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cooking techniques

coffee for one? try the pour-over method!

coffee for one? try the pour-over method!

Coffee Beans

pour over coffee recipe, how to pour over coffee For a long time, I was on a search for the best way to make coffee in a small batch. I tried it in my regular coffee pot, no bueno. French press? Okay, but kind of a pain to clean and I would somehow always end up with coffee grinds floating around.

Enter my new obsession, the pour-over method.

Before being in New York, I had never even heard of this before. Gregg introduced me to it when I wanted to make coffee for myself at his place when I first moved here. He set me up with a grinder, and a little plastic drip cup situation that I had never seen before. I was like, we're making coffee with this? How can ...

The drip cup sits on top of the coffee cup. You place a filter in the drip cup and fill it with ground coffee. Then, you pour hot water over the coffee and it drips down into your coffee. Like magic!

It seems like the most obvious way in the world to me now, but if I didn't know about it, I figured that some of you must not either. So here we are!

The pour-over method, first and foremost, makes a bad-ass cup of coffee. There's been a lot of hype about it via the New York Times and Blue Bottle Coffee and such - true coffee aficionados say that this produces one of the best tasting cups of coffee you can make. They use a lot of special equipment - you can even get a special water kettle specially designed for it - but I use the basic stuff and it works just fine for me. The precise way in which you slowly add water to the coffee and the way it reacts with carbon dioxide is supposed to help it bloom properly and deliver the best results. I probably don't make mine as technically perfect as the experts do, but guess what? It's still a damned good cup of coffee.

The second best part being that there is virtually nothing to clean up. Toss out your filter, give the drip cup a rinse, and you are good to go.


Pour-Over Coffee Method

// what you need //

  • Coffee grinder
  • Good coffee beans
  • Hot water 
  • Drip cone
  • Paper filters
  • Coffee cup

Some notes: I use a Bodum grinder and electric teapot. You can also use an old-school teapot, or even a pot of water on the stove! (I would pour it into something with a spout if you do that.) This ceramic drip cone is supposed to be a good one, but I am still using the black plastic version shown in the photos that you can get basically anywhere for just a couple bucks. But, be sure to use the best coffee you can find! Here in NYC, I usually buy from one of the great coffeeshops near me like La Colombe, Everyman Espresso, or Bowery Coffee.

// what to do //

  1. Get your water heating. Using an electric kettle makes this happen faster.
  2. Grind your coffee beans. The amount you use is going to depend on the size of your drip cone and coffee cup and how strong you like your coffee. My standard size drip cup yields the right amount for one large cup of coffee. You will most likely need to experiment slightly once you've got your cup and drip cone in order. I like my coffee strong, and for me about 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee beans yields the perfect cup.
  3. Set up the drip cone. Rinse your paper filter with water and shake it dry before placing it in your drip cone. This allows for a better extraction through the paper. Place ground coffee inside the paper-lined cone.
  4. Start brewing! Once the water is boiling, remove from the heat. You don't want to use crazy-boiling water or it could burn the coffee. Give it a second to stop bubbling and then slowly pour it over the coffee, in a circular motion until you've saturated it. After the water drips through to the bottom completely, give it one more minute to bloom. Come back and pour more water over the coffee grounds, pouring in a circle around the edge to moisten and then focusing on the center. Again, based on the size of my cup and drip cone, filling the cone twice gives me the perfect cup of coffee.

a resolution for beginning cooks

a resolution for beginning cooks

happy new year

The other day, I was watching one of my best friend's cook dinner. She was using one of her favorite recipes for a white bean pasta dish from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook that she makes all the time. She got the book out and went about her business, and I asked her how many times she's made this dish. Too many to count, she said. I told her to put it away. Next, I asked her what we had on hand that we could use to play with the recipe a little. We had some leftover guanciale from Christmas dinner (guanciale is pork jowl - basically the sickest kind of bacon ever) and so we started with that. We bumped up the garlic and the arugula, and then we finished with a hit of fresh lemon juice.

This is the resolution that I offer for any beginners in the kitchen looking to learn more about cooking:

As much as you can, try to cook without looking directly at a recipe.

Read the recipe thoroughly (or a couple of them), and then wing it. Following a recipe is a lot like riding in the passenger seat in a car. When you arrive at your final destination, you're not really sure how you got there. The next day, in fact, you can't drive to the same place by yourself without checking the directions. Stay in the driver's seat as much as possible. Use your senses when you cook. Taste, touch, smell. Pay attention to the process. Play with the ingredients. If you really get stuck, go ahead and look at the recipe. But first just try doing it yourself. You might make a few more mistakes this way, but I promise - you'll learn so much more in the end.

Cheers to 2013!

all about braising

all about braising

get your braise on

After I wrote the last post on braised short ribs, I had a request for more information about what exactly braising is. For those of you who are already familiar with this cooking technique, maybe you can take something from these tips and pointers. And for those of you who don't, you're about to learn! Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it: Braising (from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor.

Mom's pot roast, Dad's famous corned beef and cabbage, the Osso Buco at your favorite Italian restaurant, pulled pork - all braised meat dishes. A great technique for winter cooking, and also great for home cooks because it's usually all done in one pot.

Braising turns tough cuts of meat into tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness. The braising breaks down the connective tissue in these tougher meats while the liquid (usually broth and/or wine) also steams the meat, making it even more moist. You can also braise vegetables. Think braised leek or braised fennel, which I love. Both start with somewhat of a sear, maybe closer to a sauté, but it's the same general idea. The dry heat builds the flavor, and the moisture does the rest.

// tips for braising meat //
  1. Use the right pan. A Dutch oven works best, but if you don't have one, use the heaviest pot you have and make sure it has a tight-fitting lid. A heavy pot will distribute heat more evenly, and the lid will keep the moisture inside the pot.
  2. Be sure to get a good sear. We're talking a thick crust on all sides of the meat. First, season the meat very well and get it as close to room temperature as you can. Then, you want a little bit of fat in a very hot pan. Because you're working with high heat, you want to use an oil with a high smoke-point, like grapeseed oil or vegetable oil. (EVOO or butter will burn when the pan is too hot.) The meat will tell you when it's ready to be turned. If it's stuck to the pan, it's not ready yet - it will release when its crust has developed. Also, don't crowd the pan - this will cause the meat to steam rather than sear. Work in batches if you need to.
  3. Get the braising liquid right. Be sure to taste your braising liquid for flavor before you put it in the oven. You don't want it too salty in case the liquid concentrates, but you need to make sure the salt level is adequate because this liquid is what's going to sink in and flavor your meat. Also, the liquid should come up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up the sides of the meat.
  4. Low and slow is the way to the finish line. 300 degrees F is a good average temperature for braising meats, though you will find recipes that suggest a higher temperature. If you've got some extra time, back the heat down to 300 and increase the cook time (I wouldn't worry about being precise here - give it a poke every 30 minutes extra you add and see where you're at.) You don't want the liquid to boil - this will toughen the meat.
  5. Lose the fat. You need to remove the meat from the pot and allow the remaining contents to cool for a bit so that the fat comes to the surface. You'll see it - a clear liquid that pools on the top; simply spoon it out. And if you're wondering how to dispose of the fat (it's not good for the drain), I have a good tip I just learned! You can flush it down the toilet.
  6. Perfect your sauce. You may opt to leave your sauce chunky or strain it if you prefer. If it's too thin for your liking, you can strain it and reduce it by boiling it until you reach the desired consistency.
  7. Make-ahead if you can and finish with freshness. Braised meats only get better with time, so if you can make a day or two in advance, all the better. I also like add a hit of brightness just before serving with some sort of citrus or fresh herbs. If you want vegetables in your braise, know that they're going to have disintegrated into nothing if you add them at the beginning - so if that's not what you want, you can cook them separately and add them at the end.

If you have any questions about braising or another cooking technique, holler below!