20 Mar

BONUS: Updated Double-Fried Chicken, Sweet-Hot Peanut Sauce and Herbed Fritters

I had so much fun playing with Frida Kahlo’s recipe for Double-Fried Chicken and Nut Sauce for Yahoo Food that I couldn’t help tweak it to my liking. Here’s what I came up with:


Frida Kahlo’s Double-Fried Chicken

Sweet and Spicy Peanut sauce

Herbed Fritters

Adapted from Frida’s Fiestas

Servings: 8

This is not a quick weeknight meal. There are three major steps: Making the sauce, frying the chicken the first time, and then frying it the second. Unless you relish long and arduous cooking, I say break it up: Make the sauce in advance, as much as a day or two. Round one of frying can be done ahead of time if you like, though you may sacrifice some crispness. As you near the second frying time, warm the sauce on the stove, but keep in mind that the white peanut sauce will darken from snowy white to beige if you heat it for very long.



8 chicken thighs, skin on and preferably bone-in, patted bone-dry and seasoned with salt and pepper.

salt and pepper

lard, corn or canola oil for frying

Thyme or oregano, fresh or dried (optional)

½ stick butter

6 eggs, separated

2 cups saltine or other cracker crumbs, ideally unsalted, ground fine

Ground cinnamon (optional)

Sweet and spicy Mexican peanut sauce

¾ cup raisins

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup unsalted, roasted and peeled peanuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 thin slice sweet onion

2 T + 2 t sesame seeds

1/2 –inch piece of Mexican canela, crushed, or ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 clove or 1 pinch ground clove

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup milk, preferably whole

3 pickled jalapenos, stems removed

4-6 T juice from pickled jalapenos



Sweet and spicy peanut sauce

Richly sweet, with a hint of caramel, this sauce has a bright heat from the vinegar of pickled jalapenos. It draws on both Kahlo’s peanut sauce recipe and the pollo almendrado recipe of Sra. Beatríz Alonso from Oaxaca that’s included in Diana Kennedy’s My Mexico.

  1. Fry raisins in a little oil in a heavy skiullet., heat a little oil, and add raisins to the pan, stirring frequently until they plump up. Move to strainer. Repeat with nuts, garlic and onion.
  2. Add sesame seeds to the pan, toast until golden brown; transfer to small plate.
  3. Put stock and spices in a blender, adding the sesame bit by bit. Then add everything but the jalapenos. Taste.
  4. Add jalapenos and juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Double-Fried Chicken


  1. Fry your chicken thighs, unbattered and unfloured; I like to pan fry, but if you want to deep-fry, Epicurious has a good option here
  2. As chicken finishes, set on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Put in a 200 degree oven to keep the crust from softening.


  1. Pour oil a couple inches deep in a big, heavy skillet or dutch oven, and put an oil thermometer in. Turn heat on medium to high , depending on your stove.
  2. Pour the cracker crumbs into a broad, shallow dish.
  3. Beat the separated egg yolks until they are thick and densely foamy. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the yolks into the whites as gently as possible; the capeado should still form soft peaks.
  4. Coat each thigh on crac
  5. Using tongs, dip a crumb-coated thigh in the capeado. Turn it over several times; you want a light, airy cloud enveloping it. Run your finger around the edges, removing excess drips. Transfer to the oil.
  6. Working quickly, repeat with as many thighs as you can roomily fit in the pan. It should take 60-90 seconds until the submerged side of the chicken turns an appealing dark brown. When it does, turn it over and repeat.
  7. When both sides are deep golden brown, transfer the thigh to the cooling rack on the cookie sheet. If desired, dust the thighs lightly with cinnamon.
  8. Repeat with any remaining thighs.
  9. If making fritters, let oil come back up to 360 degrees. 


  1. Working quickly, mix together the remaining capeado batter and leftover cracker crumbs. You want a texture that’s like mashed potatoes.
  2. Mix in herbs to taste; I like a couple tablespoons of dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls into the hot oil. Do not crowd them too much; you want the oil to stay hot. When the bottom side is deep golden brown, flip.
  4. If the fritters are aggressively salty (possibly if you used salted crackers), counteract with anything vinegar, such as (what else) pickled jalapenos.


  1. If serving a group, pile the chicken in a platter, and scatter sliced pickled jalapeno chiles, carrots and onions over it. (I like the Costeña brand best.) Ditto with the fritters.
  2. Serve the sauce, warmed, on the side. Set out a bowl of more pickled chiles.
  3. If plating individually, spoon a small pool of sauce in the center of the plate.
  4. Place a thigh over the sauce in the center of the plate.
  5. Spoon more sauce over the top, making sure it drapes attractively over the chicken.
  6. Garnish with pickled chiles, carrots and onions.

22 Nov

BONUS: How Whole Foods really prices its food

It’s easy to gloss over the details in all the hubbub over the feature I just published with Slate and the Food and Environment Reporting Network, “Can Whole Foods Really Chance the Way Poor People Eat?” But I would encourage anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of food reporting to pay attention to the data set we amassed for the piece.

What’s the big deal with the data?

Comparing food prices between stores is phenomenally difficult to do well. Brand names, sale prices, different sized packaging…all of it gets very confusing, very quickly. The USDA does track food prices, but only at the bulk level—for a pound of green peas, for example. But most of us don’t buy just a pound of shelled green peas. We buy Green Giant, or we buy Cascadian Farmr, or we buy White Rose, with all the presumed differences between them affecting price. There simply isn’t anywhere that researchers can go, let alone consumers, to see a coherent comparison with name brands. Until now.

Is your food expensive? Now you can check.

Slate has published the raw data comparing 50 grocery item prices for cheapest option; organic option; and  national brand option at four stores: Whole Foods Detroit, Whole Foods Orchard Lake (a suburb), Walmart (Dearborn, a suburb), and King Cole (a neighborhood supermarket in Detroit) . These are a snapshot, collected over the course of five days in September 2014. But they give a good baseline comparison. If you want to know how the price you’re paying stacks up against these stores, check out the Slate data.

But if you want the full story of the data, it’s worth looking at FERN’s post of the story which includes some research extras.

On a budget? You can’t do all your shopping at Whole Foods.

If price-to-price comparison is the most important thing for you, you’ll want to steer clear of Whole Foods. Although the retailer lowered prices in its DEtroit store on select items, doing grocery shopping there was still 27 percent more expensive compared to King Cole, and 56 more expensive than Walmart.

Looking for local produce? Your best bet may be Walmart.

Local items showed up in three varieties: Produce, dairy and processed. When it came to local produce, Walmart had the most options off the shopping list, with 5 local produce offerings. King Cole came in with 3, while Whole Foods Detroit had just 2. But if you want local jam and butter, Whole Foods is going to have a better selection.

Who’s got the best price on organics?

To take a close look at how organic prices compare, check out the data posted by FERN, which compares Walmart against the two Whole Foods stores. And here’s a surprise: Walmart’s prices on organics are on par with Whole Foods.

If you’re devoted to national name-brands, stick with Walmart or a regular supermarket.

For processed foods that come from national name brands, our study showed that your best bet is going to be conventional superarkets like Walmart or even a neigborhood grocer. Going for national brands at Whole Foods Detroit was twice as expensive as at Walmart.

03 Nov

What I learned in the garlic fields

FERN Talks & Eats • Nov. 3, 2014

Brooklyn, NY

I was honored to take part in a live storytelling event hosted by the wonderful Food and Environment Reporting Network. Below is the text of the story I performed.

Rosalinda is fourteen when I meet her. She has brown skin and black hair and eyes so pretty that even when she wears bandanas over her face in the field, you can tell she is beautiful.

Inez is fourteen, too, with the same brown skin and black hair that Rosalinda has, but her eyes aren’t as big, her smile not as wide.

They both change my life forever. …more…

28 Oct

Why class, and poverty, are the biggest problems with food

At the James Beard Foundation Food Conference this week, I argued that addressing poverty was not a marginal concern for anyone interested in changing our food system, but a central one. But upon reflection, I realized I’d left something important out: Lower-income Americans matter for the food movement in an integral way, because it’s their concerns—not those of elites—that can give food advocates political weight. To push food into a political issue instead of a lifestyle change takes numbers—and there are way more low-income people than there are wealthy.


26 Oct

Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium: Introducing Joseph Piko Ewoodzie

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 5.40.16 PM

I had the complete pleasure of attending this year’s Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium Oct. 23-26 this fall.It was a particularly compelling program, centered on “Who Is Welcome at the Welcome Table?” and examining issues of race, class and equity in food.

I also had the delight of introducing the work of Mr. Joseph Piko Ewoodzie, who discussed his sociological work studying the foodways of black Jacksonians from three different socioeconomic classes.

You can read about Piko’s work here, where he speaks with SFA staff, but you’ll be glad you watched his brief lecture here, too.

21 Sep

Total honor: I’m one of Eater’s 72 Ways Food Can Change the World


Sept. 21, 2014

I not only enjoyed writing a quick piece for the delightful Eater website about what inspires my work, and why I think food can change the world, but am honored to be among 71 (!) other food world names, most of whom are way plenty more accomplished than me.

You can read the whole package here, or skip to my little bit.

10 Apr

I was a hungry college kid, too

The Washington Post has a sobering piece up this morning: Hunger among college kids is now so common that more than a hundred schools have established food banks on-campus for students.

First, I was appalled. And then I remembered: I could have used one in school, too.

I’ve long had a running joke for use in polite circles: That if I hadn’t been nannying for a kind and wealthy family in Soho, where I ate dinner with them four nights a week, I would have developed scurvy. I relied on those meals. As Tara Bahrampour reports:

“Between paying rent, paying utilities and then trying to buy food, that’s where we see the most insecurity because that’s the most flexible,” said Monica Gray, director of programs at the College Success Foundation-District of Columbia, which helps low-income high school students go to college.

Food’s the flexible thing in the budget, and so it falls by the wayside. Tuition can’t be changed; rent can’t be changed; utilities can’t be changed. But you can always eat less.

And so I did. Even with my four meals a week, I simply didn’t go grocery shopping because doing so meant spending all the money I had on-hand. Instead I ate piece-meal; I made do with bagels and canned shakes from the bodega. I got so thin that sitting on hard surfaces became uncomfortable. So did sleeping on my side, even on a mattress. Friends started telling me I needed to eat more.

Twenty years ago, I was an unusual case. I was a working-class transplant in a rich kid school, stumbling my way through college. I thought it was normal to drop 20 pounds in a year.

It is a damn shame that today, my college-years hunger wouldn’t be unusual at all.

31 Jan

February 2014 rears its chilly head

Looking for fun in February? Perhaps you’d enjoy catching one of my talks, in NYC and Philly. Hear about those, other upcoming talks, my favorite new reads and my wonderful new gig at Wesleyan here.

09 Dec

my crazy year: Year-End roundup

In case you’re not subscribed to my mailing list (sigh: can’t win ’em all), but you’d still like to know what’s up with my professional work, click RIGHT HERE to see the latest and get links to all the best new stuff. See you in 2014!

18 Nov

the calm after the storm: autumn 2013

I can often be a whiner. But right now I’m feeling silent on that front, because the fall has been pretty amazing. I have had the incredible luck to be overwhelmingly busy with work, including reporting for two features that I’m actually excited about — big news for any freelancer. (Keep your eyes out for my byline, fingers crossed, in the New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.)

But I’ve also been privileged enough to be traveling to talk about The American Way of Eating and why having a frank conversation about food and class is important in today’s America. Here’s a quick recap below, mostly to give a shout out to the wonderful, generous people who’ve been hosting my writerly self all across the country (and generously helping me cover living expenses in the process)!