In uncertain times—when spring just doesn’t seem to stick; when our government is a dysfunctional, fourth-rate reality competition; when innocent-looking lettuce can literally kill you—there’s at least one thing we can rely on: cheese, glorious cheese. Cheese has no season; cheese knows no politics; cheese has no murder in its heart. (Unless you live in France.) Cheese is kind and comforting, in brightest day or darkest night, whether it’s a supporting character on your plate or the main event. Cheese, for lack of a better word, is good.
The crisp winter air, the invigorating scent of pine, the beauty of sunlight glinting off freshly-fallen snow—I am OVER IT. Done. I’m sick of bundling up every time I want to go farther than the front door, or making tea just so I have a mug to warm my hands on. Though I never thought I’d say it, I’m even sick of drowning my sorrows in comfort food.
Yet even just 48 hours away from the first (official) day of spring, winter refuses to relent. (It’s my fault; I knew I shouldn’t have murdered all those groundhogs.) The only way to fight this horrible reality, I suppose, is by soothing ourselves with sustenance that straddles the line between sturdy, cold-weather fare and delicate springtime meal.
You might not expect a soup made of potatoes and half-and-half to fulfill that particular criteria—but stay with me. Continue reading
Chocolate Cheese Pie (and Graham Cracker Crust)
The last time I attempted a cheesecake recipe, I served it on a torn-up paper bag, the height of rustic-eco-friendly-chic sophistication. (That, or we were at a picnic and forgot to bring plates.) My second cheesecake-like concoction was served in much more cheesecake-friendly environs—indoors, on a table, bathed in soft mood lighting and the wafting strains of an excellent playlist. Yet I still managed not to take a single decent picture, because even in my third (!) year of food blogging, I have yet to figure out how to make brown, crumbly things look tasty in photographs.
All of which is to say this: both the title and look of this dessert are unappetizing. “Chocolate cheese pie” sounds like a mistake, or a gross idiom I’d rather not try to define; when sliced, the pie looks not like this, but like a particularly heinous Pinterest fail. Continue reading
After an eerie but lovely 24-hour-long warm snap, New York’s been pummeled by a week of dreary, drizzly, altogether bleak weather. Some might respond to this Seattle-esque malaise by pulling out an oversized flannel shirt and writing a song about heroin. I think it’s probably healthier to fight it with food—specifically, the brothy, soul-warming kind that comes complete with two kinds of carbs and some slow-simmered short ribs. Continue reading
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!
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.
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:
- 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