Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I don't recall Jenny's photo having a glass of pinot noir conspicuously in the foreground.
I am copying my friend Jenny, over at Dinner: A Love Story, who recently put up a photo like this in a post about feeling, after the Paris attacks, like she wanted to be useful. It is such a good idea, to make yourself useful. During this season, we avail ourselves of the opportunity to give money away--to invest in the world we believe in and the one we hope for. That means, for us, stretching to give to the global health organization Partners in Health, but it also means giving smaller amounts to the other causes that matter most to us: Planned Parenthood, public radio, Democrats, and, if paying overdue fines counts, our local library. This year, we will figure out a way to donate that best helps Syrian refugees.

But take care of yourselves too, okay? I know the dark season is upon us, in so many ways. But you can warm and cheer yourself. You should. Make a simple pot of soup, read a perfect novelstitch a garland from the last of the supple leaves, take a fragrant bath, listen to a beautiful album for free, kiss your pets and friends and family, give what you can, and light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Sending love now and always. xo

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coq au Vin

I am still shepherding recipes over to here from other places, and this is an old cold-weather favorite. Not just because of the warming deliciousness and the long cooking, but also because it's red-wine season, which means that we occasionally have a couple of inches left in different bottles ("Why did we not finish this?" I've been known to exclaim in the morning, mystified), and this puts it to good use. Take a little swig first, though, before you pour it in. Not just because of enjoying the little swig (although that) but also to make sure the wine tastes at least pretty good. I don't follow the "if it's not good enough to drink, it's not good enough to cook with" dogma, but if it's not *decent* enough to drink--like, you wouldn't even drink it if it were the only wine in the house and you'd been on hold with the cable internet people for 45 minutes while simultaneously writing an email about how most of the definitions on the SAT-prep vocabulary shower curtain were actually incorrect and also cat poop in the living room--don't use it.

Coq au Vin
Serves 4-6

This classic French stew gets its deep flavor from long cooking and red wine, maybe even the dregs from a few different bottles. Serve over polenta or egg noodles for the ultimate in comfort food.

1/4 pound bacon, diced
a 4- or 5-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 4 bone-in, skin-on breast-halves, halved crosswise, or some equivalent number of legs and thighs
Kosher salt
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons brandy (Optional. I have used *bourbon* by mistake, and it was good.)
3 cups dry red wine
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 cup chicken broth

Heat the oven to 325. Place the bacon in a large, heavy Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring, until it is browned and crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate and turn off the heat under the pot.

Dredge the chicken: stir the flour in a pie plate with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (or half as much table salt), and coat each piece of chicken thoroughly, shaking off any excess.

Over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat in the pot. When the fat is hot, add the chicken to the pot in a single layer, without crowding, and sear on both sides, turning once with tongs, until a deep, golden-brown crust forms: 7-10 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a plate and, if there's a second batch to brown, brown it, lowering the heat if the chicken threatens to burn at any point. When all the chicken is browned and removed to the plate, pour the fat out of the pan and discard, but retain all the nice browned bits.

Now add the remaining butter to the pot and, over medium heat, sauté the onions, carrot, and celery, stirring, until the vegetables are softening and flecked with brown, around 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for a minute, and then add the brandy, if you're using it, and simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot until the liquid is almost gone. Now turn the heat to high and add the wine, vinegar, sugar, garlic, herbs, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium-high heat until the wine reduces by about half--10 or 15 minutes. Stir in the broth and reserved bacon and bring to a boil, then arrange the chicken in the pot in a single layer (our in any juices from the plate) and cover with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the chicken and extends up over the sides of the pot. Cover with the lid, place in the middle of the oven, and braise for around 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the chicken is very tender and starting to fall apart. Taste the gravy for salt and balance, adding more salt, sugar, or vinegar if it needs a lift in any direction.

Serve with cooked egg noodles or potatoes. (Note: if the gravy does not seem thick enough, remove the chicken and boil it, uncovered, for 5 or 10 minutes until it does.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Momofuku's Soy Sauce Eggs

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I love eating out. If we were rich, I swear, we would eat out every night—even though, yes, I love to cook and, yes, that money would be better spent writing a big old check to Partners in Health. I know.

Anyhoo, Momofuku is this incredible restaurant in New York, where you wait in line for nine hours so that you can be hustled through the most expensive meal of your life in twenty minutes. But, oh! That meal. We have eaten things there—their famous ramen, their shrimp buns, a special octopus salad—that I have thought about almost every day since eating them.  That said, it’s not an ideal restaurant for our strictly vegetarian Birdy, being largely porkcentric and kind of unapologetically unaccommodating overall. However, Birdy did order a neon green cucumber salad that was improbably good, and, also, this simple, briny pickled egg that arrived beneath a thick shower of fried shallots.


I promised her I would try to make them at home, and now I’ve made good on that promise and I can say that they’re dead-easy and just as delicious as the ones we ate in the restaurant, maybe even more delicious given that we’re using eggs from our neighborhood farm that have the kind of glowing yolks that sing a song about grass and worms and sunshine. But there were a couple store-bought eggs in one batch, and those were pretty effing good too.

Thanks to their killer umaminess, even Ben almost liked them, and he has hated hardboiled eggs since he first tried one, at the age of 14 months, when he was fed a small piece and promptly unfurled his horrified tongue back out of his mouth, with the egg still on it, the same way you would hold your hand far away from your body if somebody happened to shit into it.

But this pickled egg he tasted, then shook his head, then came back to taste it again, the way you do, when you can’t quite let go of something. “That’s definitely the best hardboiled egg I’ve ever tried,” is what he said. “It’s like weird, tangy Jell-o.”


But he’s right, texture-wise. The boiling method and timing produces eggs with perfectly firm whites and gelatinous yolks with a liquid center.  This is, as far as I’m concerned, the ideal egg, and it’s how you get them at Momofuku. If you think that’s not going to work for you, try cooking them a minute longer, but really—don’t go for solid yolks or you’ll dim the magic. Trust me on this.

Momofuku’s Soy Sauce Eggs
This is my version of Food52’s version, which is a version of the version in Milk Bar Life. I added the fried shallots, since that’s how we ate them at Momofuku. Serve these as part of a bread board for dinner, or for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. Don’t worry if you run out of shallots—the eggs are great without them too, although I bet that slivered scallions, crushed potato chips, and/or crumbled bacon would make great toppings too.

6 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
¾ cup soy sauce (the recipe recommends low-sodium, but you can guess whether or not that’s what I used)
Neutral-tasting vegetable oil
1 shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
Kosher salt

Half-fill a large pot with water, and bring it to a boil over high heat.

Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water (I do them two at a time with a ladle) and boil them for 7 minutes (or, according to the incomparable David Chang of Momofuku, for 6 minutes and 50 seconds), stirring them for the first minute and a half (I think what that does is keep the yolk from settling to one side, and it works really well.) Fill a bowl with ice and cold water to prepare for the eggs being done.

While the eggs cook, whisk the sugar into the water in a small bowl, then stir in the vinegar and soy sauce.

After 7 minutes, use a slotted spoon to move the eggs to the ice water. When they’re cold enough to handle, peel them, and put them in a container that they just fit in in a single layer. Pour the marinade over them and refrigerate. The recipe says 2 to 6 hours and I, naturally, went for the full 6. Remove the eggs to a lidded container and store in the fridge for—the recipe claims, improbably—up to a month. You can reuse the soy-sauce mixture for more eggs. I do.

When you’re ready to serve, fry the shallots. Heat a very small pan over medium heat, add a big splash of oil (there should be enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan) and fry the shallot, stirring constantly, until browned and sort of fluffy-seeming, about 3 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and salt them. (Use the extra oil for something: salad dressing or stir-frying cabbage, say.)

Slice each egg lengthwise a top with a small shower of shallots. If you skip the shallots for any reason, then sprinkle a little pinch of coarse salt on the yolk before serving.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Winner, plus Misc. Complaints, plus Smoky Shrimp!

Ben's friend Ava made me this card. Right? When she's famous, I'll auction it at Christie's and use the profits to commission a Cheeto-shaped house.
And the Free-Form Give-Away winner is. . . zameander! Because she wrote this haiku:

Whoa! ANOTHER hair?
Overnight, and wiry, black?
ANOTHER hair woe.

Zameander, please send me your address and the name of the book you would like. Did I promise the winner would be randomly chosen? I hope not! I love you all, and thank you for playing along and for your sweetest congratulations. When I was pitching that new book a while back, I included some of your nagging write-another-book emails. Seriously. I think that's what did the trick.

Ben, doing his calculus homework. Inside a huge box. Because.
Meanwhile. I sewed the spots onto Ben's cow costume for him. Seriously. After swearing on a stack of a thousand copies of Jessica Lahey's brilliant book that I would not help him with it, especially since he left it until the last minute (they celebrate at school today). What is he now, 40? And I'm still doing this? He teased me this morning that I was going to be the mom in Love You Forever, only instead of sneaking in with a ladder and rocking his middle-aged self in my lap, I was going to sneak in and sew his Halloween costume. "Do you think I wanted to sew it?" I asked and he said, "I'm guessing you must have, since you did." That is food for thought. The problem with that kid is that he is so funny and charming that I am doing things for him before I even realize I've agreed to. Dangit. But maybe that's a good life skill, being so funny and charming that people can't help doing stuff for you? I am still thinking through it. Plus, he has been taking such excellent care of his sister, who is now at his same school. Who could begrudge him a couple of cow spots? Sigh.

Luckily, the half a bottle of pinot noir I drank while sewing cow spots encouraged me to mend our (cat's) couch, which I am thrilled about. (I still think "Drunk Mending" would be a great book series.)

The recipe for today is Smoky Shrimp with Garlic and Olive Oil, which someone requested, and which I can't believe I'd never moved over until now. It is still a great favorite around here, and if shrimp were free, I would make it every night. Unfortunately, only black walnuts and dandelion greens are free, and I'm just not getting a real dinner feeling off of them. Have a wonderful weekend. xo

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Recipes, Books, and a Freeform Give-Away

Ah, my darlings. A few things today. For one, I turned 47. Yes, I did. And we went to see a band called Darlingside, whose new album you can listen to here for free! You are so welcome (assuming you like crushingly adorable young-guy string bands who do Crosby, Stills, and Nash harmonies). It was the best birthday ever, for many reasons, including Michael making a romantic acrostic birthday card, and everyone going on a mushroom foraging walk with me. Sigh. The forties is by far my favorite decade so far, nipple hairs and geriatric acne notwithstanding.

Next up: fulfilling your recipe requests. For Warm and Smoky Potato Salad and Butternut Galette with Roasted Onions, Pecans, and Blue Cheese. I made that galette last week, only instead of squash et al, I made it with a big heap of sauteed cabbage and onions and a thick layer of melty aged gouda, and it was totally fabulous. Also caraway seeds. Yum.

And then a couple of book recommendations. Like the newest Full Grown People collection, Soul Mate 101 and Other Essays on Love and Sex edited by the lovely and brilliant Jennifer Niesslein. I tried to read three essays (it was late, and that was the number I had allotted myself), and did not put the book down until I was done. It's honest and raw, sexy and joyful and sad and very middle-aged, in the best possible way. I confess to having contributed an essay to the volume that is not the least dirty thing I have ever written. Actually, the only dirtier thing might be the essay I contributed to the first FGP collection. Or the poem I once wrote comparing Michael to a microwaved hotdog.

I am also recommending the latest Unbored book: Unbored Adventure, which I had the deep honor of contributing to, and which Birdy has named "The best Unbored book yet!" (Huge praise.) This is a chock-a-block book, filled with crazy, thoughtful, well-tested ideas that range from the immediately doable to the profoundly inspirational and aspirational. Birdy read the book cover to cover, then promptly spent the day sewing something called a "Ditty Bag," which thrilled her no end. "What are you going to do next from it?" I asked her, and she looked thoughtful, then said, "Purify drinking water using nesting bowls and evaporation." Okay! 

And if you're all, "Adventure? Seriously? Catherine?" please know that I wrote the opening essay and ideas for the "Adventures Close to Home" chapter. Like last week? We foraged the black walnuts from our own backyard. Ba-bam. Adventure.

And finally, A Step Toward Falling, which is a book that has nothing to do with me. Except that its author Cammie is my beloved neighbor and friend, and her profound kindness, hilariousness, and curiosity sparkle in everything she writes. It's a book that's getting starred reviews everywhere, and that is currently #1 on Amazon in "Teen and Young Adult Special Needs Fiction." Birdy read this book so fast that the pages were flying, and she has described it as "awesome" and "complicated" and "funny" and also (this is a caveat) "the grown-uppiest book I have ever read." I'm reading it next.

One more book, even though I said "finally" already:

It's out in April, but you can pre-order it here! Please do. (Dying a little. Click on the link just to see the advance blurbs from this incredible person and this one. Dying. Seriously.)

Okay, the free-form give-away! I don't want to give these particular books away because I want you to buy them! So enter by commenting, and if you win, I'll send you any book you like that amazon sells (and that is not, like, $100). Sound good? Comment by noon EST next Wednesday, 10/14. 

Love and happy reading. xo

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad-Mood Breakfast Burritos

I was recalling recently a thought I had when I was in labor with Ben. And it was: “This is like a mechanical bull!” And I couldn’t stay on. But I couldn’t get off, either. And sometimes that’s kind of how it is.

Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes. School mornings. Here’s a confession: they have not historically been frantic at my house. I mean, yeah, it’s a school morning. Are folks brimming over with extra time and joie de vivre? No. They are not. But we try to get up early enough that, should the kids want to crawl into bed for a few minutes with the cat and me, well, there’s a little time for snuggling and the admiring of clean fur, for warm, sleepy conversation. Which I love. 

But these days, that’s mostly Birdy. While Ben. Ben. Ben is falling into paroxysms of starvation and judgment, and the combining of the two into pronouncements of his own hungry grievances. What’s that you say? Welcome to teenagerland? I know! But guys, it’s Ben. The sweetheart of sweethearts. Whom I typically love to feed and feed, but who has become a person who says, irritably, “Are we out of dried cherries?” like this missing ingredient from the muesli he’s assembling constitutes a serious incident of neglect.

The face of RAVENOUS MONSTROSITY! On the way to a Stromae concert with his Ava friend.
He is starving. He is standing in front of the refrigerator, accusing me. “We have no food in the house!” “I’m not totally sure what you’re looking for,” I say, reasonably. “We have toast and eggs. Cheese and ham. Cereal and yogurt and fruit. I heard Birdy offer to share the smoothie she was making.” Ben is visible exasperated. Clearly, I do not understand what is needed. 

“I feel like you want to put out your hand and have an Egg McMuffin fall into it,” I say, and he admits that this is kind of true. “What about toast with melted cheese?” I say, as if this is a problem that could actually be solved, and he groans. “I think that pea under all your mattresses really got to you last night!” I say, which is a funny joke, which Ben doesn’t laugh at, because I’ve said it in a meaner way than I intended. I kiss his starving, irritated cheeks. “Let’s make breakfast burritos this weekend,” I say. “Like we did last spring, when you were in another one of your princessy fits.” “Okay,” he says. “That would be great.”

And so we do! The end. 

Only not really, because a kind of overcaffeination takes over while we’re making them, and the hash browns stick—which remind me that they stuck last time too—and then I burn a tortilla, and Birdy is pissed at me because I’m raging around cursing, and she doesn’t like it. Also I suggest that she’s washing the sandy arugula poorly—“Not in a colander. In a sinkful of water,” I sigh, like what kind of idiot? 

By the time we’re done with the burritos, two of us have cried. “Enjoy these,” I say to Ben, cramming the bag into our too-stuffed freezer, from which two empty pints of ice cream drop to the ground. “Think of all the love that went into them."

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Makes 8
These are great! Seriously. It’s the thing you’re starving teenager really wants to eat in the morning, and if you don’t use those damned sticking hash browns, they come together very quickly and easily. Plus, they can be varied pretty widely: use ham, sausage, or chorizo instead of the bacon—or whatever veggie versions of those things you like best. Add sautéed onions and peppers. Skip the hash browns (!) and add black beans instead, along with a spoonful of salsa. You might want to add the salsa—or a few shakes of hot sauce—anyway.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 20-ounce shredded bag hash browns
12 (or 16) ounces bacon
8 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 3 tablespoons butter
1 heaping cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Jack, or a blend)
8 (8-inch) wheat tortillas (make sure they’re fairly pliable or you will end up killing somebody)

Heat the oil in a wide pan and sauté the hash browns until they are tender and brown, or according to the package directions. If you have a nonstick pan, NOW IS THE TIME TO USE IT. These stick maddeningly. Aaaaaaagh.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and drain it on paper towels.

Beat the eggs with the water and salt. Heat the butter in a medium pan and cook the eggs, scrambling them until they are cooked through but still nice and soft.

Heat the tortillas to soften them: I do this by stacking them right on top of a low burner, and flipping and rotating them so that a new one is always on the bottom. There are doubtless better ways than this, especially because I tend to burn at least one.

Now lay the tortillas out on a clean counter. Divide the bacon among them, breaking up strips as necessary to equal it all out. Arrange a scoop of hash browns over the bacon  (you may have some leftover hash browns). Dive the eggs over the hash browns, keeping the filling in a fairly even strip down the middle of the tortillas and leaving about an inch free at the top and bottom. Divide the cheese over the eggs.

Now roll the burritos up. I do this by wetting my hands in a bowl of water, then folding over the top and bottom inch of plain tortilla before rolling it up tight, tucking in the filling as I go, and compressing it tightly. We your hands again, then put the burrito seam-side down on a baking sheet, pressing it down a little to secure. Continue with the folding and rolling, wetting your hands to help compress everything. The water also helps the burritos freeze solid so that, after the whole pan of burritos is frozen overnight, you can move them into a large freezer Ziploc bag, and they will keep their shape.

To heat one up, put it on a plate, lay a wet paper towel over it, and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Or wrap in foil and heat in a 350 oven for around 20 minutes.