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.
I’m pretty sure I had a normal relationship to all things stringy and green when I started this site, but if my archives are any indication, at some point in 2008, something shifted and I became a green bean fiend. It might have even been May of that year, a month that be began with a simple summery salad but by month’s end, I was forcing Alex to endure takeout from a medicore French restaurant up to twice a week, just so I could have their side dish of skinny green beans with a pat of butter, some shallots and tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice. (When he cut me off, I simply went into the kitchen and attempted them myself.) I began remembering which restaurants cooked green beans perfectly each time, like the one on 7th Avenue that served them with roast chicken, buried in jus under a pile mashed potatoes and I literally ate them before the salty, crispy skin. I began judging places harshly if my beans flapped or flopped on a plate. I could speak unhealthily at length about various cooking times and what texture they’d leave the beans.
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.
Is it too soon in our relationship to say that I miss hanging out with you guys more? I hope not. The fact is that these days I am so deep in the throes of
oh my god what was I thinking a certain cookbook I’m supposed to be halfway (ha! hoo! hee! I wonder if Knopf will find this so hilarious) finished with that it’s taking time away from hanging out here. Which is a shame, as it is my favorite place outside a certain striped carpet covered with The Mop Who Came to Live With Us and his toys and a bar I haven’t found yet that makes perfect Manhattans.