food

Mangú is a staple food of the Dominican Republic, and often served with breakfast. It is a signature element of los tres golpes (“the three hits”), served alongside fried eggs, fried cheese (specifically, a firm, salty cheese called queso para freir), and salami or longaniza (a dry-cured sausage not unlike chorizo).

There are two ideas as to the origin of Mangú. The first, and likely more accurate, story is that the dish and name are both byproducts of the Dominican slave trade. But there also exists a popular folk tale, in which this dish of mashed plantains was served to American soldiers during the American occupation of the country in the early 20th century, and that one of the dining soldiers exclaimed, “Man, good!”, and the rest is history.

Regardless of its etymology, there’s no denying that Mangú is an excellent way to start (or end) your day – it’s equal parts hearty starch and tropical comfort food – all topped with pickled red onions for a bit of extra zing.

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Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the last time I published a recipe that features corn, so I figured it was about time to share another.

We don’t eat corn often in our house – usually only popcorn on movie nights, and maybe corn tortillas or tamales when visiting our local Mexican restaurant, or sometimes a bowl of grits on cold mornings. Corn is not a particularly nutrient-dense food, but I think it’s a fine ingredient in the context of a nutrient-dense diet filled with all sorts of other good stuff – much like my take on eating rice.

As I develop recipes for cookbook #3, I’ve been experimenting with other corn dishes, and this Southern-style cornbread recipe is far and away my new favorite. First, I like to cook with the same stone-ground grits I use for making my own grits, so that I don’t have a million varieties of corn taking up space in my cupboard. I also love the heartiness, and slight grittiness, of grits-based cornbread – this is a far cry from the muffin-like cornbread you’ll find in the North.

But my favorite aspect of this skillet cornbread is its fleeting nature; right out of the oven, this cornbread is divine, but after an hour or so, its beauty wanes. This is the perfect dish to enjoy amongst friends, with big knobs of butter, and generous drizzles of honey.

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Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. Previously known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated after the American Civil War to honor those who had died in the war. It later expanded to encompass anyone in the Armed Forces who had died while in service to the country. As a tradition, families would gather to put flowers on the graves of those who had fallen, and would follow it with a potluck meal. It became a Federal holiday in the 1970s, and is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Today, Memorial Day means a lot of things to a lot of people – honoring fallen service members, family gatherings, the start of summer. From a culinary perspective, Memorial Day ushers in the start of grilling season (although that varies by region).

Each year, as I drag my grill out of the shed, I try and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in defense of their country – regardless of the country they died serving, or the policy decisions that got them there. Having served in the US Navy these past 17 years, it hits close to home; I find myself recognizing more and more names of fallen service members each year. Human history is wrought with stories of people dying when they probably rather wouldn’t have, and I think it’s worth the time to reflect on that from time to time.

I’m a day late in posting my favorite grill recipe of this year, mostly because I’m currently on assignment in a different part of the country, and away from my usual churn of recipe development. Luckily I had this recipe set aside for summer, and it’s the perfect time to share.

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Potato pancakes are kind of a big deal in many homes, and everyone has their own method. There’s a lot of speculation as to what goes into making a good pancake, and my guess is that’s because it’s easy to mess up such a seemingly simple dish. Too many eggs and your pancakes are rubbery; too much flour or starch, and they’re too dense. Some insist on using cooked potatoes, while others insist you can’t.

Today’s recipe is my take on a middle-of-the-road potato pancake. It’s not tied to one specific culture, but takes cues from several approaches; mostly, I like the heft of Belorussian dranikis, but the crispiness of Jewish latkes.

Many recipes use wheat flour to ensure that the potatoes stick together, but I’ve found that my favorite approach is to re-employ the starch from peeled potatoes: dump them in a water bath and allow the starch to settle at the bottom, then pour off the water to use as a binder. This step takes an extra 10 minutes, but is well worth it in terms of reducing food waste (and saving money buying tons of potato starch).

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I’m probably not in the majority of Americans by saying this, but mayonnaise is my favorite dipping condiment. Yep, I would prefer to dip french fries in mayo over ketchup, barbecue sauce, or any of the various mustards available (although ketchup and mayo mixed together is pretty fantastic). True, if we’re looking at condiments wholesale, I probably use hot sauce the most often, but nothing really beats the texture and richness of mayonnaise atop a burger.

Like most folks, there was a stage in my life when I didn’t dig it. Heck, I think there was even a time when I preferred the tanginess of Miracle Whip, but those days are behind me. By the way, I recently learned that the reason that Miracle Whip is labeled as a “dressing” and not mayo is because the FDA requires mayo to be at least 65% vegetable oil by weight, and Miracle Whip apparently isn’t. Additionally, Miracle Whip was first introduced during the Great Depression as a cheaper alternative to mayo.

But enough about Miracle Whip, this is a mayonnaise recipe. No big surprises in my recipe this week, just a simple, essential condiment. While I’m not sure if this recipe will make it into my next cookbook, it’s a glaring omission on this site. My method has two tricks – first, I prefer to use egg yolks for a richer flavor, and secondly, I like to let the eggs come to room temperature to aid in the emulsification stage. You can use any number of tools – immersion blender, food processor, or even a blender on a low setting – but I prefer to use a whisk and elbow grease, because it really creates a sense of accomplishment when you whip it yourself.

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For those of you following my recently updated approach to recipe development, you’ve probably already guessed that the recipes in my new cookbook will cover a variety of traditional and international dishes. So far we’ve highlighted cuisine from France, the Caribbean, and the American South. Today we’ll be exploring Scandinavia, with this Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew.

Originally from Western Norway (Vestlandet), Fårikål has become a widely-loved autumn staple, to the point where it was named Norway’s national dish in 1972. Scandalously, in 2014 the Norwegian Minister for Food & Agriculture demanded a new national dish be voted on–via email, no less! Fårikål won by a landslide, grabbing 45% of the vote and easily beating out Kjøttkaker (meatballs) and Raspeball (potato dumplings) for the top spot.

The traditional preparation of this dish couldn’t be simpler: layer some lamb, salt, and cabbage in a pot, then add water, potatoes, and peppercorns and simmer until everything is tender. I made a couple tweaks to complement the dish, such as dropping in the potatoes later in the process (so they don’t lose their body), and broiling the meat at the end for a nicer texture. In the end, this is still one of the most basic stews you’ll find anywhere, but Fårikål carries with it a rich flavor you may not expect from such a simple preparation.

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Every time I make a pot of these greens, it feels like cheating. I make them pretty often for potlucks and gatherings, and everyone always wants to know “my secret”, as if there is some special, sneaky method to make this dish work. The truth is I simply make the dish as it had been made throughout history – with smoked, lesser cuts like ham hocks or neck bones, some liquid, and a bit of cider vinegar – and let the flavors develop on their own time. But I think that in today’s age of canned greens, crock-pot greens, or greens made with bacon (the worst!), people’s expectations of how greens taste have changed. Instead of knowing how greens should taste, we’ve become content with how they typically taste. I think of it like how a quality, handmade cheeseburger runs laps around a Big Mac.

So this week’s recipe will definitely be making it into my upcoming cookbook, and only slightly tweaked from when I first published it in The Ancestral Table, because not much has changed when it comes to these classic flavors. Many recipes you find will insist you add sugar to the greens, to take away some of the bitterness of the greens, or the tanginess of the vinegar, and I disagree; since greens are typically part of a whole meal, I let the other dishes complement the sharp flavor of the greens – that way you’re encouraged to have a little greens with every bite. Our favorite accompaniments to these greens are something with a crunch texture, like Seasoned Southern Fried Chicken, and something with a mild flavor, like Mashed Potatoes.

Here’s my writeup from The Ancestral Table: Greens were popular in the early American South when slaves were forced to survive on kitchen scraps like the tops of vegetables and undesirable pork parts, like ham hocks, necks, and feet. Today, the dish has been refined and remains a favorite in many Southern kitchens. In fact, collard greens are the state vegetable of South Carolina.

This recipe is unlike many typical greens recipes, which often add pork or bacon pieces in small portions or as an afterthought; this dish celebrates the savory nature of pork by using both broth and a significant amount of pork. If you aren’t able to find smoked ham hocks or neck bones, unsmoked varieties will do—just be sure to add 2 tsp. liquid smoke when adding the greens to the pot. Alternatively, you can buy smoked turkey necks or smoked turkey wings.

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One of the more unexpected tasks that come with writing a cookbook is establishing a baseline for the reader. For example, presenting a simple (meat + rice) recipe isn’t as simple as throwing together (meat + rice), especially if you’re going to reference a similar rice preparation in other parts of the book. So a (meat + rice) recipe turns into two separate recipes – one for the meat, and another for the rice. Likewise, if you want any vegetables to accompany the dish, you need to decide whether to include the vegetables as part of that recipe, or create a standalone vegetable side. And since the rice recipe will likely call for broth, you need a broth recipe, too. The layers keep coming, until the book just grows and grows.

This concept isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it allows me to focus deliberately on each portion of the dish to make sure it gets the attention it deserves. So today I’m going to share with you a simple recipe for Spanish Rice, sometimes referred to as Yellow Rice (Arroz Amarillo), which I’ll use a few different times in my upcoming cookbook. This recipe uses a healthy two pinches of saffron for its distinct yellow color, a reflection of its Spanish roots and famous cousin, Paella. Some preparations use annatto (anchiote) seeds to give the rice its yellow color, and I have included instructions for both methods below. The saffron and annatto will each bring very subtle flavors to the rice: the saffron is floral and a little pungent, while the annatto is nutty with hints of nutmeg. If you own both saffron and annatto, feel free to use them at the same time.

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Today’s recipe is one that long-time The Domestic Man readers will recognize, a couple times over. I first tackled the dish in 2012, and again in 2013; and then in 2014, during a spurt of creativity, I went back and thoroughly researched the dish, including the individual histories of every ingredient used in the dish (you can find that post here).

I think this dish is the perfect introduction to my new blogging approach, wherein I post recipes from my upcoming cookbook instead of trying to balance my time between maintaining the blog with new recipes while secretly testing new dishes for the book. As you’ll learn in future posts, my new book will continue the path I’ve been forging for the past seven years now, by focusing on traditional and historically-appropriate dishes. I feel that these dishes taste the best, as they’re a reflection of hundred (if not thousands) of years spent cooking in front of a fire.

It’s hard to top Boeuf Bourguignon when it comes to flavor. As if the decadent flavors of butter, red wine, stock, and tender beef aren’t enough, we up the ante by starting with bacon. I’ve made a few improvements to this dish over the years, like separating the beef from the bones ahead of time so that you can fish the bones out easily at the end. It’s not a quick recipe, nor should it be, but it makes six portions and freezes like a dream.

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Hi everyone, let’s have a talk.

Over the past few months I’ve made several hints about the fact that I’m working on a new cookbook. I’ve been at it for over a year now, and I’m on track to release it in 2018. I’m not quite ready to go into details, but I will say it is by far the most thorough and important project I’ve ever worked on.

It’s always been a challenge to keep this blog up and running, between traveling for my job in the US Navy and the general busyness that comes with being a husband and father of two children. And I have always appreciated the challenge of maintaining my “new recipe every Tuesday” standard since 2011, as it helps me plan and organize my cooking life.

But that standard has been increasingly difficult to maintain over this past year, as I have to find ways to divide my limited time between blog recipes and recipes for the new cookbook. In truth, it’s really slowed my progress down, but at the same time, I don’t want to disappear for an extended period of time, only to reemerge with a new cookbook – to me, blogs should be a continuous conversation, and I like engaging with you, my readers. So I’ve been looking for ways to keep The Domestic Man running, and relevant, while I prioritize my new book.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to devote myself full-time to developing recipes for the new cookbook, and each week I will share a new recipe that will later be included in the book, up until release date. Think of it like a year-long early access to parts of my new cookbook. I’ll also likely include recipes that I considered and developed for the book, but may not make it into the final cut.

And here is what I’m going to ask of you. First, I ask that you incorporate these recipes into your cooking lives, just as you always have, and please provide feedback in the comments – what worked, what didn’t, and so on. I’ll take your feedback onboard as I edit the recipes; consider yourself an official recipe tester! My hope is that you’ll find these recipes to be familiar friends by the time you see them in print form. Next, I ask you to bear in mind that some of these recipes will change as I go through the publication process, especially the photos. As with my previous two books, I’ll be teaming up with my dear friend Giang Cao for the book’s photography, and he will be taking on the majority of the photography duties this time around as I hunker down to research and write. The photos I share for each recipe here on the blog will be taken by me as I test each recipe, like the Boeuf Bourguignon photo you see above.

So what’s going to change for you? Not much, you’ll still get a new recipe every Tuesday. And you’ll also likely see that recipe again next year in my book, but with a new photo and some minor tweaks. Some of the ingredients might be a bit different from what you’ve come to expect on this blog; for example, if I’m sharing a traditional dish that calls for beans or corn, I will include those ingredients (albeit in the most thoughtful, healthful, and historically-appropriate way possible). Every recipe will continue to be gluten-free, and largely Paleo-friendly with appropriate substitutions provided.

And don’t worry, I’m not giving away the whole book using this method. Some back-of-the-envelope math shows me that by posting one new recipe from my upcoming book every week for a year, I’ll be sharing less than 20% of the book’s recipes – so you’ll still be 80% surprised with the new cookbook!

As we get closer to publication date I’ll definitely be sharing more info about the book, and will solicit for formal recipe testers, as I did for Paleo Takeout, sometime near the end of this year.

I appreciate your support, and understanding – I’m pretty excited to share this new food with you. We’ll start this new approach next week, with Boeuf Bourguignon. See you then!