I am likely the last person in New York City to learn about Blue Sky Bakery muffins, and it’s all my fault because I wasn’t paying attention. Why would you, really? Most coffee shops don’t sell muffins worth noting. You can only audition so many flavorless, greasy, tight-crumbed, massive metallic-tasting muffins before not even looking in bakery cases when you go in for your morning fix. Four year-olds, however, are not suspicious — they are insistent. So, one morning over spring break (something you dread when you’re in preschool, live for in high school and college, and I’m sorry to admit, lightly dread again as a parent), when I tried to make the most of our more leisurely mornings with excursions, we got in the terrible habit of splitting one of their fruit-filled bran muffins each morning and by the end of the week, we were so addicted that I had to make them at home.
My brunch arsenal, the dishes I’ve made enough times that they no longer cause any furrowed brows — a core entertaining principle here at House Smitten Kitchen (sigil: cast-iron skillet) — is as follows: bacon (always roasted in the oven, I mean, unless you were hoping to mist yourself with eau de pork belly*); some sort of fruit salad (either mixed berries and vanilla bean-scented yogurt or mixed citrus segments, sometimes with mint and feta); buttermilk biscuits; a pitcher of Bloody Marys, a bottle of champagne and a couple carafes of freshly-squeezed grapefruit or orange juice, blood orange whenever available; something sweet (our current favorite) and eggs. As I dictated years ago, everything that can be made in advance should be, thus pancakes, individually fried slices of French toast, omelets and even eggs baked in ramekins, adorable as they may be, are verboten. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it’s always the worst.
Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.
A couple weeks ago, when we lamented the fact that the people who raised us and claimed to love us still didn’t find it in their hearts to provide us with the specific food products we yearned for (basically, we are all the Honest Toddler on the inside), I remembered yet another item on the denied list which was quickly added to my Writ of Grievances with my progenitors that I will carry with me to the grave and blame for all of my misfortunes, like that Amazon reviewer who said my cookbook was “tantamount to culinary fanfic.” Just kidding, I just took too many melodrama pills this morning.
We should really talk about this. Promise you won’t get mad, okay? I came across this for the first time twelve years ago. I’ve been blogging here for almost eight years, which means I had ample time to tell you about and just didn’t. (I kinda feel like a kid right now who forgot to mention that they were flunking Spanish until report cards came out. I’m sooo grounded.) It gets worse. I finally made it on New Years Day for brunch and it was promptly declared one of the best things I’ve ever made, which is kind of rude. I mean, the lasagna bolognese can hear you! I still didn’t tell you about it, reasoning that it is Not Acceptable to talk about carbs, fat and refined sugar in the time of Resolutions. And then, late in January, we had another brunch and I made it again and still I held out. Sheesh, even I think I’m kind of a jerk right now.
We all know that muffins teeter precariously on a razor-thin line that divides the food categories of “Acceptable for Breakfast” and “Nope, This Is Dessert” and one must maintain firm boundaries during the breakfast hours lest the day that follows devolve into a full-on bacchanal of Resolution decompensation that ends with one passed out amid scatters of Cheetos, ketchup packets and French fry grease with a side of cronut.
I suspect by now that most of you are on your way to where you’re headed, physically and possibly proverbially. Maybe you have a tree to cut down or some cookies to bake. You probably have a holiday party tonight, and rooms to clean before guests arrive. You no doubt have entertaining on your brain. We do, too. We’ve had two dinner parties thus far this month, and instead of being exhausted of them, I want even more. This might be a sickness. Or maybe it’s just realistic; for the price of dinner for two out, we can easily feed 15 at home, where we don’t have to deal with pesky restaurant minimums, the constant feeling that the clock is ticking as waiters are eager to turn the table over, we can actually speak to all of our friends (the reality of most big restaurant meals is that you can only talk to the people on either side of you — at home, musical chairs and shouting across tables is acceptable and encouraged), and oh, I don’t even put shoes on. Entertaining barefoot is where it’s at, people, trust me.