December, 2009 Archive

Monday, December 21, 2009

how to host brunch (and still sleep in)

how to host brunch (and still sleep in)

I take brunch very, very seriously, so seriously that I don’t go out for it very often because, you see, few places do it right. The scones are chalky, the fruit cups are nothing but soggy raspberries and unloved green melon, the yogurt is too sweet; the baked eggs are either hard-cooked or have clear, unsettling whites and the toast, it never comes. Am I a brat with nothing but First World Problems? Indeed I am, but I make a mean brunch.

cream biscuits

I’m going to hazard a guess that in a week and season filled with house guests and sleeping in, you’ll spend a least one of these mornings forgoing your usual coffee and granola bar on-the-go for something social and substantial. And thank goodness, right? Here are the cornerstores I like a gather a brunch menu around: Something fresh, like a fruit salad, even better if you throw in a rich yogurt to spoon over them; something rich and eggy; something sweet, like a coffee cake, muffin, bread pudding or baked french toast; something bready like a biscuit or scone; something boozy, like mimosas, bloody marys or both and something unholy, like bacon or sausage. Or both, because it’s not January 1st yet.

winter fruit salad

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

mushroom marsala pasta with artichokes

mushroom marsala pasta with artichokes

People, I’m about at the end of my ordered-in dinner rope. It’s not that — as the front page of this site might suggest — I haven’t cooked anything since the baby arrived, it’s just that I’ve largely cooked things that could be assembled during naptimes, and most of Alex and my conversations about meals go, “What should we do for dinner?” “I made mushroom toasts and a bowl of butterscotch sauce today!” “Right, so what should we order?” And so on with the pho, cracker-thin pizza and hummusiot dinner deliveries. For three months. At 93 days, even shakshuka broiled with haloumi gets tiresome.


Now, I don’t expect any violins, especially from folks without the East Village’s globe of food delivery options at their fingertips, but I am sure you all understand what it means to desperately crave a homecooked meal. And I don’t mean a 5-hour braise or hand-sheeted pasta (though, ahem, I wouldn’t push either away); even a simple sautéed chicken, which I managed to eek out a few weeks ago, stands out as one of the best things we’ve eaten in a month.

artichokes, thimbles, cheese

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ridiculously easy butterscotch sauce

ridiculously easy butterscotch sauce

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spied a recipe that promised butterscotch brownies or cookies or cake bliss within that suggested you make your butterscotch confection with … butterscotch sauce. From a jar. Or butterscotch chips. From a bag. Sorta like those sandwich recipes that tell you to get out two slices of bread and some deli meats (um, thanks?), it’s kind of a letdown but I just assumed that butterscotch must be a thermometer-requiring, magic wand-waving difficult thing to make. That would explain it, right?

bubbling butterscotch

Well, I’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, misled and so have you because butterscotch — deadly good butterscotch, butterscotch so transcendent it might could bring tears to your eyes — is ridiculously easy to make. Five ingredients (spoiler: one of them is salt) + five minutes on the stove = I just can’t. I’m simply not savvy enough to apply language to how awesome it tastes.

eee, butterscotch

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

creamed mushrooms on chive butter toast

creamed mushrooms, chive butter toasts

My husband’s people — that would be The Russians, if you’ve been following along at home — really like their caviar. It’s rare that a signature spread of zakuski doesn’t include at least one form of gem-colored eggs by the thousands, usually served with sour cream and small crepes. Me, I’m a troglodyte; I’m unable to appreciate such fine things in life, and generally breeze right past the caviar to spear a potato with my fork.

creminis and shiitakes

But it doesn’t mean I don’t like a little fancy something-something now and then; I just want it to suggest caviar but not actually being it (or, ahem, costing it). So when Melissa Clark called this mushroom preparation giving them “the caviar treatment” in an article eons ago, I was both excited, because I do love me some mushrooms, and dubious — dubious enough that it took me over two years to make it. And that, my friends, was a terrible waste of time.


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

build your own smitten kitchen

build your own smitten kitchen: a practical gift guide

Does anyone run out of ways to spend their hard-earned money? I suspect they do not and it is for this reason that I generally shrug at gift guides. I mean, really? That a $3,400 razor set has been marked down to $1,700? Oh thank heavens! I was wondering what to do with this money tree in my backyard that never stops growing.

But all most sarcasm aside, I do, you know, spend some time in the kitchen. And my kitchen is tiny, even tinier than the one I had when I wrote this, which means that paring down my kitchen purchases to the most utilitarian items is more essential than ever. These are the things I couldn’t get by without. My interest is in items that are practical, well-constructed, clever enough to multitask, pretty enough to move from kitchen to table, and — look, this is just my personal schtick as I fear things that melt close to temperatures I routinely use when cooking — involve as little plastic and silicone as possible.

So why do these fairly basic things make great gifts? Because I think the best presents are the things that you either might not think of or might not want to shell out for but end up making your life easier, everyday. More than one-off, silly or amusing kitchen tchotchkes, odds are people will be using these same ten items in ten years, fondly remembering that kick-ass person who bought it for them in 2009.

total showoff

1. A Dutch Oven [Which Doubles as Both a Doorstop and Exercise Weights, which comes in handy when you need to work off all of the lush things you cooked in it] Heavyweight pots that go from stove to oven are essential for any and every type of cooking, especially the stewy soups and braises this weather demands. Staubs are my personal favorite; I not only like their cool industrial design but two features that others do not have — little divots, called “self-basting spikes” under the lids and handles that are steel, not plastic, meaning that you do not have to worry about them melting should your oven exceed 450°F. You only *need* one but I’ve been unable to resist two over the years. My 7-quart oval [more colors here] is great for big meals, dinner parties and is large enough to hold a whole roast or bird, i.e. 6 to 12 servings. My 5-quart round [more colors here is the perfect size for everyday cooking, i.e. 4 to 6 servings.

Can’t get enough? I’m hopelessly in love with Staub teapots [sadly,the square are no longer available unless your stalk stores with dwindling supplies], but the obsession is form, more than function. I mean, they work just fine but mostly I just find them real purty. Slightly more functional, you probably see this 2-quart roasting dish about three times a month on this site. I bought it over two years ago and haven’t put it away since.

[Links: Staub 7-Quart Oval Dutch Oven, plus more colors; Staub 5-Quart Round Dutch Oven, plus more colors here; Staub Round Teapots, Staub Oval Roasting Dish]

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