Readers of The Perfect Pantry over the years know that the way to my husband Ted's heart has a lot to do with beef stew. This year I realized that, despite my good intentions, I forgot to make stew ahead of time for today's holiday of love. The pressure cooker -- and a game-changing new-to-me ingredient I found at a local gourmet shop -- came to my rescue. If you plan better than I do, you can make this stew on the stovetop, in the usual way. At the cheese and gourmet shop at the end of my block, I spied a small rack of what might have been test tubes, filled with a murky substance that would have looked at home in a chemistry... Read more →

What can I tell you? This Mexican-inspired green pozole beef stew zigged, and then it zagged, and in the end, it landed perfectly. In the first version I tried to incorporate a couple of cups of blue corn kernels, a gift from my friend Candy in Albuquerque. It turns out I should have pre-cooked the corn to soften it; the kernels remained hard and chewy long after the meat was tender. Hard, chewy, and a very odd blue-ish purple. In the second version, I used canned hominy, whole corn kernels that have been dried, then treated, so they look like little exploded puff balls of corn (you can buy canned hominy in the Spanish foods aisle of any supermarket). Just what this stew needed. And... Read more →

What's your go-to recipe, the one you make when you absolutely cannot think of what to cook for dinner, or you can think of something but don't have the ingredients, or you do have the ingredients but don't have the energy? For me, that recipe is most often a Thai curry. Quick and easy Thai curries require only a few key ingredients -- coconut milk and Thai curry paste -- plus some seasonings like lime, sugar, and fish sauce. From there, add a protein and vegetables. That's all you need to do. Because there are so few ingredients, make sure you use the best. I love Mae Ploy or Maesri brand curry pastes; the green, a tub of which always resides in my refrigerator, has... Read more →

On any Chinese restaurant take-out menu, this famous chicken dish (which might be called General Tso's, or General Tsao's, or General Gao's, which is our local spelling) would rate a few hot red peppers next to the name. It's spicy, or should be, and it's one of the two dishes by which I judge all Chinese American restaurants everywhere. (The other, lo mein, I make at home all the time, and my version is pretty good, so I'm a tough critic on that one, too.) In our house there's never enough General Gao's chicken to go around. This recipe makes plenty, it can be made ahead, and the leftovers are the best snack ever when grabbed with chopsticks right from the refrigerator (ask me how... Read more →

I'm grateful to slow cooker manufacturers everywhere for not actually building the airtight appliances they intended to build. Nothing makes me happier than the house filling with the aroma, escaping from under the lid, of whatever is gently cooking in the pot for many hours. A recipe like this Tex-Mex chicken and rice, with corn and black beans tucked here and there, can cook on the stovetop, but in the slow cooker, the flavors have a chance to intermingle on their own (without tending by you), and the musky scent of cumin warms up the kitchen as it cooks. You'll find jars of sofrito in the Spanish foods section of your supermarket. If you use converted rice, you can cook rice right in with the... Read more →

The idea for this rustic fish and fennel pot pie came to me in a dream, and unless you are Sigmund Freud (you're not, are you?), I'm not going to bore you with the details. Somewhere in the dream, I was planning a menu for La Vigilia, the traditional Italian Christmas Eve feast of seven fishes, which in real life I don't celebrate, so I'm sure it wasn't real. One of the dishes on my imaginary menu was a fish pot pie, and if I were making this for La Vigilia, I'd stuff it with several kinds of fish, and perhaps some shrimp or scallops, too. A brightly flavored bulb of fennel will make a real difference, but if you don't like the anise overtones... Read more →

Generally, I think of myself as a person who has not led a fear-based life. And yet, I spent decades living in fear of pressure cookers (once you see green beans plastered to the kitchen ceiling, you cannot unsee them). So I owe this risotto to my friend Kalyn, who nudged me back into pressure cooking, which turned risotto from nearly an hour of stirring (and upper arm exhaustion) to a quick six minutes at high pressure in my fail-safe electric pressure cooker, making this spinach and kale risotto officially fast food. Sun-dried tomatoes bring a little sweetness to balance the bitter greens, creating a risotto that's both easy and healthy. If you have your own slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer, use those instead, and... Read more →