Recipes

easiest french fries

Last weekend, we had 13 friends over for moules-frites. This — plus a big green salad, some crusty baguettes and more white wine than seems conscionable — is my favorite dinner party menu. It makes the easiest, surprisingly budget-conscious meal and might, if you play your cards right, make you feel ever-so-slightly like you’re on vacation somewhere European and full of sailor-types. Okay, maybe that’s pushing things but let’s run with it. I forgot to add, however that it’s best for 6 people, 8 at most. As soon as the mussels exceed the volume of your largest pot or the fries surpass the one large tray that fits in your oven (plus you have a salad you really only want to toss at the last minute), basically everything needing to be cooked à la minute, you’re going to have to hustle. I am constitutionally incapable of hustling; we ate dinner at 10.

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Recipes

punjabi-style black lentils

Because I have strange habits, I spent a lot of time one night last week watching videos on YouTube of grandmothers and other home cooks making dal makhani, a rich black lentil dish from the Punjab region. Unpolished home cooking videos are one of my favorite ways to learn how to make a dish that is foreign to me, and while what I’ve made here isn’t an authentic black lentil (urad) dal, it’s worth knowing why it is isn’t. For example, it would have a small portion of kidney beans (rajma) it in too, you’d definitely have soaked your lentils and beans together the night before and in almost every case, cooked them in a pressure cooker on another burner while making the spiced base sauce, and then together for a little or long while. The more authentic versions I looked at have a lot more butter and cream in them, and only sometimes began with an onion. In every case, the cook had a “ginger-garlic paste” that seemed to have come prepared, something I was previously unfamiliar with but find brilliant as they are so often better together, and of course all spices were added with eyeballed measurements.

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Recipes

butterscotch pie

I love two things most of all about chess pie — that sweet, buttery baked custard pie well-known across the South but whose reach can be tasted in everything from Canadian butter tarts to Brooklyn-ish Crack Pies — one, that it has none of the fussiness usually associated with custards and flans (separated egg yolks, tempering, straining and water baths); you could, and in fact should, make this with any little chefs in your life with ease.

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Recipes

pomegranate grapefruit paloma

All January and early February, as glacial winds smacked us in our face on the walk to school — and somehow back too (uphill, both ways, etc.) — I counted down the days until we would go to Florida to visit my parents (who winter-as-a-verb there like all the other smart retirees of the Northeast) and thaw our bones for five days. Instead, the warm weather found its way here and apparently it’s been full-out spring while we were away but I’m not mad, how could I be, I was sitting on a beach in the middle of winter and it was exactly what we needed, or at least the 3/4 of us that are willing to let our feet touch the sand. Spotty wi-fi, falling asleep shortly after the kids did each night (one who learned a new word “mom-MEE!”) and great heaps of fresh fruit at the hotel’s breakfast buffet (shamelessly one of my favorite resort things) all contributed to an overall feeling of wellness that I hope to carry with me at least for the next 15 minutes, because I believe in keeping expectations reasonable.

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Recipes

tomato-glazed meatloaves with brown butter mashed potatoes

I am a sucker for a good meatball. Something happens when you mix otherwise one-dimensional ground meats up with fresh breadcrumbs, herbs, seasonings and make a great sauce to go with it and that is that I will swat your fork away to get at them first. I always believed I held no such adoration for meatloaf until I mentioned this one day — here, on my invisible soapbox — and someone in the comments asked gently, as if they understood they were speaking to a very easily confused individual, if I knew that meatloaf is basically one giant meatball?

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Recipes

small batch tiramisu

Please tell me this doesn’t just happen to me: You know when you love a dish so much, you don’t even want to risk ordering it when you’re out because it’s so often disappointing? Hopeless child of the 80s and 90s that I am, tiramisu is a top five dessert for me but I almost never eat it for this messy reason. At its finest, little bits of cake are almost saturated with bracing espresso then burrowed in a cream that’s ethereally light and fluffy for containing an unholy amount of mascarpone and dusted generously with cocoa or shaved unsweetened chocolate between each layer. The sum of the parts isn’t overly sweet but quite rich, ideal in small doses. It is heaven.

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Recipes

guacamole

I have very strong opinions about guacamole. Fortunately for all of our sakes, this isn’t the kind of site devoted to didactic culinary lectures; it’s not that my way is right and your way is wrong. [Don’t I sound so mature today?] If you love guacamole with chopped tomatoes, or red onion instead of white, lemon instead of lime or, like a former president of the United States, with garlic in it (shudder), you should just go ahead and keep doing you. You’re cooking for you, not me. And I will eat it, preferably with a salt-rimmed margarita or paloma. I have never turned guacamole away; I am not a monster.

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Tips

an easier way to make cookies

Pretty much everything terrible about making cookies comes down to one thing: deciding you want a cookie and realizing that the expanse between now and when you get to eat said is unfairly wide.

For example:
• Butter needs to be softened. Is your kitchen really cold today? Have fun with that.
• The butter needs to be “creamed” with sugar until “light and fluffy.” Some recipes want you to do this for many, many minutes. Some recipes think you are bored.
• Once your dough is made, it needs to be formed into packets and chilled in the fridge for “at least two hours” but “preferably overnight.” Remember when you said you wanted a cookie? You meant tomorrow, right?

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Announcements

the smitten kitchen series on food network

Have you ever wanted to go behind the scenes here at the Smitten Kitchen? Like, really behind the scenes, watching me cook, listening to me chatter about how the recipe came about and grimacing at my terrible knife skills? Phew, I was hoping you would say no because I’m excruciatingly awkward in person and also on camera and since we all agree, you can just come back in a day or two and we’ll proceed with a new recipe like we always do. Right?

Nope?

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