Several years ago, a harebrained idea to make a wedding cake for friends led to me sharing a picture of the cake layers stacked up in my freezer, ready for their big debut. You’d think people would comment on the cake, right? Nope. More like: “You have an empty freezer. You have an empty freezer. How?” “I didn’t know it was possible to empty a freezer.” And I was all “People have full freezers? We just use it for vodka and ice cube trays.” Oh Deb of 2008. Come see your circa-2016 freezer and witness the havoc 8 years and 2 kids have wreaked on it.
Does anyone really need a recipe for garlic bread? I mean, garlic + butter + bread = it’s impossible to imagine a bad outcome. And yet I do use one. I mean, prior to today it was in my head and did not include baguette weights because despite the impression this site might give you, I’m not that crazy upstairs. I use a recipe because like most people in the year 2016, I don’t take carb consumption lightly, and garlic bread is even more of a rare luxury. Because of this, if I’m going to make it I don’t want it to be almost right but could use a little more salt, or too much garlic and too little butter, and absolutely not pale and soggy or crouton-hard. I want each time I make it to be like the best time I ever had it, a beacon of bronzed edges, lightly drenched with garlic butter with a whiff of herbs and a kiss of salty heat.
If the theme of late here is simple, cozy meals we can assemble even when we’re not, perhaps, having the most well-rested, worry-free weeks ever, we are unquestionably overdue for a conversation about eggs in purgatory, aka Italian-style huevos rancheros/shakshuka. Plus, what could be more appropriately uplifting during Holy Week than a dish that celebrates hell, or the imminent threat of it? What, you say, one that also celebrates the oldest profession? Oh honey, we’re in.
That sound you hear is the reverberating cacophony of a thousand unfollows. I get it. A great many people rightfully find the avocado toast trend — that is avocado, smashed onto a piece of toasted bread, then discussed as if it were notable — both baffling and exasperating. But I believe there’s a time and place for everything and for me that time (currently a sick no-sleeping baby, thus no-sleeping parents, leading to utter cooking apathy and a near-clinical fixation on avocado toast on my part) and a place (a Nolita cafe that makes it better than anyone else) is right now.
For someone who was all “Harrumph! Cacio e Pepe Does Not Contain Cheddar Cheese.” a few weeks ago, I have some nerve telling you what I’m going to next, which is that I’m pretty smitten with an unapologetically “100% Inauthentic!”-boasting cookbook, the celebration of American-Asian cuisine that is 101 Easy Asian Recipes from the editors of Lucky Peach magazine. There are recipes for “Mall Chicken,” for Rotisserie Ramen, Dollar Dumplings, Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot), and then, the recipe in the dessert section that’s going to make you shut the book and never look back again, that for sliced oranges. You know, like the kind they put out at Chinatown restaurants at the end of a meal.
I have never been particularly interested in recipes — or, if we’re being completely tactlessly honest, people — defined by what they are not, which is probably why you don’t see a lot of recipes with flour/dairy/gluten/meat/sugar-free, no-bake, one-bowl, hand-whisked or the like in recipe titles here, although we have plenty of all of the above. My favorite foods in this category are accidentally what they are; it’s a perk, but not the purpose. I’d rather talk about what a recipe does have, like flavor, or texture or an appeal that makes it almost painful not to make it in the minutes after you read about it.
One of my probably most annoying insistences in the 15 years that I didn’t eat meat was that I suspected people didn’t really like it as much as they thought they did. Take bacon, no doubt the first thing that comes to mind when some leaf-horfing former vegetarian has the audacity to suggest that you could live without flesh. You love the way it’s smoky and salty and crispy and fatty, right? But how much of that has to do with the actual taste of pork belly, versus the way we’ve treated it to make it even more amazing? How much of Korean short ribs are about the unseemly delicious marinade, how much of Southern fried chicken is about that shattering crust, comprise mostly buttermilk, flour and grandma love? How much of barbecued ribs is about the gloriousness of the meat on the bone versus the long tenderizing, smoking and the sweet-salty-spicy stuff we mop or crust on top? [Sorry, I have to stop this paragraph right here so I can eat it.]