Shrimp Sauté au Citron

Oo la la!

What, exactly, is “shrimp sauté au citron”? Is it a rustic French classic, a recipe passed from peasant housewife to peasant housewife to cartoon food critic to, improbably, my Jewish, Pittsburgh-born grandmother? Is it a home cook’s approximation of a fancy restaurant entree, something you might find in Chapter V of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1? Or is it, perhaps, a made-up name meant to gussy up a dish that might better be described as “shrimp in a frying pan”?

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Tamale Pie

Almost a year ago, I proposed that there’s nothing more American than snarfing down monstrous amounts of fat as you criticize the bodies and outfits of people infinitely more athletic than you. Upon further reflection, however, I’ve come up with something that surpasses even that: there is in fact nothing more American than appropriating another nation’s cuisine to make a globular casserole that nixes any authentic seasoning, ups the fat, and treats vegetables as a necessary evil at best—employing only the most basic produce in the most perfunctory way possible. Continue reading

Devil’s Food Cake (and Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting)

This spring, I became the last person in America—the last person in the world?—to fall head over heels for The Great British Bake-Off, an utterly charming reality competition about very nice people crafting elaborate pastries in the English countryside. Whoever wins gets nothing more than a quiet sense of self-satisfaction and a tacky glass cake stand. It’s comforting; it’s soothing; it’s an endless font of baking jargon I’d never heard before, and binging it over the course of a few months has given my husband and me an insatiable need to bring up frangipane and choux pastry and Victoria sponges (to say nothing of  joconde or genoise!!) as frequently as possible. But only when we’re alone, I promise.

I won’t say that the series inspired this cake, although there is, apparently, a recipe for devil’s food cake in a cookbook associated with the show. But I will say that our binge gave me a renewed appreciation for idiosyncratic pastries with silly names, the Bakewell tarts and charlotte russes and baba au rhums of the world. Continue reading

Appetizer Meat Balls

When you’re juggling work, life, and a desperate attempt to watch Twin Peaks before the revival premieres next weekend (the owls are not what they seem!!), some things will naturally fall by the wayside—and for the past mumblemumble weeks, those things, alas, have been 1) my half-hearted DuoLingo regimen and 2) this blog.

But no more! I’m returning today with a vengeance, and an appetizer that I thought was among the weirdest curios to be found in all of Nonnie’s cookbook—until I discovered that it’s got a long, proud history among America’s thriftier moms. In other words: happy Mother’s Day! Here, I got you a pile of jelly-braised meat. Continue reading

Popovers

There are a few things I remember vividly about the colleges I visited with my dad when I was a junior in high school—the half-appealing, half-terrifying isolation of remote, gorgeous Cornell; the oppressive tininess of Williamstown, Massachusetts (“Some of our students live off campus,” our tour guide told us. Then: “This is the street where they live”); the awe I felt the first time I saw Low Library, a pagan temple plucked out of ancient Greece and plunked into the upper reaches of Manhattan.

I don’t recall much about the food we ate along the way, with one major exception: after touring quaint, bucolic Amherst, we stopped at a charming little restaurant that was famous for its popovers. (Turns out it’s called Judie’s, and it’s still there.) I had never had a popover before; I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what a popover was. But I fell in love as soon as I bit into my first one—still warm from the oven, perfectly golden brown, crisp on the outside with an interior that felt lighter than air. Continue reading

Beef Stroganoff

Days after spring allegedly began, it is still blustery and freezing in New York. Though the snowdrifts that still line the streets are no longer stacked toddler-high, they still haven’t entirely melted into murky water; the sky is a stern, White Walker-skin gray; only a certified dummy would dare to venture outside with so much as an ankle exposed (as this dummy personally discovered just hours ago). It is March. The end of March! This is unconscionable and I would like to speak with your manager, sky. Continue reading