Five years ago, I fell in love with dry-rub barbecue. Prior to the summer of 2008, I naively believed that the only way to make ribs deliciously on the grill was to mop them with copious amounts of a wet, tomato-based barbecue sauce. I know, I know, silly Deb, but what can you really expect from a Yankee?
Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.
This is Alex‘s birthday week, which, in case you’re new here, means that there’s an open package of bacon in the fridge, the promise of oysters, shrimp cocktail, small-batch bourbon and babysitters on the horizon, butter and chocolate will soon align to meet their many-candled cake destiny and I, well, I bought some steak. I bet you’d imagine that a guy married to gal who likes to cook things that make people happy would be frequently entitled to his favorite food on earth, made at home, just because it’s a Tuesday. Well, once every year or so, that is exactly what happens.
I just realized we are almost halfway through with summer and while I should be totally stoked about this — seeing as we’re melting through our fourth heatwave so far this summer in NYC and given what awesome things are in store for the fall — I am spectacularly bummed as I am just getting used to having an avalanche of delicious summer produce at my disposal and haven’t had time to do half of what I wanted to with it yet. Plus, this guy turns three at the end of the summer and I can’t, I won’t accept it. More time, please! For everything.
If you told me a week ago that I would willingly adding cold chicken to cold noodles and call it a meal, a meal I’d eat enthusiastically, I’d think you had lost your mind. The various intersections of cold chicken and cold pasta are littered with foods I’d rather forget, such as those macaroni salads with shredded, overcooked chicken, suspiciously squicked together with mayo in a clear plastic take-out container of dubious expiration at the nearest corner deli. Hey, who’s hungry? Probably not you anymore!
This, this is my culinary Mount Everest. This twenty-layer striation of noodles, ragu, béchamel and cheese, repeated four times and then some took me more than five years to conquer. To be honest, six years ago I didn’t know what it was. Sure, I had heard of lasagna but I wasn’t terribly fond of it because I don’t much care for the texture of ricotta once it has baked. (Ricotta, I’d argue, is best rich, fresh, and cold on toast.) But I was galloping through a post on an Italian food blog and I stumbled upon a parenthesised side-thought that stopped me dead in my tracks. It said something along the lines of “I don’t know whose idea it was to put ricotta in lasagna but… shudder.” And I thought, but wait! What’s supposed to go in lasagna? But there was no answer, so I set out to find one.
Without a doubt, the very best part of fried chicken is the battered, seasoned, gold-tinged and impossibly crisp exterior. But, as far as I’m concerned, the tender chicken within is no distant second. The best fried chicken recipes have you soak the uncooked chicken in a salty/sweet brine of buttermilk and seasonings for at least day, resulting in meat that’s decadent long before it hits the fryer. Wouldn’t it be great if the insides could garner the same gushing their pretty skins do?