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?
It’s a fairly accurate indication of how charmed my life is these days that I considered the act of having to choose what I would make to bring to a New Years Party tomorrow difficult. If makes you wonder what I’d consider easy — which spa gift certificate I should use first to get a manicure before the party? Whether I should wear the earrings from this year’s or last year’s little blue box to the party? Which jet to take there? It’s all in a day of the glamorous life of a food blogger. Ahem.
I am embarrassed by how long it took me to discover carnitas, or “little meats” that are usually braised then roasted, and are as far I quickly became concerned, the very best thing to pile on a blistered corn tortilla. I had my first one just a couple years ago. I was pregnant at the time and protein-rich foods were ten times as delicious as they normally were so when I became obsessed with having another, and then another, I chalked it up to baby madness. But that kid is now two, and my carnita fixation has gone nowhere. (And no, people, I’m not pregnant. In fact, I’m pouring whiskey into my coffee as we speak, just like I always do after preschool drop-offs.)
Back when I started dreaming up a cookbook I would one day write, all I knew is what I didn’t want: I did not want to work every weekday, weekend and evening on it, I did not want to set an insanely close deadline and then have to hastily throw together a book I wasn’t pleased with and above all else I did not want the time I had to devote to this web space to become squeezed, although I understood that there would probably be a harried point right near the end that all three rules could be suspended for a good cause. And indeed, they have been. I hope to deliver my manuscript in August and it’s pretty all-consuming right now — in a good way, because I’m finally starting to see the whole thing coming together. So, if things are a bit slow between now and then, do understand that I cannot wait until late summer when my attentions can be what they were before my son was 4 months old, and instead of doing normal New Mom things like catching up on sleep or rounding up preschool applications (ha!), I decided that at my earliest convenience, I would write a book instead.
Last September, surprising nobody more than my husband, decided I’d be a Good Football Wife this year and start using Sunday afternoons to make a hearty meal, one that stuck to our ribs and balanced out all those salads we enforce on ourselves during the week. I made beef chili with sour cream and cheddar biscuits and then I made… Right. It about stopped there. In my defense, my husband’s team of choice, The Giants, were hardly Good Football Material this year, so perhaps both of our enthusiasms waned simultaneously. Also, the baby decided he had to start running around dismantling the apartment most weekends, so somebody had to, you know, make sure he didn’t injure himself and blame us. Toddlers, man.
Abruptly, and likely surprising nobody more than my husband, I have decided to be a Good Football Wife this year. Finding it impossible to summon any actual enthusiasm for the game but refusing to fulfill the sitcom wife-cliché of grumbling about my husband’s Sunday afternoon routines, in the past, I’ve mostly tolerated it. But with months of cold and/or wet Sundays ahead of us, I finally came to the realization that football season is the perfect excuse to embrace some much-needed Lazy Sundays. A morning bagel, park and farmers market run routine segues nicely into an afternoon of bumming around, or you know, however the person at hand defines it. For Alex, football, with the requisite pre- and post-game Sports Shouting episodes. For Jacob, removing books from the bookcases one by one, then attempting to stand on them to reach higher shelves, so he can remove them too. He naps, we replace the books, he wakes up and starts again. Ah, Sundays.