Stick to baseball, 7/22/16.

My one Insider piece this week ranked the top five farm systems in baseball, a list that may look different by August 2nd. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday, and reviewed the reissue of the boardgame Agricola for Paste.

And now, the links…

Gluten-free cocoa brownies.

One of the recipes that first got me hooked on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats was his first brownie recipe, which he calls cocoa brownies and featured on the legendary “Art of Darkness II” episode, as well as in his book Good Eats: Volume 1, The Early Years. (He later modified the baking technique in a blog post to create a gooier end product, but I haven’t tried this.) I loved this recipe because the brownies tasted like cocoa rather than like fudge, and hit that perfect textural note that isn’t too fudgy but isn’t too much like chocolate cake. It gets lift from the eggs rather than baking powder or soda, and using brown sugar for half of the sweetener introduces a more complex and slightly darker note. The only alteration I would ever make was to swap out half of the butter for half a cup of a neutral vegetable oil, because all-butter baked goods dry out too quickly, while baked goods made with at least some oil will stay moist for several more days.

Since I now have a few folks around me who need to avoid gluten, I’ve been experimenting a bit with converting recipes rather than buying expensive, highly processed gluten-free mixes that take all of the adjustments out of my hands. When I had a request for GF brownies, I thought of AB’s recipe because it calls for so little flour – ½ cup, or about 70 grams. Swapping that out for some King Arthur Gluten Free Multi Purpose Flour (not their GF baking mix) and adding 1/8 tsp xanthan gum for structure produced a brownie that looked and tasted just like the original version did, with only the slightest hint afterwards that something was different. (You can get both of those ingredients at Whole Foods.)

So here’s my gluten-free adjustment to Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies:

4 large eggs (they don’t have to be organic or cage-free, but I do prefer them for many reasons)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
½ cup neutral vegetable oil (soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, canola)
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1¼ cup (about 150 g) cocoa powder, either natural or Dutch-processed (my preference)
½ cup (about 70 g) King Arthur gluten-free multi-purpose flour
⅛ tsp xanthan gum

1. Grease and flour an 8×8 metal baking pan or line it with an aluminum foil sling for easy removal. Preheat the oven to 300 F.

2. In your stand mixer, whisk the four eggs until yellow and foamy. Add both sugars, the salt, and the vanilla extract and whisk until fully combined.

3. Combine the oil and melted butter, and whisk them into the egg/sugar mixture.

4. Sift the cocoa powder, gluten-free flour, and xanthan gum together and add to the bowl. Mix on low speed until no dry clumps or pockets remain, scraping the sides and bottom if necessary.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour (yes, it’s much longer), testing the center with a toothpick, which should come out nearly clean. The center may remain a bit gooey but that’s a good thing. Let them cool to room temperature before attempting to cut them. Just trust me on that.

Chicken cutlets (The grade 20 cook, part one).

My latest mock draft is up for Insiders, and I held a Klawchat this afternoon to discuss it. I also appeared on the Dbacks Insider podcast (direct link to mp3) with my friend and former colleague Steve Berthiaume to talk about the Dbacks’ options at the first pick.

A friend of mine confessed to me recently that he’s completely incompetent in the kitchen – a “(grade) 20 cook,” in his terms, and asked me for a suggestion on a book or even a few go-to recipes for someone with kids who wants to learn how to cook. I made a few suggestions from my cookbook recommendations post, but was thinking about the most basic, extensible meal I make that most kids would like. The answer kind of came from my own childhood, even though I’ve modified the recipe from the way my mom made them: chicken cutlets. Here’s my recipe, written and explained for someone who has as much experience as a cook as Craig Counsell and Dan Jennings had as managers.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are derided by most chefs, for good reason – they have no taste of their own (unless you’re buying heirloom or pasture-raised birds), and because the meat is so lean, it dries out very quickly. Most cooking methods do more damage than good, as the protection provided by the skin and bone is lost. You can marinate it in something strong (citrus works well, like orange-garlic-soy) and grill it, but you almost have to undercook it and let carryover finish. But chicken breast meat fries beautifully, especially if you break the breasts down into a more amenable shape.

Chicken cutlets are thinly sliced pieces of breast meat, ideally pounded slightly to give them even thickness. I season them, dip them in beaten egg, and then press them into panko bread crumbs before pan-frying them. They require no particular skill and no specialized equipment. You don’t even have to measure anything.

Most good supermarkets sell chicken breasts already sliced into cutlets, and any butcher should do that for you on request. If you have a good chef’s knife and a steady hand, you can buy boneless skinless breasts and cut them into cutlets yourself; it’s a horizontal cut, parallel to the cutting board, and therefore more dangerous than most knife cuts you’ll undertake. I typically get three cutlets from a half breast, two the length of the breast half and one smaller one sliced off the top. However you get your cutlets, you want to pound any thicker parts out so that each cutlet is as close as possible to a uniform thickness. I have a metal mallet for this, but a ceramic custard cup or even flat-bottomed mug or glass will work too (cover the meat with plastic wrap before pounding). If you buy whole breasts, however, make sure you pull off the tenderloins, the narrow pieces on the underside of the breasts. You can cook them as you would the cutlets, but you have to do it separately.

Season each cutlet liberally with salt (preferably coarse) and pepper. You can add other seasonings if you’d like; paprika works well, including smoked Spanish paprika, as does cumin. Michael Ruhlman has a similar recipe in his book Egg where he coats the cutlets with Dijon mustard before they hit the egg wash, but I haven’t tried this yet. Any dried spice will work well here because it will get to bloom when hitting the hot oil.

Now set up your assembly line. In a wide-bottomed bowl, beat two eggs until well combined, as if you were going to scramble them, adding a pinch of salt before you beat them. Take a dinner plate and spread a layer of panko bread crumbs over it – you can use other bread crumbs but panko gives a superior texture.

For the cooking vessel, I use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet; both iron and oil are poor conductors of heat but excellent insulators, so once hot, they’ll hold their heat well. You can use any skillet or saute pan that is deep enough to keep the oil from splashing or spilling over the sides. Pour about ½ inch of oil into the skillet – olive oil is the best for flavor, but anything would work, even shortening or duck fat or beef tallow if that’s how you roll although I admit I’ve never tried the last two – and heat it over medium to medium-high heat until you can see the surface of the oil shimmering and perhaps even catch a wisp of smoke. (It’s about 350 degrees F.)

Once the oil is at temperature, you’ll need to work quickly, so you want all of that setup ready before you turn on the stove. Take each cutlet, dip it in the egg wash, hold it up for a few seconds to let the excess drip back into the bowl, then press each side into the bread crumbs. Lay it gently in the pan – don’t let it drop unless you enjoy getting hot oil all over you. You should hear sizzling immediately; if you don’t, the oil isn’t hot enough. Fit no more than three cutlets in the pan at once, often stopping at two, because each cutlet you add drops the oil temperature, and crowding the pan will result in the chicken steaming rather than frying. If the oil is at the right temperature, the cutlets will require about two minutes per side; at 90 seconds, check by lifting up a corner with tongs or a spatula, flipping them (gently!) if the bread crumbs are a deep golden brown.

Tongs are ideal, but if you use a spatula, the safe way to flip anything in a saute pan or skillet is to use a fork or second spatula on the other (raw) side to hold it up against the first spatula. Just don’t confuse the utensils: Once something has touched raw chicken, it can’t touch anything that’s cooked.

When you remove the cooked cutlets from the skillet, you have two options. If you’re serving them immediately, move each cutlet to a plate lined with paper towels to drain off some of the excess oil, then serve. You can also hold them in a warm (200 F) oven on a sheet pan if you need to wait a half-hour or so before serving. They keep well as leftovers; reheat them in a 350 degree oven rather than the microwave to restore the crispness of the exterior. One serving suggestion of many: Top them with fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and some crushed red pepper and serve them on a crusty baguette.

Chicken with bitter orange marmalade.

This recipe happened largely because of Paddington.

I’ve been reading my daughter one chapter of Paddington a night for the past few weeks – we’re about to start book four, Paddington At Large – and she kept asking about marmalade, since she’d never had any. Of course, I read a book set in London that involves marmalade and I think true English marmalade, which is made with bitter oranges (like Sevilles), so I pick up a few blood oranges (also bitter, but I think less so than Sevilles) and make some gorgeous but definitely bitter orange marmalade, which my daughter, of course, does not like. So now I have nearly two pints of the stuff and no idea what to do with it.

My first thought was duck breasts, but I’m the only one in the house who’d eat those, but I know orange and chicken go quite well together too, so I bought a whole broiler-fryer (which usually means a bird between three and five pounds; this one was about four and a half) and decided to somehow put the orange marmalade and the bird together. I took some inspiration from Richard Blais’ lemon curd chicken recipe (from Try This at Home) and an old Jamie Oliver recipe that put a compound butter with herbs and lemon zest under the chicken skin and made a compound butter with orange marmalade.

This recipe is a little rougher than most of mine, for which I apologize but, for better or worse, this is how I cook these days. You may choose to brine the chicken first, a process that I find helps the white meat a bit but does nothing for the dark meat; pulling the chicken at or before the breasts reach 160 degrees will still result in moist white meat without requiring that extra step.

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup to 1 cup bitter orange marmalade
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt or more as needed
1 chicken, 3-5 pounds, without which this recipe would not make much sense

1. Make the compound butter: Combine the butter, marmalade, thyme, pepper, and coriander in a food processor until well-mixed. If the mixture is too soft, chill briefly in the refrigerator; you want it to be soft enough to rub over the chicken, but not pourable.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Clean the bird and pat dry with paper towels. Loosen the skin gently with your hands, down to the joints that connect the thighs to the drumsticks.

3. Season the bird liberally inside and out with salt. No salt = no taste.

4. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Rub the compound butter all over the chicken, mostly under the skin and over the breast and thigh meat, saving about a fourth to a third of the butter to rub over the outside. If you get any butter on the sides of the pan, which I do every single time I roast a whole chicken and put butter or lemon curd in it, wipe it off with a damp paper towel, unless you enjoy scrubbing with steel wool. Pour a cup of water in the bottom of the pan to avoid smoke from the drippings. You can also stuff an aromatic like half an onion or lemon in the cavity of the bird.

5. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Turn the heat down to 325 and continue roasting until the breast meat measures 158-160 degrees. You’ll get a few degrees of carryover when you pull the bird from the oven. If the bottom of the pan becomes dry at any point during the roasting, add a little more water – you don’t want that stuff to burn because it’s the foundation for a good, quick gravy.

6. Optional: If you want to make a gravy or sauce, deglaze the pan with white wine or brandy, then boost it with some chicken stock and simmer hard until reduced by about half. You can thicken this with any starch you like; I love tapioca starch because it’s clean on the palate and easy to integrate. For any starch but flour, just dissolve 1 tsp or so in 2 tsp of water, then whisk into the hot liquid. Flour is best integrated with fat, so knead it into some softened butter and whisk it in. Add lemon juice, 1-2 tsp, and salt or pepper to taste.

Thanksgiving, 2013.

I hope all my U.S. readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I have a new piece up today for Insiders covering the Nolasco and Haren signings as well as the Pirates/Padres swap of minor leaguers.

I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who read my work here or on Your readership and loyalty make it possible for me to do something I love for a living, and write about all this other fun stuff on the side here at the dish. It’s an honor to write for you and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.

My tweets this week describing my daily prep work leading up to Thursday (tagged frivolously with #gameplan) had a small point, that doing all of that stuff ahead of time could make the holiday itself a lot easier. I’ve tried to do the whole thing on Thursday, or just on Wednesday evening and Thursday, and it’s miserable. This year, I even slept in Thursday morning, since we weren’t eating the main meal till 5 pm. That alone made a huge difference, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t done so much cooking and prep work in advance.

The final menu for yesterday:

* Sweet potato gnocchi with kale and brown butter (recipe from Richard Blais’ Try This at Home)

* Turkey two ways: Roast turkey breast and turkey leg confit

* Gravy: brown turkey stock reduced by 75% plus drippings from pan deglazed with white wine, thickened with a flour-butter roux (2 Tbsp each)

* Basic bread stuffing with pain au levain (recipe from Joy of Cooking)

* Cranberry-port gelée (recipe from Canal House via food52)

* Roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet-and-sour sauce and sesame seeds (dressing based on one from The Whelk in Westport, CT, via Bon Appetit)

* Cucumber-pomegranate salad with lime-cilantro dressing (recipe from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life)

* The awful green bean casserole (the less said about this, the better)

* Pumpkin pie (recipe from Baking Illustrated)

I probably would have pulled the turkey breast and the pie a little sooner from the oven, but otherwise it was a fairly smooth week. Doing so much prep ahead of time, like quartering, blanching, and shocking the sprouts on Wednesday, made a huge difference on Thursday; I was only actively cooking for about two and a half hours, which includes the standing-around-and-waiting parts. And when the day was over, I was tired, but not a wreck. I hope those of you who cooked had a similarly pleasant experience, and only set off the fire alarm once (par for the course in my kitchen) rather than, say, deep-frying your entire house to the ground.

For the sprouts, I made a few changes to the Whelk’s recipe linked above. I blanched them as mentioned above, and tossed them with canola oil rather than olive, because I roasted them about 25 minutes at 475 degrees, a temperature that will cause olive oil to smoke. (Any neutral oil, like soybean or safflower or even rice bran oil, would work.) I used rice wine vinegar rather than red, and honey rather than pure sugar (2.5 Tbsp instead of 3, as honey is sweeter than sugar). I only finished them with toasted sesame seeds, trying to stick with the Asian flavor theme without losing the crunch added by the Whelk’s pumpkin seeds; if I had had toasted sesame oil in the house, I would have used some of that in the vinaigrette as well. The idea is simple: Cook the sprouts through while browning as much of the exterior as you can, then toss in a vinaigrette that hits sweet, sour, salty, and umami flavors, as the sprouts themselves will provide a hint of bitterness. You can alter ingredients in the dressing at will as long as you maintain the balance across those four tastes.

Some final admin notes – my updated board game rankings for 2013 will go up Wednesday or Thursday of next week, most likely, and my top songs of 2013 list will go up two weeks later on the 19th, after the winter meetings. I’ll chat again at on the 5th and 19th, with the winter meetings week chat possibly pushed to the 13th due to travel. Thanks again for reading.

Potato-parsnip rösti.

Parsnips are awesome, and wildly underconsumed in the United States (both facts according to me). A cousin of both carrots and parsley, parsnips share the carrot’s high quantity of sugars just waiting to be brought out with heat, but also have a slightly spicy aroma that always reminds me of ginger ale.

On their own, parsnips can be overwhelming, which is why they’re often paired with other root vegetables or tempered with other strong flavors like bacon or maple syrup. (Or both.) Here I use parsnips to kick up the Swiss potato pancake known as a rösti, adding flavor, texture, and extra nutrition* to what is at heart just a good large hash brown.

*Parsnips are high in vitamins C and K as well as folic acid, and have more than twice the fiber per 100 g as a regular potato does.

Potato-Parsnip Rösti

1 russet potato (going for about 12 ounces/350 grams)
1-2 parnsips (about 4 ounces/100 grams)
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
large pinch of salt
2 Tbsp duck fat, butter, or bacon fat

You want to cook these in a saturated fat, as the potatoes will brown better and of course you’ll get more flavor. If you want a vegetarian option, I’d try coconut oil.

1. Peel and grate the potato on the coarse side of a box grater. Wrap the result in a tea towel* and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it, wringing it tightly and squeezing again after a quick rest. This is key to getting a crispy brown exterior; if you don’t get enough moisture out, your rösti will steam when you want it to fry.

2. Peel and grate the parsnip and toss with the wrung-out grated potato.

3. Add the oil and salt and toss to thoroughly mix. You could add other spices here, but I wouldn’t go much beyond salt and black pepper.

4. In a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the cooking fat over medium-high heat until melted and very hot – at least 300 degrees if you have an infrared thermometer, which you should because then you can tell your daughter you’re actually a spy chef. Add the potato/parsnip mixture and press lightly to create a flat pancake that fills the skillet.

5. Cook about 8-10 minutes until the bottom is brown and crispy. This is a little tricky the first time, as it depends on your stove; you may need to moderate the heat a little to make sure the potatoes cook through without burning the bottom.

6. Flip the rösti on to a large plate, flat pan lid, or a cookie sheet. Add the second tablespoon of cooking fat to the pan, heat until melted and sizzly, then slide the rösti back into the skillet and allow it to cook for 5-6 minutes until brown and crispy on the second side.

* A tea towel … I don’t really know what the hell those are either. I have a couple of thin dishtowels that do the trick, but I also have a few white cotton handkerchiefs that I bought very cheaply a few years ago and that work great for applications just like this one.

If you love parsnips as much as I do, check out Alton Brown’s parnsip muffin recipe – I add a tablespoon of oat bran (removing the same weight of flour) and a teaspoon of vanilla, and I substitute brown sugar for half of the white – as well as the various roast and mashed parsnip recipes in Nigel Slater’s wonderful cookbook Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch.

Farro with braised duck legs.

My favorite protein of all isn’t bacon, or short ribs, or smoked pork shoulder – it’s duck, duck legs specifically, which are best cooked slowly until the meat falls off the bone, after which the skin is cooked over direct heat until crispy and slightly sweet, while the fat rendered out during the slow cooking process is saved for another dish, like potatoes or bitter greens or even fried eggs. The one issue with duck legs is, once cooked, figuring out how to serve them, since they tend to fall apart before they even get out of the pot. I’ve tossed duck leg meat into risotto, which is fabulous but also a lot of work, and more of a special-occasion meal than a weekday-night dish. I’ve also had them served in crepes (at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill) or in tacos, but again, that’s a lot more work, and not a complete meal in and of itself.

Enter farro, a whole grain that can be prepared similarly to brown rice or barley but with a starch that is released during cooking to produce a slightly creamy texture similar to that of risotto. Farro is an “ancient grain,” an unhybridized plant found in Egyptian tombs and still popular in northern Italian cuisine, part of the wheat family but very low in gluten. It’s related to spelt and einkorn but is easier to cook than the berries of those two members of the wheat (Triticum) family), and, in my opinion, it tastes better too. You can prepare farro using the liquid/farro ratios below and treat it like a risotto, starting with onion and garlic, finishing with grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano and a little butter, or you can treat it like a pilaf and stir or fold in greens or peas after the cooking is finished. Here I use it as the platter for the duck, finished with some peppery leaves for color and to make it a one-dish meal.

As for the duck meat itself, I use the braised legs recipe from Ruhlman’s Twenty, which is foolproof and can be made a day or two in advance – it’s a great thing to throw in the oven on a cold weekend day, since it makes the house smell amazing, and braised meats always taste better a day later anyway. Just store it in the braising liquid and skim the congealed fat off the top the next day. You can even strain the defatted liquid and use it in place of some of the stock in this recipe. If your local Whole Foods or similar high-end market sells prepared duck confit, that will work as well.

Farro with duck legs and arugula

4 duck legs, braised or confit
1 tbsp rendered duck fat or olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 cup farro
¼ cup white wine or 2 Tbsp brandy
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
½ tsp salt
1 handful of arugula, radish leaves, or other peppery greens

1. Shred the duck meat by hand. To prepare the skin, remove it from the legs, keeping it as intact as possible, and scrape any remaining fat off the inside of the skin using a paring knife. Crisp the skin in a dry, non-stick skillet until brown on both sides, and set aside until serving. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat the fat/oil in a large (3-quart) saucepan until hot and add the shallot, sweating for 1-2 minutes until translucent but not brown. Add the farro and toast in the oil 2-3 minutes until the grains smell slightly nutty.

3. Add the wine/brandy and stir until the alcohol has mostly cooked away and the pan is dry when you separate the grains. (Lean over the pot and inhale. If you get dizzy, it’s not ready for step four yet.)

4. Add the stock/broth and salt, stir once to combine thoroughly, and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for 35 minutes, at which point the farro should have absorbed all of the liquid.

5. Once the pot is out of the oven, add the duck meat and green leaves, stir, and cover for ten minutes to heat the duck and wilt the leaves. Serve in bowls topped with sliced crispy duck skin and freshly ground black pepper.