Duck Fat Will Change Your (Cooking) Life

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An article in the New York Times proclaimed duck fat the fat of choice for sweet and savory pies.
I first stumbled upon duck fat as an everyday kitchen ingredient about five years ago. I was testing a particularly chefy set of recipes for a magazine, and two of them called for a tablespoon of the stuff. Since I couldn't find it anywhere locally, I ordered rendered duck fat from an online provider that only shipped in quart and gallon containers. There was a lot of extra duck fat in my fridge when the project was over. And it wasn't hard at all to find something else to do with it.

If you've ever cooked with duck fat, you know it's got a very soft and loose consistency, as if it could melt at any second at room temperature. The softness actually reminded me a lot of vegetable shortening and I'd been making pies at the time. The duck-shaped light bulb illuminated.

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The Best Way to Reheat Your Pizza Is In a Frying Pan

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Late night pizza reheated at home just might be better than the original.
While checking in on Jay Jerrier's Zoli's NY Pizza, I indulged in many, many pizzas. I ordered slices for lunch and I ordered entire pies for dinner. I ordered pies to take home, and I ordered slices for lunch again the next day.

This pizza binge afforded me all sorts of benefits including an excess of calories, a window into the consistency of the pizza at Zoli's, knowledge that Zoli's pizza boxes will not fit in your fridge and a lot of leftover (sometimes improperly stored) pizza.

With respect to the consistency of of Zoli's pies, they're all over the map. Pizza by the slice is always crisp, but whole pies are often blonde-crusted and droopy. I tried ordering a few pies well-done and the move helped. Consider following suit if you like a snappy crust.

However you order it, if you take some home stay away from the microwave, which will absolutely ruin your leftovers. And even if you like pizza cold the next day, consider this tip. I converted at least one cold pizza advocate using it.

See Also:This week's review: Zoli's NY Pizza

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Some Tips for New York Style Pizza at Home

Categories: Cook This

There are two types of home cooks in this world: those who have trudged down the path to pizza perfection and those who have not. If you're in the club, you intimately know the struggles for ever-higher oven temperatures and endless experimentation to determine the optimal placement of your pizza stone. You've likely dabbled in 00 flour and spent far too much money on tomatoes shipped straight from Italy. If you're not in the club, you're missing out on some potential frustration but also the great reward of having a home that smells like freshly baked pizza.

I've had my own struggles with pizza, so this video posted on YouTube by Cooks Illustrated jumped out at me recently. Narrator Christopher Kimball calls the pie at Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn the best pizza he's ever had, a big claim considering the number of pizzerias in New York City alone. Toward the end of the clip when he actually tastes the pie in question you can see how the slice stands straight out to the side as he picks it up. The crust looks thin, crisp and structurally sound. It looks delicious.

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Parsley: The Greastest Herb in History

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Parsley from the Dallas Community Gardens
I'm obsessed with parsley. Not that curly-leafed bullshit sitting next to your petite filet, I'm talking about the flat-leaf variety that's known for its tender texture and sweeter flavor. If you get some fresh from the farmers market you'll notice a much more robust flavor than the grocery store varieties. Two vendors representing the IRC sponsored community gardens had parsley for sale at the last two White Rock Local Markets. They're asking just a dollar for each bunch. You should offer them two.

That super-fresh vegetal flavor will fade in the first day or two, but the stuff will continue to green up your dishes for much longer. Just wash the leaves and then store them in a big Ziploc bag, with a wet piece of paper towel lining one side, and you'll have fresh parsley for weeks.

What do you do with it? Everything.

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Cooking With Rae Lili Farm's Bok Choy

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If you got to the White Rock Local Market at 9 a.m. you were already too late. A few bunches of chubby carrots and just 3 pounds of asparagus disappeared in an instant. The signs of the coming season are just beginning to awaken and only the early birds take home the true treasures. Disappointed, I consoled myself with this beautiful bok choy (tough life, huh?) and resolved to jump out of bed next week with a bit more enthusiasm.

Roy and Sophia Martinez used to casually grow vegetables for their smoothies before a double layoff converted them into farmers. Now they're responsible for some absolutely pristine bok choy that eventually sold out at this weekend's market too.

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Farmers Market Report: Texas Worm Ranch's Swiss Chard

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Swiss chard from the Texas Worm Ranch
I hope you didn't miss the farmers markets this weekend. While this year's season is still in its infancy, plenty of beautiful vegetables are sprouting at nearby farms. Greens are king right now, and this Swiss chard is a great example of garden fresh produce that beats anything you can find at the store.

See also:
- Farmers Market Report: Greens Are Springing in Coppell

The Texas Worm Ranch is a regular participant at the White Rock Local Market, and while they're mostly known for their "tea," a potent brew made from worm castings for fertilization and pest control, they're also doing a little gardening themselves. These greens were offered for $3 a bundle, but I was offered two bundles for five -- a more than fair price.


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Chad Houser Whips Up A Bangin' "Panzanella" For Farmers Market Demonstration

Categories: Cook This

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Mushrooms and toasted bread make a great filler for a farmers market salad.
For a long time I didn't love to prospect at farmers markets, if only because I had no clue how to use them. As a home cook, when I wanted to make a meal, I paged through my cookbooks looking for inspirational pictures, wrote down a massive ingredient list and then hit the grocery store. That's not so easy to do if you want to hit up a local farmers market. Most of the time you'll have no idea what you'll get until you're there, and if you don't act fast and buy quick, many of the choice ingredients have already been cleaned out.

To make the best use of your local farmers market you have to stay flexible. You have to be able to look at what's available, come up with a recipe or two in your head, and then execute it. Otherwise you'll be the guy standing around with a coffee next to Luscher's Red Hots and wondering why everyone else is having so much fun.

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Puffy Taco Trend Coming To Dallas? Plus: How To Cook A Perfect Puffy Taco At Home.

Categories: Cook This

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Puffy Tacos on the menu at Tupinamba
Back in December I started my search for the puffy taco, a deep fried delicacy, which according to popular convention hails from San Antonio, yet is impossible to find just a few hours away here in Dallas. That first blog post kicked off a dialogue with Eddie Dominguez, who says he's been tweaking his own puffy taco since the post.

See also:
- Tracking Down the Origin of Dallas' "Puffy" Tacos

Dominguez tells me he went online, put puffy tacos in YouTube and checked out different recipes people were trying. Then he started testing different variations. He said he tried recipes that added baking powered to the raw masa used in making puffy tacos and he tried recipes that left it out. He tried different frying temperatures and different frying times. He says he even drove to San Antonio to try puffy tacos at Henry's and a few other places.

He came back to Dallas with pictures and a few more ideas. And now there's a menu placard on the tables in his restaurant offering San Antonio style puffy tacos with rice and beans for $8.25.

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How to Cook a Steak in Your Fireplace

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I expected a strange look and a question or two from my dinner guests. After all, I was standing in front of a red hot fireplace with a wild look in my eye and a large flap of meat dangling from my fist. "Why aren't you using a grill?" one asked, which was easy to answer since I didn't have one. "You might use a cast iron skillet or your broiler," another offered before pointing out the obvious. "It would be easier."

And it would have. But I wasn't cooking a steak in the fireplace because I was worried about simplicity or ease. This was a matter of culinary adventure. Besides, it's not even that crazy. It's been done here, and over here too.

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How To Make The Best Breakfast Tacos In Dallas (Plus A Tip For Perfect Bacon)

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With low heat and patience, you can have the best breakfast tacos right at home.
On my last trip to Austin, I was lucky enough to stumble into Tamale House before driving back home to Dallas. I'd read about the hole in the wall in The New York Times, but my friends who have spent time in Austin all tell me the taqueria is old news; they've been eating at Tamale House for years.

What struck me about the the breakfast tacos I ordered were the eggs and bacon tucked inside each one. The tortillas were run-of-the-mill, but the bacon was crisp, crunchy and not at all rubbery, and the eggs were soft and moist with an almost custard-like consistency.

I've been searching for a comparable taco here in Dallas, and I think I may give up. I've found great tortillas and good bacon in various renditions, but the one error I can't get around is overcooked eggs. It's gotten bad enough that I've decided to make my own. My apartment still smells delicious.

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