Mozzarella Marinara

You probably can’t hit a target from 50 meters while lying flat on your stomach in the snow, or execute a perfect Biellmann spin, or pull off a wicked backside triple cork 1440. If you’re like me, chances are you don’t even know how to ice-skate backwards without posing a danger to yourself and others.

I can, however, tell you about a simple culinary trick that’ll make you feel like an Olympian. Because even if you’re incapable of conquering Black Diamonds, you can make mozzarella sticks. Yes, you!

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Clam Dip

Please do not take this post—published mere hours before gladiators attempt to sate our bloodlust by pummeling each other into early-onset dementia—as an endorsement of New England over Philadelphia. Though I’d happily live on nothing but Cape Code chips, I have no loyalty to the land of snow and chowdah—which isn’t to say that I care much about Philadelphia, either.

What I really mean is that I can barely be bothered to give a shit about football under the best of circumstances. If the Steelers were in the Super Bowl, and I was at the game, and a wealthy benefactor had ensured that I wouldn’t have to sit outside in the cold, and I had an entire Mineo’s pizza in one hand and an endless supply of Dippin Dots in the other, and, like, Bernadette Peters were performing a one-woman “strictly Sondheim” medley at halftime… maybe then I’d be able to muster up some enthusiasm. Continue reading

The Actual Best Challah

Much as it pains my snobby little heart to admit it, there are some foods that are better purchased than made from scratch. Pumpkin purée, for instance, is a huge pain in the ass to make yourself, and the stringy, wet pulp you end up with likely won’t match the best canned stuff in taste or texture. I’ve never had great success with homemade pickles, which I can’t seem to get quite as snappy or deeply flavored as the best full-sours from Shelsky’s or Katz’s. And though I’ve baked billions (rough estimate) of loaves of bread over the past few years, I’ve never quite managed to craft a sandwich loaf that perfectly apes the best store-bought stuff—springy and tender and sturdy enough to stand up to a mountain of toppings, all at once.

But challah? As someone who’s made, purchased, and eaten countless versions over the course of the past nearly 30 (gulp) years, I can say with great confidence that the recipe I’m about to describe actually is the best one out there—better than your mom’s, better than your bakery’s, and certainly better than the sad, shrink-wrapped kind they serve at your local oneg. Continue reading

Banana Fritters and Vanilla Sauce

I don’t have an emotional attachment to sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnuts that are traditionally served on Hanukkah. Maybe that’s why I’ve never attempted to make jelly doughnuts myself—or maybe it’s more that I’ve always had a fear of frying. Remember, the miracle of Hanukkah is all about burning-hot fuel—and I’m accident-prone enough even when there’s no 370-degree oil in the vicinity.

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Fish en Papillote and Herbed Carrots

Here are a few reasons fish (and carrots!) en papillote (or en aluminum foil, a la Nonnie) should be in your regular meal rotation, particularly this time of year:

  1. Preparing food en papillote, or inside a little sealed package, is an exceedingly easy, quick, and largely mess-free way to cook protein (and vegetables), making it ideal when you want to make dinner on the only weeknight you have free in between awards season screenings and holiday parties. (I know, I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for myself.)
  2. But it also feels very fancy, mostly because it’s got a tres sophisticated French name, hohn hohn hohn.
  3. Plus, every time you slice into a little foil package with delicious things inside, you’ll feel like you’re opening a present you gave yourself—and after all, ’tis the season.

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Shrimp Puffs

The canon of weirdo Gentile party foods I grew up blissfully unaware of—ambrosia; grape jelly meatballs; anything involving, dear God, gelatin—would not be complete without shrimp puffs, a delightfully ’50s canapé comprised of crappy supermarket sandwich bread that’s toasted, then topped with a mixture of shrimp, mayo, and cheese, then broiled to an appealing golden brown.

Despite its final coloring—especially when the toasts are, say, left to sit in a hot oven a bit longer than they should, thanks to a negligent and slightly tipsy hostess juggling too many things at her own housewarming party—this may in fact be the whitest food in history, culturally speaking. Though I guess hotdish, a Midwestern casserole that combines canned cream of mushroom soup with canned vegetables and hamburger meat and tops the whole thing off with frozen tater tots, might have a bone to pick with that appellation.

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