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:
- 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.)
- But it also feels very fancy, mostly because it’s got a tres sophisticated French name, hohn hohn hohn.
- 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.
Do you love your friends, but also hate them, maybe, just a little bit? If so, I suggest a cool party trick. Continue reading
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.
I learned to cook in the summer of 2010, partially out of necessity—I didn’t want to eat takeout every night, especially since I was earning a whopping $8.25 an hour at my impressive-sounding, mind-numbingly-boring internship—and largely out of loneliness. (I was living in D.C., a four-hour bus ride away from basically all of my friends, and because I was fairly certain I’d be returning to New York once the internship was over, I didn’t try very hard to make new ones.)
There were two people who made me feel a little less lonely as I stumbled my way from ratatouille to zucchini bread to spaghetti carbonara, the first dish I made that felt like real culinary alchemy: Mark Bittman, who taught me the basics of how to cook everything in his aptly-named beginner’s classic, and Deb Perelman, who won me over with her chatty prose long before I learned that nearly everything she cooked at Smitten Kitchen was both picture-perfect and delicious. (I’m saying “nearly” only because I was afraid of cooking meat until I made her Thai-style chicken legs… and then they turned out so inedibly salty that I avoided making chicken myself again for like, a year.) Continue reading
Isn’t it funny how notions of sophistication change dramatically from decade to decade? In the ’90s, high-end restaurants fell hard for chocolate lava cake. In the ’70s, suburbanites thrilled to tiny skewers, melted cheese, and wife-swapping. In the ’60s, pre-Friedan-era housewives thought that drinking Heineken with dinner would fill the yawning chasm in their souls, or so Mad Men has led me to believe.
And in the late 1890s, a Swiss maître d’ named Oscar Tschirky won over a room of Gilded Age socialites and robber barons with a cutting-edge appetizer that was, essentially, just chicken salad without the chicken. (Tschirky also may have invented Thousand Island Dressing and Eggs Benedict, which mostly makes me think that he was in the pocket of Big Mayonnaise.)
The noodle kugel of my dreams is not studded with rum-soaked raisins (blech), or crushed canned pineapple (double blech), or synthetic apple pie filling (the blechiest of all the blechs). It is not sweetened with sugar, or topped with crumbled cornflakes, or scented with vanilla or cinnamon any other member of the pumpkin spice family. And you’ll never be confused about when to eat it, because it’s not some unholy combination of side dish and desert—it’s savory, damnit. It’s a kugel for adults. And whenever it appears on a buffet (or, you know, the stovetop, because there’s only so much room on a kitchen counter), it’s also the center of attention.
There will come a time, not too many months from now, when I will be convinced I’d rather voluntarily watch football than eat another apple. (As I write this, the man I married is watching one football game on mute while listening to the play-by-play of a different football game. No jury would convict me, right?) Currently, farmer’s markets are bursting with end-of-summer produce as well as the first Honeycrisps and Macouns of the season. But before long, the tomatoes and eggplants and berries will fade into memory, and the only decent produce around will be the sort of stuff I associate with my shtetl-bound ancestors: potatoes, cabbage, and, yes, pile upon pile of apples, the only fruit around these parts that makes it through the winter intact.
So yeah, I know I’m going to get sick of apples at some point. But my friends, that day is not yet here. Continue reading