Fall Archive

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

chicken noodle soup

baby, (all of the sudden) it's cold outside

There are about as many recipes for chicken noodle soup as there are people who enjoy it, which is everyone. Well, everyone but me. I understand that announcing that one does not like chicken noodle soup is tantamount to saying that one dislikes comfort, thick sweaters on brisk fall days, well-padded shoes for long walks and sips of tea from a steamy mug. I get this. But in my defense, I am not the one who broke it.

getting started
browning the onions, wisp of steam

I cannot take responsibility for delis that keep a batch of soup at a low simmer 24/7, until the noodles are gummy and the bits of chicken taste like death itself. I find it depressing that few recipes on the first three pages of Google results for chicken noodle soup image that one might want to make it from scratch, that an “old fashioned chicken noodle soup” recipe on one of the largest food websites out there has you begin with eight cans of low-sodium chicken stock. I am equally suspicious of chicken soups that have you cook the chicken to a point beyond repair and then discard the meat, because my inner Depression-era granny (frankly, outer, too, on days where I don my aforementioned thick cardigan and padded shoes) would fall over at the thought that people cook a chicken only not eat it, and therefore, maybe so should we. I am uninspired by soups that have you cook the chicken so briskly in the name of saving it for later leaving just a pale, weak broth behind. And with this, what happened is what always happens when I attempt to explain in great detail why I have no love for a certain dish: I ended up making it anyway.

not bad for a 40 minute chicken broth

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Friday, October 5, 2012

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

Something kind of terrifying is going on around here, and it started in the back of the closet. I found shoes there, old shoes, shoes that did not fit. They had to go. Thus far, this is the snoring-est horror story yet, but wait, the discontent simmers: Half the closet followed, all of the plastic hangers that drove me batty were replaced with nonslip ones, sweaters were color-sorted, dresses were arranged by season and my husband’s closet is on notice too.

pumpkin rolls, let's do this
it's the most wonderful time of the year

It gets worse: What began as a vague declaration that “this coffee table needs to be replaced” turned into an entire living room overhaul, from a fresh paint job to a new sofa, chairs, and yes, tables too. The throw pillows are looking nervous, as well they should. The kitchen cabinets got purged and everything that remained went into airtight glass jars. With labels. It’s like Aunt Pinterest came to town in there. Lest you think my three year-old has escaped my high straightenance bender, I bought every single pair of his pants in two sizes this fall, in case he goes on another wild growth spurt right around the time the universe runs out of pants; I picked up his Halloween costume on Labor Day weekend, and then, the shelves in his room just didn’t feel right to me and it turned out they were missing colorful baskets to hold his toys.

mixing and mixing in new glass bowl

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

roasted apple spice sheet cake

roasted apple spice subway cake

Yesterday, our little bear turned three which, you know, is impossible since we are unequivocally certain that we just brought him home from the hospital yesterday. Seriously, right here, through the door to my right and we put the carrier that he was sleeping deeply within on the table. It looked strange there [Also, we were hungry and unsure of the logistics — is it rude to eat lunch while your newborn is on the table? Isn’t it worse to place him on the floor?] Sure, there were one or two hundred fewer fire engine parts, stuffed hedgehogs and train tracks scattered across the living room carpet, and maybe we looked a little younger and better-rested; I probably didn’t have my iPhone wedged between sofa cushions the way I do right now so that my talking-walking-doing things mini-human couldn’t co-opt it to watch Elmo videos again (how does he find them?), but otherwise, nothing has changed. Nothing! Don’t say it. Didn’t your mother teach you to never argue with crazy people?

apples
lightly roasting the apples

I know a lot of people who have had babies lately and I feel like I should say something wise here because I understand how utterly hectic the first few months can be, not because newborns are particularly difficult but because you’re terrified you’re going to break them, or maybe just a little shell-shocked in general. One minute they’re slumped over your shoulder snoring the tiniest snore ever emitted and you feel utterly centered, a sense of all the generations that came before this one gathered invisibly around their squished faces in beaming admiration, and the next they’re red-faced and full of rage, their squawking mouths in a perfect open circle, and you and your significant other are frantically running through the checklist you keep in your heads (hungry? cold? tired? wet?) which grows more complicated every few months (is your swaddle loose? did you roll over in the night again and can’t get yourself back? so help us, did we put you to bed with the little George and you wanted the big one?) and more complicated still (“Mommy, we have to take Ernie, Bert and Twacktor back to the park.” “Jacob, it’s 2 a.m. Please go back to sleep.”). I also have a bunch of friends who are quite close to deciding to have babies but they’re so understandably freaked out by everything they read about the crying and the not sleeping and the life will never be the same ever ever again that they’re terrified to move forward. But I can’t. I have no wisdom to impart, no pithy catchphrases that will cause it all to make sense. I can only say LOOK AT THIS. I can no longer imagine life any other way.

cake delight

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dijon-braised brussels sprouts

saucing the sprouts

Is there anything so dull as a brussels sprouts recipe just days after the brussels sprout-ing-est holiday of the year? No? Phew. Because these sprouts, they’re a long time coming. It took me forever to get them right. I’d originally intended them for the cookbook. I made them six different ways in the fall of 2010, and I never found what I was looking for. It was a year before I could even look at brussels again, and by that time, the book had moved on without them. But I had not.

a sad bag of sprouts, much to peel
halved

I wanted a brussels sprout dish that was the opposite of what I’ve been seeing around in the last couple years — that would be free of nuggets of slab bacon, toasted nuts, buttery breadcrumbs, crumbled cheese or individual leaves, deep fried until crisp as potato chips. Do I dislike any of these things? Heavens, no. But they’re all so heavy. And rich. And brussels, with their cabbage origins, are hearty enough. I wanted to cook them in a simple braise, and then finish them with a piercing, heavenly sauce, something that cut right through the leafiness without adding mountains of pork fat. I wanted the cabbage equivalent of our favorite chicken dish.

pan-browned brussels

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

sweet potato (and marshmallow) biscuits

sweet potato biscuits

I admitted somewhere in the comments last week that I’d all but abandoned making my own pumpkin puree these days, baking instead with the always-reliable canned stuff. I think that as home cooks, it’s our tendency to want to do anything and everything that can be from scratch as such, but that I’d never been satisfied with the labor versus outcome balance of roasting pumpkin. To get a dreamy texture like one from canned pumpkin, I found I often had to roast, then puree, then sometimes cook briefly on the stove to thicken it up and often, still found the flavor inconsistent, sometimes delicious, often a little lackluster. I know, I just put you all to sleep. I promise, there is unapologetic goofiness ahead.

squisssssh
mixing wet and dry

What I didn’t get into was my current obsession — putting sweet potato where you’d expect pumpkin. With the arrival of this guy, roasted sweet potatoes are in a near-constant rotation and so it was only a matter of time before they showed up everywhere. Whether I buy sweet potatoes from a Stop & Shop by my parents house or the bottom of a dusty crate at a farmers market on 2nd Avenue, is a remarkably consistent creature of the underground. I roast them for 45 minutes (which makes my apartment smell like bubbling sweet potato caramel, i.e. heaven), let them cool, then peel and run them through a potato ricer and have perfectly textured and flavored purees every single time. This year I’ve been on a huge sweet potato baking kick: pies, pancakes, breads and now this, biscuits.

a great dough for raw dough fiends

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