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Practice Makes Perfect Biscuits


Good morning. If you make biscuits (above) today — and you ought to — they ought to be terrific. But if you make biscuits today and do so again next weekend and the weekend after and the weekend after that, they will be terrific, the best biscuits ever. This is a matter of practice related to what martial artists call kata — a set pattern that rewards repetition with excellence.

The same goes for pizza dough — whether for pan pizza, Neapolitanish pizza or Chicago tavern-style pizza. “You’ve got to keep your hands in the flour,” the pizza lord Anthony Falco once told me, a reminder to always be making pizza dough, to be attuned to its particulars, to keep up the practice.

Probably this is true of jam making and cake baking, too, and of making pasta and tempering eggs. It’s certainly true of making hollandaise sauce. Indeed, regular repetition of any cooking technique will make you a better, more confident cook.

So let’s start with those biscuits. Make them this afternoon to accompany dinner (I’m thinking pork chops with onion gravy) and see where you find yourself. There’s pleasure in the practice, no?


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As for the rest of the week. …

I love Melissa Clark’s recipe for cauliflower shawarma unreservedly. It’s light and flavorful under a drizzle of spicy tahini, with loads of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. I serve the dish with warm pita, lots of olives and hummus.

I’ve been cooking picadillo for a long time, but never in a slow cooker. Sarah DiGregorio’s new recipe for the beloved Cuban dish provides the instruction, so I’ll let that go in the machine all afternoon, adding raisins and olives toward the end for a sweet and briny pop.

Mazemen is a brothless Japanese ramen dish with an intensely savory sauce. Hetty Lui McKinnon developed a spicy mushroom and tofu version that’s perfect for weeknight cooking. The dish is vegan, but I’m going to add a soft-boiled egg to the mix. I’m not vegan.

Julia Moskin’s adaptation of Mark Usewicz’s recipe for pan-roasted fish fillets with herb butter is a game changer, a recipe to bring the preparation of fish into even the smallest and least ventilated of kitchens. You can make the dish, quickly, with whatever fish is freshest at the market, so long as the fillets are not too thick.

And then you can head into the weekend with Farideh Sadeghin’s new recipe for smothered chicken, one of the great dishes of the American South. You could make like Craig Claiborne and add onions and mushrooms, but either way, the gospel of cooking low and slow is key to achieving maximum smother.

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Now, it’s nothing to do with dumplings or kale, but Joumana Khatib took over the “Read Like the Wind” newsletter for The New York Times Book Review last week and delivered a banger: two novels I never would have found without her help. Pay it forward!



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