I admitted somewhere in the comments last week that I’d all but abandoned making my own pumpkin puree these days, baking instead with the always-reliable canned stuff. I think that as home cooks, it’s our tendency to want to do anything and everything that can be from scratch as such, but that I’d never been satisfied with the labor versus outcome balance of roasting pumpkin. To get a dreamy texture like one from canned pumpkin, I found I often had to roast, then puree, then sometimes cook briefly on the stove to thicken it up and often, still found the flavor inconsistent, sometimes delicious, often a little lackluster. I know, I just put you all to sleep. I promise, there is unapologetic goofiness ahead.
I think that if we’re going to continue to be grand old friends, you’re going to have to admit that you at least occasionally wish you could have potato salad for lunch any day of the week. That you think it’s kind of lame that potato salad is relegated to backyard barbecue indulgence; packed up in Tupperware, saved for 3-day weekends, eaten with apology to the swimsuit you’ll wear the next day. If nothing else you might admit this so that I can feel my habits are less cuckoo. You’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?
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.
We’re on day two of something called a “wintry mix” which I suspect if I lived in one of those places where one was forced to wear shorts and sunglasses in January, eating food plucked recently from the ground (pea tendrils, anyone?) I’d imagine constituted a fun day of mixed winter activities, like snowfall fights followed by ice skating and then, if you’re not too tuckered out, some hot cocoa before you head home. Alas, a “wintry mix” is the precise reason my only current goal in life is to flee to someplace tropic and sandy.
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.
I bought the prettiest little “freshly dug!” (I could not resist this sign) red potatoes at the market last week. They’re sweet, creamy and cute and need almost nothing to make them welcome on any table — roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper or boiled until tender and tossed cold with a vinaigrette, they’re heaven.
A few times a year, I go on a Dinner Intervention, which might sound a little more gentle than it is. It sounds like a “Honey, I was thinking I’ll do something different with dinner this week” but in reality it is more of a “Gah, I am so sick of take-out and fobbed together meals! I’ve had enough!” wherein I throw down the proverbial spatula and demand we do better.