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Kane’s Cuisine: potato salad doesn’t have to be boring

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Is anyone ever that jazzed about potato salad? Always the side dish but never the bride, it’s somehow simultaneously the most omnipresent but least memorable food brought to a barbecue or potluck situation. Friends, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. 

To make my point, I should have done just the potato salad and not distracted you with the fried chicken pictured therewith. If you would like to make the fried chicken, I used the same recipe from my August 14 column

What makes this potato salad so special? Everything. It’s so much more than mayonnaise and boiled spuds. It’s got tangy citrus, salty umami-rich anchovies, fresh dill. Your German immigrant ancestors could never. Sorry. 

Oh, another thing: For those of us who are not infants and still have use of our teeth, I do not understand the appeal of any food that doesn’t have some texture. Another issue I have with other potato salads but not this one, which has a delightful crunch.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Bring this to a potluck and it will be gone faster than the Queen’s spirit traveled to Trisha Paytas’s baby. I need to get off Twitter because it’s rotting my brain. Also, when looking up the spelling of Paytas’s name, I discovered she named the baby Malibu Barbie. Don’t really have further comment on that matter but I thought you should know, too. 

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  1. Boil two pounds baby potatoes in three quarts of water with one cup of salt cup (yes, you read that right) until they can be easily pierced with a fork, or about eight to ten minutes. Strain out and discard the water 
  2. Smash and peel a few garlic cloves, adding a pinch of salt as you mash them into a paste. Chop a few anchovy filets and mash them into a paste, too. Combine your pastes and mash them together until their color and texture is uniform
  3. Add paste to a large bowl with a third cup mayonnaise, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon black pepper, whisking to combine. Continue whisking as you slowly add two tablespoons olive oil and the juice from one lemon. Season with salt
  4. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them lightly into a cutting board with your palm so they split open but aren’t totally mashed (does that make sense?) Add them to the dressing mixture, tossing evenly to coat
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Add six to eight thinly sliced radishes, a few scallions, or chives, radish and sunflower microgreens, and an ungodly amount of fresh dill. Some of the ingredients in this step are optional. The dill is not. Season again with salt and black pepper

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Look at these buns, hun

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – God has given me many blessings, but a mad thicc juicy booty is not among them. It’s just lower back to upper thigh. I am instantly uncomfortable in a wooden chair. There is no cushion (including for the pushin’). I’m a bottom without a bottom. 

No matter, because in my 30s I’ve learned embrace what I’ve got (as well as what I don’t got). 

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Today, we’re making buns. Famously, I love eating and hate exercise, so of course I’m talking about baking rather than doing squats. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

And with these buns, we’re going to make unbelievably tasty burgers. 

Baking time:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together one packet (0.25-ounce) active dry yeast, a half cup all-purpose flour, and one cup warm water, allowing it to foam up (about 10 minutes)
  2. Whisk in one egg, four tablespoons unsalted butter, two tablespoons granulated white sugar, and 1.5 teaspoons salt. Add three more cups all-purpose flour
  3. With a dough hook in the stand mixer, knead on low speed for 6 minutes or so
  4. Form the dough into a round shape, use a pastry brush to lightly coat the bowl in olive oil, return the dough to the bowl, turning it to evenly coat with oil, cover the bowl with aluminum foil, and allow to rise in a warm place for two hours 
  5. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle measuring about 5” by 10” and about a half-inch thick. Cut into 8 equal pieces and form each into a round disc shape
  6. Transfer buns to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly dust them with flour, cover with cling wrap and allow to rise for an hour
  7. Lightly brush the buns with an egg wash (whisk in about a tablespoon of milk or cream) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Burger time: I really don’t care what you put on your burger. Use the buns for pulled pork sandwiches if you want. I will, however, share some facts:

  • I dressed mine with an egg, sunny side up, and raw onion. It was delicious. 
  • When it comes to cheese on my burger, I do not want aged Wisconsin cheddar or camembert from lower Normandy; this is a job for which Kraft Singles American slices are uniquely qualified. GTFOH with anything fancier. 
  • If you’re wondering why your burgers never taste as good as those served in restaurants (including fast-food joints) it’s because you’re under-salting them. I cannot stress this enough. 1 teaspoon per pound of meat. It will seem like too much salt. It’s not. 
  • Black pepper is the only seasoning other than salt that you should be using for the meat. The other ingredients with which you’re dressing the burger are doing the heavy lifting, flavor-wise.
  • Minimize your handling of the ground beef. shape your burgers gently and tenderly.
  • There is no “secret” to a really juicy burger. 
  • They are no less delicious when cooked on the stovetop rather than the grill.
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Cashew chicken (& a rumor about Lea Michele)

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – According to survey data, people spend an average of 3 hours and 42 minutes per day on their phones. But according to me, y’all are lying on these surveys. Because according to those weekly push notifications, my daily screen time usually exceeds 8-9 hours… 

You know what, though? I have zero regrets about the time I spent this week cradling my iPhone, basking in its blue light as I investigated the rumor about Glee actress Lea Michele not being able to read or write. Nor do I think the Wikipedia journey I took just now in preparation for writing this column was time ill-spent. More on that in a moment, but first, this tweet: 

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If you’re not up to speed on the roots of the hilariously unhinged rumor, check out this podcast from Slate, this article in The Cut, and this pretty comprehensive summary in Complex. You’ll thank me. 

Anyway, among the many fascinating and occasionally valuable things I’ve learned from Wikipedia is the following, which concerns the dish featured in today’s column (cashew chicken, in case you’ve forgotten by now after this long journey/Lea Michele digression…) 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

The Chinese American staple has deep ties to an unexpected place. Specifically, to the third largest city (Springfield) in a midwestern state (Missouri) represented by a Senator who fist-pumped in solidarity with the J6 insurrectionists and then, when they ransacked the Capitol, fled like he was Lea Michele at a table read. (To be fair, the good people of Missouri twice elected Claire McCaskill before they sent Josh Hawley to Congress.) 

Cashew chicken, popularized by a Chinese immigrant at, of all places, the Grove Supper Club in Springfield, Missouri. Who would’ve thought? 

Alright. Let’s make like a suburban dad and wok & roll. (Sorry.) 

Photo by Dan Balinovic
  1. In a large bowl, combine one-pound boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces with two-thirds cup cornstarch, four tablespoons flour, and four tablespoons rice wine or chardonnay
  2. In a separate large bowl, combine one cup cornstarch, two thirds flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and a fourth teaspoon baking soda
  3. One piece at a time, drop the chicken into the second bowl, shaking off the excess cornstarch mixture and transferring it to a wire rack
  4. In a large wok, heat 3-4 cups vegetable oil. Working in 4-6 batches depending on the size of your wok, carefully fry the chicken for 6-8 minutes (until golden brown), stirring gently to prevent the pieces from sticking together
  5. Discard the oil, wipe out the wok (without rinsing it), and adjust the heat to medium-high
  6. For two minutes, cook one onion, two carrots, two stalks of celery, eight ounces water chestnuts (optional but encouraged), four ounces mushrooms, and 6-8 garlic cloves. Onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms should be roughly chopped into ½ to 1-inch pieces
  7. Push everything aside to make room at the bottom of your wok. Add one cup granulated white sugar, allowing it to caramelize slightly for a minute or so. Add ½ cup soy sauce, two tablespoons oyster sauce, and a dash of fish sauce, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and then combining with the vegetables and other ingredients until everything is well coated
  8. Continue cooking until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and two cups of whole salt-free or low-sodium cashews. Make a slurry by combining two tablespoons cornstarch with four tablespoons water, add it to the wok, stirring until evenly distributed
  9. Serve with rice and top with chives or green onions
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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Lasagna (in honor of Dorinda) (and Brandi)

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – So, I finally finished the critically acclaimed FX/Hulu series “The Bear” along with season 2 of Bravo/Peacock’s “Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip” (RHUGT), which was highly acclaimed by at least one “critic” who happens to write an influential cooking column for The Los Angeles Blade. 

Both shows are stressful in equal measure for completely different reasons. “The Bear” brought to the fore memories I’d suppressed from my years of working in restaurants, such as the time we ran out of pancake batter during a packed brunch service or the time I spilled a tray of hot coffees on a family of four. I wasn’t a very good server. 

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RHUGT, meanwhile, gathers former stars of the various franchises into a mansion and follows their fights and meltdowns, including over whether host Dorinda Medley, formerly of the Real Housewives of New York fame or Brandi Glanville, guest in Medley’s home and former star of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, makes a better lasagna. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

So, this recipe was made in honor of these queens. Tune in next week for my chicken piccata, a tribute to “The Bear.” I was going to do both this week…

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  1. Cook one onion, finely diced, with 4-6 cloves garlic, finely diced, in olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Season with salt and pepper and a dash of fish sauce, cooking for about 7-10 minutes. Add a few tablespoons tomato paste and cook until it turns a deep brick-red color, another 2 minutes. Add 1 pound ground beef and cook until browned. (I added sliced zucchini because we had a surplus of zucchini but it didn’t really add much to the dish IMO)
  2. Add 2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushing with your hands or a wooden spoon, and cook until well thickened, about 45 minutes
  3. Preheat oven to 425° and bring a large heavily salted stockpot of water to boil
  4. Reserve 1 cup shredded mozzarella, combining, in a large bowl, the remaining 1.5 pounds mozzarella with 2 cups ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, ½ cup heavy cream, and 1-2 cloves grated garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper
  5. Cook lasagna noodles for 4-5 minutes, draining and rinsing the noodles in cold water, splashing them with olive oil to prevent sticking
  6. Assemble lasagna in high-sided baking dish, starting with sauce, then noodles, then sauce, then cheese mixture, then noodles, then sauce, then cheese mixture, then noodles…finishing with a layer of noodles and your reserved 1 cup mozzarella
  7. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes; uncover and bake for a further 35-54 minutes. Let cool slightly and garnish with basil.
Photo by Dan Balinovic
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