Last week* I mentioned that we’d been on a big breakfast-for-dinner spree this winter, less out of a noble desire for inexpensive, balanced, wholesome meals and more because scrambling eggs at the last minute allows us to go all the way to 15 minutes before dinner to come up with an idea for it, which is meal-planning equivalent of the heavens opening up and glorifying all of my late-afternoon lethargy at last.
One of my secret food shames is that I don’t love spicy foods as much as would probably make me cool these days. I’ve got no Thai chile-eating bravado, no Sichuan peppercorn count to throw around, and I never even once in college went to one of those Buffalo wings places where they make you sign a waiver (such as the delightfully named, late Cluck U Chicken near Rutgers University) and lived to brag about it, the way others might boast about how much they bench press or how fast they run a mile (nope, nothing to swagger about there either). My ideal hot sauce can’t be found among my husband’s collection of Tapatio, Cholula and Sriracha, but in this Mild Sauce for Hot People, one of the few little orange bottles that I feel really understands my appreciation of heat in food, but not so much that it overwhelms everything. I accept that this makes me culinarily a wuss.
Recently, I attempted to roughly outline the parameters of the gap between the recipes you see here on this site and what I might have made for dinner last night. In the first category, we’ve got words like aspirational and exceptional or unusual and best in category or just seriously we all need to make this right now. It’s fun, noteworthy stuff. Sure, it’s also our dinner, you know, on the days such exciting things come to pass in my kitchen, but it’s the second category — staples, comforts and easy wins, things that miraculously make all three people around the table happy at the same time — that dominate our table the rest of the 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.
Most of the time, I don’t choose the recipes I share here, they choose me. I’ll be bumming around, reading my epics, keeping to myself when suddenly the urge for rhubarb muffins will come upon me, and I will have no choice but to address it, or remain distracted until I break down and, you know, address it. Other times, the market controls me, as will happen when you live in a climate that deprives you of field-fresh produce for over half the year, leaving you to go completely berserk and overdo it in the months that you’re graced with it, bringing home buckets when you only have enough stomachs in your family to require a small armload. But with a 20 months of parenting under my belt, I’m long overdue to introduce a new reason to cook: my toddler; he’s got cravings too.
The inspiration for this slaw is a mango salad I order way too often from a local Thai place in hopes to offset the inevitable damage from the pad Thai I order with it. It has strips of mango, slivers of red pepper, red onion and mint, large toasted cashews and a spicy dressing with a lot of lime in it. It’s always a surprise; sometimes the mango is underripe and sour (which I understand to be more traditional) and sometimes it’s sweet and almost overripe. The best part is that the salad tastes good no matter how the mango arrived that day.
So, I told you about the brisket. Or, the way we talk about it, thhhuuuuh brisssssket, it’s deliciousness making our syllables stretch out melodramatically. We pulled it into tacos with slaw and pickled onions and it was a great end to a great year. But I bet I know what you’ve been wondering since then, “But no appetizer?” Well, let thie question vex your brain no longer: we had soup. (Jacob, however, got into the margaritas. Again.)