I fell for a photo this week. It was on marthastewart.com and it looked like an accordion, or maybe a Slinky, of thinly sliced, crisped potatoes and my brain computed this as CHIPS. POTATO CHIPS MASQUERADING AS GROWN-UP SIDE DISH. MUST MAKE POTATO CHIP CASSEROLE (I was kind of like this dog here) and although further investigation of the recipe unveiled no actual use of potato chips, creamed canned soup or anything also that would really allow it to be titled a Potato Chip Casserole, it was too late and I was making it anyway.
Side Dish Archive
A couple months ago, we went out with friends to a new Austrian restaurant in our neighborhood and over too much Grüner and Very Large Dark Beers, got in an animated discussion about spaetzle, and how it was the perfect food. It manages to be both dumplings and noodles at once, and as good tangled with cheese and herbs and bacon and vegetables and as it is alongside a hearty braise. It is never unwelcome. And then my friend turned to me, I guess presuming I’m a person who knows how to, like, make things and ask me how it was made. And I realized I had no idea. This never happens — not that I am clueless, as I am routinely clueless, especially in the realm of denim — but it’s rare that I haven’t a single inkling as to how a food is made. But homemade spaetzle, I hadn’t even considered before.
On a beach vacation that already feels like it was too long ago, I tucked into the collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto and realized I’d inadvertently brought on vacation with me the very best book ever for my current brand of mental unevenness. Apparently, even the great Julia Child went a little insane writing her cookbook. She fretted over if varied and uneven ingredients would keep her recipes from working as she wanted them to in others’ kitchens and even had occasional bouts of frustration with her tiny, ill-equipped kitchens. And Julia is like my superhero! I was no less than 10 pages in when I already felt better about my choices, the work I had left, life itself, the universe at large… or perhaps it was just those no-good piña coladas and that blue-meets-blue horizon working their magic on me. Nevertheless, I thanked Julia.
A repeat offender in the lede-burier category, let me begin with what matters: this is absolutely my new favorite quick and obsessively delicious way to prepare mushrooms.
What an awkward time for me to admit this, as no doubt these will grace some tables this week I’ve been gracefully invited to, but I’m not really into, well, mashed things: potatoes, yams, parsnips, root vegetables and other purees that serve as the piles to sop up everything awesome that runs off our main courses before our forks can catch it. I mean, I won’t pushed mashed potatoes away; it’s not that they actually taste bad. It’s just that I’ve never been convinced that they taste better than the sum of their copious amounts of various combinations of butter, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, crème fraîche, cream and goat cheeses. No, really, I mean copious. Jeffrey Steingarten, a man whose essay collections you should read if you have not already, found that the magic formula that elevated mashed potatoes to, well, the kind you’ll probably gush about on Thursday night fell somewhere between one and four sticks (a pound) of butter for every two pounds (two to three) of potatoes. I know, I know: “Deb, you are such a party pooper.”
Could anything be simpler than creamed onions? I mean, it’s cream, and then it is onions. And you cook them together. The end. Or perhaps the beginning of another piece of evidence that I can take the simplest thing and make it, er, long-winded. First, I involved Thomas Keller, or rather, he beckoned me. I was getting a pedicure a couple weekends ago (figuring I’d put my family and also those other moms at the gym class I took the baby to out of their misery) and on the armrest was that week’s New York Magazine, boasting Thanksgiving recipes from some great New York chefs within. Obviously, I turned there first and though, again, creamed onions are really just cream and onions therefore not inherently interesting, the recipe was from Thomas Keller and he is a master of taking the seemingly simple and making it amazing. I was in.
This is the kind of thing you come up with when you have a one year-old who, like many one year-olds, wishes to eat sweet potatoes with every meal. Sure, the goal is for the kid to eat exactly what the rest of the family is eating for dinner, but there are only so many days in a row we can feign excitement over a side of sweet potatoes and I have only so much heart to deny the kid something he delights in. And so I spent a good part of September and October roasting sweet potatoes, repeating the task enough times that I made two great discoveries.